Tis the season for bare feet and bonfires, cold beers and late nights. As spring gets underway, there’s one thing on our minds — music festivals. No summer is complete without one, yet for the majority of families and millennials alike, checking off a music festival from the bucket list is hard to justify. After all, a few hundred bucks can buy a lot of groceries, take a chunk out of student loans, replace those worn-out spheres of rubber you call tires.
But with a little planning and preparation, going to a multiday music festival doesn’t have to break the bank. Check out these 13 money saving tips for first-time festivalgoers!
#1 FIND A FREE FEST. DUH.
Free festivals are more common than you might think, and the line-ups are surprisingly decent, too. Roots artist Woody Pines took the stage in 2011 at Mountain Sports Festival in Asheville, N.C. Big names like G. Love and Jason Isbell have rocked out at the U.S. Whitewater Center’s annual Tuck Fest in Charlotte, N.C. Roanoke’s Go Outside Festival regularly brings in groovin’ tunes from the likes of Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band and The Primate Fiasco. Take advantage of freebies! You might just discover your next favorite band.
#2 START SAVING NOW
As in, right now. Or whenever your next paycheck is scheduled. A $350 general admission ticket to Bonnaroo might seem like a lot all at once, but consider this—if you set aside $30 every month for one year, you’d have enough to foot the bill. Can’t bear to miss out on the lineup this year? Some festivals, like Bonnaroo, offer payment plans.
#3 BUY EARLY
There’s a reason the saying, “early bird gets the worm,” exists.
“Timing is a crucial factor when trying to attend a festival on a budget,” says Jeremiah Jenkins, managing partner for Black Bear Productions, which puts on Red Wing Roots in Mount Solon, Va. “Most festivals have tiered ticketing with prices often raised by 50 percent from the time the tickets go on sale to the price at the gate.”
So when in doubt, buy early. In the event you decide not to go, you’ll more than likely be able to resell your ticket for equal, if not greater, value than what you purchased it for originally.
#4 STAY CONNECTED
More than ever, festivals are utilizing social media as a marketing and ticket sales tool. So how does this work in your favor?
“A lot of times we put promo codes out there via Facebook,” says Mountain Music Festival Coordinator and ACE Adventure Resort Special Events Coordinator Chris Colin. “We also have Instagram contests and Facebook photo contests where we give away free tickets.”
That’s right—give away. As in, free. If you don’t have Instagram yet, you do now.
#5 DON’T BOTHER LOOKING THE PART
There’s absolutely no reason to go out and drop an extra hundred bucks on a cropped tank, hippy skirt, and leather headband just to go to a music festival. Yes, there will be plenty of people putting on their best Woodstock get-up, but how well do you think those moccasins and flowy white cotton threads are going to hold up when the rain hits?
#6 KNOW THE FORECAST
It’s the Southeast. You can pretty much guarantee that, at some point, it’s probably going to rain, and that means it’s probably going to be at least 10 degrees cooler. Festivals like The Festy Experience, which take place in the mountains, are especially likely to have unpredictable weather. You could buy an overpriced sweatshirt or rain jacket at the event, sure, but why not come prepared to begin with?
#7 HAVE CASH
And more importantly, set a daily budget for that cash. While many vendors accept credit cards, there are still a large majority of businesses that don’t have that option. Cash is also a friendly gesture to local businesses since it comes with no fees or additional costs. ATMs are usually available onsite, but you’ll have to pay a small fee for the transaction.
#8 BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
This seems like a no-brainer, but in the last-minute hustle to pack for the weekend, you may feel tempted to opt out of hassling with a cooler. Don’t. At the very least, come with breakfast and lunch covered. The vast majority of events don’t allow outside alcohol, but some may even prohibit outside food, so double-check the rules before you’re forced to sustain yourself on $10 cheeseburgers for three days.
#9 SHARE THE LOAD
This applies to food, to camping, to gas, heck even to ticket purchasing. The more people you have splitting the cost, the cheaper it is. According to Across-the-Way Productions, Inc., Director of Marketing Sam Calhoun, that logic is changing the way festivals like FloydFest view ticket sales.
“We want to make it economical to get the festival,” Calhoun says, citing FloydFest’s HOV-EZ Pass, which includes 4 five-day general admission tickets, two kid tickets, two tent tags, and one onsite park-and-camp pass. “You save 25 to 30 percent of what you would pay for those same items for à la carte, so for four people, or two families, you can make it happen.”
Even if you can’t rally enough friends to go in on a lump ticket purchase like the HOV-EZ pass, you can still save some green and go green by carpooling.
#10 LEND A HAND
This is likely the easiest and simplest solution to avoiding financial ruin while still getting that quintessential summer festival experience. Most festivals require volunteers to work daily shifts (ranging from two to four hours) in exchange for a ticket, but FloydFest goes as far as to offer work weekends prior to the festival so volunteers can get their work out of the way before the event even kicks off.
#11 REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
Many festivals these days have done away with plastic cups altogether, so if you want to partake in adult beverages onsite, you might be required to purchase a Klean Kanteen or stainless steel pint cup equivalent. The charge is usually minimal, around $5, but every penny adds up. You can also use it at drinking water stations, which are available at most music festivals free of charge.
#12 SHOP SOBER
Friends don’t let friends drink and shop. There’s nothing like waking up the next morning to a carful of festival memorabilia and records from artists you only half-remember seeing. Stay strong, stick to your daily budget, and if anything, wait till the last day of the festival to make your rounds. Vendors will often hold sales at the end of an event, and are thus going to be more likely to make a deal with you. Especially if you’re sober.
#13 DO YOUR RESEARCH
Finally, if none of the above has you convinced you can afford to attend a music festival, take a look at the lineups. Even if you’re only familiar with four of the 100 artists performing over the course of the weekend, you’ll likely get a better deal seeing them play in the festival setting versus individually. Concert tickets nowadays are usually $30 or more, and that’s just to see one, maybe two bands. Plus, if those four bands you really like are playing on the same day, you could purchase a one- or two-day pass and save even more.