For most Trinis, Carnival is long-awaited. It’s simple, whether you’re a fete lover or not, Carnival provides two days of pure revelry (or two days of no work should you choose to forgo the road), and two months of bacchanal to start it off. But while we love all the madness the season brings, one thing is for sure: it’s expensive.
Costume prices and fete tickets are rising rapidly and the list of things you need seems to grow longer and longer each year. So, while it may seem like it’s impossible to save money come Carnival time, there’s actually an easy way to afford the Carnival season, or at least start to experience Carnival on a budget.
Like we could even take this piece of advice seriously. For the true Carnival lovers (and let’s be real, if you’re reading an article on how to afford Carnival, this probably applies to you), there’s very little that will convince you to skip your favourite two days of the year. But the easiest way to do Carnival on a budget is to not do it at all. Not an option? Onto the next tip then!
Everyone knows at least one person who’s at every single Carnival fete, and in VVIP no less. How, you wonder? Well, they’re either extremely financially secure, are dating someone who’s financially secure or they’re just well-connected and securing themselves comps for every fete.
Yes, complimentary tickets are still a thing, and though they’re often reserved for the micro-influencers of our Trini community (you know those Insta famous ones!), you can lock down a few comps of your own if you schmooze and mingle with the right people.
Comps not looking like an option? (Don’t worry, we don’t have any either!) Then your next best bet is to try to win free tickets.
Most fetes do pre-party promotions, whether it’s on social media or on the radio, for a chance to win a free ticket or a VIP package or some other awesome prize, and all you have to do is call in or tag three friends to be in the running. Worth a shot!
If you’re one of the unlucky few who doesn’t happen to walk away with a comped ticket, then it’s time to pick and choose which fetes you attend. If you know you’re on a tight budget, then don’t plan to attend a fete a week for the two-month period. Choose 3 or 4 parties you know you cannot miss, and purchase tickets long in advance so you’re getting that early bird pricing. Super strapped for cash? Avoid all-inclusives. Yes, they sound like a great deal now, but have you ever really drunk $1200 in alcohol in one night? No, and if you’re on a Carnival diet, you likely won’t be eating much either.
No, we’re not talking about plastic bottles. If you’re lucky enough to be hitting fete after fete, chances are you’ll need outfits to go out on the town with. But who says you need a new outfit for every party? That’s a surefire way to blow your budget before the season even kicks off!
Instead, reuse what you wore last year! Don’t want to repeat an outfit (it’s not like anyone remembers, but we get it!), then find ways to mix up the items in your closet to create whole new looks. And if you have friends that wear the same sizes as you, set up a night to do a swap shop, and share clothes for the season, so each person looks like they’re in a whole new outfit without spending a dollar!
With Carnival being T&T’s massive moneymaker, everything in the country tends to get a little more expensive as the street festival draws nearer, especially when it comes to items you need for the road. Shop smarter and start buying items you need for Carnival from months beforehand to avoid the seasonal markup, or order the items you might need online. Boots, accessories, swimwear, body glitter and the works are all available online for a fraction of the price that you might pay in malls come Carnival week.
While we all love our local designers and we always encourage Trinis to shop local, Monday wear can be expensive! Choosing a section of a popular Monday wear designer can run you up to $2000, and that’s on top of the almost $6000 you spend for your actual costume! The pieces may be beautiful, but if you’re on a budget this Carnival, it might be worth doing your own thing come Monday. Look up a few designs online, pick up material from town and reach out to a seamstress or bathing suit designer to create your own Monday wear that’s half the cost. Not only will you save money, but you’ll look more original on the road!
With bands launching earlier and earlier each summer, chances are you’ve registered for your Carnival costume since August. You paid your down payment, and then you just about forgot about your costume, right? Well, if you’re trying to keep costs down, this is wrong! Going about it this way means that come Carnival week, you’ll have to drop almost thousands to pay off the rest of your costume, on top of all of the other minor expenses that pop up, like last-minute sunscreen, nail appointments or makeup slots.
What you should be doing is putting aside money month-by-month to pay off your costume. If you put aside a few hundred every month, the lump sum would be accounted for, and you’d only have a smaller payment to make come collection day. If you can’t be trusted just putting the money aside, and you know you’ll find a way to spend it, then actually go into the mascamp once a month and contribute to your costume bill. Then, come Carnival week, you won’t be crying over how much money you dropped at once, because you thought to pay ahead of time.
While Carnival is fast-approaching, it may feel like it’s too late to stick to a budget for the season, but implementing any of these tips will help you to save some money, feel more at ease about affording Carnival and stop you from spending money you probably don’t have. And if all else fails, there’s always next year!