My wife and I, along with a group of our friends, went to the Minnesota State Fair this past weekend. For those who don't know the Minnesota State Fair is the largest state fair in the United States in terms of average daily attendance. Daily attendance can average anywhere from 100,000 people all the way up to 225,000 people or so – and yearly attendance can top 1.75 million people. In other words there are a LOT of people at the fair.
If you're a Minnesotan, or grew up in the area, going to the state fair is an annual tradition that really can't be compared to anything. There is so much to do. There are the sideshow attractions (bearded lady anyone?), the amazing food around every corner, the rides, and thousands of vendors hawking their wares.
There is so much to do that if you're not careful, you can end up spending a lot of money.
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Our Minnesota State Fair Costs – Broken Down
What can you spend money on at the state fair? First, there are the copious amounts of food to be eaten. Everything from alligator to camel to deep fried candy bars. Of course my favorite is the cheese curds, which I buy at least one of every year (see above).
Then of course there's the cost for your ticket, the parking, rides and buying souvenirs at the hundreds of vendors and shops. If you're so inclined there is also a beer garden.
Let's look at the things my wife and I bought and paid for while we were at the fair this past weekend.
- Parking. $10
- 2 tickets. $20
- 2 orders of cheese curds at “The Mouth Trap” cheese curd stand. $8
- 2 large pop. $6
- Sweet Martha's Bucket Of Cookies. $14
- 3 Beers. $15
- Cheeseburger $3
- Butterfly Building. $3
- Scrambler ride ticket. $5
- Tower of Terror ride ticket. $5
- Egg Rolls. $5
So our day at the fair cost in the neighborhood of $110-$120 because I'm sure I'm forgetting a pop here or a corn dog there. Unbelievable how quickly the money slips through your fingers. Oh well, it only comes once a year and it's so worth it!
Find Ways To Save While You're There
While the fair isn't always going to be cheap, you can find ways to make your fair experience more affordable.
- Buy discounted tickets and a coupon book beforehand: The MN State Fair has advance discount tickets available for around a $3 discount per ticket, and you can also get discounts for vendors at the fair by buying a blue ribbon discount book for around $5.
- Take advantage of free activities: There are a ton of things to do for free at the fair from the art exhibits, skateboarding shows, car shows, dog shows, lumberjack shows to free open air concerts and parades. If you're looking to cut costs, find a few more of these activities and add them to your agenda.
- Bring your own water to water/snacks: One way we save when we go to the fair is to bring a backpack with us with water and maybe even a couple of snacks. We do this especially in years where we're trying to save. Otherwise some booths at the fair will give out free water.
- Use the fair's app to find food you have discounts for: The Minnesota State Fair has an app that you can use to find the food you want to eat, or to find attractions and merchandise. Scope out cheap eats beforehand using your coupon book, and map them out on the app.
Key To Not Letting Entertainment Costs Get Out of Control
The key to not letting miscellaneous entertainment expenses like our visit to the fair not get out of control is to make sure you're budgeting for them every month.
At our house we budget for entertainment expenses every month, as well as allowing $100 each for my wife and I for “blow money”. In other words we can spend that money without having to check with the other spouse. If we don't spend the money from month to month it adds up in our savings.
So when we have expensive months like this one where we spend a lot of cash on eating out, tickets for events and so on, it's not a big deal. We have the money saved in our savings account, and everything is budgeted for. If we don't have enough in the accounts to pay for our entertainment, we don't do it!
It's always so much more fun when everything is bought and paid for already – no credit needed!
Have your own tips and tricks for saving on your entertainment expenses, and making sure the costs don't get out of control? Tell us what they are in the comments!