Jack Norworth’s 1908 classic, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” turned peanuts and cracker jack into ballpark staples, but for a lot of families, just attending a ballgame is often unaffordable; it takes too big a bite out of their household budgets. Last year, on average, a day at the ballpark cost a family of four $210.46, including four tickets, two small beers, four small sodas, four hot dogs, two programs, two adult-sized caps, and one parking spot. (Red Sox fans paid the most, $336.99, while Arizona Diamondbacks fans paid the least, $151.55.) If there are baseball fans in your family, though, you know how hard it is to deny them the chance to see at least one game in person every season, so here are a few tips on how to save money at the ballpark in 2014.
Pick Your Game(s) Carefully
All 30 Major League Baseball teams will use some sort of dynamic or variable ticket pricing in 2014. Dynamic pricing creates different prices for tickets to the same game, depending on the opponent, the day of the week, the number of remaining tickets, and even the weather. Variable pricing charges more for high-demand games and less for games against less popular teams. Tickets sold on secondary markets (or sold via ballpark scalpers) almost always drop in price as game time nears. If you’re not picky about the opponent or the date — or if you’re willing to wait until the last minute — you can often find tickets at a serious discount.Bring Your Own Food
Most major league teams allow you to bring food into the ballpark (provided you pass their screening tests and follow other security guidelines). Food prices can vary wildly from ballpark to ballpark, but packing your own meals (or dining beforehand) remains the most affordable option. You can’t bring alcoholic drinks into the ballpark, but you’ll save quite a bit of money if you choose not to pay the exorbitant beer prices.
Use Public Transportation
The average cost of parking at MLB stadiums in 2013 was $14.06. While that might seem reasonable, individual stadium parking costs ranged from $35 (Yankee Stadium) to $0 (under certain conditions at Tropicana Stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida). Compare public transportation costs when planning your trip to a specific ballpark.
Avoid In-Stadium Merchandise Booths
From replica jerseys to team caps, from autographed baseballs to foam fingers, ballpark merchandise sales are huge money-makers for ball clubs — and huge drains on your budget. Protect your finances by keeping your wallet in your pocket. If you really want some stadium tchotchkes, consider attending a “promotional” game.Join FreeShipping.com
To save money at the ballpark (and to save on baseball memorabilia, stadium-approved food containers, baseball gear, and more), check out FreeShipping.com, where you can enjoy 5% cash back, free shipping, and additional savings at Champs Sports and a variety of other sporting-goods outlets. Be sure to tell us in Comments which major-league ballparks are on your bucket list.