The frugal Orioles fan

This post was written by Kurt Smith, author of Ballpark E-Guides, PDF-format guides that help fans get the most bang for their buck at the ballgame. He's been called “MLB's Worst Enemy” by “Connecticut Morning,” a TV program on which he is a frequent guest.

Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.

Baseball games don't have to be as expensive as they seem, or even as expensive as they used to be.

I live in South Jersey, which has some advantages if you're a baseball fan. I can go to see the Phillies, Orioles, Nationals, Yankees or Mets without an overnight stay. I can even reach the Pirates or Red Sox without paying for a hotel, if I'm willing to deprive myself of some sleep.

But there's a trade-off of course… that being that New Jersey is a pretty expensive place to live. So since I am not yet independently wealthy, I have to stretch my ballgame dollar as much as possible.

Fortunately, we have that wonderful World Wide Web, and one can find ways to save on everything baseball, from tickets to parking to food, without even getting dressed. I research the heck out of different homes of baseball to do just that, and it's well worth the trouble.

This April, I will be visiting spectacular Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore — a ballpark that only improves with age on its existing greatness — to see the Orioles, the team I loved as a kid.

You might have paid…

The total of tickets, gas, tolls, food, etc., might add up to about $100, and that's close to what I spent back in the days before the Internet.

Here's a breakdown of the costs. These are just estimates, but it gives a picture of what I would probably have to shell out for a trip to the Yard at today's prices:

Ticket: $20 (probably a bit more with the “convenience” fee)

Gas: $35 (about ¾ tank to get there and back)

Tolls: $24 ($4 for the Delaware Memorial Bridge, $8 for the Delaware Turnpike, $6 for the Harbor Tunnel, and $6 for the Tydings Bridge)

Parking: $10

Food and drink: $11 (about $7 for peanuts, two dogs and two sodas outside; $4 for fries inside)

That estimate comes to exactly $100, and I used to pat myself on the back because I saved a couple of bucks buying peanuts outside.

Instead, you pay…

Now, here is my current plan and the cost estimate to see the Orioles this year. Hopefully, you'll find something in here you can use yourself.

Ticket: FREE. Did you know that the Orioles will give you a free ticket for your birthday? Yes, sir! You have to sign up for their newsletter, which is no big deal, and they'll e-mail you a voucher that you can exchange at the box office for a free upper-level ticket. It's not a bad seat either; at least in the past, you could pretty much sit anywhere in the upper level at the Yard. I'm pretty certain they'll be doing this in 2013, although I haven't seen it available yet. Several other teams also do this by the way. Check out the team's website.

Gas: $4. I might be overstating this a bit. I will only need to get to a PATCO train station and back, that's pretty much it. Maybe a gallon.

PATCO/SEPTA train: $8.60. From where I am, I will be taking a combination of PATCO and SEPTA trains to get to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, where I can hop on a Megabus.

Megabus to White Marsh Mall and back: $11. Megabus is the best thing to happen to frugal travelers since couch surfing. A Megabus from Philly to Baltimore can cost anywhere from $1 (yes, $1) to about $20, but it's a super bargain any way you slice it. I'm putting $11 here because most of the rides I've searched for are $5-6, but if you're dedicated and early enough, you can reserve it for a buck. The ride is usually a pleasant one; I've never encountered any trouble.

MTA Maryland 35 bus to Camden Yards: $3.20. That's round trip from the park-and-ride at the White Marsh Mall. It's a slow trip, but at least you're not fuming at the traffic.

Food and drink: $11. About $6 for the peanuts, two dogs and two sodas outside, and a free soda inside for being a designated driver. Or instead of being the Responsible Sober Guy, $5 for two Natty Bohs and a tip at Sliders across the street before the game.

(Yes, by the way, like most teams, the Orioles will allow you to bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks into the ballpark. But you knew that, I'm sure.)

That's a total of about $38. With just a little research, I knocked off nearly two-thirds of my bill for a trip from South Jersey to Camden Yards! And that's counting $5 for a couple of beers I might not have, and $11 for a Megabus round trip that I could get for $2.50 if I'm determined enough. The bill could easily be as low as $24 — a quarter of what I would spend otherwise.

