17 smart ways to save money at festivals
Heading to a festival this summer? Here's how to have the time of your life, without breaking the bank...
Music festivals are an amazing summer experience – acres of mud, flower garlands and questionable drunken antics. But they're also not known for being healthy for your student bank account.
Chances are, you've already forked out a fair bit of dosh on your festival ticket, and on top of that you also have to think about travel, camping supplies, booze, and you should probably factor in a budget to feed yourself at some point while you're there too.
For festival newbies in particular, it's easy to end up spending way more than you planned. So we've collected together some tried and tested tips to help you cut your festival spending without being a party pooper.
Best hacks to save money at music festivals
These are the best ways to save money at festivals on food and drink, camping, transport and more:
Set a daily budget
In the heady atmosphere of a festival, it's really easy to get carried away and spend silly amounts of money on alcohol and food.
Decide how much money you'd be happy spending across the whole festival and divide this across each day.
Either way, don't think you need to keep pace with your friends when it comes to buying things. Stick to your music festival budget and concentrate on soaking up that festival atmosphere.
Set aside an emergency fund
It's also worth making sure you set aside an emergency fund in case point number one doesn't go quite according to plan.
The last thing you want is to be left high and dry with no money to even feed yourself, and end up having to borrow from friends.
Always overestimate how much you're going to spend, so you have money left over if things go wrong.
Leave your expensive clothes at home
We're not going to pretend that people don't care how they look at festivals – flower garlands, sparkly shorts and bejewelled accessories are what festivals are all about.
But one of the biggest expenses of the weekend can be replacing clothes that get damaged, so leave the expensive gear at home and go for some cheaper favourites.
With limited security, it’s also best not to bring your favourite trainers or jeans – or any of your best gadgets for that matter – in case they go missing from your tent.
Remember, festivals are 80% mud, so anything you want to keep clean, leave at home.
Look out for free phone charging stations
There are loads of cool services that are often overlooked at festivals, but with a keen eye, you can bag some great free stuff.
Often you'll find tents where you can cycle to generate power that will charge your phone, which will save you buying portable chargers or paying out at festival charging stations.
However, there's also a lot to be said for switching your phone off and actually enjoying real life for the weekend...
Bring your own phone charger
While some festivals will have free charging stations like the ones mentioned above, relying on this option is risky.
If this isn't available, you will be charged to... charge! Avoid this by investing in a portable charging pack – they're not too pricey these days, are worth the long-term investment AND we often post deals on them on our student deals page.
Most decent chargers will be able to recharge your phone at least five times over, so this should be sufficient for the whole duration of the festival. Want a really good one? Try Anker.
Keep your money safe
Festivals are notorious for being the one time where we suddenly become the most careless human beings on the planet, and losing cash is about as common as Hunter wellies are at the main stage.
Plus, with tents being possibly the easiest thing to break into EVER, it's also important to keep your money and valuables on you all the time.
Our advice? Invest in a bum bag. They’re the most fool-proof way to look after your money, and way safer than leaving your money in your pocket. They've even come back into fashion.
If you're really against the idea of wearing a bum bag, go for a money belt, which is essentially the same thing but small enough to hide under your shorts.
Don't buy a festival programme
It can be tempting to pay for a festival programme, but it really isn't necessary and they tend to be majorly overpriced.
With a teeny bit of forward-planning you can save yourself a pretty penny – just print out a copy of the line-up and a map from the festival website before you leave, or download the festival app.
Unless you're extremely sentimental and are working on a collection of programmes from every festival you've ever been to, spending a tenner on a booklet you're bound to lose in the mud makes zero sense.
Avoid using ATMs and bring cash instead
Carrying wads of cash on you might not feel like the smartest idea – but you've already invested in a bum bag, right?
It's really easy to lose your debit card if you're constantly flashing it around in a muddy field, especially in amongst the masses of people queuing at a festival.
Bring whatever money you'll need with you. Hardly any festivals will have cash machines that offer free withdrawals, so don't get stung on that one. Save yourself the expense and withdraw your money before you go.
Many festival cash machines charge a minimum of £2 each time, so think of it as an extra cider for every time you don't have to go queue at the machine.
Another option is to take a prepaid credit card or app-based bank card with an allocated budget loaded on it. Therefore, if you lose it, you can normally cancel or freeze it using the card's app. Easy peasy.
Book your travel in advance
As with any journey, it’s simple: the earlier you book, the cheaper your travel will be.
