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How to Attend a Summer Music Festival on the Cheap

For the past five years, my friends and I have made it our tradition to forgo the classic summer vacation and get together for a music festival. But as these festivals have gained in popularity, ticket prices have increased exponentially, making it more difficult to attend while sticking to a budget. Factoring in the cost of tickets, lodging, meals, merchandise, camping gear, transportation and more, it can all add up very quickly. Not ideal – especially if you’re working on debt management. As an avid festival and concert goer, I’ve discovered a few hacks that can make attending a music festival an affordable vacation option for those on strict budgets. Here’s how to go about saving money at a music festival.

Try ACCC's tips for saving money at a music festival.

Try ACCC’s tips for saving money at a music festival.

Choosing a festival:

First, scope out all of your festival options before purchasing a ticket. It can be tempting to purchase tickets as soon as the lineup is announced (or before it’s announced because you had such a great time at last year’s event –I’ve done it and regretted it), but it’s likely that the same artists will be playing at many different summer festivals. Look for festivals that have multiple artists that you like, not just one main act. Consider how much you would pay to see each of the artists individually and then decide if the overall cost of the ticket is worth it. Some of the smaller, lesser-known festivals tend to have many of the same artists as the big names and are more enjoyable because you do not need to fight crowds to see your favorite acts.

Once you’ve decided which festival you are going to attend, buy tickets early. Most festivals offer early-bird ticket sale options and prices tend to increase as the date of the festival gets closer. Tickets are usually cheapest before the lineup is even announced, but this can be risky. Sign up for email alerts to the festivals that you have your eye on for early announcements and deals.

Before the festival:

Assess all possible lodging options. While camping may seem like the cheapest option, it’s not always true at a music festival especially if you don’t already own camping gear. At some festivals, it’s difficult to bring your own food and you will be stuck buying from vendors all weekend. A cheap hotel that is nearby is a great alternative, especially if it includes amenities like a continental breakfast and shuttle to the festival.  Also, access to a (free) shower is always a plus. As soon as you know you are attending the festival, book the hotel. Rates sometimes double or even triple as the weekend of the festival comes closer. This could result in credit card debt!

Consider volunteering at the festival in exchange for a free ticket and even perks like free meals or lodging. Although volunteering spots often fill up fast, it is a great way to meet new people and save lots of money.

Lots of people are tempted to buy new clothes but, chances are, you won’t be comfortable in your new trendy clothes or they will be ruined. Stick to what you already own.

At the festival:

  • Bring a set amount of cash and be realistic amount the amount. This will help you avoid paying ATM fees and also help you stick to a certain budget.
  • Bring an empty clear plastic reusable water bottle. Most festivals have free water refill stations.
  • Check out who is sponsoring the event and what they are giving away. For example, the last festival I went to was sponsored by Kind and they were offering free granola bars all day, which helped us cut back on food costs.
  • Follow the festival and its sponsors on social media for exclusive deals and promotions.
  • Talk to locals and ask them for cheap recommendations in the area.
  • Bring a rain poncho and Ziploc bags in the event of rain. If it rains, prices for rain ponchos will be at a premium and Ziploc bags are great for protecting your phone, cash, and any other valuables.
  • If it’s allowed, bring snacks. Also, don’t forget essentials like sunblock and a jacket for when it gets cool at night. You won’t want to buy these things at festival prices.
  • If you plan to drink alcohol, stick with beer as it is often significantly cheaper at festivals.
  • If you want to buy merchandise, wait until after the festival and buy it online for cheaper.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 



Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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