Happy group of people wearing bright colours enjoy a festival at night

6 ways to enjoy summer festivals on a budget

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

Festival tickets often go on sale months, if not years in advance, but a lot can change between snapping up those early bird ticket prices and the big weekend.

Particularly this year, some people will be using tickets they bought as long ago as 2019, but that have rolled over following cancellations in 2020 and 2021. However, many people’s circumstances will have changed since then, thanks to the pandemic and the rising cost of living, among other things. This may have left some, including those who bought tickets more recently, wondering if they still have the budget for a weekend to remember.

If you’re heading to a festival this summer, our tips can help you make sure you’re still able to soak up the best of everything festivals have to offer!

Beg, borrow and… don’t steal

Unless you’re an avid camper, chances are you don’t have all the gear you need for a weekend in the sort-of-wilderness. Of course, you could buy a tent, sleeping bag, and all the other bits and bobs you need to be comfortable. But, why do this at great expense, when chances are you’ll either never use them again, or they’ll only see the light of day once every few years?

Instead, see what you can borrow from friends and family. You’ll be surprised how much you can rustle up just by asking around, and could end up with all sorts that’ll make your regular camping set up more like glamping.

If you’re still short of a few essentials, try Facebook. Many local communities have marketplace and freebie groups, and you may be able to find what you need there. Failing that, you can always put out a request in a local group to see if a kind-hearted stranger will come to your rescue and lend, give or sell you what you need.

If you’re borrowing camping gear, remember you’ll need to return it in the same condition. If anything happens to something that’s not yours, then you could end up forking out to replace it. So, it pays to take care of things!

Load up on portable power banks

From snapping all-important memories to keeping track of friends when you split up to see different acts, it’s important to keep your phone in action over a festival weekend. But, the charging points on offer can cost you more than a pretty penny.

That’s why we think it’s a great idea to take a couple of portable power banks with you. This one from Amazon is just £13.99, comes in a range of colours and claims to hold enough power for 2-3 phone charges. A couple of these will provide you more than enough power for a festival weekend, and may not even cost as much as one full charge at a charging point!

Bring your own everything

While a freshly barbecued hotdog and a pint in a paper cup are part of the festival experience you should definitely get to enjoy, it doesn’t have to be at every mealtime. Bringing your own food, drink and other things you might need can help you cut down the amount you spend over the weekend.

Food

If you take your own camping stove or a few disposable barbecues, you can get your feast on at your tent at mealtimes.

A good cool box loaded up with icepacks can keep meat like burgers, sausages, bacon and their meat-free alternatives fresh for up to two days, potentially longer if you freeze them beforehand. Meanwhile, milk will last a few days in a cool box, eggs and bread can be kept chilled or at room temperature until their use-by date, and canned goods like baked beans, spaghetti hoops and – our personal favourite – an all-day breakfast would probably survive the apocalypse!

Combine these with other non-perishable staples like packet mix noodles and pasta, sauces and snacks, and you should have at least some of your meals covered to keep expensive arena-eating to a minimum.

Drinks

Many festivals have security rules that mean you can’t bring any liquids or drinks, whether in bottles, cans or cartons, into the festival arena with you. However, if you’re camping, you can usually keep whatever drinks you like (within reason) in the campsite.

We’re not suggesting you should get tanked up at your tent before you head to the main stage. But, if there is a bit of a lull between acts you want to see, then taking a break for a drink and a snack at the campsite can be a cost-effective way to recharge and refuel yourself.

On top of that, while you may not be able to take your own drinks into the festival arena, you can take an empty water bottle. Festivals will often have free drinking water taps that you can refill your bottle at. This is a much cheaper way to stay hydrated than buying bottled water at the bar!

Everything else

Part of the magic of going to a festival in the UK is not being quite sure what it’s going to throw at you. But, that also means being prepared for anything, so you don’t need to fork out for last-minute supplies!

These are all brilliant things to take with you to avoid spending on them once you’re there:

  • waterproofs or poncho
  • suncream and aftersun
  • sunhat and sunglasses
  • wellies
  • first aid kit including painkillers, blister plasters, bite and sting relief and allergy medication
  • lightweight picnic blanket or towel (to sit on!)
  • extra blankets in case it’s cold at night

DIY festival face paint

Extravagant face paint with glitter and gems is the thing every festival-goer is doing these days – guys and girls. And, there’ll be plenty of places on site you can visit to treat yourself to a sparkly festival look. But, like everything once you’re on-site at a festival, it’ll come with a price tag. So, if you’re looking for ways to cut costs, DIY your festival look!

A quick search online reveals all sorts of ideas and tutorials you can follow to create your dream festival look. You can base it around makeup and items you already have, or pick up what you need relatively cheaply in the shops or online. For example, beard glitter, which nobody would expect you to have a stash of, is something you can pick up for less than a tenner on Amazon!

Set a festival budget

Even if you follow all these cost-cutting tips, there are still some things that are a festival rite of passage worth paying for. So, setting a budget, either per day or for the whole weekend, can be a good idea to keep a lid on your costs.

Having a budget forces you to prioritise how you spend your money. It means you’re more likely to spend on things you really want and will remember the experience by.

A festival budget can be as simple or elaborate as you like. You may want separate pots for food and drink, merchandise, and entertainment, or you may be happy having one fund for all your festival fun. It’s up to you! 

Take a pre-paid card

Another way to keep your festival spending down is to limit how much you can spend in the first place. Using cash is one way to do this, but it may be quicker and easier to pay by card.

Even if you have a budget in mind, using your normal credit or debit card could make it very easy to spend more than you planned. That’s why we think taking a pre-paid card is a good idea. You simply top it up with the money you’ve set aside then use it like a normal card. Once the money is gone, it’s gone, and you’ll need to top it up again to keep spending.

An advantage of taking a pre-paid card with you is that it limits how much money you risk losing if you lost the card. If you choose to use your credit or debit card, then losing that – and potentially all the money in your account – could put a real dampener on your fun. Plus, calling your bank to cancel your card can be easier said than done when you’re in a field in the middle of nowhere!

Of course, losing a pre-paid card isn’t without its stress either. You may still want to call the provider and cancel it to safeguard your money, and it would be wise to have a backup payment option with you, just in case. But, you also have the reassurance that there’s only so much whoever finds it could spend, and they couldn’t use the card to run up debts in your name.

Looking for more free or cheap ideas to have fun this summer? Try these – the kids in your life will love them, too!

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

Happy group of people wearing bright colours enjoy a festival at night Happy group of people wearing bright colours enjoy a festival at night