Forget paying a heaping amount of cash to eat mediocre food just so you can feel "festive" and status quo on New Year's Eve. If you've got any wits about you, you'll go see a band that doesn't charge through the roof to get your lovely self in the door.
My list of must-see shows:
1. Jay Reatard at the Empty Bottle.
2. Sea and Cake at Schuba's. There's a NYE Sea and Cake Pre-Party (only for those tickets to the show), drinks and appetizers for $30 ($35 at the door), from 7:30-9:30 pm. Tickets for the Sea and Cake show are $40. Better yet: host your own pre-party at home before you go!
3. Future Rock with Daedelus, Dark Party (featuring Eliot Lipp & Leo123) and Ben Silver (Orchard Lounge) at the Abbey Pub.
Another good option is game night with your best buddies. Last year I played Apples to Apples and kicked ass! It's a great game for brainy, creative types. We ate homemade macaroni and Gouda cheese and drank bubbly cocktails of champagne and pomegranate juice. No frills, just simple good fun. I must admit it was one of my favorite New Year's. You'll find more ideas for the El Cheapo's guide to New Year's Eve in an article I wrote last year for The Onion A.V. Club -- "New Years Eve on the cheap" on my website under features. I provide ideas for game night, how to throw a DIY karaoke party, plus several recipes of mine -- "Poor Man's Lentil Stew" and "Baked Spaghetti."
The point of the article being that doing what's expected of you on the big night will only lead to travesty and an empty wallet, with you traipsing through the snowy streets of Chicago in a fancy outfit, dodging puddles of vomit and desperately trying to get a cab just so you can go home and watch a movie on TV. Why not save yourself the trouble by planning ahead on a strategy for keeping your pennies prisoners in your wallet without forgoing on some fun?
And don't forget bowling. But please not the overpriced version. Just $20 in advance gets you Chuckle Bowl: comedy, cheap beer and free pizza at Lincoln Square Lanes.