In the 1980s, my mum and dad used to lay-by Christmas presents and other big-ticket expenses. If you're heading to the Royal Canberra Show this weekend, you'll probably be wishing you'd used that system.
Thousands are expected to flood through the gates of Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) today and tomorrow for the show, and there's no doubt they'll be leaving with lighter wallets. In most cases, hundreds of dollars lighter.
From showbags and Dagwood Dogs to breathtaking rides and snow cones, the show is a quintessential Canberra experience for children and teens (and many adults). But the memories come at a cost.
I spent an hour at EPIC on Friday afternoon to uncover the real cost of attending the Royal Canberra Show.
If you decide to take your car, you'll be forking out money before you even walk through the gates. There are no signs saying how much money though, but parking your car will set you back $10. Of course all other modes of transport come at a cost (unless you walk or cycle).
Kids and concession holders pay $15 and it's $25 for adults. A family of four tickets is $60.
The days of buying a value for money 'sheet' of tickets, or an 'all you can ride' wrist band are over. You'll have to dig into your wallet every time you front up to a ride, and that can start at $4 right up to $15. The Beast is the most expensive of them all - it's the outrageously tall purple ride you'll spot from the carpark (which is miles away).
It's not a real show experience unless you get a Dagwood Dog on a stick (with lots of sauce) and a can of drink. This option will set you back about $12. There's loads of multicultural food on offer this year, from Greek to Mexican, and a burrito and drink costs around $15.
Souvenirs and toys
Being accosted as you walk along the sideshow alleys is the norm, and when I was alone I managed to avoid spending money by staring directly ahead and giving the occasional polite smile. But my children fall for everything that's yelled in their general direction, and last year they both walked out with balls on a string, unicorn balloons, Super Sippers, and proudly sporting new temporary air-brushed tattoos.
If you've got small children (three and under), you could probably get away with the $2 Bertie Beetle option. (It contains five small packaged chocolates, but hey, at least they're in a bright shiny bag!) My children are older and wiser, and while they love chocolate, they're more into the $30 Star Wars and Disney princess bags.
The total cost of my hour at the show alone, where I partook in most of the activities outlined above, was $147.50.
For a family of four, I estimate you'd spend around $450 for a few hours of entertainment.
Not sure about you, but I'd rather spend the money on two nights' accommodation at the south coast, where I can sit on a beach and avoid The Beast.
Saturday show highlights:
The Canberra Strongman Association will debut at the 2017 show near the Leisure and Lifestyle Pavilion. Don't miss men and women completing outstanding feats of strength as they vie for the title.
Enjoy reality TV dating shows? Check out the real thing at Farmer Gets A Bride. There's a lovely lady who's on the market and two eligible men from the audience will complete a series of farm skills challenges for the chance to win her heart.
Sunday show highlights:
Enjoy the brand new Tech Hub filled with gadgets, games, robotics, 3D printing and more created in partnership with Big Boys Toys. Head to Budawang Pavilion to get involved.
Seen a horserider dismount, leap from upturned bucket to upturned bucket and then vault back onto their horse? You're in luck this year as the Royal Canberra Show hosts talented riders from the Australian Mounted Games Association NSW showcasing what they can do.
The Royal Canberra Show, Saturday 25 February 8.30am-10pm and Sunday 26 February 8.30am-6pm. Tickets at the gate. More information and full program of events at canberrashow.org.au
Clarification: In an earlier version of this article, gate entry prices were incorrectly listed as online entry prices.
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