San Diego Financial Literacy Center

Seven Tips for Attending Sporting Events on a Budget

If you’ve read our posts, listened to one of our free financial presentations, or read the “about us” page on our website you’ve probably noticed that we’re big sports fans here at the SDFLC. With Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday, the Olympic torch being lit for the Sochi winter games next Friday, and the soccer world waiting to converge on Brazil this summer for the FIFA World Cup, the list of sporting events we’ll be watching on TV is plentiful.

Unfortunately, most of our budgets are not set up for us to watch these events in person. Luckily, the list of sporting events that are are far more affordable. The NBA and NHL seasons are in full swing, College basketball is approaching the madness of March, and pitchers and catchers are ready to make their yearly migration to the warm weather of Arizona and Florida for spring training.

The costs of parking, food and drinks, apparel, and not to mention tickets themselves can put a real hole in a budget. If you’re lucky enough to be attending one of these events, here are some ways to save money when going to your favorite sporting events.

  1. Ask About Family Nights  Many organizations offer tickets, parking, hot dogs, and drinks for a family of four for a reasonable price. They may not be the best seats, but the family time and the atmosphere is what counts.
  2. Look Online for Cheaper Tickets  This may not work for premier events, but regular season games (especially against less popular opponents) may have hundreds of tickets available. People may be looking to get rid of tickets that they’re not going to use. Occasionally, you may be able to find tickets below face value.
  3. Ask Friends Who are Season Ticket Holders  Often people with these tickets do not use them for every event. They’re sometimes willing to either let you go in their place or willing to let you pay a small amount for them.
  4. Try Going to a Minor League or College Event  The quality of play might not be the same, but generally it is still a very entertaining event. Many people prefer these events because the players play their hearts out for the love of the game and not for the fame and million-dollar contracts.
  5. Work or Volunteer at the Event  Here is a way to attend sporting events and experience them from a whole new perspective while you actually add funds to your budget. This idea came to me from my brother’s days of working Chargers games. Not all of those working at the stadium will watch the game, but some positions will allow for you to watch parts of the events from the behind the scenes or even get you on the field!
  6. Try to Schedule Your Outing on a Giveaway Night  Whether it’s a beach towel, t-shirt, or bobble head doll, it’s always nice to go home with a free souvenir. Selecting a day that will result in you getting a useful giveaway is a way to minimize the effect that a sporting event will have on your overall budget. Many organizations also have special days where the fans can meet the players or go onto the field, making your experience even more memorable.
  7. Tailgate Before the Game  Tailgating is considered an art form to some people, while others enjoy it more than the actual game. Whether you just bring a few deli sandwiches or transport your grill and prepare a feast, you’ll have a blast and save tons of money on food at the overpriced and crowded concession stands.

Sports are a huge part of American culture and a great way to spend time with friends and family. Just remember to be creative with how you spend money at these events and make sure it fits into your budget.

Below is the average cost of attending games for the four major professional sports, NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL according to

Average-cost-to-attend NBA-NHL

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