The True Cost of March Madness… for the Fans

March Madness. The NCAA Playoffs. The World Cup. The World Series. These are just a few of the major sporting events that Americans spend lots of time and money on… and it’s usually seen as worth it (unless you lose big!). But being a sports fan can add up to wasted productivity at work and big costs if you don’t budget appropriately. I write from personal experience.

Now, basketball isn’t really my thing, but football is. I had the opportunity to watch my Alma Mater Georgia Bulldogs in the championship game in Atlanta this year, but with tickets hitting record high prices, it wasn’t cheap.

So I rationalized shelling out the money (and negotiated with my husband a bit), and found a way to make it to the game. I went solo, buying a nosebleed ticket, and met up with friends along the way. While we lost in a nail biting finale to the season, I still look back on that experience as an amazing one and don’t regret spending the money one bit.

Many sports fans seem to feel the same way when they spend serious cash on sports. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of people who spend irresponsibly on sports and end up regretting it. Beyond that, for some, the love of sports can even impact their jobs.

Time and Productivity Lost

Office Team, a large staffing firm, has looked into some of the timesucks that employees face. One recent survey found that employees each spends an average of six hours watching March Madness games (across the 15 work days of the tournament).

There’s also the aftermath. Another survey by Office Team indicated that 27% of employees have played hooky from work after a major sporting event and 32% have been late to work after a big game.

Budgeting for Sports

Watching a game at home may not be as invigorating, but it’s much friendlier on your wallet. Options like YouTube TV and Hulu Live are providing fans with even more affordable viewing options, whereas the cost of some Cable TV packages can really add up.

Plus, you can always throw a party and have friends bring food and drinks to throw into the mix. That’ll help keep costs down and have fellow fans around to high five after a big play.

If you are a diehard fan and you know you’ll want to travel to see some games, create a budget at the beginning of the season to help keep on track with your spending. You may decide not to go to one game to save up for another.

What it costs per ticket to attend some of the biggest games (or matches):

Other Budgeting For Fun

Maybe sports aren’t your thing, but you likely have that one hobby that takes up some money—cars, concerts, travel, or just having the latest and greatest gadgets.

You’ll want to make sure you’re budgeting for expenses and giving yourself some wiggle room in case unexpected surprises come up like your team making it to the big game or your favorite band coming to your hometown for their farewell tour.

If you have to travel to make it to that game or show, make sure you account for all the costs you’ll incur—flights, gas money, hotel rates, food and drinks as well or you may find yourself over budget and stuck with a credit card balance you can’t cover.

Because if you are going to buy a hot ticket, you’ll likely have to be ready to put some serious money into the experience.

This article by Ellen Sirull first appeared on Experian and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.