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Save Money

16 smart ways to save money at festivals

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Heading to a festival this summer? We reveal how to have the time of your life, without breaking the bank.

women at music festival

Credit: Monkey Business Images – Shutterstock

Music festivals are an amazing summer experience. 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 money on your festival ticket. On top of that, you also have to think about travel, camping supplies, food and drink.

For festival newbies, especially, it's easy to spend way more than you intend to. So we've collected together some tried and tested tips to help you cut your festival spending.

How to save money at music festivals

Here are the top ways to save money at festivals:

  1. Set a daily budget

    At festivals, it's easy to get carried away and spend silly amounts of money on alcohol and food.

    Decide how much money you'd be happy to spend across the whole festival and divide this across each day.

    You could potentially take that amount of money in cash (but keep it safe!). Or, you could use an app like Monzo which will let you set budgets and notify you when you're overspending.

    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.

  2. Set aside an emergency fund

    Hopefully, you'll be able to stick to your budget. But, there is a risk you'll face unexpected costs, so keep aside some extra money for emergencies.

    The last thing you want is to be left with no cash for food, and end up having to borrow from friends.

    Always overestimate how much you're going to spend. That way, you'll have money left over if things go wrong.

  3. 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) in case they go missing from your tent.

    Remember, festivals are 80% mud. So, if there's anything you want to keep clean, leave it at home.

  4. Look out for free phone charging stations

    Loads of cool services are often overlooked at festivals. But with a keen eye, you can bag some great free stuff.

    For example, you might find tents where you can cycle to generate the power to charge your phone. This way, you won't have to buy portable chargers or pay to use festival charging stations.

    However, there's also a lot to be said for switching your phone off and enjoying real life for the weekend...

  5. Bring your own phone charger

    portable 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 often not too pricey and are worth the long-term investment. Keep an eye on our student deals page in case we post any offers there.

    Most decent chargers will be able to recharge your phone at least five times over. This should be sufficient for the whole duration of the festival. Want a really good one? Try Anker.

    If you're feeling really cheeky, you could even offer a charge to another festival-goer in exchange for beer.

  6. Keep your money safe

    With tents being possibly the easiest thing to break into, keep your money and valuables on you all the time.

    Our advice is to invest in a bum bag. They're the most fool-proof way to look after your money, and much 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. They're essentially the same thing but small enough to hide under your shorts.

  7. 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 overpriced.

    With a teeny bit of forward planning, you can save money. 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 determined to collect programmes from every festival you visit, spending a tenner on a booklet you're bound to lose in the mud makes zero sense.

  8. Avoid using ATMs and bring cash instead

    money in a purse

    Credit: Yevgen Kravchenko, kamui29, Bell Photography 423 – Shutterstock

    Carrying lots of cash on you might not initially feel like the smartest idea. But if you've already invested in a bum bag, bringing cash to festivals could be very sensible.

    It's really easy to lose your debit card if you're constantly flashing it around in a muddy field.

    Bring whatever money you'll need with you. Many festival cash machines charge a few quid each time. Instead, think of it as an extra cider for every time you don't have to queue at the ATM.

    Save yourself the expense and withdraw your money before you go.

    Another option is to take a prepaid credit card or app-based bank card with an allocated budget loaded onto it. Therefore, if you lose it, you can normally cancel or freeze it using the card's app.

  9. 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 loads of other people 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.

    For more information on securing the best prices for your journey, check out our guides to cheap train and coach travel.

  10. Carshare with friends

    If you don't plan to use public transport, you could hitch a ride with friends.

    Taking others in the car with you means you can cut your fuel costs, leaving you extra money for the festival.

    You can also use the journey to get hyped for the fun ahead. Who likes driving alone anyway?

  11. Check festival restrictions to save money on alcohol

    If you buy alcohol ahead of the event, there's a risk it could be confiscated as you go through festival security.

    All festivals will have restrictions on how much booze you can bring, so check how much you're allowed to take in. Also, it's worth noting that you probably won't be allowed to leave the festival and bring more booze back in.

    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 from spending money on alcohol all day long, and your liver will be grateful.

  12. Volunteer to get a free ticket

    Volunteering to work at festivals (or even getting a paid summer job if you're lucky) can be a great way to save money on tickets.

    Every year, festivals look for volunteers to help with things like giving out wristbands at the entrance, selling programmes, or cleaning up litter.

    In return, you'd get free access to the festival. Sometimes, they even add in free travel, accommodation, and food. But details do vary from festival to festival, and demand for places is high, so do your research to find the right voluntary role for you.

    If you volunteer to man a table at festivals for charities like Oxfam, 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.

  13. 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 a few pennies per cup, but every little helps.

    You could potentially find yourself buying a couple of extra drinks simply from picking up some leftovers, and they are everywhere at festivals.

  14. 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 could 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 in places like your local supermarket. 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!

  15. Don't buy festival merchandise

    When you've just seen a great live set, it can be tempting to rush over and buy all of the festival merchandise on offer.

    But impulse buys like this will really blow your budget. So, take a few deep breaths and step back.

    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 sell whatever is left so might knock down prices.

  16. Bring your own food and buy vendor food wisely

    One of the biggest costs at any festival is food. Planning ahead with this one can save you an absolute fortune.

    Take some food with you for breakfasts and snacks, 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 good ideas.

    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.

Don't know which festival you're heading to? Check out our student festival guide for our best picks.

Jake Butler

WRITTEN BY Jake Butler

Jake joined Save the Student in 2010 and is the COO. As an expert across student finance, Jake has appeared on The BBC, The Guardian, Which?, ITV, Channel 5 and many other outlets. He particularly enjoys sharing tips on saving money and making extra money with opportunities like paid surveys and part-time jobs.
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