People often make the mistake of waiting until the last minute to book their tickets in the hope that prices will fall, but you can bet everyone else will have the same idea.
As soon as you know the dates of the festival and the opening times of the campsite, book your travel ASAP. It’s also just one less thing to think about later on.
Car share with friends
If you don’t plan on using public transport, you could either hitch a ride with friends or onboard some pals to share the cost of you being the designated driver.
You can also use the journey to get hyped for the fun ahead. Who likes driving alone anyway?
Check festival restrictions to save money on alcohol
There’s nothing worse than buying all of your alcohol in preparation, only to have it confiscated as you go through festival security.
Save money on alcohol by checking how much you're allowed to take in. All festivals will have restrictions on how much booze you can bring, as getting you to fork out on their overpriced drinks is how they make their money! You also won't be allowed to leave the festival and bring more booze back in.
In short, always make sure you know exactly how much you’re allowed in by checking the festival website before doing the booze run.
You could also set yourself a rule (or at least try) that you'll just drink water until a certain time of the day. This will save you spending money on alcohol all day long, and your liver will be grateful.
Volunteer to get a free ticket
Volunteering to work at festivals can be pretty economical, as long as you’re willing to put in the work.
Every year, festivals will be on the look-out for volunteers to help with things like giving out wristbands at the entrance, selling programmes, or helping to clean up litter.
In return, you'd get free access to the festival, as well as (sometimes, but not always) free travel, accommodation, and food. But details do vary from festival to festival, and demand for places is high, so apply ASAP.
If you volunteer to man a table at festivals for charities like War Child, you'll also get to go to some of the best festivals in the country – and help a good cause!
Sign up as early as possible as volunteer positions can fill up quickly. It's also a great way to meet new people and develop some handy skills to put on your CV.
Recycle plastic cups for cash
As more and more festivals are striving to become greener, earning cash for recycling is fast becoming one of the easiest ways to help fund your festival weekend.
Many are going in hard at promoting recycling, offering keen litter-pickers cash rewards if they return their used cups. It's only something in the region of 10p per cup, but every little helps.
You could find yourself buying a couple of extra drinks simply from picking up some leftovers, and they are everywhere at festivals.
Don't waste money on expensive tents
You can easily spend hundreds on all your camping gear, but it isn't necessary and the chances of it getting damaged are (let's be honest) pretty high.
However, while it might not be worth buying the most expensive, top-of-the-range tent, you may not want to go for the absolute cheapest either as the quality will probably be quite poor. A lot of cheap festival gear ends up in landfills so it's super important to avoid this if you can.
You don't have to empty your savings, but if you do spend a little more on a tent that'll last a few years, you'll be able to use it again which will benefit your bank balance and the environment.
Keep a close eye out for deals online, as well as places like your local supermarket. You'll be able to pick up all the essentials and still have plenty of change left over to stock up on food and drinks.
You can also sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you informed if we find any deals on festival gear. You're welcome!
Don't buy festival merchandise
It can be tempting when you've just seen the best live set ever to rush over and buy all of the festival merchandise on offer.
Spur of the moment splurges like this will really blow your budget though, so take a few deep breaths and step back. You'll probably be able to pick it up for cheaper online later anyway...
If you really have your heart set on picking up a souvenir, at least wait until the last day of the festival to part with your cash. By that point, stallholders will want to shift gear and knock down prices.
Bring your own food and buy vendor food wisely
One of the biggest costs at any festival is food, so planning ahead with this one can save you an absolute fortune.
Take some food along with you for breakfasts, snacks and drunk nibbles, and you'll cut out a huge portion of your costs. Dry and non-perishable foods such as granola bars, cereals, peanut butter, crackers and crisps are all a great shout.
It might sound obvious, but don't go for anything that involves preparation – when the time comes, the most effort you'll be able to handle is opening a packet (and even that's pushing it).
If you feel tempted by festival food, scout out all your options before committing – watch what other people are ordering to suss out which vendors are dishing out the biggest portions so you get the best value for your cash.
It might also be worth hanging around the food stalls as they're closing up for the night. Chances are, they might offer discounted prices on food that they're unable to serve the next day.
Bring bottle lids
An increasing trend at gigs and festivals is to give you bottles without the lid, which is all fine and dandy until you want to put your bottle away and save some water for later.
A sneaky bottle lid at the bottom of your bag can save you downing your drinks, only to have to buy more later. This rule is only put in place to get more money out of people, in which case it deserves to be broken!
Don't know which festival you're heading to? Check out our student festival guide for our best picks.