My Secrets to Affording Festivals
A question that I get a lot on my Instagram is, "How do you afford to go to so many festivals?" While I don't go to as many festivals as I wish I could, I am very grateful for the experiences that I have had! People tend to assume that I have a 'sugar daddy' or that my parents or some mysterious benefactor paying for my travel and festivals. The truth is, I have been financially independent since I was 18, and I have paid for every festival trip myself. I'll let you in on my secrets to being able to attend several large festivals every year... saving money and doing research.
Okay, sure, that isn't much of a secret. But it's surprising how many people don't think to save for festivals months in advance, or they don't take the time to research their best options. There's no doubt that festivals are expensive, besides the ticket, the majority require plane tickets, hotels or camping, food and drinks, and other expenses. I spend a rough estimate of $1200 for both EDC and Ultra. Tomorrowland set me back about $4000. I wish I had that kind of money sitting around in my bank account all the time to spend whenever I want, but I don't. Therefore, I save, and research, research, research. Here are my best tips for affording festivals-
1. Plan your trips several months in advance
I never do last-minute festival trips- it's just too expensive! Flights get more expensive the closer you get to the travel date, and hotel prices also go up (assuming you are even able to find a hotel within the area of the venue on short notice). The further you need to travel for a festival, the more expensive it is likely going to be, so start figuring out the details as soon as possible. This includes getting tickets in the first ticket sale, since they are always the cheapest, or the payment plan. Hotels only go up in price as the date gets closer and demand gets higher, so book a hotel/airbnb as early as you can. Having several months before the event will allow you to track flights and get the cheapest one.
I started planning and doing research for Tomorrowland an entire year before I went- both times. I booked my hotel for Ultra this year in July- 8 months in advance. EDC is the easiest for me to plan on a shorter notice, since I live close to Vegas, I usually plan for it 3 months in advance.
The sooner you start planning, the more flexible you can be with waiting for great prices, instead of getting stuck booking whatever is available (but expensive) on a short notice.
2. Do your flight research
Hopper is great for tracking price trends and estimating when the best time to book is, and when prices are expected to rise. I also rarely book flights on google flights- they usually don't have the best prices! I always check both skiplagged.com and skyscanner.com, they are consistently cheaper than google flights, especially for international travel.
I got a round trip flight from SLC to Ft. Lauderdale for $280 last year with skiplagged- a flight that usually costs around $500 in late March!
When I was in the process of finding flights for my Tomorrowland trip, I spent three weeks searching for flights on hundreds of sites, comparing prices, checking price history from the previous year, and tracking the prices. I was spending at least an hour on researching pretty much every day. I also spent a lot of time checking prices of flights departing out of airports near me, arriving in airports near where I wanted to go, from my home airport to the departing airport, etc.
This trick is how I flew from SLC to Paris for $800. I got a deal on a flight from NYC to Paris, and found a fairly cheap flight from SLC to NYC. Google flights was listing $1300 for SLC to Paris, but I was able to reduce that by $500 thanks to hours of research.
Often times, your home airport might not be the cheapest airport to fly out of for your destination, you might be able to save some money by flying out of a larger/cheaper airport and buying a flight to that airport. Similarly, your destination airport may not be the cheapest to fly into. Look into airports nearby your destination, you could save a few hundred dollars by taking a uber or taxi from another airport.
This is what I did with Ultra last year- it was cheaper to fly into Ft. Lauderdale than Miami International by about $200, and I spent less than $10 on the train to get downtown from Ft. Lauderdale.
It is definitely worth the time it takes to research flights and airports to score a deal.
3. Stay with friends
This is a no-brainer, since staying with friends is not only fun, but cheaper because you can split the cost. If you are planning on attending solo, there are tons of facebook and reddit event groups you can join to meet someone to split the cost with.
4. 'Book Now, Pay Later' hotels with flexible cancellation
I love agoda.com for booking hotels. They have the largest selection of "book now, pay later" hotels I have ever seen on a website, and most of those options also include free cancellation up to a week or two before check-in. Assuming you buy your festival ticket and flight around the same time, that is a fairly large chunk of money coming out of your account all at once, so finding a hotel where you don't have to pay for several months is extremely helpful. Regardless of how much I save for festivals, I ALWAYS book accommodations that allow me to pay as close to the event as possible, just to help keep my finances on track. If you're going the AirBnb route- some hosts allow payment at check in, but most require you to pay half at the time of booking and the other half a few weeks before check in. Both are better than the hosts that require full payment at the time of booking, so look around for a host with a payment schedule that matches yours.
