Are there ways to save money and do a music festival on a tight budget?
Absolutely! Being on a tight budget at a festival does not mean you can’t have an awesome time! Spending less money at a festival only means you have more money for another festival ticket later in the year – so really it’s a win-win!
With festivals like Glastonbury or Tomorrowland where you may never get the chance to go again, I do like to just enjoy the experience and not worry so much about money. That being said, I am never a huge spender, and HATE wasting money or spending heaps of my hard-earned cash at a festival!
#1. Bring your own drinks to the festival
Most festivals allow you to bring your own alcohol into the campsite and so why not take advantage of this? Bringing your own beer, wine, cider, spirits or even just soft drinks is an easy way to save yourself a heap of money during the festival.
Be aware though > Wilderness, Hogsozzle, and some other festivals, has a limit on how much alcohol each ticket holder can bring in with them. It’s always best to check each festival’s FAQ page to see what their restrictions are.
That being said, other festivals like Glastonbury for example, due to their unique setup of campsites and stages all being in one location, you can take your own alcohol right up to the stages! I saved SO MUCH MONEY at Glastonbury by taking all my own drinks – probably spending a total of £80 all weekend on food and drinks plus even splurging out ion a vintage sequin top!
#2. Use a reusable water bottle
Not only is it a way to be more eco-friendly at a festival, but bringing your own water bottle will save you a lot of money by avoiding the need to buy EXTREMELY OVERPRICED bottled water from a festival vendor/bar. Most/all festivals I have ever been to have had water fountains or taps in the campsite where you could fill up your water bottle from.
#3. Take & cook your own food in the campsite
Taking your own food and even cooking at a festival might seem like a lot of festival admin, but it’s a great way to save some money at a festival. For some festivals, this isn’t possible as they restrict the use of gas cookers or BBQ’s, but for others it’s absolutely fine, just check their FAQ page for their requirements and restrictions. I have a small, screw-on gas burner that attaches to a tiny gas bottle. I use it to boil water to cook eggs or make pasta before heading off into the arena in the evenings or even to cook myself up some porridge in the mornings.
If cooking food isn’t realistic for you, take some food you can eat without cooking to keep costs down. My festival packing list has some of the foods I take with me, but I always make myself some homemade vegan energy balls and homemade granola bars. Plus I always take other snacks like nuts, crisps, fruit, croissants, and dried fruit with me as well.
That being said, I’m not saying you should never buy food at a festival! Some festivals are renowned for offering INCREDIBLE food – Wilderness for example, has sensational food on offer! Just use a little cooker or BBQ to make yourself the odd meal/snack in the campsite to keep festival costs down!
#4. Make your own tea and coffee
This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the point above, but having a little gas cooker is perfect for making myself a tea or coffee in the mornings. Tea, coffee, and hot chocolate have a HUGE price mark-up at a festival and so making your own not only saves you money but also means you’re able to wake up and make yourself a brew without queuing or walking miles to find a cuppa!
FYI – The little gas bottles last AGES! I had one bottle which lasted a whole summer and multiple festivals!
Top Tip: Cook with a lid on top to help the water boil faster and therefore uses less gas!
#5. Be aware of festival tokens / cashless wristbands
Tokens and cashless festivals are becoming increasingly more common. Part of me loves this, as it means less faff when paying and it’s easy to budget for a festival as you can top up a certain amount and that’s all you spend. The other part of me hates the cashless system. Tokens and cashless wristbands are pre-purchased or topped up in advance, so it’s easy to lose track of how much money you are spending during the festival, or see how much you have left.
If you do have to pre-purchase physical tokens for a festival – I would advise that you purchase the minimum you think you need, as most festivals say that once purchased, they will not offer a refund for unused tokens. This avoids people being able to get cash for tokens that they find/take from others at the festival.
If the festival is operating a cashless wristband system – Any money left on the wristband at the end of the festival is normally refundable (minus a small admin fee). Just make sure you check the festival’s FAQ page for their refund policy and how to claim back unused money on your wristband at the end of the festival.
Some festivals will even have their own currency – This was true for Tomorrowland which introduced ‘Pearls’ (Ƥ) as their own festival currency to purchase food, drinks, and merchandise. To make things more complicated, 1 Pearl = €1.60 / £1.37 / $1.94 . So those midnight noodles you decided to buy which “only cost 9 Pearls” suddenly cost you €14.40 instead. Make sure you know the exchange rates between the festival’s currency and your own local one!
#6. Food and Drink: Know your options
It’s easy to see a burger stand or falafel cart and think ‘yep, I want those’ but trust me, there will be another burger stand or falafel cart elsewhere in the festival which could be better! I always make sure that I wander around to look at my options and then pick. I also tend to go for the one which has the biggest line. This might seem strange or counterintuitive, but if a certain stall has a huge line then my analogy is that it must be good (I think so anyway).
Not only that, knowing your options will mean that you can pick and choose which food stand you actually want to spend money on. You might have gone for a noodle dish because it was the first thing you came across, but wander a bit further and there could be a great vegan sushi stand you wish you had gone for instead!
#7. Be careful of festival ‘tat’
It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and think that you really need that festival hat, sequin jacket, feather headdress, or pack of neon face paints – but realistically you probably don’t! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it – I’ve bought some great festi-items which I’ve used countless times and love to pieces. Other times I’ve bought total crap which has sat in a drawer never to see the light of day again and was a total waste of money.
#8. Look out for festival money saving schemes!
I’ve been to a couple of festivals that offer free drinks, or even free food if you helped out/did something to earn it!
Latitude had a cup deposit scheme. You paid an extra £1 ($2 / €1.18) for your plastic cup to encourage you to return or reuse it! Of course, a lot of people get drunk and leave them scattered about on the floor or can’t be bothered to hand them in and so just leave them behind on a table. Pick them up and return them, collect a couple and you essentially have yourself a free drink!
Latitude also had another scheme for kids. Any child could collect a rubbish bag and a litter picker from the information desk or the main bar and litter pick for free soft drinks! Not only did it keep them occupied, but it also made the festival site a whole lot tidier and encouraged them to be more conscious of tidying up after themselves and others and being more eco-friendly at a festival, which isn’t a bad thing to learn from an early age!
Hogsozzle had a great scheme where the ends of your festival wristband were tokens! Staff would simply cut off a section at the end with a pair of scissors – One end gave you a free drink at the bar and the other a free hog roast on Saturday.
At burning man ( a big bucket list festival for me) friends of mine volunteered for a food vendor one evening so they could see an act they liked and explore, and in return, they got a free dinner! Why not help out in exchange for a freebie! It’s great fun, you meet new people, and you get a free dinner – happy days!
#9. Prioritise spending whilst at the festival
The main thing is to prioritize your spending to make sure you enjoy your festival without feeling guilty for over-spending or the dread of feeling you have live-off beans on toast for a month when you get home! Festivals are a great place to try new food, enjoy a drink or two and buy some great festival bits and bobs – but just make sure that you only buy what you really want. If you want that festival cap, vegan sushi, cocktail, glittery top or bandana then go for it – but then maybe make a sacrifice elsewhere and don’t buy a coffee the next morning or another drink at the bar…
Need even more tips – check out Vick Flip Flop Travels – a fellow festi fanatic that has some epic money saving ideas!
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