Frugal Fair Fun

Ah, yes, summer is fast approaching. For my part of Western New York, this means two things: tons of roadwork and a festival/carnival/fair pretty much every weekend. You'd be hard-pressed to find a pair of kids who love fairs and their accompanying midway rides any more than my two. And a few years ago, when their ride-obsession started, you'd be just as hard-pressed to find a family wallet flatter than ours.

We've since grown a bit more savvy regarding finances and fairs and actually had a pretty good time during last year's crop of fair fun – and all without hawking my engagement ring. A bit older (and hopefully wiser), I now pass some of the money-saving tips I've found handy; here's to riding the rides and having enough left over for cheesecake-on-a-stick!

You Might Want To Sit Down For This...

The price of tickets at these fests is enough to shock any parent on a budget. Walk up to one of those booths and expect to shell out around a buck per ticket. Not too shabby, you say? Well, the majority of rides will take at least three to four tickets.

Yes, you have that right: three to four bucks per ride. Now please tell me that I'm not the only one who finds this price insane! Additionally, if you have more than one anxious, sugar-riddled kid in tow, multiply the price by two; you're shelling out anywhere from six to eight smackarinos for a ninety-second carousel ride.

No CPR Needed

There are ways to let your kids enjoy more than a ride or two apiece without having to fork over hefty amounts of cash. First of all, once you know the fair is a-comin', see if you can find out some info on the specific days it will be running discounts. Almost all fairs will have a chunk of hours, a day, or even two days where lower-priced tickets can be found.

Your mission is to find out the fair's scheduled time for these deals; then plan your visit around the half-priced tickets...or the wristband hours. Discounts will often come in the form of unlimited rides with a wristband purchase. Trust me: whatever the wristband price (our local price is usually somewhere around $20), your kids will have made it worthwhile by their third trip on the ferris wheel.

Let Them Eat Cotton Candy

Another area that puts a strain on the fanny pack is fair fare. Two- or three-dollar bottles of water and pop is the rule, not the exception. Here's my suggestion: bring your own drinks and/or snacks.

Most fairs will let you load up the stroller or wagon with whatever snacks you please. I've yet to see any fair prohibit outside food and drink. However, it is possible for fairs to enforce a "No Outside Food or Drink" rule, so I advocate doing this only if there is no posted sign.

Personally, I love those really unhealthy funnel cakes as much as the next gal, and if I save ten dollars on drinks by bringing my own, I treat myself to one funnel cake and each of the girls to one ice cream.

One More Thing . . .

Keep an eye out for other specials. Our local county fair often has great deals on admission (half price before noon, kids under ten get in free, etc.), and there are a ton of things to do for all ages that don't involve spending another penny. Really, who doesn't love the petting zoo and pig races?

To make things even sweeter, the fair we went to last year also had its own coupon book with tons of savings on food and craft vendors. Utilize these to max out your fair savings!

Splurge Within The Budget

Many of us who follow a budget have some money set aside for entertainment. If this is part of your budgeting repertoire, the fair is a great time to use these funds. Furthermore, though, you may wish to form a fair budget.

The fair budget simply means you will put a cap on how much you will spend at the fair. For example, you could say that your family of four will spend no more than fifty dollars on food and rides. Once you establish this amount, stick to it. This plan can help you spend just that amount and not eat into that week's grocery money.

With a bit of planning, you can have a great time at your local fair, without spending a fortune. So are you gearing up for some summer fair fun this year? Let us know your plans or your tips/tricks for fair fun savings!

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Anonymous's picture

retirebyforty wrote:

Fri, 06/17/2011 - 13:17 Comment #: 1

Great tips. We usually see a free Friday here and there. It's a lot of fun to see concerts and performances and we don't really go for the rides. I guess when our kid is older, he'll want to go on them.

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