For the sports fanatic, tailgating is serious business.
You need to nail down the right location in the parking lot; haul grills, tables and giant coolers to the spot; and, finally, get the food and all-too-important drinks just right. All of that can add up quickly.
One infographic, created by IPG Media Lab in 2015 and published in AdAge, found that NFL tailgaters spend as much as $588 per season and $196 per game. Costs included $10 for hot dogs, $12 for side dishes, $28 for beer and $17 for soft drinks.
And that’s just the food and drink.
You’ll still need to pay to park at the game, and that cost can range between free to $75 a spot, according to one study of professional football arenas. And then, of course, you’ll likely spend hundreds of dollars more for tickets, so you can watch the game.
Once you tally the costs, an afternoon tailgating before the big game can add up to a lot of money. But there are ways to cut down on your costs.
Here are five ways to celebrate your favorite team -- on the cheap.
1. Rethink your proteins
Steaks are yummy, but the average price for ribeye can cost around $13 per pound. Ground beef can range anywhere between $4 and $6 or more per pound -- making those cheeseburgers pretty pricey.
Luckily, you have much cheaper options. A pack of eight hot dogs, a tailgating specialty, will cost you about $4 or less. For a pound of chicken drumsticks, you’ll spend about $1.50. These less expensive proteins make it easy to cut your tailgating costs dramatically.
2. Cut Costs on the side items
Instead of buying a vegetable or fruit tray, cut the fresh produce yourself -- or just provide some baby carrots and grapes, for instance.
And stick to easy sides that don’t require a lot of ingredients and effort. A bag of chips will do. If you want to get fancier, AllRecipes.com offers some budget-friendly tailgating recipes that cost less than $1 per serving. The list includes a cheese and Guinness spread for 48 cents per serving and deviled eggs for just 9 cents per serving.
3. Share the parking costs
Parking can be a big expense for tailgaters. Why not share the cost? Fill up your vehicle with your friends -- or have them park in less expensive or free remote parking spots -- so you can split the cost to park next to the stadium and with all the other tailgaters.
4. Potluck it
You provide the spot, the grill and, perhaps, the necessities, such as plates, utensils and cups. Your friends bring the food, drinks and fun.
5. Go easy on the (expensive) drinks
Beer and tailgating go hand-in-hand for plenty of sports fans -- and at least one academic study proves it. Researchers found that nearly one in four tailgaters reported drinking five or more alcoholic beverages while they were tailgating. What’s more, people who drank at tailgating parties had 14 times greater odds of being legally drunk than those who did not tailgate, according to the study.
Of course, it’s unhealthy and dangerous to drink to excess. It increases your risk for injury and accidents, along with other health problems. It’s also expensive. According to the Media Lab report on tailgating costs, tailgaters spent more than $40 on liquor and beer for a single game. Buying less beer -- or just asking your friends to bring a few six packs -- is a cheaper and healthier alternative.
It’s easy to get excited about the big game. But supporting your favorite team doesn’t have to be a costly affair when you rethink your tailgating habits. It’s still possible to have fun and stick to a budget.
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