Festival season doesn’t have to leave you broke

Music festival season is upon us, but the expenses can rack up fast.

Coachella general admission tickets started at $399 this year, and that’s before factoring in travel, hotel, food, or anything else.

And the prices aren’t going down anytime soon. According to an article from Time, “Tickets to the festival have steadily climbed over the 17-year history of the event.” Now the publication says a “cheapskate” approach to the festival could still run about $1,000.

But those prices don’t scare music fans. This year’s Nielsen Year-End Music Report says live music “dominated” consumer spending — 36 percent on concerts and another 8 percent on festivals like Coachella.

“By the time you get into the show, you’re broke,” long-time festival attendee Ross Gerber told Time. He’s also CEO of of an LA-based company called Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management.

That’s where we come in.

Whether it’s a big festival like Bonnaroo, or something more local, here are 10 ways to save money at your favorite fest:

1. Volunteer for entry

Before you buy your ticket, consider taking a volunteer gig with the festival. A lot of fests need all the help they can get with things like badge-checking or recycling. If you’re willing to dedicate some time and sweat, you can often earn your entry and maybe even extra perks.

If you join Bonnaroo’s C’roo for example, you’ll work 18 hours over the week doing anything from hospitality to working setup or toll booths. But in exchange, you get free access to the entire festival, a shirt, meal tokens, and free showers. (One in the portable shower trailer is usually around $7.) Most festivals will tell you if they take volunteer applications on the FAQ section of its website. Coachella doesn’t, but others like Hangout and Gov Ball do.

2. The early bird gets the worm

If volunteering isn’t your style, be sure to buy your tickets as early as possible. A lot of festivals hike the price up as the fest gets closer. Set an alarm for yourself and check the website religiously so you don’t miss out. Sometimes, tickets are available before a lineup is even released. Unless you’re feeling lucky, that’ll likely be its cheapest point.

This isn’t a new thing, either. In a Coachella forum thread from 2011, one user asked if ticket prices were going to rise or drop as the fest approaches. “Tickets always cost the most right after they sell out, and closer to the show,” one user said. A Reddit thread on Wakarusa, an Arkansas music festival, saw the same pattern in 2014. “Tickets only get more expensive as time goes along,” the user said. “If you got the money, get your ticket asap.”

This goes for things like parking passes too. Many festivals will offer parking spots for purchase ahead of time and it will always beat the price (and effort) of finding a spot day-of.

3. Find the deals

If committing early to tickets is too much of a gamble for you, check out discount websites like Groupon before buying directly from the festival. There’s always a chance you could snag a deal. For example, Alabama’s Hangout Music Fest has general admission tickets for around $310, but Groupon ran a deal to get them for $275.

4. Carpool

Do this in any capacity to save money. Whether going halfsies on a prepaid parking pass with a friend and riding together, or using a ride service like UberPool or Lyft Line — you’re not the only person going to this festival. Take advantage.

According to a blog post by Uber, “On average, UberX already costs 40 percent less than taxi. Imagine reducing that cost by up to another 40 percent.” What we can guarantee? It’ll definitely be cheaper than traveling solo.

5. Pack your lunch, snacks and an empty water bottle

You’re going to want to read the guidelines for your specific festival, because they all vary. But in many cases, festivals will let you pack at least one light meal and some snacks. It might not be as glamorous as that $12 white truffle burger, but bringing your own sandwich and protein bars will save you a bunch in the long run.

Some festivals will also let you bring an empty reusable water bottle that you can fill onsite — both Bonnaroo and Coachella are cool with this, but Coachella says no to metal, steel or aluminum varieties, so make sure you double-check.

6. Forget the hotel

A lot of outdoor festivals offer a campsite option in addition to traditional lodging packages. According to U.S. News, “this is often cheaper than a hotel room and gives music fans a more immersive festival experience.” Users on the Coachella forum agree. “I’ve done both, and the camping experience wins it for me,” one user said. “The hotel is expensive, and money is an issue.” Other users said camping gives a concert-goer the full experience.

7. Social media is your friend

Keep an eye on hashtags related to the music festival you’re attending — it just might help you score some free stuff. “Follow hashtags … or dedicated Twitter profiles … to get the lowdown on free food, drinks, secret shows and other free events during the fest,” says Oregon-based music festival fan Rhys Finch. Finch used the hashtag #sxsweats and Twitter profile @southbyfreenoms when he attended SXSW to get free meal alerts.  Vendor giveaways can add up, too. Two ounces of sunscreen can go for around $8, so if a Coppertone representative is handing one to you, don’t ask questions.

8. Have a spending budget per day

Even though you’re going to be smart and prepack your meals (right?), we know that there will be some temptations you just can’t say no to. And that’s OK. Just make sure you know how much you want to allow yourself to spend ahead of time. And then, don’t falter.

9. Keep cash on you to avoid ATM fees

Just because music festivals have ATM machines doesn’t mean you should use them. Out of network transaction fees can range anywhere from $2 to almost $5 according to sites like Bankrate and MyBankTracker.com. Last year, financial blog Got To Spare said Bonnaroo ATM fees were $4.95. Even worse? By the end of the festival, all the machines ran out of cash. Save the card for emergencies and withdraw money from your actual bank ahead of time to avoid the fees.

10. Be smart about what you do buy

Say no to the CDs, vinyl, and even T-shirts if it’s something you can buy online. A quick Google on your smartphone will tell you if an item is exclusive to your festival or something you can buy off Amazon a week later when you’re back into your regular routine.

Some bands do exclusive posters, shirts, and even single releases to commemorate an event. Others don’t. Save yourself the money and the task of carrying the item if it’s something you can snag ‘whenever.’

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Meet the Author

Emily Bloch

Emily Bloch


Bloch is a reporter for the Sun-Sentinel based in South Florida.

Lifestyle, Pop Culture, Travel

entertainment, music, save money

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Article last modified on September 17, 2018 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: 10 Music Festival Money-Saving Tips - AMP.