By Jeremy Bender, Cheapism.com
It's hard to believe, with arctic temperatures pummeling most of the United States, that the spring and summer music festival season is almost here. As any budget-conscious music fan knows, festivals are pretty pricey even as their siren song of lineups is almost too good to ignore. Luckily, there are tried and true cost-cutting strategies that will let you enjoy most any music festival without financial regret.
Choose Alternative Transportation. More likely than not, your favorite music festival will be hosted far from home. Instead of driving by your lonesome, carpool. Many festivals offer online meet-up resources for carpooling attendees, which promises huge savings in gas money or car rental fees. For festivals in urban areas, use public transportation to avoid hefty parking-pass fees.
Be Prepared to Cook. Festival organizers know full well that attendees are a captive audience, and price gouging for foodstuffs is rampant. Save money by bringing along your own high-carb and high-protein foods. Cereal, jerky, and nuts, especially, are cheap food alternatives that can keep you energized through the day. If grilling is your thing, consider bringing along a portable grill and meat stored in an ice cooler. Cooking your own dinners yields enormous savings at music festivals while replenishing your body for the next full day. Moreover, the "pay-it-forward" attitude of many attendees turns a grill into a social-networking epicenter. Make new friends around the campsite and trade some of your provisions for theirs.
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Bring a Reusable Water Bottle. Camping music festivals may not allow outside water bottles in the main concert venue (looking at you, Bonnaroo) but all festivals provide water stations and public spigots in the camping and concert areas. Use the facilities to refill your water bottle, hydrate, cool off, and save cash. If you think food costs are high, you'll gasp at the price of bottled water. Do yourself -- and the Earth -- a favor by bringing along at least one bottle you can use for the duration.
Spurn Full-Price Tickets. Do your wallet a favor, as well, and just say "no" to full-price music festival tickets. All concerts offer special early-bird rates that you should jump on. If you miss the specials, Groupon can be a surprise blessing. The site routinely lists festival specials, sometimes with rates up to 48 percent off. If, sadly, you missed the cut-rate boat, scout around for a payment plan. Many festivals let you pay a fraction of the total each month with no extra fees or interest, making the hardship of dropping hundreds of dollars for a ticket easier to swallow.
Volunteer at the Festival. Many music festivals let volunteers see the concerts for free in exchange for some hard work. Although this is far from an optimal solution -- you may miss acts you'd like to see, and you'll probably spend multiple hours picking up others' trash -- it's hard to argue against the benefits of a truly free festival if you're broke.
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Shop on the Last Day. If you absolutely must bring home a memento, wait until the last day to buy works of art or t-shirts being hawked by vendors. Most will surely offer significant discounts in the hopes of clearing out the last of their inventory before closing up and heading home. This is prime time for haggling. Prices are never truly set at festivals anyway, and with good timing and polite, but firm, insistence, savings can be had for almost any item you might be eying.
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