Budgets and spreadsheets are your friend.
This is an inside joke amongst my family because in our group, I am known for keeping track of every expense down to the penny. After stock shows, I put together a spreadsheet with all of our expenses and cost per head. For someone who’s a real planner like me, I find this information extremely useful. For example, after spending a week at Houston with 40 head of our Brahman cattle, I found that it cost us $750 per head to go to the show. I quickly pointed out to my dad that every animal we take to Houston is roughly the equivalent of if I were to buy a new Louis Vuitton purse for each calf!
All jokes aside, showing can be very expensive. So here is a list of 11 ways to save money at stock shows.
Look for group rates for your hotel.
If you’re going to a major show, look in the premium guides or within your breed association news to see if they offer a group discount code for the show. For example, the normal rate of the Dallas Sheraton was $329/night however the group rate for livestock exhibitors was $89/night. This was a savings of $240/night over the regularly published rates.
Join rewards clubs for hotels or restaurants.
My dad’s favorite hotel/motel is LaQuinta (I think the spanish style makes him feel at home). So we try to stay at LQ’s as often as possible to accumulate free rooms. They have a deal like for every so many nights you stay you get a free room. By the end of show season we usually can bank a few free rooms out of it. Check out customer loyalty programs for any airlines, hotels, or restaurants. Every free appetizer adds up!
See if you can use credit card miles.
Check your credit card mileage statements, and see if any of your reward points can be used for airline discounts, hotel discounts, or even food discounts.
Pack a cooler: DUH!
Want a bottle of water from the concession stand at a show? That’ll be $4.75. WHAT!? Excuse me while I go drink out of the hose at the washrack.
If you can pack a cooler, fill it with drinks and snacks and avoid the costly fair food. This is also useful when driving, as buying snacks at gas stations also gets expensive.
Stay in a camper on the grounds.
If you have the opportunity to RV on the grounds, in your trailer or a camper, this can result in HUGE savings. We don’t own a camper, but in the past we have rented a camper for a week, just to stay in at the show, and it was still cheaper than the hotel rooms for a week.
Look at VRBO or other home rental options.
Here’s a new idea, but I actually have friends who do this instead of staying in a hotel. They look at online vacation rental websites and find great rates on renting homes for a few days during the show instead of staying at hotels.
Team up with others to cook meals.
If you’ve ever been to the Houston Brahman show, you’ve seen this plan in action. One day, Smith Brahmans will cook gumbo for everyone. The next day, Tom Oden provides hot dogs. Everyone chips in a few dollars each to help cover the cost of food. This is a real treat for EVERYONE based on a few great people’s generous hospitality.
Choose hotels that offer free breakfast.
Cut the expense of 1/3 of your meals by choosing a hotel that offers free complimentary breakfast.
Share crews on show days.
We all need extra help on show day. Instead of having to hire 3 or 4 extra crew members for show day, see if you can team up with a ranch from another breed. You help them for free on their show day, and they help you for free on your show day. It’s a win/win for everyone and by doing a little creative teamwork you can save costs of labor.
Get creative on “presents” you bring back home for family.
Anytime I go somewhere, my daughter (5 years old) wants me to bring her a present. On my recent trip to the State Fair, her presents were 3 different ribbons from the show (which she took to school and they thought were really cool!), and an awesome hand-fan that one of my friends from Mexico gave us as a ranch promotional item. This was great and didn’t cost me anything. (Unless you consider the ribbon costing me that $750 per head it costs to go to the show lol!)
Get creative on coupons. If you make a plan of where you might want to eat or stay along the way, go online and see if you can find any online coupons. Retailmenot.com is a great site. Go to different cities convention and travel bureau websites to see if there are any promotions available.
Hope you enjoyed these ideas of how to save money at stock shows! What would you add?
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Ranch House Designs CEO and Founder, Rachel Cutrer.
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