5. Don't spend money on things you don't need
Confession: I used to be a bit of a shopaholic. Checking out various stores on the weekend (even though I didn't actually *need* anything), splurging on hauls from Sephora (despite already having dozens of palettes, foundation, and eyeliner stashed in my vanity), scrolling through Amazon (because prime shipping just tempts me into buying things just because they offer prime), and so on. It's no coincidence that this was during the years where I went the least number of festivals, and I definitely couldn't afford to do multiple out of state shows. The last time I mindlessly shopped for things just for the fun of it was in early 2017, the year before my first Tomorrowland. Because TML is such an expensive trip, I really had to cut down on my shopping habits for the six months before ticket sales. Surprisingly, those habits stuck with me, and contribute largely to why I was able to afford Ultra, Tomorrowland, and EDC this year.
Personally, festivals are a huge priority to me. I would rather attend a festival than spend $100 on clothes every month. Or $200 of skincare/makeup products (because I have plenty already). Or going out to eat at restaurants, buying drinks at a bar, getting my nails done, going to a hair salon, paying for a gym membership, etc. I'll break down some of these things to show how I save on them-
Clothes- As much as I love festival fashion, I don't really care about having the latest regular-clothing styles or a massive wardrobe of regular/work clothes. I have coordinated my wardrobe fairly well over the past few years, so I can make multiple outfits out of the same few things. I would say every 6 months or so, I'll buy a few seasonal items, but that's really it. Unless something starts getting worn and I need to replace it, I don't buy clothes just for the fun of it anymore. Other than the few seasonal things I buy, the only time I shop for clothes is for a trip. I also love using Poshmark! I will go through my closet every few months and list things I don't wear anymore. You can get a direct deposit of the money you make from sales, or you can keep it in the app as a type of store credit. I usually let the money from my sales build up in my account for a while, then use it to shop in the app.
Makeup and Skincare- Throughout my shopping years, I was able to figure out what products work best for me, so I rarely try new products now. I have used the same foundation for years, and I only buy a new bottle when my current runs out. That saves a lot of money on constantly trying new foundations that don't end up being used. As much as I love eyeshadow, I have built a solid collection with all the colors I need and use, so I no longer get tempted to buy new palettes every time one is released. I replace products when they run out- moisturizer, sunscreen, eyeliner, mascara; but I don't go buying a ton of products just to try them. I stick to the things I know I love. If there is a product that I want to try, I will try to wait for a Sephora sale or for the product to be featured in the weekly deals.
Eating Out- Honestly, I'm just not a big"eating out" person. Sure, it's fun and yummy, but I am as content with grocery shopping and cooking at home as I am eating out all the time. Eating out gets so expensive, even cheap things from fast food places add up quickly! On very rare occasions (birthdays, celebrations), I go out to eat, but 99% of the time, I eat at home. Meal prepping really helps with grocery shopping and being mindful of your food spending.
Nails/Hair- I do both myself, at home! I taught myself how to bleach and tone my hair to the color I like, I get the products from Sally's, and do all of my hair color myself. I also save on going to a salon by installing and removing my own tape in extensions. For nails, I get those cute design glue-on nails from Sally's or Ulta, instead of spending $100 a month at a nail salon.
Gym Membership- I take advantage of the parks I live next to by going on runs outside. A few years ago, I also invested in a few items for strength training workouts at home. I have a kettleball, gliding discs, a yoga ball, and exercise bands. The total cost of those things was about the same as month of a gym membership! I follow programs like FitAzFk and do all of my exercising at home or outside. When it's too cold to run outside, I go to the city rec center for the cardio machines. Rec centers are cheaper than most gyms, and they don't have a registration fee or a contract. I pay by the month, since I only go for a few months out of the year, and I love not worrying about having to break a contract and pay a fee.
Click on photos to shop
Interest- Look into refinancing any loans you have! I refinanced my student loans and car loan a few years ago. I was able to lower my student loan monthly payment by $400 and my car payment by $100. A few hours of work and I had a $500 monthly increase in my budget! If you have any loans, see if you can refinance them to get a lower interest rate and payment.
"Don't spend money on things you don't need" is pretty much the same thing as being frugal. Be mindful of your spending, buy things that you need rather than things you want, and put all that extra money you will now have in savings. If I was reading this blog post a few years ago, in the middle of my shopping-centric lifestyle, I would have said that it sounds too hard and that I would be giving up a lot of things I loved to do. But adjusting my spending habits was not as difficult as I thought it would be, and has allowed me to experience some of the greatest weekends of my life. I would choose a flight to Ultra or a cabana at Tomorrowland over a mindless shopping binge any day! Fill your life with experiences, not 'things' :)