4 Money Mistakes I Made at the Fair

I need to confess about some financial mistakes I made last month.  There are a few things you can count on during Fall in New England.  You will leave a jacket or sweater somewhere because it was freezing in the morning and hot in the afternoon.  People come from all over to look at leaves.  Finally, there is a fair or festival every weekend. While I am all about spending money on experiences over “things” these fairs can get super expensive if you aren’t careful.  I wasn’t.  Here are 4 of the biggest mistakes I made at the King Richard’s Faire – and the 1 thing I did right.

Money Mistake #1: Going Hungry

We get up early in my house and breakfast takes place shortly after.  Saturdays and Sundays are no different.  We knew we were going to check out a fair and for some reason we decided to plan on eating when we got there.   That meant there was a long time between breakfast (8 ish) and lunch.  By the time we drove there, parked, and exchanged money for tokens it was close to 1 pm.  There was a separate line for each different type of food and some lines you could get water but others only offered soda etc. It was a bit of a pain to finally get everyone the food they wanted.

The food was great and the portions were generous but it ended up costing over $60 to eat lunch for 2 adults and 2 kids.  Pretty steep when you have to share a picnic table with strange men dressed in chain mail.

Next time I go to a fair I will make sure we have a meal before we go and maybe a few extra snacks on hand.  Some places are strict about outside food but others aren’t so its worth a try.  Occasionally the food IS the main event at a fair.  It is still better to go in without an empty stomach and maybe enjoy a treat that isn’t going to break the bank.

Money Mistake #2: Playing the Games

I’ve known that these games were rigged ever since I watched the “Bart Carny” episode of The Simpsons.  Nevertheless, when my son saw “Dragon Joust” it was love at first sight.  Now, he’s no daredevil so I have to admit seeing him want to play this game so bad was adorable to me.  We put him in this little cart that gets flung at a dragon holding a ring.  His job was to get the ring with his “sword”.  Sounds simple right? Wrong, big mistake.

“You can’t outsmart carnival folk. They’re the cleverest folk in the world.” – Homer Simpson

We spent about $22 on this game.  When my son finally got the ring he was awarded with a piece of paper proclaiming he was a noble knight.  It should have said “your mom is a sucker”.  He still talks about it though so it wasn’t the worst mistake of the day.

Money Mistake #3: Buying the Merch

The worst mistake I made was walking too close to one of the vendors.  Within a matter of seconds he had two rubber dragons in my kid’s faces.   They were captivated by these weird dragons that you could twist around your wrist.  Also, they could glow in the dark.

They were the types of toys that get played with for a few hours and eventually end up in the bottom of a toy box until they get trashed or donated.  Obviously, they had to have them.

I said no, and while the tears were welling up we kept walking leaving the dragons behind.  To stop the insanity we said maybe we would come back if they were good the rest of the day.  The holidays are coming and this wasn’t the type of spending I needed to do at $25 a pop.  They were good the rest of the day and thanks in part to mistake #4 – we bought them.

Money Mistake #4: Buying Drinks

See mistakes 1-3 for further explanation on why spending $10 for a Dixie Cup size beer made perfect sense.

The 1 thing I did right:  Buy tickets in advance

Coupon and promo codes are everywhere people!  I don’t approach an event or register without doing a quick search to see if there is a code or discount available.  The admission into this fair was super expensive but I was able to save a few bucks buying the ticket online a few days before.

A great money trick is to pay for events in advance.  You will enjoy whatever it is more than paying that day or worse paying the credit card bill a month later – trust me on this one.

Next time you have somewhere to go check online to see if there are any deals.  If you are a AAA member, Veteran, student or teacher there are often discounts you may miss out out on if you don’t check.  Also, some events have special days where you can get a break on the cost if you bring something (canned goods, coats, mittens…) to support a cause they are promoting.  Worth a look!

Do you love going to the fair?  I have to admit we had a blast that day and we will go to a few more events like this for sure before the snow starts.  What are some of your tips on how to save money at the fair?  Leave a comment and let me know!

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