6 Ways to Save Money at Summer Concerts and Music Festivals

This article first appeared at U.S. News and World Report Money.

Bonnaroo. CMA. Firefly. Lollapalooza. The summer calendar is filled with amazing festivals for music fans, where attendees have the opportunity to hear live performances from dozens of great musical acts in just a few days.

Unfortunately, attending concerts and festivals can really add up. A three day stint at a big music festival can quickly drain your pocketbook and leave you broke for the rest of the summer (and beyond).

Thankfully, taking just a few simple steps can drastically reduce the expenses without taking away any of the fun. Here are six options you can take to save yourself money at summer music events.

Volunteer. Many festivals and outdoor concerts rely on volunteer labor to get things done. The need for things like moving items from one location to another, unloading trucks, organizing lines, and other simple tasks are endless – and they typically rely on volunteers.

Volunteers do get perks, however. They often get free food and merchandise. Some volunteers get free tickets to the event as well.

Your first step should be to look for official volunteer programs for the festival you wish to attend. Are there still slots available? Send in your application as soon as you’re sure that you want to attend. Aside from that, you can talk to vendors on-site and volunteer to help them out directly in exchange for food or merchandise. It never hurts to ask!

Bring your own food and water. On-site sources for food and water are expensive. Most outdoor concerts are required to have some source of free drinking water, but that source is often crowded, so you’ll probably want to avoid using it regularly.

The solution to both problems is to bring your own. Pack a small bag with a bunch of high-energy snacks that will fill you up, like trail mix. You should also bring along a sturdy plastic water bottle already filled up with water. When you need to refill it on site, you may have to wait for a while, but then you can refill the bottle (and take a big drink right then, too).

Considering that bottled water often ranges from $3-5 per small plastic bottle and food is often outrageous, bringing your own can save you a lot of cash.

Share a ride. Any time you travel very far to an event by car, it makes sense to carpool. Every person you add to the car shaves the cost of gas by a significant amount, plus having a car nearby provides a place to store some of your items (that’s the point of a trunk).

If someone has access to a SUV or a van, you can easily transport six or seven people together and still have plenty of room for items.

Buy your merchandise after the show. On-site merchandise – t-shirts, hats, and so on – is often pretty expensive. However, the vendors usually have a bunch of items to liquidate after the show and you can usually find them online for low prices.

In my experience, you can sometimes get merchandise really cheap at the very end of the show when vendors are packing up to leave. Offer them $5 for a t-shirt at that point and you’ll often find vendors taking you up on the offer.

Use a money belt. With thousands (and sometimes hundreds of thousands) of people standing around, a few of them are probably going to be dishonest and have their hands out to sneak them into your pockets and obtain your wallet. Be smart. Don’t let that happen.

Whenever you’re in a crowd, it’s a smart idea to be wearing a money belt. It’s simply a special belt that goes under your shirt and provides a small pocket to carry your wallet and a few other very small items.

It is extremely difficult for someone to take items out of your money belt. Thieves will move on to the other low-hanging fruit and you’ll keep your cash and your wallet.

Take only your daily cash allotment. Speaking of cash, it can be really easy to spend more than you think in a festival environment. The best solution is to only carry a relatively small amount of cash with you – your daily budget for food, merchandise, and other things.

If you only have a little cash on you, you’ll be smarter with it and skip over the non-essential things. After all, you don’t really need a lot of that stuff – you’re there to enjoy the music and the party atmosphere.

Music concerts and festivals can quickly drain your finances if you’re not careful, so taking little steps like these can easily save you quite a bit of money without taking away one little moment of fun.

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