How to tackle the Grand Final party budget

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It's Grand Final week and what's more important than your snack food budget? Oh sure, you can worry about your team's creativity in attack or the pitch conditions come game time, but we all know the fan's greatest priority.

The only trouble is nothing is cheap anymore, is it? We've been forced into perpetual budgeting in 2023 because even though the pandemic ended quite some time ago, the cost of many goods and services remain inflated. Sometimes there's no explanation for it either - we're paying more for the most basic of things because of inclement weather, petrol prices, staff shortages, supply chain issues, energy costs … you name it, the excuse has probably been used by some talking head. 

Food and beverage has been one of the biggest costs. And notably for our footy-loving purposes here, both eating out and takeaway foods have been among the highest price rises, according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in August. 

This means we've had to be a bit choosy about what we order from our local burger or sushi shop all year. But now we need to cater our weekend footy parties and the choices are about as tough as handling Nathan Cleary at full tilt. 

The ABS says food and non-alcoholic beverage costs were up 7.5% in the 12 months to June of this year, which is a fair hike when you consider that our costs generally have held pretty steady in the years prior to all this trouble. 

But what does this mean in real dollars? Well if we just take the MCG where the AFL Grand Final will take place this Saturday, a meat pie goes for $5.50, hot chips are also $5.50, a chicken burger is $11 and a schooner of beer is $10.50, based on prices reported by The Age earlier this year. 

At a glance that doesn't sound too bad, though a four-pack of Four'n Twenty pies costs about $6.50 at supermarkets, feeding four of your Grand-Final-loving mates for about the same price as one pie at the ground. Sure, you pay an arbitrary premium at the stadium, but aren't tickets to the big game hefty enough? (Entry level reserved seat prices are $185, as per the AFL site). 

Just keep in mind that these are entry level prices - many other tickets sell for $200 or $300 or much, much more. Maybe in 2023 this sounds normal, but we're talking about football, not an evening with Elton. Once upon a time the two events really didn't equate. 

The question of what we're willing to pay for is an individual choice, of course. It's just that in these high cost times, some price tags seem especially taxing. Aussies have felt this all year. A report by Suncorp earlier this year shows this well: it notes that many people have been cutting back on a range of basics. For example, 3 in 5 Aussies have stopped eating out and half of the folks Suncorp surveyed admit to eating the same meal for multiple days in a row just to save a buck. 

Furthermore, one-fifth of people say they eat before going to a restaurant, which is as upsetting as it is surprising. 

So amid all this, the expense and the worry, I think it's important to put some money aside for a fun occasion like the footy finals. For most of us, watching at home, the cost needn't be high. A quick glance at food and drink retailers online shows there are a lot of nice discounts around right now, including on six-packs of beer at shops like BWS and Dan Murphy's, as well as cheaper chips at many supermarkets such as Coles. Pick up some pies, as mentioned, or maybe some value for money snags at Woolies, and you're just about set for any pigskin party. 

Our budgets can fluctuate in this sort of economy, especially as grocery prices rise and fall. We can't do much to control it, only plan ahead. So how to handle these one-offs? Well, you might have heard about the 50-30-20 rule, where 50% of your income goes to needs, 30% to wants and 20% to savings. Why not slice 5-10% out of the 30% bucket to give yourself a treat on special days. 

Enjoying the festivity and excitement of Grand Final weekend seems like money well spent to me. 

If you need a little more help creating a budget, we've got plenty of handy guides like this one.