Amazing, isn't it? Sometimes I think we could have funded our kids' educations with what we wasted going to a ballgame. I've learned it doesn't have to be that way.

Yes, there's a bit of work involved, like riding a few trains and buses, but I also won't have to deal with Baltimore traffic going in and out (where downtown red lights can last about a week) or finding a parking spot, which isn't always the easiest thing either. And I-95 is a boring ride, so I can let someone else drive it for me.

If you want to see a ballgame on the extremely cheap almost anywhere, you can do it. And you should. We all need more live baseball.

More about...Budgeting, Planning

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My Financial Independence Journey
My Financial Independence Journey

I didn’t know about either the free tickets or the cheapness of Megabus. Thanks for those tips!

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

My pleasure! Megabus does get some complaints, mostly about punctuality, but I’ve never seen a bus service always be on time. I’ve used it a couple of times with no problem.

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies

I think it’s great when you can use these same kinds of tactics to apply them to any expensive hobby. I think spring training venues can also be a cheap way to see several different teams if they’re playing in the same town for spring training.

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

Absolutely Mrs. PoP, and the nice thing about spring training is not only the players being more accessible (so I’m told) but also it’s much warmer! I haven’t done a spring training trip yet, but someday.

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies

Spring training venues can also be a cheap way to see several different teams if they’re playing in the same town for spring training.

But I think it’s great when you can use these same kinds of tactics to apply them to any expensive hobby.

Siegfried
Siegfried

pretty good saving I would say!

Jane
Jane

It bothers me how much major sports costs and how it is becoming less and less available to lower to middle class families. Possibly these families are still doing it, but they go into debt to afford it. I’m only in my thirties, but maybe those older readers among us can nostalgically weigh in on the cost of sports events before it became so corporate. I know my city tore down a perfectly good baseball stadium and built a new swanky one with more corporate boxes and less reasonable seating. The result for us? We only go when my husband’s… Read more »

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

I agree Jane, it does get costly especially when bringing the family. I don’t know where you’re from, but I can tell you that many teams have “kids clubs” that often include tickets and some memorabilia for the kids. They’re usually inexpensive and are well worth the price. And you can bring food into most major league ballparks these days, that can save you a few dollars.

Somsiah
Somsiah

AT Huntington Park, home of the Columbus Clippers, you can see the action from the street. But I guess that would make one real cheap, eh, and perhaps at risk of being arrested if you started having a picnic by the road side. Just kidding. Will find if the Clippers issue free tickets too on your birthday – a good friend could benefit from it. And yes, agreed, megabus is a great find.

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

Nothing wrong with watching a game from outside the ballpark…you can actually do that in Detroit if you want to stand on a step and look through a fence! And back in the Shea Stadium days, people could watch games from the train platform. Don’t see much of that these days, though.

Chasa
Chasa

I grew up watching the Kane County Cougars, farm team for I can’t remember who. We watched several games a season, and because it was minor league I know it was a fraction of the cost of the Cubs or the Sox. If you just want to watch some baseball with the family, this is a cheap way to accomplish it.

Beth
Beth

I have been to a few pro games (hockey and baseball) and a few of the farm leagues, and I have to say the farm leagues give you a lot more bang for your buck! They’re cheaper, and they are always providing some sort of entertainment beyond the actual game.

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

True that, and I always have a great time at minor league ballparks…the ones in Trenton and Lehigh Valley are fantastic.

Andrew
Andrew

Unfortunately, almost none of these tips are applicable for Fenway Park, except for the public transit.

LeRainDrop
LeRainDrop

This is true: standard Fenway pricing is way more expensive. But my dad could give you a bunch of tips — he’s really figured it out well! For example, there is metered parking just across the bridge from Fenway that becomes free at either 5 or 6 p.m., so as long as you’re willing to walk like 8-10 minutes, free parking.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am

This is where minor league baseball comes in handy. The Red Sox have a AAA affiliate in Pawtucket. Bleachers are $6 and box seats about $10. But I’m not sure there’s any way to get there without a car.

