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Fearless Financial Future

Fairs, Festivals, Food, Friends, and Fun: Tips for planning your local adventures

It is fair season! What are some of your favorite memories of the local or state fair? What are some money decisions you wish did not make at the fair?

My family and I look forward to attending our local fairs and festivals each year. There are always fun and exciting activities in which to engage. Each year, millions of people attend local and state fairs throughout the United States. Fairs offer family-friendly entertainment and contribute to local economies. An estimated 400,000 people attended the Illinois State Fair in 2017, which was an increase from the previous year. Whether this is your first year or you are a veteran fairgoer, it is easy to overspend at the fair. So, how can you save for yourself or your family to attend and enjoy the fair?


  • Visit your County or State Fair website and find out the dates and schedule of events. Explore which events you and your family might be interested in and record the cost of these events.
  • Make note of the admissions fees and pay attention to individual and group rates.
  • Look into parking rates, accessibility to ramps, restrooms, trams or shuttles, information booths, and location of emergency services.
  • Create a list and include each item with the associated costs. Once you have finalized your list, see which items you can cut from it.
  • As you plan your visit, I want to highlight that University of Illinois Extension plays an important role in local and state fairs. Extension staff is involved in a wide range of activities that support community engagement and our 4-H Youth Development focus. One of my colleagues who has been involved in planning and organizing activities over the years explained that the fair offers opportunities for community members to connect with friends, families, and neighbors. The fair also provides the opportunity for local youth to display their 4-H projects or other activities. This type of community involvement empowers, build self-esteem, and support positive long-term outcomes for youth. She suggested that when you plan your trips to the fair, you should pack your own water, sunscreen, snacks, and other smaller items for your family as another way to reduce spending.


  • Calculate how long you will have to save. Using the Illinois State Fair has an example; the fair is August 9-19, 2018 and if you decide to start saving the week of July 1, you have five weeks to save. The planning phase helps you decide or estimate how much you need to put aside for yourself and your family.
  • For instance, if the amount you calculated added up to $150 - how will you save? Let us try this formula proposed by theConsumer Financial Protection Bureau. You would take the total amount needed for goal and number of weeks. The number you get is the amount you need to set aside each week to reach your goal. For example, $150 ÷ 5 = $30.
  • To summarize, you will need to save $30 per week for five weeks to cover admission fees, food, fair tickets, games, and other attractions at the fair. You could also extend the number of weeks to seven if you decide to start as early as June 18. This allows you to save a little less each week and it gives you more time.
  • Take advantage of senior, student, or other discounts that they offered. If this information is not listed online or elsewhere, you can always ask.
  • If you are planning to attend the fair multiple days. Planning and saving can help you organize your trip and obtain the best passes and tickets


It is easy to overspend at the fair and to leave feeling disappointed that you "needed" that second cheese curbs basket or carnival toy. Planning and saving ahead reduces the chance of overspending. The formula above is one example of a strategy you can use to save. I have a lot more fun at the fair when I plan my visit. Think about strategies that you and your family can use to save and reduce spending, so you can all enjoy your experiences. See you at the fair!

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