Los Angeles on the Cheap: Oscars Edition

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Creative cropping puts me right on the red carpet.

A few weeks ago, I visited LA for the Oscars. Many people saw my pics and assumed that I had some insider connection. But it’s surprisingly easy to go to the Oscars and look like a baller, especially when you crop the protective barricades out of your pictures. It was as simple as buying plane tickets, booking an AirBnB, and finding a viewing party.

While my budget certainly wasn’t shoestring, when you consider that the average Hollywood starlet spends around $3500 getting ready for the Oscars, my expenses were definitely on the lower end of the spectrum. Here’s a breakdown of how I was able to visit the Oscars on the cheap:

AIRFARE: $216 per person

The idea of an Oscar trip began back in July when I received an email notification of a Virgin Airlines flash sale. I immediately called a friend and proposed a February escape from the bleak Chicago winter. As we discussed possible dates, she was struck with a brilliant idea: why not go over Oscar weekend? It sounded fun – even if we weren’t rubbing elbows with Leo DiCaprio, we would at least be in the thick of things. We extended the offer to three other friends and booked our direct flights.

ACCOMMODATIONS: $144.50 per person

We stayed at a three-bedroom, two-bath AirBnB around Venice and LaBrea. (Five ladies getting ready for an Oscar party in one bathroom? No thanks!) We sacrificed being in the Oscar hub for a location in Mid-City, which is south of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. Thanks to Uber, we were never further than a 15 minute cab ride from the action. We were also right around the corner from the original Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles, where we were told that during Grammy season, you can’t throw a biscuit without hitting a hip hop artist.

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That’s one funky chicken.

FOOD: Less than $100

Another perk of our location was that we were three blocks away from the fantastic Leo’s Taco Truck. We must have eaten there at least four times – no kidding! And at one buck per luscious taco, it fit our budgets quite nicely. We picked up a case of beer at the liquor store next door to our apartment, stole some extra lime wedges from the taco truck (sorry, Leo!) and we were set.

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Leo’s Taco Truck

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Tacos al pastor = Tacos a mi corazón

We splurged on Roscoe’s for brunch one day and discovered a coffee shop we adored across the street called Healing Coffee Roasters. While it was definitely more expensive than brewing our own coffee, it was rich and delicious – and the boys behind the counter were CUTE.

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This matcha latte is cute, but the baristas were cuter!

DRESS: $120

Technically, I did not need a new dress and I was violating my self-imposed budget. But this was the Oscars and it couldn’t hurt to look the part, right? I visited countless stores and found the selection of cocktail dresses paltry at best. According to one sales associate, the season between New Year’s and prom is a major dress drought since Chicago winters are clearly not worth celebrating.

I was walking through Macy’s when this little beauty winked at me from the clearance rack. Even though it wasn’t my usual size (it was smaller!!!!), it fit like a glove. So I had to buy it. I already had my shoes, accessories and make up, so that’s kind of thrifty. Most of my friends wore dresses they already owned, proving that some people are more capable of sticking to budgets than others – or maybe my friends are just fancier than me.

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Va-va-va-voom!

 OSCAR VIEWING PARTY: $150 (included dinner, drinks and tip)

Airfare aside, the viewing party at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel was our biggest expense. The party wasn’t listed on the Roosevelt’s website, but a friend did some super sleuthing (by which I mean she called the hotel) and they confirmed that they host the event annually.

The Roosevelt is steeped in Hollywood lore – rumor has it that Marilyn Monroe still makes an appearance from time to time. It’s also right next door to the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held and is the headquarters for E! Entertainment.

We hoped to spot some celebrities, but the closest we got was a red carpet host’s driver who was waiting at the Roosevelt with the Rolls Royce until the host was done. While I won’t reveal which host, I will say that I don’t SEE his fame CRESTing any time soon. The driver was very bored and very amiable. He told us that security was the tightest he’d ever seen due to the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. The three blocks around the Dolby were sealed off with police officers stationed at each barricade. If we so much as turned to walk in their direction, we were sternly told “Turn around, ladies!”

In my opinion, the price of admission was totally worth it, especially the part where our Uber SUV dropped us off in the restricted area around back, just like all the other VIPs. It included a buffet dinner, as well as a few glasses of champagne.

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Our Oscar swag bags did not have vouchers for $250,000 vacations, but they were still pretty cute. Photo courtesy of Adriana Galván.

So those are the tricks for celebrating the Oscars in style without the budget of an Academy Award winner – or even a nominee. And if your friends and family ask you how you did it, tell them you’ll have your people call their people.

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