Spending Money on Life Experiences-NCAA March Madness

Over the past few weeks I have had a couple “money moments” come up that I have either not encountered or reacted quite differently than I have over the past 2 years while I paid off all of my personal debt.  Today, I wanted to share the most recent and find out from the world, what life experiences do you spend your money on?

In a previous post I officially announced 2016 would be the year of freedom.  I have taken that quite seriously as we have been looking for different ways to travel near and far even looking at events that I normally wouldn’t have given much thought because I was in debt.  It’s not that I’m looking to spend every dollar that comes into the bank account, but I am living a little more in the moment instead of planning each financial purchase as it will deplete my financial independence day of May 2020 to suddenly working till 65.  If I drive out to see Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, and Mr. 1500 Days, I’ll be able to afford the drive and have a place to stay without breaking the bank.  (I really just wanted to include Mr. 1500 days in the same sentence for fun, hope you appreciate that my good man).


In fact as you see above my twitter account will indicate I am a fan of March Madness and college basketball in general.  I have played and coached basketball for most of my life and sometimes I certainly feel like the financial independence unicorn as eyes glaze over when sports are mentioned in personal finance circles, I mean it’s OK we all have our different loves in life, if we were all the same life would not be as interesting.

I actually made quite the big purchase in relation to my average salary and what some will consider absolutely insane for a sporting event.  I am a big fan of the Syracuse Orangemen, I have watched them almost religiously since I was a kid.  In fact I have even had the pleasure of working Jim Boeheim’s basketball camp at the Carrier Dome (fill the bucket list Northern Expenditure).  Those who follow NCAA March Madness might know that the Orangemen as a 10 seed made it to the Sweet 16, which by my luck was being played in Chicago, where I live.  To start things off like any good personal finance blogger who considers himself frugal, I attended the Free open practice.  I was a kid at the candy store watching the shoot around and dunks that were on display that I can only describe as Midnight Madness Light.


Free open practice held at the United Center, #frugalwhat

The games being played were Friday and Sunday, but since the price on Friday was even a little out of my budget I decided against making the purchase.  Sure it was 2 games for 1 ticket, but I didn’t have much interest in paying $300 plus per ticket.    I enjoyed the game in the comforts of my home on Friday as I usually do.  Then something crazy happened, Syracuse won again and would play Sunday.  The good news is that the teams that lost on Friday would undoubtedly want to sell their tickets, I immediately went to StubHub, SeatGeek, and Craigslist looking to check out the prices.  Saturday morning was like Christmas on sale as most of the seats were selling for a discount from what they originally were selling for earlier in the week, if I wanted to sit a little higher up I could get in for $40 per ticket, much cheaper than the $100 plus earlier in the week just to get in the building.  As the day went on the tickets flooded the market and as my C+ in economics tells me on the supply/demand curve that this is a good thing for me, the buyer.  I made a decision along with the wife that we should go to that game, as Syracuse does not come to the Chicago area very often and especially right in my backyard.  It’s ok to spend a few extra dollars on life experiences right?

After getting on the same page with Mrs. ESM, I then played the Craigslist game and began sending out emails to potential sellers letting them know I was interested in their seats just not at the price they had set.  Seats for this game in the 100 Level were $150 face value and tickets in the 300 level were $100 (might have to fact check me on that especially since some of these tickets were sold as a full strip for all 3 games).  I usually buy off of StubHub just for the pure safety and peace of mind knowing that if the s*** hits the fun, I can just file a claim that I got bogus tickets and don’t have to deal with Seabass kicking my a** in a trucker’s stop bathroom**.   As I was making offers via Craigslist, I had a couple people respond to me.  Originally I had set a limit of $100 as the highest I would spend for a sporting event, this one included.  During my days of not caring about money I once actually bought great seats to a rivalry game at Wrigley Field where the St. Louis Cardinals took on my very own Chicago Cubs, I paid $100 for tickets, my girlfriend at the time and now Mrs. ESM thought I was damn near crazy.  This however was when I had less of a feel for money, personal finance, or anything dealing with paying off debt.

As I disclosed the potential ticket offers to Mrs. ESM, the sensible one in our family I might add, I had sent email/text exchanges of paying $200 per ticket to sit in the 100 level.  Now, this took her by surprise as her idea of a deal is getting tickets for free (this actually happens more often that you would think with her work and some of my basketball connections).  As she brought me back to earth I realized spending $200 a ticket was too much even for me, crazy Syracuse fan who sees his team play once every 5 years or so.  As we talked things over, the more I realized I was comfortable paying $150 per ticket ($300 for the pair) to sit in a 100 level seat to watch the Syracuse Orangemen battle the Virginia Cavaliers and the rights to make it to the Final Four.

