11 Ways to Catch Football Games for Less
The average non-premium NFL ticket cost $84.43 last season, according to Team Marketing Report, up 4.2 percent from 2013. Want to catch a playoff game or the Super Bowl in person? Expect to pay thousands. There are cheaper ways to watch your favorite teams battle it out, though, in person or at home -- even if you've cut the cord on cable TV. Here are 11 tips for viewing football on the cheap.
Start at online vendors when looking to snag cheap NFL tickets. Razorgator and TiqIQ often have impressive deals for pro games. And specific teams' social media sites often offer deals to fans who follow or "like" them, so check out favorites on Twitter and Facebook. Experts say buying at the last minute can save lots too, as sellers try to unload tickets before game time, so don't rush a purchase.
A guide on Bleacher Report recommends having cash on hand -- and a self-imposed limit on spending -- when approaching a scalper outside a stadium on game day. It's standard for prospective buyers to inquire about available tickets at tailgate parties, and it's also fine to haggle with sellers. Consider hanging around after kickoff, too, because once the game starts, scalpers often drop prices dramatically. Craigslist and eBay have deals on tickets for resale, generally very close to or on game days. Just be careful that you're getting actual tickets and not copies -- if a deal feels like a scam, it probably is.
NFL stadiums charge from $11 up to an outrageous $75 for a few hours of parking -- almost as much as the admission tickets. Buying parking tickets online and in advance can save big time. Try the ParkWhiz app or PSL Source for reduced parking rates and season parking passes. And concessions? Food and drink are notoriously expensive at stadiums; call ahead and ask what can be brought from home to avoid those prices.
According to Team Marketing Report, the five cheapest pro football stadiums for taking a family of four to a game, including tickets, parking, concessions, and souvenirs, are the Jaguars' Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Florida; the Browns' FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio; the Buffalo Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium; the Miami Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium; and the Buccaneers' Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Sticking to lower-profile stadiums and teams helps with budgeting for lucky residents or travelers with good timing.
To enjoy the stadium atmosphere without over-stressing the household balance sheet, forgo the NFL altogether and catch a college game. The tickets, in-stadium food prices, and fan gear all cost less than with major league teams. Try SeatGeek, StubHub, Ticket Liquidator, and Vivid Seats and compare ticket prices online, experimenting with game dates to find the best deals.
To score a super cheap ticket, consider buying several at a discount ahead of time and showing up early on game day to scalp the extras at higher rates. Tally up the profits and you might have turned the game into a freebie. Be careful not to break state laws on scalping, though -- there are plenty of states with restrictions. SeatGeek provides the details.
Many bars attract large crowds on football afternoons and evenings by showing games live on large TVs, letting patrons watch favorite teams for the cost of a night out -- which can be as cheap or pricy as they want to make it. Take advantage of drink and food specials -- groups often can score discounts for pitchers and appetizers -- or skip the booze altogether (though it's polite to order soft drinks or non-alcoholic mocktails, at least). Patrons get the stadium camaraderie without the hassle or expense of attending the game in person.
Sunday football games generally play on CBS, NBC, or Fox, and many Thursday night games air on CBS. For a one-time price, an over-the-air antenna can pick up HD broadcasts from those networks, providing most of the season's games with no monthly fees. Electronics site Crutchfield explains that outdoor antennas must be mounted on a rooftop but perform well due to their height and unobstructed vantage point. Indoor antennas, which are small and sit by the TV, can be disrupted by walls and other electronics. Outdoor antennas run from around $35 to more than $100 for the most powerful; indoor antennas are less powerful and cost less, between $10 and $40. To determine what the reception in a specific area will be like -- and therefore how powerful an antenna must be -- check Antenna Web or Antenna Point.
To watch all 256 season games on demand -- as well as every NFL game since 2009 -- it might be worth shelling out $99 for the official NFL Game Pass. The online package includes a bunch of extras, such as coaching films, condensed replays, spoiler-free viewing, and compatibility on Windows, Apple, Android devices, and Xbox -- all available for testing with seven-day free trials. NFL Game Pass does not broadcast all games live, but they can be streamed a few hours after completion. Live-stream audio is available, as well as video on demand. To get the service on the cheap, consider going in with a friend or two and sharing login and password info.
While Sunday and most Thursday NFL games play via antenna TV, Monday Night Football games -- there are 17 this season -- air only on ESPN. Sling TV offers a no-fee, flat-rate service for live TV at $20 with the featured channels ESPN and ESPN2. (Subscribers also get the Disney Channel, AMC, TNT, A and E, Food Network, and a few others, making the cost of seeing those hard-to-find Monday games seem more reasonable, especially if these extra channels appeal to others in the household.) Supported devices include TVs, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android and iOS tablets and smartphones, Nexus Player, and Xbox One.
Verizon Wireless subscribers with a "More Everything" plan can watch live pro football games on mobile devices for free (a $5 monthly fee was dropped last year). The NFL Mobile app, available on iOS, Android, and Windows smartphones, does incur data charges, but watch with Wi-Fi and you've got free football viewing.