I’ve only been to a Boston Red Sox game twice, once when my college bought out a whole section and once when my employer did. I think I paid $25 each time.

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

That’s true Andrew, although I did take a Megabus from NYC to Boston for a game at Fenway last year, and that saved me beaucoups bucks. There are ways to save a few dollars at Fenway, like the street parking someone mentioned.

For example, I don’t know if they still do it, but in the past the Red Sox had discounted concessions in April for the first hour after the gates opened. If you can stand being outside in April in Boston, that’s a good deal!

jestjack
jestjack

Great article…had no idea about the tips especially free ticket on your B-day. You’re right Camden Yards is a great stadium and they have kept it up…always looks spiffy. On a sad note, as Baltimore, the City falls on hard economic times the rent that the City derives from the Orioles is a joke….like $100K….a year….some years less. Pretty sure just maintaining the infra-structure to the stadium cost more than that…

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

Thanks Jestjack! Part of the reason the O’s may be offering a lot of great deals is the difficulty they’ve had bringing in fans after 14 straight losing seasons. Doesn’t help the local businesses that much either, sad to say. Maybe that will pick up this year.

stellamarina
stellamarina

Not tips that I can use in my part of the world but a very good article….thank you. Something new, interesting and practical for the blog site.

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

Stellamarina, it looks like you’re from Hawaii, so I’m not sure what to tell you, but thanks for the kind words!

My Wealth Desire
My Wealth Desire

Great tips on frugal living. I believe in the near future the author, Kurt Smith will be future typical next door millionaire.

This will give us inspiration to save and live frugally.

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

Thanks MWD…that would be nice. 🙂

Michael
Michael

Great work! I always think it’s a double benefit when you save on leisure activities, since (at least for me) it’s more fun if I know I spent less.

I’m hugely jealous of American gas prices now – in the UK, 3/4 tank is the equivalent of $90 !

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

Yikes Michael…I’ll never complain again! Thanks for the kind words.

tosajen
tosajen

I’m near Milwaukee, and StubHub offers very cheap ticket resales, and I can choose the seats. We also park across the freeway from Miller Park, and walk to the game.

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

Miller Park is extremely value-friendly Tosajen…between the $1 Uecker seats, the Bernie’s Terrace cheap seats, and the tailgating scene, a Brewers game is very affordable for families, plus it’s a great ballpark, highly recommended!

Steve
Steve

Great story. I’m actually heading up to see the O’s on Opening Day this year. I used to live near Baltimore, so getting to the game was never something I had to worry much about. Now I’m living in Central VA, so I have a bit more planning to do when it comes to getting to the game. The tip about using buses and trains is definitely something I’m going to look into.

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

Steve, coming from Virginia, assuming Opening Day is in the afternoon, I might look into the MARC train from D.C. if the capital is easy for you to reach. It drops you practically right at the front door of Camden Yards. Doesn’t run late into the evening though.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

We went to a spring training game on Saturday. It was beautiful outside. We paid $5 for parking and whatever gas cost (not bad), but the ticket, beer, and food were all free through a business connection of Jake’s. We were on the shaded upper deck, so fun – I’d never been up there before!

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

I am envious of you…it is 35 degrees in New Jersey right now!

Matt @ My Coin Blog
Matt @ My Coin Blog

I wish I had a ballpark closer to where I live. It would take me 6 hours minimum to get to a ballpark. Trains arent an option either. Kudos for putting in a little work and cutting the cost by 60%!

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith

Thanks Matt, sorry to hear about your dilemma…

Juli
Juli

Definitely agree on the minor league games. I grew up in the Milwaukee area and currently live in Nashville. The Nashville Sounds are a farm team for the Brewers, so that makes it a little more fun going to games here. I’m not really a big sports fan, but DH is a huge sports freak. I am much more willing to go to games with him when I am paying $7/ticket rather than $25+.

McJoJo
McJoJo

How is making millionaires & billionaires richer frugal at all?

andy
andy

Let’s go O’s! Hopefully they can repeat 2012 baby!

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