Exactly one year ago, my husband and I flew from our Florida home to Atlanta for the Final Four — the college basketball semi-finals that has certainly earned its nickname of “March Madness.”
The city was a crazy swirl of college students from those four schools, plus an equal number of older alumni who caroused the city just as hard as the kids half their age.
It was a great time, but we spent more than $1,200 just on flight and hotel. Add in food, drinks, and other expenses, and the four days set us back nearly $2,000.
Today, my husband and I fly to Dallas for this year’s Final Four. And if we spend $500, I’ll be surprised.
How did I manage that? I won a contest. And I never win anything.
So that’s my first piece of advice: Enter every contest to get where you want to go, no matter how silly. I’m going to the Final Four because I won a drawing for those who rated margaritas from my area’s restaurants. Weird as that sounds, I’m getting free airfare, hotel room, and game tickets.
Of course, it’s too late to win anything now, so if you’re on your way to Dallas, or plan to go to the Final Four in the future, try this…
- It’s a bummer if your team loses, but you can save money on a team’s apparel after a loss. Most merchandise booths will drastically mark down prices as soon as the game is over.
- Check merchandise booths on the very last day of the tournament. Merchants are under pressure to get rid of their inventory, so they’ll usually discount heavily.
- If you’re looking to save money on food and drinks, avoid buying inside the arena. Visit local restaurants – or better yet and if possible – bring your own food and tailgate outside the game to save cash. Tailgating is huge at the Final Four.
- Sometimes, schools and/or their respective alumni associations will provide charter buses or other cheap transportation. Search the school’s athletic association site and alumni sites.
- If you’re an alum of one of the Final Four teams, look to your school’s alumni association for savings on trips to the Final Four. Most colleges and universities will provide an alumni package to the games, so you can save money on flights, hotels, and game tickets.
- Couldn’t get tickets to the Championship Game? Look for tickets immediately after the Final Four day games and on the day of the championship game. A lot of people who bought “All Session” passes will want to sell their final game tickets if their teams were eliminated.
If you’re going to the Final Four yourself, look for me — I’ll be wearing the Debt.com shirt. Come up and say hello. I’ll also be tweeting through the weekend, pointing out additional ways to save and highlighting some of the sillier prices.
Go Gators! And Huskies! And Badgers! And Wildcats!