Start early to fully enjoy your festival
Labor Day Carnival is six months away, so we thought that, as carnival people or “Socamovers“, we should start talking about how to set up a carnival fund. This is a great time to plan whether it is for the West Indian Day Carnival in New York, carnivals in other Caribbean islands or for the “Greatest Show on Earth” in Trinidad for 2015. Most festivals need at least 6 months lead time to get a healthy savings going so that you can enjoy yourself without compromising your necessities (no, not doubles…rent and clothing.) Saving for carnival is a little different from preparing for your average vacation. There are unique features that you should anticipate and a lot is dictated by how you “play mas.” Everyone is different, but preparation is key in all cases.
Here are some simple steps to take to set up your own Carnival Fund:
1. Choose a destination
Since Socamotion is based in New York, Labor Day Carnival is a must for us. We always know what day it will be held at the beginning of September. You may also be planning for a festival in your hometown or country or may be looking to travel a distant festival. Either way, two important things will be decided based on your destination: the date of the festival and the distance. These are key to your budget. (Carnival dates around the world)
2. Give yourself enough time
I can’t say this enough. Carnival virgins are often amazed at how many events there are to participate and how my expenses creep up along the way. The veterans around you are calm because many of them came prepared after planning for 6 months, a year, and even more in advance of the festival. Mark your calendar and set intervals where you will check in to make sure you are making good progress. It’s easier to save $10 a day for a year than $3,000 in 2 months.
3. Estimate your major expenses
For most carnivals, your main costs include travel, boarding, ground transportation, costume, and fetes. The order of acquiring each can shift around according to your destination and help you may be getting from family or friends. If you are going to Trinidad, book your flight and hotel first and stick close to Trinidad Carnival Diary for the inside scoop on how to navigate. (Also, start planning at least 1 year in advance.) The same goes for major festivals such as Crop Over in Barbados, Bacchanal in Jamaica, and Grenada Carnival. If you are depending on family and friends, give them as much notice as possible and treat them extra nice.
4. Clothes and Food
Many people forget about budgeting for clothes and food around carnival. These items can make money slip out of your pocket if you are not careful. Start getting your outfits together as soon as you start your fund and take advantage of every sale. You might want to add things like jouvert shoes that can get dirty, mas boots and maybe additional customization, and make-up for the carnival in this area.
5. Add 15% (at least)
After you estimate your costs, add at least 15 – 20% for emergencies and “vex money.” Carnival is a luxury and is priced to match. Unless you have the best hookups, things can go wrong and add quickly to your expenses. Since we are guesstimating, always leave a margin for error.
6. Set Your Budget
Let’s set up a mock budget for Labor Day Carnival 2014. Keep in mind that this is our home town so we are already in the place to be:
|Travel||Getting to and from New York||
|Boarding||Where we sleep while in New York.||
|Costume||Backline Barbie in our favorite mas band||
|Fetes||At least 5 of the best parties for Labor Day weekend||
|Ground transportation||Gas money / taxi fare for 4 day weekend||
|Clothes and Accessories||Outfits and accessories for mas and fetes||
|Food||Takeout food and street food for Labor Day||
|Savings each month for 6 months||
Okay, it looks like we are estimating about $1,500 for our weekend in New York for Labor Day carnival. Your estimate may be a bit different based on how far away you are and your own taste but this is just an example.
7. Make savings automatic
The best way to save for carnival is to set up an automatic deposit into your account, set it and forget it. You may choose to use a save as a group through a sous sous or stash away your tax refund. The key is to set the money aside early on and then keep it out of sight so that you do not dip into your savings along the way. In order to save $240 a month, we should set up a withdrawal into our savings account to match our salary increments and then hide it away.
8. Keep early payments in mind
You may need to set up an early seed fund to accommodate such things as deposits for your costume, travel or popular event tickets. These often become available very early on and require a non-refundable deposit. Many costume bands require $150 up front or 50% down. Look out for the sale of popular event tickets at least 2 months in advance and plan accordingly.
9. Make appointments early
If you will need help with your hair, makeup, etc the weeks before your festival, make your appointments early. You may be able to take advantage of package deals, early bird specials and other savings. Last minute arrangements cost the most and can blow your budget. Plan ahead.
10. Start a piggy bank
Just in case you need extra money, it can also help to start a piggy bank to collect your loose change. Those pennies and quarters add up and can take the edge off your savings. Make sure it’s hard to dip your hand so that those extra funds will be there when you need it. Instead of buying that Starbucks, stash away those singles in your bank. You’ll be glad you did later.
I love to post a picture of a festival from the past or a flyer from upcoming events to keep me motivated. Where is your Carnival Fund going to take you?
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