Ten ways to Avoid Getting Ripped Off at the Ball Park

I recently went to a ball game in my hometown and had a great time watching the local team win. However one thing I have noticed for the longest time is the rising price of things sold at the ball games and I am sure at many other sporting events. From food to ticket prices to souvenirs, prices are rising much faster than the price of inflation. All this combines to make a family trip to the ball game an expensive proposition indeed.

I understand that you will always pay a premium for things at ball park or sporting stadium, because owners have a limited window (ie during game time/season) to make a profit. They are also able to charge these high prices thanks to a captive audience with few outside choices and a general feeling of “goodness” when at a game. Most people accept that this is just part of the cost of going to a ball game and helping the local team with (paying those exorbitant) player salaries.
This pricing nirvana for club owners has been going on for a long time and I can assure you that despite tough economic times, they take advantage of any price increases they can pass through. However, there are ways that you can save money at ball games or any sporting event with some of the following actions:

1. Take your own food. This may be considered by some as the cheapskate option, but paying $50 for food, drinks and candy for a small family versus about $15 if I take it from home is a no-brainer saving in my mind. You are limited to what you can take to a number of ball parks/stadiums but most don’t have problems if you take packaged products for individual use. If they question you when going it, just say you have allergies to [insert name of processed food] they sell at the game. This gets you in most of time because they don’t want to deal with a potential medical condition.

2. Eat before you arrive. Especially with kids, who are the most impulsive. This is a pretty obvious money saver, but one that most people forget. By eating at home or a restaurant near the ball park you can save a lot of money by not having your entire meal or impulse buys at the ballpark. Best of all if you combine this with the previous point, you don’t have to stand in the long concession stand lines and can spend more time watching the game.

3. Buy tickets at the gate. This only works for non-marquee games that don’t sell out beforehand (check your teams website to get ticket status’). I have found that when you buy the ticket at the game you avoid paying ticketing transaction fees and on a number of occasions they are cheaper than the regular pre-game price. You can also buy tickets from scalpers, but do this at your own risk and something I would avoid unless you desperately want tickets.

4. Do not buy souvenirs at the game – Wait till the end or off season or buy them on-line. Patience and control is the key behind this money saving tip. That sporting jersey you see and love at the game will most likely be half price nearing the end of or after the season – particularly if the team is not doing well. If you must have the item, then don’t buy it at the ball game. Go online and I can almost guarantee that you will find if for a much cheaper price.

5. Look for game day coupons in your local newspaper or publication. Also, coupon books like the Entertainment book often have discounted tickets for various sporting events. If you plan ahead you can take advantage of these coupons often getting up to 50% off ticket prices, thanks to 2 -for-1 type deals.

6. Negotiate. If things are slow or it is getting close to the end of game time when everyone is leaving, you can get some good deals on food, souvenirs or even tickets for future games. Just make sure you ask and if you can pay in cash, vendors are always willing to bargain.

7. Have a supporter pot luck game day. Okay, this kind off defeats the purpose of going to the game. But at the end of the day most people go to the game or sporting event for the atmosphere. So if you can get a group of people together who love the sport/team you can recreate a bit of the ball park atmosphere without the expensive prices. Works especially well for marquee events like the Super Bowl where just getting tickets is nigh near impossible.

8. Buy cheap seats and move to better ones when at the game. Only works for games that don’t sell out and is definitely a cheap skate move. However for less marquee games or early in the season, this option means you could end up effectively getting premium seats at discounted (cheap seat) prices.

9. Join a sporting club or professional association, because they often get discounted tickets by being bulk buyers. For example many junior league baseball teams get cheaper tickets to pro-games and have a number of promotional days where 2-for-1 ticket deals are available.

10. Parking near the ball park or stadium on game day is expensive with costs ranging from $10 to $30 for just a few hours in the garage (and you have to deal with all the traffic when leaving). If driving try to find free curbside parking, even if you have to walk a few extra blocks. I’ve found that with a few minutes of research on Google maps, you can easily scope out an area near the sporting venue and find free street or much cheaper garage parking options. Public transport is always a good option as well, though not always as practical if you are taking your whole family.

Feel free to share any other ideas you have. After all, saving money and enjoying a good ball game can make for a great Sunday afternoon.

Other posts you might enjoy:
~ 5 Steps to Take Now in Preparation for Double Digit Inflation
~ Shopping Effectively
~ How to deal with higher taxes
~ Before Buying Stocks: Your Pre-Investing Checklist
~ 10 ways to Quickly Improve Cash Flow by Saving Money and Creating Passive Investment Income
~ Where to Invest $50,000 – Stocks, Gold or Real Estate

Carnival Time: I also had a couple of my posts featured in the recent Carnival or Personal Finance and Festival of Frugality. Thanks to the hosts for running such great blog events and make sure you check them out.

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