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Who doesn’t love going to a baseball game? A warm summer day. A cold beer. A hot dog. Your favorite team. Your friends and family. Honestly, what could be better?
It’s all great … until you see your empty wallet or your credit card bill. Major League Baseball games, along with the other major sports, are expensive and a real hit to a family’s budget.
You want to have a great (and carefree) time with the family on a Saturday afternoon. You want to give the kids some fun ballpark food – hot dog, soda, popcorn, pretzels, ice cream, and water ice. And you want to get them a baseball, hat, shirt, and that giant foam finger that’s become a cliché. Sure, it’s all part of the ballpark experience.
But, it comes at quite a hit to the wallet. That’s why I’ve compiled a few ideas here to help your family have that ballpark experience at a much more budget-friendly cost.
Attend a minor league baseball game instead of an MLB game.
I know it might be tough for you as an adult to sit through a minor league game. If you’re like me, you want to watch your favorite MLB team (Phillies for me) and that’s it. However, I do appreciate baseball the game itself. I can have any baseball game on TV and be completely happy.
For the family, go to a minor league game or an independent league game. Everything is much cheaper – from the tickets to the food and merchandise.
The caliber of play may not be the same as the MLB, but the caliber of fun will be. In the end, that is all that matters. Plus, your budget will be happy too!
Pack food to take in with you and/or tailgate beforehand.
Ballpark food is expensive. What’s a beer these days? $8.00, $9.00, or north of $10.00? Why pay $3.00 for a hot dog or a pretzel? You pay even more if you get a food platter. It’s ridiculous.
Instead, pack food for you and the family. Get a deli sandwich or make them at home. Pack small bags of chips, pretzels, or peanuts. Bring in your own waters or sodas in unopened plastic bottles. Most places will let you bring in these items as long as you have them in a clear plastic bag.
Another idea is finding a place to tailgate beforehand. You could bring a small grill and a cooler. Cook up some hot dogs, burgers, or chicken. Bring your own child-friendly and adult beverages. Very simple and much more cost effective.
Go for the promotional days.
Many teams will do meal deal days like “Dollar Dog Day” where some organization will sponsor the event. Those were always a big attendance day and the Phillies usually do a few throughout the year.
You can also attend the games where teams give away items like hats or t-shirts. These are great gifts for the kids and you don’t have to then spend extra money on souvenirs. A definite parenting win!
Some teams even have post-game concerts. So, if you’re looking for a nice, long cheap date for you and your spouse, that is the night to go! I think the keyword for most parents there is LONG with CHEAP coming in a close second.
Attend games earlier in the season or later in the year if your team isn’t great.
If you live in the northeast part of the U.S., you know that early April games are cold. I remember seeing flurries at a Phillies game my wife and I attended. I also seeing the Colorado Rockies having a snow delay on the television here and there. So, yes, April baseball can be very cold. But, teams still need to sell tickets, so you may able to score some cheap tickets early in the year.
The same concept goes if your team sucks, especially later in the season. You can probably get some cheaper tickets on third-party sites like StubHub where season ticket holders are just trying to dump the tickets they have left.
Go to the games where the opposing team is less popular.
This one is closely related to the one just above. If the opposing team isn’t great, you can probably get cheaper tickets. This holds true more so if you’re a fan of a good team. The team’s website has a consistent price for each ticket, but the third-party sites will not. So, you’re paying more for the popular teams as opposed to the teams nobody cares about.
With the Phillies, you couldn’t find a ticket for when the Red Sox are in town. But, the Miami Marlins? The San Diego Padres? Yeah, you’re probably good. Stay away from Interleague games and go for the boring teams where the fan base doesn’t travel much.
When getting tickets, head for the nosebleeds or standing room.
Don’t get the tickets behind home plate, dugout, or waste money a suite. Just don’t do it. Yes, it would be cool, but you won’t be going to many games unless you have a ton of disposable income you can throw around.
Instead, get the nosebleed level tickets or standing room only. I get that it might be tough for standing room tickets for young children, but they’re likely not going to sit still long enough any way. Plus, sitting it areas closer to the field can be dangerous if somebody isn’t paying attention. Pitchers are thrown at 90+ mph and come off the bat at 100+ mph, so it’s better to be careful.
That said, I know the Phillies newest ballpark has some kid friendly areas with slides and other activities if I recall. So, you can let them get some energy out on the concourse or up and down the ramps between the seating levels.
Another great tip – you can stand anywhere. So, you can get a standing room ticket and be behind home plate, first base, or third base without a problem. And if you get a game that’s less crowded – even better for you!
Join your team’s kids’ clubs.
This is something you may not even know about unless you’ve been a sports fan all your life. Many teams will have kids clubs where they offer free merchandise and ticket deals. I don’t recall all the specifics, but check out your team’s website. There should be a section there discussing it.
I recall being a member of the “Junior Phillies Club” and they gave us certain dates we could receive discounted tickets. I think they even sent us player pictures with that photocopied signature. It wasn’t much, but it was the coolest thing to me as a kid. I think there was a small fee to join.
It’s worth it for your child though and can help the wallet long-term.
Check for ticket programs offered through your child’s school, at work, or in a local organization.
Schools will often work in conjunction with teams for special nights like “Teacher Appreciation Night,” where a child will nominate a teacher. I think they all get free tickets or the school can get ticket discounts.
Then you also having your workplace or local fundraising events where you can purchase discounted tickets as a group. The team gets so many people to come and offer a percentage off the face value of the ticket. I know my job has done that few times.
It’s worth it and you get to bring the family!
Don’t overspend on merchandise at the ballpark.
After make all this effort to save on tickets and food, the last thing you want to is overspend on “officially-licensed” merchandise. Don’t waste the money. Yes, the “jerseys the players wear” are cooler and do look authentic, but don’t waste hundreds of dollars on them. It’s not worth it.
Also, instead of even buying a jersey, buy your child’s favorite player’s t-shirt. It’s a similar look and your kids can wear it more often. The jerseys can get warm in the summer and they’re likely to be worn less.
Oh, and I have another great tip for you. Something I loved to do was go to the ballpark early for batting practice. Not as many people are there and you have a chance to just sit and watch these guys unload on 60 mph pitches. Plus, you can often get a ball hit to you in the stands or players in outfield will throw up a ball to your child. It’s a free way to get a souvenir and a nice memory.
Make a whole day or long weekend out of it.
If you need to travel for the game, try to make a nice family trip out of it. Visit extended family or friends that live nearby. Go to the zoo in that city. Find a park and enjoy the weather. Visit places you normally wouldn’t have time to. This way, you’re getting your money’s worth on a variety of levels.
Taking the family out to the ballgame doesn’t have to break the bank. There are so many options for you to make it kid-friendly and budget-friendly at the same time. This way it’s something the whole family can enjoy and you don’t need to stress. Because, honestly, once the money is set aside and it’s fits within the budget, the only thing you need to worry about is the time spent with the family.
Are you and your family baseball fans? Do you have any tips for making your next ballgame more budget-friendly? Share your thoughts and advice below!