Just because the economy's hit the skids doesn't mean you have to give up (all of) your favorite things. If you do a little sleuthing and stay flexible on which teams to follow, you can still enjoy all the excitement of live sporting events. (For more tips on now to save money without sacrificing fun, see Save Without Sacrifice.)

NFL, NBA and NHL Teams You Can Afford to Love
We used the Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index (FCI), which calculates the cost for a fan to watch a given team compete. The FCI adds up the cost of:

  • Four tickets (two adults and two children)
  • Six small drinks (four soft drinks and two beers)
  • Four hot dogs
  • Two programs
  • Two adult-sized caps
  • Parking

NFL: The Frugal Field of Play
The NFL is one of the most expensive sports to watch if you hope to catch a game in person. However, if you're willing to make some loyalty concessions, there are relative bargains to be had in every region.

  • Northeast: Buffalo Bills a Bargain
    If you're a Patriots fan you've had a lot to cheer about for the past few years. But all of that success comes at a price. A steep price ... increase, that is. The New England Patriots are the most expensive NFL team to watch live (FCI of $596.25) and team owners have upped the cost by more than 22% in just one year. For a bargain, you're going to have to switch allegiances and root for the Buffalo Bills, the least expensive pro football team in the region with an FCI of only $298.96.

  • Southeast: Jaguar Jackpot
    Florida is home to both the most expensive and least expensive NFL teams to watch in this region. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the priciest team in the sunshine state to watch live (FCI of $483.02), while their nearby NFL cousins - the Jacksonville Jaguars - are the least expensive with an FCI of $302.09.

  • Midwest: Da Bears No Match for Cleveland
    If you're a fan of "Da Bears" you better have a lot of money in "da bank". That's because the Chicago Bears are the most expensive NFL ticket in the region (FCI of $484.31). The Cleveland Browns can't take pride in a Super Bowl win (they've never made it to the game), but they can take pride in being the least expensive team to watch in the region with an FCI of $323.66.

  • West: Chargers Charging High Prices
    The ocean, the mountains, perfect temperatures year-round ... San Diego's got it all - including the priciest football tickets. The San Diego Chargers top the list for most expensive NFL team to follow in the West (FCI of $436.06); but hop in a car and head due east and you can find the region's least-expensive team - the Arizona Cardinals (FCI of $356.61).

NBA: Slam-Dunk Deals
After Kobe's convincing NBA Finals win for the Los Angeles Lakers, who isn't looking forward to next season? But you might want to check the ticket prices before whipping out your credit card.

  • Northeast: Skip Madison Avenue
    While the New York Knicks haven't garnered an NBA title in more than 30 years, they have earned the title of most expensive team to watch in the Northeast (FCI of $420.04). If you want to experience NBA action without paying Madison Avenue prices, take 95 South and watch the Washington Wizards work their on-court magic for half the price (FCI of $203.56).

  • Southeast: "The Heat" Is Too Hot to Handle
    Miami is hot … hot for basketball, apparently. The Miami Heat is the Southeast's most expensive team to watch ($352.250) but the more laid back Memphis Grizzlies charge their fans nearly $200 less (FCI of $182.94).

  • Midwest: Chi-Town Cha-Ching!
    Michael Jordan's legacy still lives on in Chi-town and the team continues to capitalize on it by charging fans the most in the region to see a live game (FCI of $344.50). Their chillier neighbors to the north, the Minnesota Timberwolves, charge a much friendlier FCI of $230.04

  • West: Jazz Playing It Cool
    With home game fans like Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio in attendance, the Los Angeles Lakers can get by with charging their fans the biggest ticket price in the region(FCI of $479.48). Perhaps the Utah Jazz is hoping that by charging their fans the least to see a live game (FCI of $252.60), they'll generate enough good karma to finally win the big one.

NHL: Hot Teams with Cool Prices

  • Northeast: Sabres' Season Savings
    The Boston Bruins are the most expensive NHL team to follow in the northeast (FCI of $352.60). However, the Buffalo Sabres have been recognized by ESPN Magazine for having the NHL's second lowest-cover charge for match fees, with a FCI of $222.72.

