From seasoned ravers to festival newbies alike, everyone’s pinching pennies when it comes to festival season. Here’s how to have fun in the sun on a budget!
Between transportation, festival food, hotels, camping supplies, and outfits, festival living is not for the faint-hearted. Tickets alone are not cheap, and that’s only the beginning of a long list of expenses over the course of a few days. Sometimes it feels nearly impossible to have a fun festival season while also keeping your bank account afloat.
But don’t worry! Paying your way at festivals can be easier than you think. From our experiences over the years of balling out at festivals while on tight budgets, we’ve come up with a few ways you can have an exciting yet comfortable festival experience while saving money.
Check out the other helpful tips of our Festival Tips Series to help maximize the fun during your festival season this year!
Read below for some tips that will make your next festival a great one no matter what your budget is!
#1: Pack as much food as you can!
This works the best for camping festivals, but in addition to your campsites we encourage you to stock your hotel rooms full of snacks and meals. Festival food can be so expensive, with average foods like a slice of pizza being upwards of $8 (*cough* Spicy Pie *cough*). Eat a hearty meal before you head out for the day, and make sure to stack up on important nutrients.
Grub on items like toast, bagels, or pancakes for breakfast to carb-load and keep your energy up while you dance the night away. We also recommend eggs, fruit juices or smoothies with no added sugar, lean meats, and veggies — foods that are filling and will keep you satisfied for hours to come.
Some festivals also allow you to bring in snacks as long as they’re unopened, so take advantage of this and bring some with you. Splurge on value packs of chips and crackers to store in your backpack when you get the munchies.
Pass on the water bottles! Bottled water at festivals is typically insanely expensive, averaging at about $4-$6 per bottle. To save the environment and your wallet, utilize a refillable water bottle or Camelbak and get free water all day via the water stations scattered around the festival grounds.
Oh, and definitely spend the $8 to get a slice of Spicy Pie at least once over the course of the festival. It’s worth it!
#2: Go easy on the souvenirs.
Having something to remember a festival by is great, but it shouldn’t have to break your bank. Unfortunately, festival merchandise can be one of the most tempting as well as one of the most expensive parts of a festival. We recommend that you limit yourself to one souvenir to conserve your funds for more important things, such as food or transportation costs. Our favorite souvenirs would be T-shirts, hats, and pins, since they’re some of the least expensive items and you can wear them often.
Don’t forget that festival merchandise is usually made available online and potentially for a cheaper price the days following the festival, so if you have your eye on something special, wait until you get home! Of course, be sure to keep your wristbands and any commemorative items you may have received upon getting your ticket. Sometimes the best souvenir is what got you into the festival in the first place!
#3: Carpool with friends!
Splitting the fare with friends can make it that much easier on your wallet, and alternating who pays for gas ensures everyone pitches in and pays an equal amount. The more people in the car, the less you’ll have to pay for gas, so get cozy! You may have to pack light to make room for everyone, but sacrificing a few unnecessary items is worth saving your money on transportation.
If you’re camping, you can save a lot of money on camping passes by carpooling with your rave fam and sharing campsites. The same applies with hotels — although it can get a little cramped, it’s better than spending hundreds of dollars for another hotel room.
#4: Need a new outfit? Ask to borrow clothes from friends!
Part of the fun of festivals is dressing up, and though we would all love to splurge on new leg wraps or a sexy pair of sequin booty shorts, our credit card balances may say otherwise. Using your friends’ wardrobe can be your greatest asset. Offer to bring a clothing item or two that sparked your friends’ interest and make a trade for the weekend. Of course, ask your friends prior to playing dress-up if it’s okay to borrow some of their clothes.
If all else fails, take blah outfits to a new level with glitter, body paints, and rhinestones. Our favorite place to shop for glitter of all kinds and jewels for every part of your body is The Gypsy Shrine. A little goes a long way, and you can purchase glitter packages in different colors and sizes.
Don’t forget that what you look like at the start of the day is going to be a lot different from what you look like after dancing and sweating for twelve hours straight, so don’t stress too much about the outfit choices!
#5: Leave your card behind and opt for bringing cash instead!
Festivals are expensive, why pay even more for ATM fees?! Save your funds by planning ahead and bringing enough cash to get you through the weekend instead. That way, you can avoid literally paying for your own money and have more to spend on the fun stuff, like nacho cheese fries or overpriced beer.
Remember that bringing your own alcohol along can help you save money as well, as mentioned above, but if you’re not wasting $4 on fees at the ATMs, you’ll be able to feel less guilty about splurging.
It’s also important to think ahead and visualize how much cash you’ll be needing, though, because if you’re like me, having too much money can be dangerous as well. Odds are if you have leftover money at the end of the weekend, you’re going to end up spending it on something superfluous like another lineup hoodie that you buy every year and never actually end up wearing. Or maybe you’re more responsible than I am… if so, kudos to you.
There are also many festivals, such as Lollapalooza, that are now cashless, which is awesome but can speed up your spending so make sure to keep track. Make sure to check if the event you’re attending is one of them!
#6: Volunteer and get your ticket for free!
Almost every festival hires volunteers to work the event. Whether it’s passing out flyers or working as a parking attendant, festivals always need people to help out and will often give out free wristbands as an exchange for their work. If you’re dying to go to a particular event but just can’t come up with the funds at the moment, try checking the festival’s website to see if they’re looking for volunteers.
If you do decide to go this route, keep in mind that you will have to be working and may miss some sets you wanted to see. You’ll still get to go to a festival for free though and hear plenty of music, which is admittedly pretty cool.
#7: Plan ahead and book early!
From ticket prices to airfares, it’s always best to buy early. If you wait too long to snag a ticket, you run the risk of the event selling out and having to buy a ticket at a hiked up price from StubHub (not including taxes and fees.)
Of course, there’s always Craigslist, but then you have to deal with scammers and there’s nothing worse than paying $200+ for a wristband, only to get to the gates and find out that it’s fake.
If you know that there’s an event coming up that you want to attend, don’t hesitate too long and buy your ticket and book your flight/hotel (if necessary) well in advance. The longer you wait, the more money you’ll end up spending and you can always sell your ticket later on if you change your mind!
Check out our tips on buying tickets from a third party!
#8: Multi-purpose items are key
Especially at camping festivals, being strategic about what you bring along can be a major money-saver. For example, make-up wipes. Those babies can basically do everything.
Napkins, body wash, face wash, you name it. With just a little research, you can narrow down a few multi-purpose items to purchase that will help you get through the weekend without breaking your wallet.