Budgeting during season is a challenge. This is not new to us. We allocate money each year to concession stand dinners, restaurant meals after victories, and potluck contributions. We make sure we set aside dollars for any new spirit gear and T-shirts.
And, then, a few weeks into season, we forget to bring the empty, clear refillable water bottle and face the concession stand menu to see $2 for a bottle of water. Or there is the pink-out game t-shirt we forgot to order and sales are being made at the gate—borrowing cash from a fellow coach’s wife happens.
So how do we figure out our season budget? Here are the tips we go by for our family, which includes twin 10-year-old girls who look at the candy in the concession stand as if they are seeing those brightly wrapped balls and ribbons of sugar for the first time every time.
Pack a lunch.
All four of us bring our lunch to work/school. My girls pack their own lunches which include non-Pinterest items such as a sandwich, bag of chips, granola bar, a piece of fruit and a juice box or water in a refillable bottle. Not the healthiest but it works for us.
I pack whatever I can grab from the pantry—sometimes a protein bar and an apple or at other times I make a salad and throw in a package of tuna. My husband packs leftovers. If he doesn’t do that, he has a drawer in his office that serves as a pantry stocked with bread, peanut butter, instant oatmeal and chips. This saves us about $50 to $75 a week because going out for lunch is pricey.
Use cash at the concession stand.
I pull out $20 from the ATM and tell the girls our limit. I ask they eat ‘real’ food first and then go for candy. Sometimes they get distracted after eating the ‘entree’ in the stands and forget to go get ‘dessert.’
At a recent game, one of my daughters brought her own money to buy candy. (Maybe that is another tip all on its own—teach your kids to spend their own money on the candy). I also try to convince them to wait until the third quarter where the pizza and hot dogs go on sale for $1.
Nothing like cold cheap pizza with congealed blobs of cheese to cap off an evening.
Bring your own snacks.
OK, that isn’t truly legal—but I use the excuse of being married to a coach as the reason to break the no outside food and drinks rule. We do this at the beginning of the season and then about halfway through, I’m throwing sticks of gum in our stadium approved clear bags and counting that as snack. We then switch to tip number two above and adhere to a dollar amount at the concession stand.
Once the weather cools off, which in south Texas is about never, we can use our blankets (y’all up north would laugh at our thin, fleece coverlets we call blankets) to conceal bottles of water or meals from Whataburger. Yeah, I’ve brought that into the games. No shame.
Shop year round for the school colors or buy off the booster club sale rack.
This works when your school doesn’t change its name or mascot—yeah, we did that. Our colors are red and gray so a good red shirt from Old Navy or Target can carry us through a few seasons. And my girls also now wear my old jersey-like shirt, knotting them up with a scrunchie. To be young again and wear a knotted-up shirt with leggings. We also wait for other families to pass down shirts that no longer fit their kids.
Yes, it’s hard to see all the cute new styles that come out each year and display at games in the booster club stand, but we can walk quickly by wearing the prior season’s clothes.
Plus, toward the end of season, we consider it a win when we get to a game on time in any type of clothes. Ketchup stains from the $3 hot dogs give us red.
Plan for potlucks.
Parties and gatherings at other coaches’ houses pop up unexpectedly. Or, maybe they have been on a calendar all along and you just don’t get the notice. Buy the supplies for easy-to-make items.
I make Texas caviar—black eyed peas, Rotel and garbanzo beans marinated in Italian dressing. It’s a breeze to throw together.
I also have boxes of brownie and cake mix. Ghiradelli comes to the rescue every time.
We keep mixers (Sprite, tomato juice, ginger ale) on the ready and have a few bottles for wins or losses on hand. Keeping those items in your pantry eliminates last-minute driving through a fast food restaurant for beans (I’m in South Texas y’all) or picking up a ready-made dessert.
When my girls were younger, we had the bows and the bloomers and the darling monogrammed, applique outfits. We made that choice then and now, we choose concession stand dinners.
Life at the fields can quickly add up monetarily, but y’all know the moments and memories are worth any cost.