For tailgaters going to the game, or those who want to be in the thick of the action, setting up right outside the stadium is optimal. But those spots could cost a premium, and frugal tailgaters always try to park in a free (but legal) location. Generally that means venturing farther from the stadium -- but still within walking distance if attending the game is on the agenda.
Make sure fans' appetites are well sated before the game begins, to avoid heading to a concession stand for pricey temptations while the clock is ticking. Deviled eggs, a variety of dips, caramel corn, trail mix, and even fried chicken can be made for less than $1 a serving with tips from MyRecipes. Even better, these snacks can be prepared at home before heading out to tailgate, leaving plenty of time for socializing and watching the game. If you plan to grill out, buy meat in bulk and choose cheaper cuts.
There's certainly no need to buy -- or even bring -- folding chairs when hosting a tailgate. Use the car: The seats, bumpers, and hood are all efficient, no-cost substitutes. Guests can also be encouraged to bring their own chairs, but it's not a must. Many will prefer to stand anyway.
Licensed decorations with team logos can be pricey, so stick with plain decor, such as plastic tablecloths, in team colors. Make a team banner instead of buying an official flag, and find other ideas on Pinterest.
Styles are relatively consistent from year to year, and team apparel left over from last season is always a bargain buy. Amazon's NFL Fan Shop stocks a large selection of accessories and men's and women's apparel at half off. The NFL's official online shop sells clearance items at up to 75 percent off.
Local thrift stores are likely sources for cheap fan gear, as are online sites selling secondhand goods. Garage sales, too, might harbor team apparel and other useful items such as coolers.
Fans don't have to wear official gear to show their spirit. How about a plain shirt in a team color? Wearing a scarf in the right colors is an easy way to show your loyalty on a chilly day. Again, look to Pinterest for ideas such as homemade team jewelry.