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Six ways to save money on the 4th of July in Chicago

 Revelers watch the fireworks display on the Fourth of July.
Revelers watch the fireworks display on the Fourth of July.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Beer, BBQ, chips, fireworks and beach chairs -- does that about cover the grocery list for this weekend's Fourth of July celebration? Or, is money being spent to go out for the holiday weekend instead?

While some Chicagoans still grumble about there being no more city-funded 4th of July fireworks ceremonies in Grant Park near the Taste of Chicago, others grudgingly pony up the $15 for valet parking to get into Navy Pier and watch their fireworks instead.

Whether you're staying at home and enjoying a three-day weekend, hanging out with family or checking out what Chicago has planned around town, here are some money-saving tips.

1. If you don't want to skip the drinks, opt for Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) public transportation instead of making someone feel guilty enough to be the designated driver. If you already have a friend who doesn't drink, bonus. Or, just make sure to have an energetic teenager who just got her license and is too young to drink. And watch her so she doesn't try to sneak a drink. Teenagers are sneaky.

2. Take advantage of driver apps. Use that cell phone for something other than texting, playing game apps and snapping photos of fireworks. Check out who has the best deal on Lyft, Ridejoy, Uber and Sidecar. This may be the easiest way to avoid astronomical parking lot rates, questionable driving from newbie drivers and/or having to keep an eye on the "designated" driver. Taxi cabs are also another option, but the rates may be better for independent drivers.

3. Skip paying to get into Navy Pier and just watch the fireworks from the beach, lakefront or near Lake Shore Drive. Every Fourth of July without fail, there's a line of parked cars along the bridges admiring the fireworks tonight. Most drivers are willing to pay the $1 to $2 parking fee for parking in beach lots that used to be free. That still beats $15 for valet or $20 for a few hours in a downtown parking lot.

4. If you waited until the last minute to buy 4th of July food and drinks, chances are those "deals" aren't really "deals." But what are you going to do? Starve your guests? Before you make that last-minute trip shopping, take advantage of online store coupons and Shopkick. Your first thought might be, "Who has time to cut coupons and scan items?" That's part of the reason why the deals are better. With Shopkick, all customers have to do is step their feet in the door.

5. Ditch the plastic cups, forks, knives, spoons and paper plates. Use real ones. Why? Not only will it help save the environment, but these are dishes you can use again. Why throw away your money the way you throw away a plate? Or, at least make this cool paper cup decor out of empty cups.

6. Instead of driving all the way to Indiana to purchase fireworks since they're illegal to purchase in Illinois, why not just make a day of it and see where free fireworks viewing parties are in the neighboring state?

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