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Let’s get this out of the way first: there’s no surefire calculation to determine whether or not an experience like Coachella, Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo is worth the money. That answer ultimately comes down to your own values and priorities.
But in order to make a decision you won’t regret, it can be helpful to get an outside perspective. We’ll try to provide that here, along with how to budget for music festivals and creative tips to drive down the costs.
How to Budget for Music Festivals
The average cost for a major festival like Coachella depends on several factors, like where you’re staying, the kind of ticket pass and if you’re traveling from out of town. Other costs like buying festival merch or springing for a new wardrobe can also break your budget.
Most festivals let you bring in food, so you’re not forced to buy overpriced burritos from vendors. You can also bring your own water bottles or liquor to pregame before a show.
For 2022, basic tickets to Coachella cost $429 while a shuttle pass plus tickets costs $504. VIP tickets cost $999. The average cost of airfare to Los Angeles during Coachella costs $230, but costs will vary depending on where you’re flying from.
A hotel near Coachella costs $160 a night on average while car or tent camping passes start at $102. The average Airbnb costs $285 a night, which you could split with multiple people.
Pro-tip: Use Mint’s free travel budget calculator to help plan for all the costs of your trip.
Save on Food
When attending a music festival, you can minimize your food costs by eating a full breakfast before you show up. If you’re camping outside the grounds, bring easy-to-eat food that won’t spoil quickly. Apples, jars of peanut butter and protein bars are good options.
If you’re staying at an Airbnb, use it as an opportunity to cook meals. If you’re going to be too tired to cook, buy frozen meals you can just throw in the oven.
If you’re staying at a hotel, try to find one that includes a mini fridge or microwave. You’ll likely have to reserve these in advance, so call weeks before your reservation.
Save on clothes
Attending a music festival is a major Instagram moment. But before you buy a few new outfits, head to a thrift or consignment store first. If you’re traveling with friends who are similar sizes, you could also swap or borrow clothes to wear.
Talk to friends
It’s one thing to get a cost estimate from the internet, but you can get more realistic figures by talking to people who have actually been there. When gathering information for how to set a budget for music festivals. Share a post on social media asking who has attended the festival you’re interested in and how much they spent.
You can also search on Reddit forums for specific questions, like how much shuttles from the airport cost compared to car rentals.
Budget for emergencies
When creating your budget for a major experience like a music festival, make sure to allocate funds in case something goes wrong. Most people are overly optimistic when they budget, which can result in unintentional overspending.
It’s tempting to assume you’ll be responsible the whole time, saying no to pricey drinks and eating all your meals at the Airbnb – but that’s unlikely to be the case. Take your final numbers and multiply the figure by 10%. That way, you’ll be covered in case things are more expensive than you anticipated.
When making your music fest budget, make sure to factor in other expenses like boarding for your pet. Make sure your ID hasn’t expired or you’ll need to get it renewed. If you don’t have enough vacation days, you’ll have to forgo part of your salary to attend.
Think back to other trips where you’ve had costs that surprised you, like parking your car at the airport. The more that you can plan and budget ahead, the less likely you’ll be to go over budget.
Use your credit card benefits
If you have a travel rewards credit card, you may have perks that can save you money. Some cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, offer free access to airport lounges where you can get free meals and beverages. Other cards provide statement credits when you use the card for travel-related expenses.
Most travel cards also provide cash back when you use the card to book a flight, rental car, hotel or Airbnb stay. Some even offer cash back on rideshare services like Uber and Lyft.
Go through the credit cards you have and find which ones offer the most cash back. Bring those cards with you when you travel. If you already have a large stash of rewards points or miles, you can use them to book your flight, hotel or rental car.
Is It Worth the Money?
No one can tell you whether or not going to Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza or any other music festival is worth it. It all depends on what you really care about. If you’re only interested in going because all your friends are, then it might not be worth it. But if you daydream about the Coachella lineup when you should be working, then it might be an experience worth splurging on.
Some personal finance experts say you shouldn’t spend on big events if you still have debt or are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Other people say that you should carpe diem and take advantage of these opportunities while you’re still young. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
Look ahead to the rest of the year and see if there are any other major trips or events coming up. For example, if your best friend is having a destination wedding in Mexico, will you be able to afford that and a Coachella? Go through your finances and determine what you can afford to do. If you can only afford one trip, then you’ll have to decide which is more important.
From the Mint team: Mint may be compensated if you click on the links to our issuer partners’ offers that appear in this article, including Chase. Our partners do not endorse, review or approve the content. Any links to Mint Partners were added after the creation of the posting. Mint Partners had no influence on the creation, direction or focus of this article unless otherwise specifically stated. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins.