Baseball games are a great summer pastime, but there's no denying that a trip to the ballpark can devour your wallet.
As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I've spent many afternoons and evenings enjoying the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, and as an Iowa resident, I've also had the pleasure of attending many minor league baseball games. Along the way, I've figured out a few tactics for making expensive games cheaper. Here are eight tricks that turn what could be an expensive day at the park into a cheap, yet still enjoyable trip.
Buy tickets in advance in person. One of the cheapest ways to buy baseball tickets is to purchase them at the ticket window before the game. At the window, you typically just pay face value. If you buy online, however, you're usually faced with a number of fees, either from the ticket agent or from a fan looking to resell his or her tickets.
If I know I'm going to the ballgame on a particular day and I happen to be near the park in the weeks or months before, I'll stop by the ticket counter and make my purchases directly from the team. It's almost always the cheapest route.
If you buy tickets online, check for online ticket promotions. Unfortunately, buying directly from the ballpark in advance isn't always possible. When that happens, buying tickets online is the best option -- but only if you use online ticket promotions. Many teams offer ticket discounts; for example, some teams give half off the ticket price if you sign up for their email newsletter.
Even ticket resale websites like StubHub often have discounts. You can also check out coupon code sites like RetailMeNot to find special offers on tickets.
Enjoy the cheap seats. It's not imperative to sit in the best seats in the park. In fact, I usually enjoy the cheap seats, since the sections are usually less crowded. Plus, there's nothing stopping you from strolling around the park. You can often move into unoccupied seats in other park areas later in the game.
Enjoy the cheap games, too. You can have just as much fun at a random weeknight game against a team from halfway across the country. Even better, the tickets for those games are usually inexpensive since they often don't sell out.
"Cheap" games tend to have tons of space, and it's easy to move down to the nice areas when the game gets started since they're rarely filled. Plus, at cheap games, most of the people in the crowd are enthusiastic, die-hard fans.
Park your car away from the ballpark. Parking near any ballpark -- even a minor league park -- can be very expensive. Leave your car at home or at a friend's house closer to the stadium, and take mass transit to the park. It's far better to pay a few bucks for a bus ticket than to pay $20 (or more) to park your car.
Even better, you don't have to deal with the pregame and postgame driving conditions. You can just sit on the bus and enjoy the ride without the responsibilities of driving.
Bring your own food and water. With hot dogs, beer and ice cream, the food and beverage selection inside the park can be really tempting, but pricey, so bring your own food and water. Ballparks have different rules about what food and water you can bring into the stadium, so check the park's website to see what is and isn't permitted. Almost every park allows you to bring in an empty water bottle, which you can fill up at the drinking fountains instead of paying for overpriced bottled water.
Tailgate. If you're bringing food and drinks, turn it into a party. Congregate outside with friends, and enjoy snacks and beverages before you head into the park. You might have more fun in the parking lot than in the stadium!
This usually requires one person to drive to the park so you can bring a grill and other items, but tailgating drops the price of food and drinks so low that it's worth it. Have everyone chip in to pay for the parking fee, and it will drop the transportation cost to a few bucks per person.
Buy souvenirs away from the park. If you're tempted to buy souvenirs, such as a jersey or T-shirt, wait. Leave the park, go home and shop for the merchandise online.
It's likely you'll find the same item for much less on the Internet and, in a few days, you can proudly wear your shirt without having spent the ballpark markup.
Be smart about costs, and a baseball game can be a lot of fun without knocking your wallet out of the ballpark.
Trent Hamm is the founder of the personal finance website TheSimpleDollar.com, which provides consumers with resources and tools to make informed financial decisions.
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