Music festivals are a great way of having a short vacation with your friends while listening to good music. However, the more popular and larger these festivals grow, the more expensive attending them becomes. Popular Texas-based festival SXSW now costs $650 on the day, Glastonbury in the UK costs around £222 for the whole weekend and Coachella in California even presents a payment plan for its $375 general admission weekend pass. South African music festivals are cheap when compared to international festivals. An example of this is tickets for Rocking the Daisies in Darling, Western Cape being R750. However, the festival as a whole, with food, drink and travel costs included, could work up a big strain on your finances.

If you’re a keen festival-goer and want to know other ways you can save money at music festivals then this guide has plenty of tips and advice on what you can do.

You should start off with working out how much you can afford to spend and making sure it will cover everything you need and want to do at the festival. If you think your finances can’t handle it, try the following:

Get in free

You can get free entry to plenty of festivals by volunteering with a charity. You’ll need to put in an agreed number of hours of work, perhaps stewarding or spreading the word about what the charity does, but you’ll have plenty of free time to enjoy the festival too. A good place to start is Oxfam’s festival volunteer programme, which has a presence at plenty of the main music festivals. In South Africa you could make use of the Red Frog South Africa.

You could also get work for a business that operates at the festival, such as one of the many catering companies that feed the attendees. You could also opt to volunteer for the festival itself by checking their volunteering programs.

Be an early bird

Some festivals encourage people to buy their tickets early by offering them at a discounted rate months before the event, sometimes even straight after the previous year’s festival. Pick up an “early bird ticket” if you’re organised enough to plan in advance.

Some offer cheaper travel if you book it alongside your festival ticket. If you decide how you want to get there early on, you can weigh up a coach/ticket deal.

Shop in advance

If you buy a decent tent, you’ll be able to keep reusing it – buying a cheap one is a false economy if you just end up leaving it behind and buying yet another one next year. Besides, you’ll appreciate a sturdy tent if it rains!

Look for one that’s light enough to carry all the way to your camping spot but big enough to hold you and everything you bring.

Take some food with you rather than paying over the odds for every meal at the festival. Some festivals sell really good food, so if you bring some fruit, cereal bars, nuts and other snacks, you’ll be able to keep yourself going in the day but still sample some delicious hot meals.

If you take a camping stove, you’ll be able to make your own hot food, even if it is mostly just beans, noodles and pasta. Disposable barbecues are popular too, but you’ll probably only be able to use it on the first day, as keeping food fresh in a tent can be challenging.

If you like a drink at a festival, take your own – even though most music festivals won’t let you take your own alcohol into the main arena, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a few around the camp fire at night.

Bring a water bottle to carry round and refill, rather than buying pricey bottles of mineral water every time you need to rehydrate.

Another way of saving money on festivals is to make a list of items you need before going shopping. If you go shopping without a definitive list of things you need, just like grocery shopping when you’re hungry, you’ll end up buying items you don’t need. Go shopping with your friends so you can split money on buy-one-get-one-free deals and also share items. For example, splitting the price of a large pack of toilet tissue might work out cheaper than buying your own individual smaller packs.

Travel on a budget

Getting to your festival of choice can be pricey, but there are several options. To help you work out the best way to travel, read this guide, What’s the Cheapest Way to Get to a Festival?

Try a cheaper festival experience

If you’re only considering a particular festival because your favourite band are playing, get a day ticket instead of going for the whole weekend. It’s only worth spending more on a full ticket if you’ll enjoy the whole festival.

If you don’t have your heart set on any festival in particular, check out some of the smaller ones. As well as being less crowded and often having great line-ups, they’re a lot cheaper too – 2000 Trees, for example, costs just £75 for a weekend ticket.

There are plenty of free festivals too: Godiva Festival in Coventry and the Bristol Harbour Festival are both family-friendly, but try to find one near to where you live to really cut the travel and accommodation costs.

Many European festivals have strong line-ups and more reliable weather, plus most of them are cheaper than the big British festivals too. The Independent have looked at why an overseas festival can be a cheaper, fun alternative.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t get ripped off. Ticket touts make huge profits selling tickets at massively inflated prices, and their tickets can often fail to arrive or turn out to be fakes.

If you miss out on tickets, go to another festival instead. If you do decide to buy from unofficial channels, first read this guide, Is It Safe to Buy From Ticket Resale Sites?, so you can avoid getting ripped off.

Festival shopping list – what to buy before you go

Festivals sell most of what you’ll need for a fun weekend onsite, but it’s much cheaper to buy it all beforehand. Here’s a shopping list of what you’ll need other than the ticket:

  • A tent, sleeping bag and torch if you’re staying overnight
  • Enough clothes to last the weekend, whatever the weather might throw at you
  • Food and drink
  • Wellies, waterproofs and a sun hat
  • Toiletries, like tissues, toothpaste and wet wipes are a must. Don’t forget sun cream, just in case you’re lucky with the weather; it’s thought that the sun does come out at a music festival every once in a while!
  • A decent bag to put it all in
What should you leave at home?

Anything that you can’t afford to replace if you lose it, so leave expensive music players and cameras safe at home.

It’s worth checking your home insurance to see if it will cover your valuables outside the house – give your insurer a call to check if you’re not sure. If you need a new policy, find the cheapest option that gives you the cover you need in our gadget insurance comparison.

If the weather turns on you, you’ll be far more grateful for practical clothes than designer outfits, which could only end up getting muddy anyway.

Glass bottles won’t be allowed onsite, so stick to cans, boxes of wine, or spirits decanted into plastic bottles.

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