You’d think America’s favorite pastime would be less expensive, but baseball games are one pricey outing. The tickets are just the beginning. Factor in transportation and the obligatory peanuts and beverage of choice, and going to a major league baseball game can easily cost two people more than $100.
Recently, my husband and I went to one of the priciest ballparks in the country: Wrigley Field. The average cost for two to see the Chicago Cubs at the Friendly Confines is $116.06, according to an analysis of 2016 MLB prices from GOBankingRates. That includes tickets, parking, food and drinks. The only team more expensive to see at home is the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, where two people pay $157 on average.
But to prove it doesn’t have to be so expensive, we set out to spend less than $100 at a Cubs game in late April (and not deprive ourselves of any fun). Here’s how we did it.
1. Go for the Cheap Seats
When you go to a game, you want to be able to see it. But so much of what’s fun about being at a ballpark is the atmosphere, and you can experience that no matter where you’re sitting. We got tickets in the second-cheapest section ($10 each before tax, as opposed to $9), purely because I thought the vantage point would be better for shooting photos.
When you’re looking for cheap tickets, keep in mind it’s not just about seats. We opted for a weeknight game, which was much cheaper than a weekend game during the day. Taxes and fees run pretty high in Chicago, so our tickets ended up costing $18.38 each, for a total of $36.76.
2. Cut Transport Costs
Unlike a lot of ballparks, there are several ways to get to Wrigley Field. Driving is the most expensive, given that parking can cost $15 to $30 (not including gas), unless you find a free or cheap spot. There are lots of shuttles and park-and-ride options, but unless you live within walking distance, public transport is the cheapest route.
I live in the city, so we took the L (Brown Line to Red Line) from work to the Addison Red Line station, where you walk right into the glorious chaos that is the streets of Wrigleyville on game day. To get home, we took a bus.
L fare costs $2.25 roundtrip per person, and bus fare is $2 each, so we spent $8.50.
3. BYOP (Bring Your Own Peanuts)
If you take the Red Line to Addison, you’ll probably pass Jeff Flores on your way out the station. A Chicago native, Flores has sold game essentials to cost-conscious fans for 17 years. “Bottled water for $1! It’s $4 inside!” he yells. (Flores also sells attire, sports drinks and, on a freezing day in late April, hand warmers, which I should have purchased.)
The water and peanuts cost $8, since someone forgot you’re not allowed to bring open bottles into the ballpark. Still, we saved money, which left us with just less than $50 for the rest of the game.
4. Budget for the Expensive Stuff
If you want a beer and hot food, there’s not much you can do. We didn’t want to skimp on the in-game experience, so we tried to get everything else for as little as possible.
The cheapest beer I saw — and this is upsetting — was $8.25 for a draught Bud Light. I’ve paid more for a Bud Light (cough Yankee Stadium), but the “better” beers weren’t worth it either. We actually paid $9 for our first round of Bud Light.
Trying to find the most affordable option wasn’t easy. Vendors in stands hawked $8.50 Bud Light, but I would have tipped them, which would have cost more. At first, it looked like $9 beer was the best we could do, but right after we bought them, we passed a stand where Bud Light was being sold for $8.25. We later bought two of those but realized the cups were a different size than our $9 cups.
I have no idea if they held the same amount, and as I tried to figure this out, the Cubs pulled ahead in the bottom of the sixth, and I had to watch the biggest play of the game on a screen. Going with the vendors in the stands would have been smarter.
Besides four beers ($34.50), we got some nachos and a soft pretzel. We didn’t buy the cheese cup for the pretzel (who wants to pay $1.50 for cheese?), but the nachos came with plenty extra to make it work. Nachos were $5.50, and the pretzel cost $5.
Grand total: $98.26
When spring and summer roll around, it’s easy to get carried away and end up spending more than you should. But while it may not seem like it in the moment, a fantastic experience doesn’t justify forgoing your financial goals or going into debt, and you don’t need to do either to have a great time. (You can track your financial goals, like building a good credit score, each month on Credit.com.)
Our strategy is just one way of trying to balance fun and frugality. The most important thing for us was to have as much fun as possible without blowing our budget, and we certainly did. (Bonus: The Cubs won.)
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Images: Christine DiGangi; Screenshot via Cubs.com