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4 Ways to Enjoy March Madness on a Budget

Enjoy March Madness on a BudgetSeveral years ago, I was watching the local news when the sportscaster came on to announce the winner of the citywide March Madness bracket tournament.  The top prize was a year’s supply of pizza.

This post was written by our staff writer, Jamie Jeffers.

The winner turned out to be my husband.  The pizza was a mixed blessing, because we were young, newly married, and I was expecting our first child. We could use the free food…though the smell of that pizza upset my poor pregnant stomach for months.

Our love of baseball is one of the things that first brought my husband and me together.  So it’s no surprise that he’s always connected to sports.  His phone sings the ESPN song every few minutes.

4 Ways to Enjoy March Madness on a Budget

Happily, some of my frugal habits have rubbed off on him.  He’s learned to enjoy sports in some creative ways to avoid the high costs of cable bills and other expenses that go with being a sports fanatic.

Here are some of the best ways to enjoy March Madness on a budget.

Options for Watching the Games

I’m hoping you’ve cut the cord on the pricey cable package.  But how do you watch all the games without it?  

1) If you’ve got an antenna like this one, you should be able to catch the games on CBS for free.

2) The most obvious choice is to see the game on someone else’s TV.  If you have family or friends that pay the cable bill and love to watch the games as a crowd, go for it.  This will work for a game or two before you risk overstaying your welcome.

3) Another great option is the NCAA March Madness app.  Go ahead and sign up for the free trial.  You don’t even need a cable subscription to get it. And when your time runs out? Clear your history and it will think you’re a new user. 100% free!

4) You could also sign up for a free subscription to Sling TV.  That will give you a full 7 days of free television.  If you decide to sign up for the full month, it will cost you $25 for all the channels that air March Madness games.  And the beauty of Sling TV is the ability to cancel at any time.

The Bracket

Everyone and their mother seems to hold a bracket tournament in March.  It’s not hard to have a small fortune in entry fees slip through your fingers if you’re not careful.

Remember that there’s a variety of free tournaments to enter, and many of them even pay out prizes!  Check into local news stations and radio channels, Yahoo! Tourney Pick’em, and ESPN.  CBS Brackets are nice, because if your whole bracket goes to crap on the first round, you can enter their round by round brackets.  Enter as many of those as you like.

Otherwise, be selective about which bracket tournaments you want to enter.  Do you feel obligated to pitch into the work pool? Or do you look forward to the big competition with your fantasy football league buddies every March?  Choose the ones you can honestly afford, let the rest go.

The odds of winning the bracket challenge are slightly better than lottery chances.  But the likelihood of picking the perfect bracket is something like 1 in 128 billion (or worse).  That random Cinderella upset means your Mom (who has never watched an entire basketball game in her life) has odds in her favor nearly as much as they are in yours.

The Food

Sure, you can justify hanging out at the bar and watching the games, because you don’t pay a cable bill.  But how much money would you spend on that final tab?

You can do just as well at home.  Grab some beer.  Pick up some appetizers from the frozen food aisle and cook them yourself.  

Or draw on your inner Emeril and try one of these super easy recipes:

Grape Jelly Meatballs (You’ll look at the ingredients and say “ew” ala Jimmy Fallon, but trust me on this one.)

Crack Dip (crack is not part of the recipe…)

Buffalo Chicken Dip (my personal favorite!)

Monkey Bread (for something sweet)

Party Time

Feeling down about keeping your Madness a little simpler this year?  Why not invite some buddies over?  

Choose a method to watch the game without wasting money on cable.  Then invite a few friends over to enjoy the game with you.  Make some simple appetizers and ask them to BYOB. The game is more fun when you can brag about your bracket wins or be amazed at a total upset with your buddies.

These are the 4 best ways to enjoy March Madness on a budget. They’ll keep the tournament fun without adding on extra debt.

And maybe this year, they’ll announce your name as the big winner!  Good luck!

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AUTHOR Derek Sall

Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.


  1. Thanks for sharing Jamie, for most parties, I like to do it banquet style, everyone brings a little bit and we all share! Makes it cheaper but also gives us a sense of community! 🙂

  2. My friends always ask me what they can bring when I invite them over. It’s great when you’re on the same page with your pals!

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