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How to: Music Festival on a Budget

Music festivals have become more and more popular over the years. The large venues have been filling up  with attendees from college students to social media influencers. The idea of being in a huge park, with a bunch of friends and listening to your favorite artists is something many people look forward to and even dream about. 


Coachella, Outside Lands, Rolling Loud, Stagecoach, Camp Flog Gnaw . . . the list goes on. There are so many festivals held right here in California, and each one has slightly different music to offer. There’s one problem many people face when choosing to go to a festival or not: the price. 


It’s really expensive. The tickets themselves can cost anywhere from $200-$500 or more! If you want to add VIP that adds hundreds of dollars! Next, you have to find a place to stay, budget money for food and of course, find the perfect outfits. 


For me, as a working college student, these expenses add up quick and leave me pretty discouraged when it comes to making it out to the festivals I want to go to. Having gone to a few over the years, my friends and I have come up with a couple of  strategies to help save money so we can focus on spending time with each other and listening to great music. 


A few ways to save: 


Don’t get cocky, you’re not VIP

As much as we all love the idea of free drinks and exclusive shady spots, if you’re trying to save money, you need to get realistic. Buy a general admission ticket, and get it early. Often times, early-bird pricing is cheaper. With most festivals, you take a risk purchasing your ticket before you see the line-up, but you can always sell it on StubHub if you and your friends decide not to go.

You may have to sleep on the floor but … 

It’s worth it! Find a place to stay in the city near the festival you’re attending early, before they raise the price!  Split the cost of a room or two with your group, and depending on the size, your price may not break the bank too much, even if it does feel a little cramped. 


Better yet, if any of your friends live within an hour of the venue, stay at their place! Many festivals such as Coachella and CFG are in L.A. which is filled with universities of people you may know. 


We all would love to have that penthouse in the middle of Los Angeles with a king sized bed and indoor pool, but honestly, the rooms are only for sleeping. Festivals take up almost your entire day, so where you stay won’t be affecting you too much. 

Don’t shop, swap! 

It’s natural to look at your closet before going to a music festival and feeling like you have “nothing to wear” even with racks full of clothes. And as tempting as it may be to buy three new outfits for your festival weekend, it’s going to cost you a lot of money. 


Instead, swap with your friends! My friends and I sent each other photos of pieces of clothing we had that could be festival worthy and all put together outfits solely by borrowing each other’s clothes to spice up our own looks!


Venue food is expensive, so try to go without it as much as you can  

When you arrive at wherever you choose to stay for the weekend, hit the local grocery store. Buy food for breakfast, maybe some lunch food depending on what time you go to the festival, and snacks for when you get home. Doing this will save you from having to buy three meals a day at the venue, which typically serve overpriced food. 


You’ll get hungry throughout the day and most festivals won’t allow you to bring in food, so budget to buy one meal a day at the festival! Depending on what you get, that could range from $5 to $20, so choose wisely. 


Do the same thing for drinks! You’re going to have to take an Uber to the festival regardless as many of them don’t have parking, so save your money and drink with your friends before, if you choose to do so. Drinks at music festivals are just as overpriced as the food, not to mention the long lines could make you miss a great artist.

The bigger the group, the better

Uber rides, food, gas money, clothing, makeup, etc.: all the things you can split with friends to make your festival experience more affordable. So naturally you can think that the more people to split with the better!


Having a large group can also benefit you safety wise. Always having a friend or two to go to the bathroom with or stick with if you get separated in the crowd is definitely a good idea. 


Overall, music festivals can seem very intimidating to tackle when you’re on a budget, but if you break it down and plan it out, it doesn’t have to be. As a working college student and music lover, I can tell you, it’s possible. So get planning! I hope these tips can help you make it to the festival you’ve always dreamed of without spending more money than you need to. 


Current Vice President and Campus Correspondent for the Cal Poly chapter of Her Campus. Hannah is a third year Journalism student with a concentration in Public Relations at Cal Poly. Hannah is working toward a career writing for an online publication focusing on health and wellness. In her free time Hannah listens to podcasts, walks on the beach, reads self-help books, shops clean skincare and tries new plant-based recipes. On this page you'll find the articles she has written about lifestyle, health, wellness, fashion, current events and more.
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