Make It to Your Favorite Music Festival Without Going Broke

There’s nothing better than going to an amazing outdoor concert or music festival and rocking out with a few thousand of your musical compatriots. But enjoying the best live events becomes more expensive with each passing year.

Think about the cost of some of those music festivals. Coachella will set you back a minimum of $600 for general admission and camping, and upward of $3,200 if you opt for hotel accommodations. SXSW’s music badge runs nearly $1,200 excluding the cost of lodging, and Miami’s premier Ultra Fest costs $400. 

Once you factor in airfare and even the most affordable hotel or Airbnb, it soon becomes clear that you’ll need some smart saving (and spending) strategies to afford it all. Fortunately, these seven steps can ensure you’re not saddled with the debt for the rest of the year: 

1. Prioritize Your Music Festival Choices

Before you commit to a music festival or concert, spend some time thinking about who you really want to see. Be honest about the one (or two) acts that you would see again and again, or a performer that doesn’t step into the limelight often. 

For me, one of those acts is John Legend — I can’t get enough of him — and Bruno Mars. And since I’ve already seen John Legend in concert more than once, I’m prioritizing seeing Bruno Mars this year. I still regret not seeing Prince and David Bowie, and I don’t want to make that mistake again.

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2. Go Locally

This isn’t to say you should immediately take on debt to purchase an affordable LAX red-eye. See if your favorite artist will be swinging through your state or city. If you can avoid traveling very far to see them, that will save a ton of money (and time). 

Fortunately for me, my favorite artist Bruno Mars will be performing in Las Vegas this March, only two hours away by plane from my native Denver, and I plan on getting as close as I can, so that he can gaze into my eyes while singing (kidding, not kidding). Doing the research ahead of time could spare you from going unnecessarily out of your way, and spending more than you bargained for.  

3. Plan Out Your Payment Strategy

Once you’ve picked your goal, step up your side-hustle game so that you can pay cash and enjoy the experience without a bad financial hangover

Additionally, some music festivals like Ultra or Barcelona’s Primavera Sound allow you to set up a payment plan so you can pay in installments over the next few months, which can help prevent excessive, interest-accumulating debt ahead of the fest. 

4. Make Sure You’re Aware of Hidden Costs

Think about the overall cost of attending a concert. Aside from the ticket price, there are a few other hidden costs to consider, such as how much you’ll end up spending on food and drink, your transportation to the gig, your accommodations, ticket insurance, travel, and other miscellany. 

I spent some time looking at the different festivals being held around the country this summer to give you an idea of the price ranges that you’re looking at.

One of my dream music festivals to go to is Afropunk. It’s held in several locations across the world, including New York City and Johannesburg, South Africa. The tickets are quite affordable, but because I live in Denver, I have to factor in a number of externalities (namely flights and hotels). 

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You might also want to shop for your tickets at reliable platforms that are known for offering good deals. For example, SeatGeek offers a wide range of concerts and other performances to suit everyone’s tastes. Payments can be made securely without worrying about hidden costs. You might even discover a performer playing near you soon that you never even considered.

5. Plan Your Housing for Faraway Venues

If you’ve got a friend in the town of your designated festival, reach out and see if you can crash on their couch. Be sure to offer a nice, affordable thank-you gift for their hospitality. 

You can also look up the couch-surfing community, or find more informal accommodation through a hostel or an Airbnb. These hotel alternatives will typically cost less in large cities like Los Angeles or New York, two popular festival destinations.

Try to stay as close as you can to the concert venue or pick a place that has easy access to safe, low-cost transportation in the city. And finally, choose a place to stay that has a kitchen. That way, you can store groceries, cook for yourself, and save money on food while you’re in town.

6. Get There Cheaply

While you and your friends may fantasize of flying first class out to your festival of choosing, the cheaper your transportation, the more money you’ll save in the end. Plus you’ll have plenty of time to party affordably once you touch down.

If it’s necessary to fly, check out low-cost air carriers like Frontier, Southwest, and Spirit. Be prepared to pay for everything ranging from your carry-on to the seat that you want to sit in. Stay flexible, and you should be OK.

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Alternatively, if you’re destination isn’t too far away, consider taking the bus or train if it’s within your budget. For example, if you wanted to hit the Governor’s Ball festival in New York but live in Boston or D.C., you could easily find a Megabus, BoltBus, OurBus, or Greyhound for under $50 roundtrip, provided you book in advance, and be chilling in the Big Apple in roughly four hours.

If you have a flexible itinerary, you could also use the schedule explorer offered by Wanderu to find the most affordable way to get there. Finally, see if you have any points or rewards from your credit card to subsidize your travel further.

7. Set (and Stick to) a Budget

Once you arrive at the music festival, check out the local bike-sharing program or sign up for Uber or Lyft so that you can get around without renting a car (and if you’re a first-time user, you may receive a discount on your first couple of rides). Familiarize yourself with local transportation options, and see if there are any affordable transit options nearby — there’s nothing wrong with taking the subway or bus, and your wallet will thank you later.

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Triple-check the festival website so that you know the prices of food and drink before you enter the festival. Then set a budget for yourself and withdraw cash prior to arrival based on that budget. 

After that, make sure you keep a refillable water bottle on hand, your friends nearby, and get ready to party affordably all festival long. You’ll be able to do with the confidence that you won’t be short an arm and leg when the party’s over.