By: Wesley Hurlock
One of my favorite times of the year is when football returns in early September. I can’t help but feel the thrill of a new season, when anything is possible for every team. I love keeping up with the storylines that develop with each game and watching the drama unfold throughout the season. I also enjoy following football because it inevitably comes up in conversation with anyone—family, co-workers, friends or even people I’ve just met.
The only problem is that being a football fan can get a little pricey. Whether you’re at home or at the stadium, watching the games and snacking on game day food can be very expensive—especially when you’re trying to meet your other financial needs. So how can you be a dedicated fan and save money at the same time? Here are some tips for scoring a budgeting touchdown:
One of the most popular ways to enjoy football is to watch it on TV. Cable and satellite companies have caught on to this, and they usually charge a monthly or yearly rate for a football package (like NFL Sunday Ticket or ESPN Goal Line for college football)—on top of your existing cable package. With the growing popularity of Fantasy Football in recent years, the NFL Red Zone now allows you to track scoring drives and big plays for all games around the NFL with no commercials. Unfortunately, these options typically cost a lot of money, which can significantly increase your cable/satellite bill over the course of several months. If you want to catch every play and save some cash, consider ditching your cable or satellite service for a cheaper option.
If you’re interested in following a hometown team, you can access your major local networks with an antenna for a one-time cost of $20 to $100, depending on the model you buy. Need ESPN or NFL Network for your Monday and Thursday night games? Try streaming services like Sling TV or PlayStation Vue: Both options offer channel packages around $30 to $40 per month for both ESPN and NFL Network, along with a host of other channels. The best part: You can cancel your subscription at any time with no contract. If you’re a Verizon customer, you can stream every NFL game live using the NFL mobile app at no additional cost (the one caveat being that it must be streamed from your mobile device, not through your television). There are plenty of inexpensive choices out there for sports fans who don’t want a cable bill raining on their parade. Weigh your options, and choose what’s best for your wallet.
You could head to a sports bar or restaurant to enjoy the game along with some food and drinks. Just be prepared to spend a lot of money doing it. In his book, The Simple Dollar, Trent Hamm states the average meal outside the home costs $12.75, and the average American spends $232 per month eating meals outside of their home. Even $12.75 is a conservative estimate, especially if you spend three hours (the average length of a football game) or more at an establishment. When you factor in all the different options and price ranges for appetizers, entrees and beverages, your bill can quickly add up.
Instead of heading to the sports bar, watch the game at home and score your game day grub at your local supermarket instead. Before heading to the grocery store, always check to see what items are on sale and what coupons are available. Many places offer specials on soda, burgers or chips during the weekends. You can also get items in bulk if you have a wholesale club membership, which will save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a full season. You’ll have great tasting food, you can eat whenever you want and, best of all, you’ll be in the comfort of your own living room.
To me, there’s nothing better than being there to witness the live action and share the experience with other fans who are there to support their team. But hefty expenses can creep up on you in more ways than one when you head to the stadium. Traditional tailgating before, during and after the game is fun, but it has its costs. Ticket prices for games continue to climb due to football’s ever-increasing popularity. (Plus, most NFL teams used flex-schedule pricing, which means games that involve popular teams cost more to attend.) Add these factors to the cost of purchasing a snack, drink or souvenir while you’re in the stands, and you could quickly see your game day bill getting out of hand.
If you plan on attending a game in person, make sure to use legitimate resources to purchases tickets. You can get some great deals through NFL Ticket Exchange and StubHub. More importantly, purchases made on those sites are secured, and you are guaranteed admission to the game. You can also purchase single tickets or ticket packages directly through a team’s website for home games. Be extremely careful when purchasing tickets on sites like eBay or Craigslist, or when scalping them outside the stadium. Even if a ticket looks legitimate, you will be fully responsible for the purchase and likely won’t be able to get your money back if the tickets wind up being no good.
If you don’t mind getting the game day experience without all the tailgating, parking costs and concession stand prices, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) offers Gameday Xpress: a shuttle service that allows you to park at different locations in the city, board a JTA bus to the game, and board another bus to drop you back off where your vehicle is parked once the game is over. All this for less than what you’d pay to park close to the stadium. As an added perk, you avoid driving through stadium traffic after the game ends.
As attending a game in the stadium can be expensive, many fans choose to tailgate outside of the stadium and forego the costly expense of tickets. As mentioned, this can get expensive if you park close to the stadium and spend money creating a “tailgate buffet.” A great way to save on parking costs: Rather than having everyone park in the same expensive spot, have one person in your party park close to the stadium with the tailgate items, while everyone else parks in a different area and simply meets at the tailgate location. To save on the tailgate itself, make it a potluck (where everyone brings a designated dish) or split the cost of food and drinks evenly between all the tailgaters. (Again, don’t forget to shop those supermarket sales!) Remember, you and the rest of your friends are there to have a great time, so don’t worry so much about making exotic foods and drinks. Keep the menu simple so you can focus more on cheering on your team with friends, family and fellow fans.
Hopefully this helps you get the most enjoyment out of your football season. Now let’s play ball!
The content provided in this blog consists of the opinions and ideas of the author alone and should be used for informational purposes only. VyStar Credit Union disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information provided.