5 Smart Ways to Enjoy Football Season Without Breaking the Bank

I was born into a football-loving family, and I started going to San Francisco 49ers games before I even knew how to chant “DE-FENSE!” My enjoyment of the game has only grown over the years, and it’s rare that you’ll find me on Sundays during the season anywhere other than my couch with a big comfort meal cooking in the kitchen.

But being a football fan can be an expensive prospect, especially these last few years when inflation has driven up the cost of just about everything. With many people’s budgets stretched so thin, it can be hard to find the extra cash to pay for pricey entertainment.

With that in mind, here are a few ways you can get your football fix without emptying your wallet.

Brace yourself for this: The average ticket price to an NFL game in 2023 is a monumental $377. When you consider that tickets to the first Super Bowl in 1967 went for $12 apiece (about $106, when adjusted for inflation), you can see just how popular football has become in the U.S. Even the average price of the cheapest tickets to NFL games ranges from $49 to $209.

This is a huge price just to get in the stadium, but if you have your heart set on cheering your team on in person, look for games on the schedule against less exciting opponents. Ticket prices can fluctuate based on how desirable a game is, so try to plan your game day around a visiting team that will allow you to get in the door for less.

2. Look for local watch parties

Going to a game in person may be out of your price range, but maybe you still want to be surrounded by other fans. In that case, search for watch parties at bars or restaurants in your area. Some may be sponsored by the team, but others might just be local establishments that have the game on TV and offer food and drink specials to entice customers.

By cutting out the cost of a ticket to the game, you’ll save potentially hundreds of dollars while still getting to celebrate or commiserate with fellow supporters.

3. Sign up for a streaming service

Maybe you have a lucky spot on the couch you don’t want to abandon during game time. If so, signing up for a service that lets you stream games at home is a good alternative to heading to the stadium or a crowded sports bar.

NFL Sunday Ticket, which allows you to watch any non-primetime game, is available through YouTube starting this season. The lowest price is $449 per year, or $349 if you also have a YouTube TV plan. While that’s certainly a big charge to your credit card, it works out to be about $26 per regular season week for the standalone plan. And you may be able to snag a promotional price when you sign up — I subscribed a few months before the season and got $100 knocked off the price.

NFL+ is another option for watching live local games. The current price starts at $49.99 per year, but promotions are possible here as well. I signed up a couple weeks ago during a 50% off promotion.

4. Invite friends over for a potluck

Whether you pay for a streaming service to watch all of the games (raises hand) or just want to watch your team’s game on the local channels, inviting friends over to watch with you is a great way to share the food costs.

Rather than providing the entire spread yourself, you can ask each guest to contribute something. Maybe you set up the Bloody Mary bar in your kitchen, a friend brings their famous buffalo wings, and your cousin makes a seven-layer dip. Just be sure to coordinate so you don’t end up with a bunch of six-packs and no food.

As much as I love watching my 49ers, it’s nice to take a break and throw the ball around myself. If you can’t get enough football, look up a flag football league in your area where you can show off your arm, or gather an informal group once a week for a friendly game at the park.

This can be an affordable, or even free, way to get more football in your life, particularly on those four dark days each week when there’s no NFL on TV.

Yes, yes, I know I stole that line from the other football, but the sentiment still applies. If you’re looking for ways to enjoy your favorite sport without spending down your entire savings account balance, employ these tips to keep your costs down. It’ll make the wins so much sweeter.

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