Buy Event Tickets at the Last Minute

Save by Waiting Until the Last Minute. Potential Savings: $50-500. Difficulty Level: Low

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A simple trick I enjoy using is waiting until the absolute last minute to buy tickets to a concert, show, or sporting event (I use StubHub, but any sufficiently popular secondary ticket sales platform will work). This is a high-risk strategy if you absolutely must see an event, but low-risk if you are flexible and have alternative plans.

This strategy takes advantage of the inherent characteristic of scarce but expiring goods (like tickets). Tickets are valuable until the event begins, when the ticket loses most/all of its value. So, the motivation of a seller of an unsold event ticket generally switches from “get the highest price” to “sell the ticket for any price” somewhere between 30 minutes and 6 hours before an event begins. If you watch a StubHub listings page for a popular event for the last hour before the event, things will almost always play out in one of two ways.

  • More Buyers than Sellers - inventory dries up and tickets are gone or mostly gone before the event begins

  • More Sellers than Buyers - inventory languishes, and in the last 30-60 minutes, sellers desperately cut prices to try to sell their tickets before they become worthless

A recent example:

  • Meg and I wanted to see a 2pm Saturday matinee of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, one of the hottest shows on Broadway.[1] The day before the show, the cheapest orchestra seats were listed at about $200 each.[2]

  • At about 1pm, an hour before the show, ticket prices on StubHub began falling

  • By 1:19pm, an attractive pair of seats in Row L were cut to $115 each (an 11% discount to face), which we bought and then went to the theater.

We could have gotten a significantly better deal had we waited longer. On the way to the theater with about 20 minutes before showtime, we saw orchestra tickets with prices below $80. This would have required us to purchase the mobile tickets on our phones. But that probably would have been an even better idea!

We’ve used this strategy for several events, including multiple NBA games. The key is having a backup plan and not feeling wedded to any particular event.

I hope this has been helpful. If you liked it, please press the “like” button and share it with your friends! Also, if there are any topics you’re interested in, please send me your requests. And finally, if one of these tips helps you, I’d love to hear about it - just send me an email and I may (anonymously, of course) mention your story in a future post.

[1] Moulin Rouge! currently has the second-highest average ticket price and is the second-highest grossing show on Broadway (after Hamilton), and is running at 100% of capacity.

[2] The cheapest Orchestra seat on StubHub for this Saturday is currently listed for $175.