  • Southeast: No Frugal in Florida
    The Florida Panthers haven't won a Stanley Cup yet, but somehow still charge the most for home team tickets (FCI of $309.44); the Carolina Hurricanes, however, have one Stanley Cup under their belt and charge considerably less for fans to come cheer them on. (FCI of $219.52)

  • Midwest: Minnesota Leaves Fans Out in the Cold
    Minnesota's got the right weather for a high-ranking NHL team, but their ticket and paraphernalia prices leave their fans out in the cold. The Minnesota Wild has the highest FCI of $338.12. Luckily, the warmer climes of St. Louis make for friendlier ticket prices - the St. Louis Blues have the most affordable prices, with a region-winning FCI of only $193.26.

  • West: Kings' Prices a Little Too Steep
    Like their NBA counterparts, the Los Angeles Kings charge their fans the most to attend a home game (FCI of $281.31). Unfortunately, you're not going to save that much by rooting for the cheapest team in the league: the Phoenix Coyotes (FCI of $221.80).

Tough economic times don't mean you have to give up doing what you enjoy; you just need to flex your creative muscles - and be flexible about which teams you root for. And who knows, if you take up rooting for an up-and-coming, college or junior team, in a few years, you may be able to say you watched some of the biggest names in sports before they were stars.

Related Articles
  1. Retirement

    Suddenly Pushed into Retirement, How to Handle the Transition

    Adjusting to retirement can be challenging, but when it happens unexpectedly it can be downright difficult. Thankfully there are ways to successfully transition.
  2. Savings

    How Parents Can Help Adult Children Buy a Home

    Owning a home isn't easy thanks to stringent lending standards. Thankfully, there's ways parents can help their kids buy a home.
  3. Personal Finance

    How Tech Can Help with 3 Behavioral Finance Biases

    Even if you’re a finance or statistics expert, you’re not immune to common decision-making mistakes that can negatively impact your finances.
  4. Options & Futures

    Cyclical Versus Non-Cyclical Stocks

    Investing during an economic downturn simply means changing your focus. Discover the benefits of defensive stocks.
  5. Investing

    How to Spot Secular Bull Markets vs. Secular Bear Markets

    A guide to identifying secular bull and bear markets.
  6. Retirement

    4 Ways to Boost the Amount You Save for Retirement

    Retirement can easily last more than twenty years, which means you have to save a lot. Thankfully, there are ways to enhance the amount you put away.
  7. Credit & Loans

    Adjustable Rate Mortgage: What Happens When Interest Rates Go Up

    Adjustable rate mortgages can save borrowers money, but they can't go into it blind. In order to benefit from an ARM, you have to understand how it works.
  8. Financial Advisors

    Bull vs. Bear Markets: How to Be Prepared for Both

    Bull and Bear Markets are a reality that every investor must be prepared for. Here are a few tips.
  9. Retirement

    How to Stretch Your Retirement Savings

    What does "nest egg" mean for your personal situation? Will you deplete it, or will you nurture it to generate income that lasts throughout retirement?
  10. Economics

    Is Wall Street Living in Denial?

    Will remaining calm and staying long present significant risks to your investment health?
  1. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How does the trust maker transfer funds into a revocable trust?

    Once a revocable trust is created, a trust maker transfers funds or property into the trust by including them in a list with ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How can I hedge my portfolio to protect from a decline in the food and beverage sector?

    The food and beverage sector exhibits greater volatility than the broader market and tends to suffer larger-than-average ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How attractive is the food and beverage sector for a growth investor?

    The food and beverage sector is attractive for a growth investor. The sector's high degree of volatility means it tends to ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What techniques are most useful for hedging exposure to the insurance sector?

    Investing style determines the best hedging techniques for the insurance sector. This sector comprises three segments, two ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the formula for calculating the receivables turnover ratio?

    To calculate a company's accounts receivable turnover ratio, start with the net receivable sales for a given time period, ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Take A Flier

    The slang term for a decision to invest in highly speculative investments.
  2. Bar Chart

    A style of chart used by some technical analysts, on which, as illustrated below, the top of the vertical line indicates ...
  3. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  4. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  5. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  6. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
Trading Center