On Saturday as I went back and forth with each potential seller I came across a guy who followed up later in the day on my request to pay face value.  After some back and forth and good bargaining skills on both our parts we were locked in and I was ready to part ways with $275 of my own money for 100 level seats, just 7 rows off the floor.  Mrs. ESM even offered to contribute $75 of her own money to the cause.  After we met at a secure location** the exchange was made and I went home with basketball tickets and of course the most I have ever spent to attend a sporting event.  I actually spent $135 per ticket because we ended up just forgetting the $5 as I offered to buy him a coffee for my ineptness on bringing exact change or enough for that matter.


Coach Jim Boeheim cutting down the net!

As you can imagine I had the time of my life watching the game and could have been the best sporting event I have ever been to.  I started out the game even running into one of my favorite Syracuse players now in the NBA in Tyler Ennis and took a picture with him. Syracuse won the game with a dramatic comeback in the 2nd half and the victory sent the team to the Final Four.  I high fived the guy next to me about 100 times during the game and picked up my wife in celebration more than once.  It was one of those moments where you catch yourself being a kid again and enjoying the moment.  If all that was had for a $135 ticket, maybe I should do this again some time.

**All kidding aside when dealing with Craigslist be safe as possible, if it feels wrong in any way, don’t do it.  I suggest meeting in a public place and if dealing with money over $200 to meet at your local police station.

What is the most money you have spent to see a live event? (Sports, Concerts, Shows, etc)



12 Responses to “Spending Money on Life Experiences-NCAA March Madness

  • I read or heard recently that someone was using a police station as their meeting place for Craigslist transactions.

    Sounds like a great experience. I have paid $100 per ticket to see U2 before, well worth the experience.

    • EvenStevenMoney
      7 months ago

      $100 a ticket yeah that was my max before this event. My wife went to U2 at Soldier Field and said it was a great show, sounds like you had similar experiences.

  • So sad that the Big East was destroyed a couple of years ago… so much history. I’ve been to multiple Big East championship games at MSG and also to MSG for some tourney games as well. I enjoy spending money on experiences such as you and definitely enjoy some March Madness. Glad you had fun.

    • EvenStevenMoney
      7 months ago

      As a college hoops fan things have definitely changed in terms of conferences, loses some of the appeal of conference battles and rivalries.

  • The way you describe the event and the build up, it sounds like you had at least 10 hours of fun, starting with looking for a ticket, buying them, and then the game as a climax! Money well spent!

    • EvenStevenMoney
      7 months ago

      It sure was, the bargaining was a lot of fun, based on the original post from what the price the person was asking, I actually saved over $130 per ticket!

  • Heather Mayfield
    7 months ago

    So happy to know there are other sports lovers who are frugal. Not sure the most we have spent on a event. However got a chance to be in NYC for work and hubby and I splurged and went to Mets game. Found a deal on first row outfield seats that included food with the tickets using citi card plus free blanket giveaway. Ended up being the first nohitter either of us had ever see. Amazing time great view. As Cubs fans we were happy to see an amazing game played and didn’t care the Mets lost. My husband saw last Yankees home game of the season in the drizzling rain two days before. Now he can say he saw the Yankees play at home. I can’t handle heights and had a work event that night so he got cheap nose bleed seats. Bucket list item is too see as many parks as possible.
    Main sports splurge is MLB TV package for roku/phones. Since our Cubs and A’s teams aren’t local we get to watch most of their games without black out worry so the cost per game becomes cheap.
    We are trying to find the balance between enjoying life and long term financial goals. Husband especially finds it hard to spend on now. Some life experiences are worth it as long as they are meaningful to us.

    • EvenStevenMoney
      7 months ago

      Yeah it’s tough finding a frugal sports fan out in the personal finance space, we are unicorns……..That’s awesome to see a No-Hitter, unless you are rooting for the other team then a little less;)

      I think it would be a blast to take a month or two and travel to see all the ball parks. Although I’d want to try all the food and beer, etc so might be a little shock to the system, but all for a fun ride! Yeah it’s certainly tough making the decisions on items that are for the now versus the long term goal. Recently I have had a lot of thoughts and actions in this area, I think I’m working my way towards a big blog post about it….stay tuned:)

  • That is awesome you got to go to that game. I would have loved to do something like that. And I get where you are coming from, a few years ago I paid $350 for a ticket to go to the NBA Finals game in san antonio. It was a great experience and now I can say I went to an NBA finals game. Bucket list type thing!! 🙂
    Alexander @ Cash Flow Diaries recently posted…Investing In Wall Street – My Stock PortfolioMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      6 months ago

      That sounds like a lot of fun, glad that bucket is now full!

  • I purchased tickets for myself and my best friend when I was in law school because Leonard Cohen was touring. He hadn’t toured in something like 15 years. Did not think twice. It was absolutely worth every penny.
    ZJ Thorne recently posted…Checking in on a Delicious Venture – Perks of Being a Silent PartnerMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      5 months ago

      Sometimes we come across an event that we might never come across again and then pull the trigger and not regret it a bit:)

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