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Sports on the Cheap: Five Fun Ways to See the Game Without Breaking the Bank

Written by Ed Avis - 4 Comments

Sports on the Cheap

If you’ve been to a major professional sporting event lately, you know the accounting: tickets $50 each, parking $35, beer $8 per, hot dogs $5, ice cream $4, souvenirs $15 for the cheap ones… There’s simply no getting out of that stadium without spending several hundred dollars.

But wait! There is a solution! Read on about five ways you and your family can take in some excellent sports action without serious wallet damage.

High school sports

Remember the fun you had at Friday night football games when you were in high school? OK, so maybe you won’t be trying to show off for the cheerleaders anymore, but all the other fun stuff still applies. High school sports are some of the most spirit-filled events you’ll ever attend. And, in case you’ve forgotten, there is usually much more to a high school sporting event than just the game — there are marching bands and pep bands, cheerleaders, student cheering sections, over-zealous parents, and all sorts of spirited decorations.

Plus, the actual game can be highly competitive — the student athletes have none of the nonchalance of professional athletes and the great variety of talent means every play can produce amazing surprises. From a financial perspective nothing beats high school sports — many events are free, and others charge a nominal fee. Even the concessions are usually low-priced fundraisers. No $12 hamburgers here!

Small and medium college sports

Sure, Big Ten or SEC football games are great, but they’re not much less expensive than an NFL game. Next time you want some collegiate pigskin action but don’t have a bundle to blow, check out your local Division II or Division III team. You’ll get at least a semblance of the same spirit (depending on the teams, of course), probably a decent marching band or pep band, and some solid play (at least as good as a really good high school game).

If you go to a major rivalry game (e.g., the 120-year-old Monon Bell game between Depauw University and Wabash College) the excitement and crowd spirit ratchet up. If you prefer basketball or baseball, you can get much of the same experience, though with a little less pomp. In baseball, however, it’s not unusual to find a pro-ball prospect or two waiting to get drafted. If you enjoy the less-popular sports, such as volleyball or wrestling, expect lots of action and tiny crowds, even at Division I schools. Like at high school games, your wallet will hardly be dented at small college events.

Minor league sports

Everyone knows that many highly paid professional athletes act like they’re entitled to adulation and ignore their fans in return. This is rarely the case with minor league teams in any sport. These athletes, and the team officials, realize that fans pay the bills, and they treat them with the respect they deserve. Not only do the games feature much more entertainment (between the innings or periods), but they also generally allow fans to get autographs, run the base paths, and participate in various promotions.

In short, minor league teams cater to the fans, and the result is that the games are a blast. Sure, the play on the field or court is generally not as good as major league play, but it’s still solid. The best part: Tickets and concessions are a fraction of what they cost in the big leagues.

Serious amateur sports

If you watch ESPN regularly, you’ve probably noticed that amateur championships such as the Little League World Series have become big draws. That’s because the action is often stellar, and the atmosphere is always charged, at such important amateur events. So the next time you need a sports fix, go online and figure out where your local youth baseball, basketball, football, or other championship event is going on. You’ll love the spirit and the action, and you may even know some of the athletes. And, of course, you won’t even have to pull out your wallet.

Professional sports from a distance

If you are a major Cubs fan but can’t swing the tickets, try visiting Wrigleyville on game day. The atmosphere is electric, with music, vendors, crowds, and general merriment throughout the neighborhood. The same goes for the neighborhoods surrounding many other major professional sports venues. Heck, tailgating is half the fun of a pro or major college football game — just go the parking lot and soak up the atmosphere!

The next time you’re hankering for a sports fix, try one of these five events instead of the pros. You’ll discover a whole new world of sporting action, and your bank account will thank you.

Published on September 15th, 2011
Modified on September 25th, 2011 - 4 Comments
Filed under: Frugality

About the author: is a writer and editor in Oak Park, Illinois. He specializes in personal finance, parenting, and small business topics. He is married and has two sons.

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4 Responses to “Sports on the Cheap: Five Fun Ways to See the Game Without Breaking the Bank”

  1. 1
    Mary Says:

    Along the lines of what you said, going to a college town during a home game weekend is a lot of fun – sometimes even more fun it it’s really cold outside. Pizza, drinks and a big screen TV in the same town is a blast! You can also tailgate and listen to the game on the radio, car tv or iPhone and save even more money!

  2. 2
    Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey Says:

    Totally agree! You don’t have to spend big bucks to enjoy a good game and have fun with your family. Besides, watching your local high school and college teams will give a boost on their morale.

  3. 3
    termite Says:

    Hi, good post – a very good read. I really wish that more people who blog were like you and cared about communicating with other people posting comments, I think it’s very good for the great online community. Anyhow, your weblog is totally one of few that leaves me wanting to read more.

  4. 4
    Ed Avis (author) Says:

    Thanks for your comments, folks. Cherleen, you’re completely right — going to a high school or small college game boosts the morale of those athletes who are not used to seeing many fans. It’s a bonus benefit.

    My younger son is on the high school wrestling team, and I have to tell you the action there is amazing! Even if you don’t have a kid wrestling, you’ll be at the edge of your seat. Way better than a movie!

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