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Attention, Football Fans: The Big Game Might Bust Your Budget

By Maurie Backman - Feb 1, 2018 at 5:36AM

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The most exciting sports night of the year could end up wreaking havoc on your finances. Here's how to enjoy the big game responsibly.

This Sunday is perhaps the most anticipated Sunday of the year -- an evening when countless football fans across the country will gather in homes, bars, and restaurants to witness the ultimate matchup. I'm talking about the big game, folks, and it's an event that sports enthusiasts and non-fans alike can enjoy together. It's also an event that can harm our finances if we're not careful.

Last year, a ticket to the biggest sporting event in America cost nearly $4,300 on average, while many last-minute flights easily topped the $1,000 mark. But it's not just those who plan to travel to this year's game who stand to blow their budgets in the process. There are plenty of ways to overspend on the most exciting sports night of the year, whether by hosting parties or betting on the events of the night. In fact, in 2016, Americans faced a whopping $400 million in gambling losses related to the football championship. Talk about one massive fumble.

Men in football jerseys cheering


If you're planning to watch the big game this year, whether for the action, the halftime show, or the epic commercials, be sure not to go overboard with your spending that night. Otherwise, you might feel the pain for many months to come.

How much can you afford to spend on a single night?

Let's be clear: There's nothing wrong with forking over a little money to enjoy what will no doubt be a thrilling night of sports. But if you're not careful with what you spend, you could end up digging yourself into a fairly deep hole.

Consider this: An estimated 39% of Americans have absolutely no money in the bank. None. If you're one of them, then you can't afford to be parting with any amount of cash that exceeds your typical spending, which means that if you're planning to drop $300 on a party, or wager $100 on what the final score will be, you're making a big mistake. That's because any spare cash you possess at that point should go directly into your emergency fund.

Regardless of how much you earn or what your living costs look like, you should have enough money in the bank to cover a minimum of three months' worth of typical expenses. If your account balance is hovering at $0, it means you're not even close, and therefore you can't afford to host a football-related gathering unless your guests are providing their own food and beverages. Similarly, if you're drowning in credit card debt, you should use any spare cash to chip away at your balance. That way, you'll minimize the extent to which you're racking up interest, which can trap you in a spiral of ever-growing debt.

Even if you have some savings, or aren't in debt, it still pays to set a budget to avoid overspending on a single night. If you're hosting a party, figure out how much you can afford to shell out without having to dip into your emergency fund or take on debt. If you're attending a gathering elsewhere, see how much wiggle room your income and expenses allow for, and make sure you stay within that limit. This means that if you can only afford to spend $30 that night, you'll need to prioritize, so if the football-shaped cake you're bringing costs $29.50 at the bakery, you're done for the night. If someone asks you on the spot to throw $20 into a little wager, politely decline. Better yet, leave your cash at home so you aren't tempted.

While we should all get excited for Sunday, the last thing you want to do is bust your budget on pizza and wings and suffer the consequences afterward. You're better off finding low-cost alternatives for enjoying the game while resisting the urge to gamble on it altogether. Otherwise, you might find yourself quite unhappy with the aftermath -- even if your team wins.

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