Do you enjoy going to sporting events, but the tickets are just too expensive? Do you only do one family game a year because after the tickets, parking, concessions, and souvenirs, you blew your entire budget? Let me share how my family attended over 20 professional baseball games last year without blowing our budget.
Getting Cheap Tickets to Sporting Events
The most costly part of attending a sporting event is usually the tickets. People go crazy with the amount of money they will spend on a sporting event ticket.
I am a huge Duke basketball fan so I look forward to the two times a year Duke plays its rival UNC. Duke’s home court is Cameron Indoor Stadium which only holds 9,314 people. So tickets are expensive because there are not many seats available each game. Supply and demand right. Tickets to the Duke vs. UNC game at Cameron were the 2nd highest ticket price in all of sports this year after the Superbowl coming in at $2,500 for one ticket!
I cannot imagine spending $2,500 for a ticket to any sporting event. That is 4 times more than my entire family spent on tickets to over 20 baseball games last year! So you can go crazy on spending money to purchase tickets. Although there are ways to go to sporting events on a budget and get cheap tickets.
Where to Find Cheaper Tickets
One way to stay up to date on ticket deals with your team is by joining their eclub. As a member you typically receive emails with the latest deals and promotions, exclusive ticket sales and availability. For instance, I belong to the Milwaukee Brewers eclub and for several years on April 4th only they have emailed an offer for $4.44 tickets. Professional baseball tickets for only $4.44 each! This great deal was only available to eclub members.
Check ticket websites like Stubhub or Cheaptickets as sometimes they will have a better deal than the official website of the sports team. However, beware of service and processing fees with ordering online as they can get costly.
Since I don’t live too far from Miller Park (Brewers stadium) I will go there to purchase tickets instead of paying online processing fees. Online fees and phone fees can really add up as they are at least $3-$5 per ticket. Then once we are going to games during the season I will save time and money by getting tickets at the ballpark. I put a reminder in my phone if I need to get tickets at a game so I do not forget.
Find Budget Friendly Ticket Promotions
So how do I go to sporting events on a budget and get most of my cheap tickets? Planning ahead with ticket promotions. For the most part I only get tickets on a day when they are offering a deal or promotion. Every winter when the baseball schedule comes out I sit down with a pen, paper and the schedule to make my plans.
First, I look at the promotion schedule for the season. These are games where there is some sort of deal involved with the tickets. It could be $6 ticket Mondays, or select ½ price seat Fridays, or ½ price kid days. So I write down any days with these ticket deals that might work in our schedule.
Next, I check if there are any promotions with other businesses in the community. For example, BP gas stations run a deal with our baseball team where you get free tickets when you fill up at BP gas stations. How this works is each time you fill up more than 8 gallons of gas at a BP station, you get a stamp. Once you have 7 stamps on a card you turn that in for a free ticket. They have 6-9 select games for this promotion, so starting in February I make sure to get gas at BP gas stations.
Then, I research if they do ticket deals with other events going on in the area. For instance, they will pair a baseball and basketball game together. If you buy this deal you get a baseball and basketball ticket – each at a discounted price. Other examples could be a music event in town or admission to a museum. Buying them both together saves you money. This is only a good deal if you will actually use both tickets.
Furthermore, check if there are any kid membership opportunities for cheap tickets. We purchase a kids membership each year that includes game tickets. The cost of the membership is less than it costs to purchase those game tickets by themselves. (Not to mention all the cool stuff and merchandise that comes with a kids membership). It is well worth the money because we know we will use the tickets vouchers.
Get the Best Seat For Your Buck
When people think of cheap sporting event tickets they automatically think that means bad seats. By planning in advance and jumping on deals immediately, I can get the best seats available in the offer. Are the tickets going to be front row behind the plate? Probably not. However, by getting the tickets early they won’t be terrible either.
Part of the reason I analyze the schedule right when it comes out is so I can get tickets right when they go on sale. The longer you wait to purchase tickets the worse your seats will be for the same price. They typically give away the best seats in a section first come first serve.
Also, by waiting to get tickets, you risk a particular game, seating area, or promotion will be sold out. I end up having a much better seat than others with the same section/same ticket/same promotion just because I planned ahead and got my tickets sooner than others.
As deals and promotions arise throughout the season, I keep a list of future games I need to get tickets. At the next game, on our way in, we stop at the ticket window and get the tickets.
Ways to Avoid Over Priced Concessions
After tickets, concessions is the big budget blower at a sporting event. Sporting event concessions are so expensive! Here are a few ways to save money and avoid the costly concession stands:
- Eat before you go to the game. Have dinner at home or tailgate in the parking lot. Even eating at a cheap restaurant beforehand will keep more money in your wallet. Avoid coming to a sporting event starving as you will probably spend more than you want on food.
- Check if your sports venue allows you to carry in food. Take advantage of this if they allow it. Miller Park does allow food into the stadium so we usually pack a bag lunch/dinner at home and eat it inside the ballpark. We bring our own snacks too. Because I know my 3 year old he will ask for something from the concession stand if he sees it. So I buy the shelled peanuts at the grocery store when on sale and bring them along for the peanut ball park experience. This way he can eat what others are eating for a quarter of the price.
- Some sports venues allow you to bring your own beverages. If they do allow it, it usually is non-alcoholic drinks that must be in plastic unopened bottles. Glass and aluminum typically are not allowed in. If beverages are allowed we bring our own waters and sometimes a gatorade or juice.
