Whether you’re a casual fan or one of the diehards who wears a custom jersey and body paint, it’s tough to beat the excitement and atmosphere of a live sporting event. Unfortunately, going to one can cost a lot. Just how much? Well, the average price for an NFL ticket in 2022 was nearly $112.1 And when you’re wanting to see a really popular teams with superstar athletes—in any sport—the price of admission can easily be $200–300.
But fear not, because it is possible to enjoy the thrill of being in the stadium, ballpark or arena without breaking the bank. Here’s a list of seven tips for going to a sporting event on a budget.
How to Go to a Sporting Event on a Budget
Now, the easiest way to save money while still enjoying a game is to watch it at home. TV broadcasts look and sound so good these days that plenty of folks would prefer to invite some buddies over, order a pizza, and enjoy their favorite team on the couch.
But if you’re dead set on being part of the in-person crowd (and there’s nothing wrong with that—it’s super fun!), these seven ideas will help make it more affordable.
1. Wait for discount nights.
A lot of teams have discount nights throughout the season, so keep your eyes peeled. Some baseball teams even have family nights with packages that include tickets, parking and food. College student discount games are also super common. You just need to do your research and stay in the loop so you know when you’re actually getting a good deal. When the schedule comes out before the season, circle the discounted games on the calendar so you can start saving up early.
2. Buy from sellers online.
You don’t have to buy tickets directly from the team, which can be really pricey. Instead, check ticket resale websites (like StubHub and SeatGeek) and online auction sites (like eBay and Facebook Marketplace).
Scared you’ll get scammed with fake tickets? Don’t be! The big-name ticket resale websites offer guarantees to make sure that doesn’t happen.2,3 And when you use online auction sites, you can check the seller’s ratings and read buyer feedback to make sure you’re buying from a legit seller.
3. Eat before you go.
Prices for food and drinks at sporting events have gotten ridiculous! Just how bad are they? In 2021, the average price for a hot dog at an NFL game was a whopping $5.60. For a hot dog! And other concession favorites weren’t much better—the average soft drink cost about $5, and the typical beer did $9.25 worth of damage.4 Holy smokes!
But thankfully, you aren’t required to pay those insane food and drink prices to have a great time at a sporting event. In fact, eating lunch or dinner before you arrive at the stadium or ballpark is a great way to save a whole lot of money. You’ll get a good meal at a normal price, and you won’t have to wait in line at the game—which means you won’t miss any of the action.
Worried about getting thirsty during the game? Lots of stadiums, ballparks and arenas will let you bring in a clear water bottle that you can fill up at a free filtered water station. Do your research, and take advantage of that option if it’s available.
4. Save on parking.
Paying for parking is one of the hidden costs of going to a sporting event, and it can put a big dent in your budget. Especially if you’re going to a game in a major metropolitan city (think Chicago, Philadelphia or Boston), you could easily pay $30 to park. Gross!
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Luckily, there are a few ways you can avoid dishing out that much money for parking. First, you can avoid paying for parking altogether by not driving your personal vehicle and, instead, taking public transportation or using a rideshare service.
You can also save money by parking farther away from the stadium or by carpooling. Think about it: You could drive yourself and park close to the stadium for $40 or you could ride together with three friends and park half a mile away for $20—which would come out to $5 each. That’s a huge difference!
5. Pick cheaper seats.
Picking cheaper seats is a great way to save money at a ballgame—and that doesn’t mean you have to sit in the nosebleed section (those seats at the far back, upper level of a stadium). Several football stadiums offer more affordable tickets behind the endzone, sitting in the outfield is usually cheaper at baseball parks, and discounted general admission sections without assigned seats are common at professional soccer games.
All those options put you inside the stadium, feeling the energy of the crowd without paying a premium price. And of course, you can always save money by sitting in the nosebleeds—if you don’t mind being a little farther from the action. You may even wind up with a neat bird’s-eye view the folks watching on TV don’t even get!
6. Go to a minor league or amateur game.
If you want to see a game in person, here’s a shocker: You don’t have to watch a big-ticket pro team to make it happen. What! Yep, it’s true. Going to a minor league game can be just as fun, and you’ll still be watching professional athletes.
Hockey, football and baseball all have minor league options, and chances are, there’s a minor league team in a city near you. It goes without saying that tickets to these games are a heck of a lot cheaper. Plus, you never know—you could be watching future big league superstars!
And don’t forget about watching college and high school games. If you’re in a college town, you can likely get into a lot of games without spending very much. And high school basketball and football games are major events—with a minimal admission fee—in several parts of the country.
7. Watch bad teams.
If you’re more of a casual fan of an NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL or MLS team and you’d like to take in a game or two during the season, you can save money on tickets by waiting until your favorite team faces a struggling opponent. There’s usually not a whole lot of demand to watch a last-place team or someone on a five-game losing streak, which means tickets to those games will naturally cost less—especially on the resale sites we talked about earlier.
Going to watch a bad team may mean you won’t get to see a big game with postseason implications, but you will still get to watch your favorite team in person. And if your favorite team is the one stinking things up, then you’ll probably be able to get into any game on the cheap! (Congrats?)
How to Budget for the Big Game
Bottom line: You can go to a sporting event without forking over a small fortune. But even if you use all the tips on this list, you still need to be smart and plan ahead—aka you’ll need to budget for it.
The best way to do that is by downloading the free EveryDollar app, making a monthly budget, and creating a line for whatever event you’re saving up for. Figure out the cost of attending the game you want to go to, then see how long you have to save and divide it out. For example, if you’re going to a game two months from now that’ll cost $90, you’ll need to save $45 each month. Super simple!
Whether you’re saving up for the big game, a down payment on a house, or your next car purchase, EveryDollar makes budgeting easy. And with the premium version, you can connect your bank account to the app so all your transactions upload automatically—no need to look through old bank statements.