Sporting Events on a Budget – It’s Possible with a Plan

Season ticket holder or first timer, watching your team take the field or visiting new teams in a different venue, gripping your seat tightly during the finger-biting last minutes of a close game or cheering on a decisive win — sports can certainly be some of the best entertainment possible. Whether you enjoy baseball, football, soccer, hockey or any other sport, the roaring crowd, sights and smells that fill a stadium have something to offer everyone.

You may be looking forward to treating your family to a game or, with baseball season currently in full swing, heading to the ballpark with a friend. A little planning can help keep your costs under control, and you can apply the ideas below to almost any sporting event.

Saving Money on the Tickets

You may be sticking with your home team through thick and thin, but you can still look for ways to save money. For example, ticket prices can range depending on the teams that are playing and the day of the week.

Choosing a less popular game, perhaps one on a weeknight, can work well with basketball, baseball or hockey. There aren’t as many soccer or football games in a season, so the matchup may be a bigger determining factor than the day. To maximize your savings, consider the following tips for getting to a game for less:

  • Find tickets on reseller websites. Buying tickets from a scalper could save you money, but it also opens you up to the possibility of getting scammed. Instead, you could look for secondhand tickets on legitimate reseller websites that verify authenticity and guarantee your purchase.
  • Connect with a season ticket holder. Ask around your personal network to see if someone knows a season ticket holder who can’t make a game. Instead of conducting the transaction online, you may be able to cut out the middle-man, maximizing your savings and their profit, by connecting directly with the seller. Even if they’re going to the game, a season ticket holder might be able to get you a good deal. For instance, Major League Soccer (MLS) season ticket members can sometimes get a discount on additional tickets.
  • Buy used gift cards. Major online ticket vendors and websites may offer gift cards that you can use to purchase tickets for almost any event, including sporting events. Sometimes people don’t want their gift cards, and they sell them for cash instead. You can then buy these gift cards from online used gift card marketplaces for below the face value. As a result, you’ll save money when using the gift cards to purchase your tickets.
  • Check for an employee discount. Some companies offer their employees discounted tickets to sporting events as a benefit. Government employees and current military members or veterans may also be eligible. However, sometimes you can only choose from a limited list of games.
  • Join the fan club. Becoming a member of a team’s official fan club can cost around $20 to $40 a year and could more than pay for itself with discounts on tickets or gear and access to special events.
  • Go during the preseason. Preseason tickets can be especially cheap. In 2016, you could buy preseason NFL tickets for less than $10 each from resellers. The experience isn’t the same, and you may not get to see your favorite players on the field. But it could still be a way to save money while spending quality time with your kids or friends.
  • Experience a minor league game. As with the preseason, minor league games are different than major league games. Some minor league teams have an enthusiastic and loyal fan base, and if your professional league team has a feeder team nearby, you could get a chance to see next year’s potential stars. The stadiums are often smaller, which lets you get closer to the action and the extras like parking and snacks are often cheaper.

Timing your purchase can also be important. If you’re determined to go to a game that you suspect will sell out, it may be better to buy early than risk having to pay above face value on a reseller site later. But with less popular games, waiting until the last minute could be a good idea. Although there might not be as many tickets available, prices tend to drop on reseller websites and sometimes at the box office as game day approaches.

Saving Money on Everything Else

Tickets are a necessity, but they’re not necessarily the most expensive part of attending a game. Parking, food, drinks and souvenirs can cost as much or more than your tickets.

Compare transportation options. You may be able to take public transit to the game, but if you’re going with a large group, it’s not a guaranteed money saver. Carpooling or splitting the cost of a ride from a car-sharing app could be a better option.

If you’re driving, look for off-premises parking lots. You may need to walk a bit, but you’ll also be able to save money and might avoid some of the post-game traffic.

Eat before and bring snacks. Everyone knows stadium food is expensive. But after sitting for a few hours with an empty stomach, even $6 for a hot dog or $8 for a slice of pizza sounds good. Filling up on a big lunch or early dinner before the game is a good option that can help you avoid cravings.

Unbeknownst to some fans, stadiums might let you bring in outside food as well. However, there’s often a strict bag policy, which could limit the size of your bag and may require bags to be transparent. Some stadiums also have vague rules about only bringing in a reasonable portion. Check the policy closely, and call the team’s office if you need clarification before the game. Skipping drinks can be another big money saver, and again the stadium may allow you to bring plastic water bottles.

Bottom line: A sporting event can be a wonderful way to build memories and spend a warm summer day with your friends or family. However, the expenses from a single sporting event can quickly stack up if you’re not careful. Luckily, there are many ways to save money on tickets, transportation, food and souvenirs and still have a memorable experience.

Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa’s financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney

This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a legal, tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to you and about your individual financial situation.

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