Low-cost summer fun under the summer sun

Summer Event Savings

by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

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Summer's the time to enjoy the great weather at festivals, fairs, carnivals and concerts. To get the most summer fun for your funds, here are tips to save a bundle wherever the sun leads your family:

Tickets sold from grocery stores and in advance often provide great savings such as discounted prices and buy-one-get-one deals. Check out the organizers' websites to find where you can save. Ask your company's human resources department about corporate discounts. Or perhaps you and a group of friends can purchase a block of seats or swing a group rate because buying tickets for a larger group often garners discounts. Tickets good for more than one day or for the season can also save you money if you plan to attend more than just one day. If you're unsure, talk with people who've attended this event before to see if it's worth it. Some events offer buy-one-get-one tickets for a certain weekend. Don't automatically spring for the best seats at the concert unless you're certain you want to be that close to the stage. Most of the time, less expensive, more distant seats work just fine.

Check the website of your local cultural centers for free-admission events during the summer, which are scheduled to lure more patrons during their slow months.

Food is usually one of the most expensive parts of attending summer events. Check prices ahead of time with someone who has attended before. Some fairs, such as the New York State Fair, offer very reasonably-priced food. Other events, however, make your wallet take a beating. If that's the case, eat a hearty meal before heading out. Don't buy food at the first booth you see. Scope out several to get a feel of where the bargains are. Spoil your appetite by eating samples at vendor booths (always easy to do at county and state fairs). Since part of the fun of summer events is the food, buy only one or two favorite treats. Bring along single-serving snacks such as cereal bars and mini bags of M&M's and beverages that are easier to tote than larger packages (unless you're allowed to tailgate). Management at most venues at least allow you to tailgate or picnic outside their facilities. If not, consider leaving and re-entering for lunch and buying only beverages. If possible, buy one that has free or discounted refills. Remember, you'll likely want to drink more than eat on hot days, and nothing quenches thirst like good old water. Freeze bottles half full of water and top them off at home before you go to ensure frosty drinks later.

Amenities represent another way hosts make extra money at their events. For example, theme parks offer an all-day pass, but the parachute jump is $40 extra. Decide ahead of time if you plan on spending the extra money instead of making an "impulse purchase." Usually, there's plenty to enjoy without splurging for extras. By the time you ride every ride at the amusement park, you may not want to spend more for yet another ride.

Souvenirs make fun mementos of your outing but many carry a price tag too big to warrant buying. Instead, take digital photos of your adventure to put in a scrapbook with a program and ticket stubs. Or, consider something you will really use and won't just become additional clutter.

No matter where the summer fun takes you, plan ahead to save.

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