We’re Going to Coachella!

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Today’s author is Liz–a personal finance nerd who loves to talk all things money-related. She firmly believes that it’s not about how much you make, but rather how much you keep, and is always on the lookout for ways to hold on to more of what’s earned. A native of New York state, Liz now happily lives in Chicago but maintains that deep dish is NOT real pizza. You can find more of her money (and life) thoughts on her blog Open Mouths Get Fed.

Holy, wow. She's doing Coachella for under $1,000! These are some insanely good savings tips--for Coachella or any time you travel.

Tickets are $500.

Hotels will be price gouging.

You don’t have a job.

You’re too old for all that.

All thoughts that crossed my mind when I read the Coachella 2018 lineup for the first time. The Weeknd. SZA. Cardi B. Beyoncé. I repeated my earlier thoughts as I perused the event website. I admonished myself that all of my friends were too married and parental to go with me when I posted on Facebook, “Anyone down for Coachella 2018? I’m so sincere.” And I definitely compared my back fat to the cellulite free thighs plastered across last year’s Instagram Coachella hashtags.

It turns out that all I needed to cast aside my reservations were a willing friend who is parental but not spousal, a well funded blow money account, a half-assed commitment to diet and exercise between January and April, and the scant hope that Jay-Z would join his wife onstage.

Besides, if a 43-year-old Bridget Jones can sleep with Patrick Dempsey at a music festival, why can’t I do the same? Armed with my Chase Sapphire Reserve and the confidence of a mediocre white man, I logged onto the Coachella site, waited for my turn in the queue and purchased two tickets for the second weekend of Coachella 2018.

Adulting 101

Some might say that my decision to go to Indio, CA for a three day music festival is immature and irresponsible given the fact that I’m closer to 40 than 30 and have been (f)unemployed since November due to a layoff. Being without a steady, sufficient income for months should mean that cash is to be kept as closely as possible and I cannot afford to spend what could be thousands of dollars on a concert–not when there is a mortgage that needs to be paid and a student loan that’s still in repayment.

However, I can’t get behind that perspective. While some may call it responsible, I see it as accepting a scarcity mindset. I see it as an acceptance of money being a scarce resource of which I would be unlikely to find more.

To that I call bullsh!t.

I have been making money since Dubya’s administration. If by this point in my professional life I can’t figure out how to make a dollar out of fifteen cents then I’m doing something wrong. While going to Coachella is not a necessity, it is definitely an experience that I would highly value. I have learned the best way to be responsible with our finances is to allocate them according to our values, spending less on what we could care less about and more on what we do.

Since I could listen all day to SZA sing about Broken Clocks, have never met a vacation I didn’t want to take, and will take any opportunity to boost my melanin before summer, then I would say going to Coachella is the epitome of fiscal responsibility.

Figuring It Out

With this mindset the statement, “I can’t afford to go to Coachella,” gets flipped to the question, “How can I afford to give myself an experience I will value and remember forever?”

There is  difference between not having wage income and not having money. Prior to being laid off, I’d saved six months of post-tax income in addition to stashing cash into several sinking funds–including a blow money account. True, I could have taken the dollars from that account and transferred it to my savings. But who is to say that my blow money account wasn’t so nicely flush precisely for a time such as this?

Did I mention Cardi B is going to be there?!

The Tickets

A couple of years ago I’d decided on a whim that I wanted to go to Coachella and tickets were upwards of $1000 on Stubhub. That wasn’t my ministry back then.

This time I made the decision to go before any tickets went on sale. The first step in answering the question of how I was going to afford this excursion was ensuring I purchased my tickets at face value. Easy enough. I channeled my inner 16 year old who used to call the radio station every night trying to be caller ten, and got on the Coachella website the minute tickets went on sale and got a spot in the sales queue. Thankfully, all servers were a go and I was able to get tickets for me and my friend the first day of the sale.

A Place To Lay My Head

Even more expensive than the tickets is the lodging for 3-4 nights in a town overrun by thousands of tourists. A quick perusal of AirBnB showed that even with a 4 person occupancy I would still be looking at a bill well over $600.

I did not want to pay that much money so I explored other options. I contacted several hotel chains and pitched article ideas in exchange for discounted room and board during Coachella’s second weekend. I got pretty deep into talks with one hotel chain before it all ended in, “We are totally booked that weekend.”

Luckily AirBnB came to my rescue when a cute ranch resort at $130 per night caught my eye. Sometimes it’s good not to know an area’s geography. I fired off an email to the host inquiring how far his listing is from the venue. He quickly responded that his place was more than an hour away. However, before I could dismiss the location as unfeasible, he informed me that he works at Coachella every year and offered free shuttle service to and from the festival grounds every morning and evening.

I knew it was meant to be when he eliminated the need to rent a car by offering a $100 round trip shuttle to pick us up and drop us off at LAX, which is more than two hours away. And that brings up another cost to afford…

Getting There

I have a good amount of credit card reward points and frequent flyer miles, either of which I could cash in for a free flight from Chicago to L.A. However, I’m hoarding points and miles to cash them in for a first class ticket the next time I fly back to West Africa to be with my family. Since I didn’t want to prematurely use this resource I decided to use another of my sinking funds for the purpose for which it was created. Every month I save for travel expenses.

To mitigate that expense as much as possible I chose to fly as a mystery shopper. Companies like SQM offer travelers a 50% refund on roundtrip ticket purchases for simply staying awake before take off and snacks and evaluating the airline experience from airport to the airplane. This option will bring the already low price of my airfare down to $144.50 once the refund hits my credit card. While I do forego earning miles, it is worth it to me to earn the straight cash.

Adding It Up

I am all set to live it up for three days in the desert. I have my event tickets, flight, and lodging. When all expenses are totaled and rebates factored in I managed to put together a trip that can cost thousands of dollars for the bargain basement price of $937.50. If I don’t buy new clothes for the occasion, take public transportation to and home from Chicago’s airport, and prepare and pack my own meals while in California, I may even be able to keep the total cost right under $1000 for the entire three days.


Final Thoughts

I will not concede that there are better ways I could be spending my money while I am without income. Not spending $1000 on Coachella will not buy me another month of living expenses and could potentially cost me years of regret when I am not long as free to use my money and pick up and go whenever I please.

One of the best things about making the decision to go to Coachella is that it has reinvigorated my creative juices on finding ways to earn money outside of a traditional 9 to 5. I am actively pursuing ways to use my everyday skills and resources to bring in enough to replenish my blow money and vacation sink accounts.

Best of all, I am challenging limits whether they be internally or externally imposed. It is up to me to determine where my funds should stretch. It is only I who can tell myself, “F#*k your cellulite, put on some short shorts, and dance your ass off to your favorite singers.”

2 thoughts on “We’re Going to Coachella!

  1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    I hope you have the absolute best time there! I’m sure you will, it sounds like the best year yet for Coachella.

    In the grand scheme of things, it’s so important to have perspective. Consciously choosing to make a once in a lifetime experience happen by planning ahead and making it happen within a reasonable budget isn’t irresponsible. Deciding to go at the last minute and paying rack rates or scalper prices and emptying out all your cash is, but the way you did it? Totally awesome. And this is coming from a money hoarder who often operates on a scarcity mindset but I’m working on eliminating that this year too!

    1. OMGF

      Aww thank you! I just arrived yesterday and we are getting ready to head to the festival grounds. I’m on budget thus far and even have a bit of wiggle room. I like to say I’m being responsibly irresponsible.


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