Concession Stand Tips For Your Budget
If you do choose to buy from the concession stand, some items are better for your buck than others. Check if any of the stands offer a deal or discount. Sometimes there are special kid stands or kids meals for cheaper. Instead of everyone getting their own small individual item, buy the large item and have everyone share.
If you are buying drinks at the concession stand check the cost per size or ounce and figure out which size is best to get for what you are paying.
Check the pricing of items at the concession stand in the concourse vs. what the seat vendors are charging (you know the guys who yell peanuts, cracker jacks, beer here). Although it can be nice to not have to get up to buy an item, or to not miss the game, snacks and drinks may be cheaper in the concourse. When you go out for a bathroom break or take your kids out for a quick break get your concessions instead of buying items in the seats.
My family and I rarely spend money at the concession stand and this is how we are able to go to sporting events on a budget. We can get more food for less other ways. We would rather spend money on tickets for another game than eat and drink overpriced items at the concession stand. It is nice to avoid the concession stand lines too:)
How to Avoid Over Priced Souvenirs at a Sporting Event
Besides concessions, souvenirs can be extremely overpriced as well. You can find the same or similar items at a local department or retail store. There are also numerous online websites to get team merchandise or souvenirs that offer sales or coupons. Google your team and what souvenir you are looking for and lots of options will likely pop up. Rarely will you find an item on sale at a sporting event.
To avoid an upset toddler or child buy a souvenir in advance and give it to them at the game. This is a win win because the child got the effect of a new toy or souvenir at a sporting event and you didn’t spend all the money in your wallet getting them one.
If there is an item exclusive only to a sporting event, and I am contemplating buying it, I always ask myself these questions:
- Will my child really use this after the sporting event? Will it be neat for the weekend but then just go in the drawer?
- Is it something all my kids can use or something that can be worn many times?
- Is this something I would like or could use? For example, if a souvenir cup or bowl – could be used for future breakfasts, lunches and dinners?
It is rare, but if answers are yes, the price is not outrageous, and it is a special occasion, I will consider buying a souvenir. Again we would rather go to more games than spend money on souvenirs that just clutter up our house.
Another way to get a game souvenir is with tickets to a game that comes with a fan giveaway. Lots of sports teams offer various fan giveaways, some for kids and some for adults or both. If a game has a really cool giveaway that interests us, we definitely check into tickets.
Save Money By Staying Away from Sports Venue Parking Lots
One of my least favorite things to spend money on is parking. I feel this way because you have nothing to show for the money you spent and there is a free alternative. To me it is well worth saving money to park a little further way and get some exercise in with walking a little further to the sports venue. Avoiding paid parking is a great way to stick to a sporting event budget.
Also, another reason I do not like to pay for parking is I hate sitting in a parking lot waiting to get out after the game. It may take us a little longer to walk to our car after the game, but then we get right out and on our way. In addition, there is a bonus benefit of more exercise with walking further to and from the car.
Another way to avoid high priced parking fees is to check if there is a place to park and take a shuttle. Sometimes nearby restaurants, bars, hotels, or other businesses offer free shuttle rides to and from a sporting event. Granted this can take more time , but you can save $10-$30 just by parking a little ways away and hopping on a shuttle. These places may offer food, drink, or hotel deals with a shuttle ride and it may be a good alternative to paying for parking.
If You Have To Pay For Parking
We try to avoid parking in paid parking lots, but there are times we do have to do it. Sometimes we tailgate before a game, or at some venues there is no other choice. If we do have to park in a parking lot, I check in advance on pricing and if you can get it cheaper by paying in advance. Sometimes you can save a couple bucks by doing this.
Next, I check if there is anything that comes with parking in the lot. For example, at Miller park you take your parking ticket and turn it in to get a voucher for a free drink. It is considered a designated driver program, to give an incentive for the person driving the group or family. So at least I am getting a beverage out of the money spent on expensive parking. Overall, if you are able avoid paying for parking to go to a sporting event on a budget.
Take Advantage of the Sports Venue and Free Items
If I am going to pay for a ticket to an event I am going to get my moneys worth. I take advantage of all the park has to offer to get the best experience while I am there. If I am going to a new venue I look up the game day and venue details beforehand to see what they offer for guests.
Things I look for:
- Is there a kids play area at the venue
- Do they offer any kids activities
- Do they have a free hall of fame or team museum to check out
- Are there any other experiences or places to visit at the sports venue
In addition, I check in advance if the park offers any freebies. Miller Park offers a free pack of baseball cards to kids found at guest services. On Sundays, kids get a free ice cream popsicle. Sometimes you may not find every deal or freebie online. So when you arrive at a venue check in at guest services and ask them about their deals and freebies. You may be surprised what they all offer.
I make sure to plan in advance and plan time to see and do everything the venue has to offer. We arrive early to give us enough time and still be in our seats before the introductions. If I am paying to see this game I don’t want to miss any of it.
In conclusion, there are many ways to go to a sporting event on a budget. Use deals and promotions when purchasing your tickets. Get your tickets in advance as much as possible for the best available seat. Bring your own food, snacks, and drinks to avoid spending money at expensive concession stands. Buy souvenirs at local stores or online to avoid overpriced souvenirs. Park on the street near the sports venue for free instead of paying to park in the sports venue. Take advantage of everything the sports venue has to offer to get the best experience for your ticket. Follow these tips and best practices to have many family fun and enjoyable experiences with your favorite sports teams.