Swifties like me are getting thrifty to see her live

A Facebook post, a free ticket, first come, first served: if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. But the inflation gods must have taken pity on me after my landlord slammed me with an eye-popping rent hike. Because there I was, this weekend, dancing – and singing criminally out of tune – to every Taylor Swift song. Inside the MCG. For free.

How did this sandgroper-turned-Sydneysider end up at the Eras Tour in Melbourne during a cost-of-living crisis? Dumb luck and a bit of thrifting. The latter can tell us a bit about Swift’s impact on the economy. Hint: it’s more to do with shifting spending than mindless splurging.

Dressed for the occasion with my friend Maxine Rae who hosted this Sydney Swiftie.
Dressed for the occasion with my friend Maxine Rae who hosted this Sydney Swiftie.

The luck part started with a Facebook status posted by a friend: “Free ticket to the Taylor Swift Eras tour. Yes you heard right, free!” By the time I saw it, the offer had been up for two hours.

Never one to retreat, I sent a message: “If someone hasn’t beaten me to the ticket, I would LOVE to come.” One person had nudged in ahead of me, but changed their mind. And so, I had a ticket: in the wrong city, and with a savings account which has nearly flat-lined over the past two years.

Inflation and higher interest rates have made life especially tough for young people, renters and those on lower incomes. Rents have increased 20 per cent in the past year across Australia’s capital cities, wage growth has only recently caught up to inflation and young people tend to have the least savings to use as a buffer during tough times.

So, why and how have swarms of young people flocked to see Swift? And can they complain about living costs when they’re spending hundreds of dollars on tickets?

The first thing to note is that concert tickets – like any big-ticket item – are an expense people tend to save up for, or pay for by forgoing future purchases. Like many others, I’ve been scrimping everywhere I can: walking instead of taking public transport, buying nearly-expired food for clearance prices and ditching almost every subscription – except to Spotify … which I use to listen to Swift.

This sort of behaviour also explains why claims that the Swift tour will ratchet up inflation are probably overstated: the increase in demand is temporary and will be offset by reduced spending in other areas. As Reserve Bank governor Michele Bullock said at a press conference this month, “people are deciding what’s really important to them”.

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This is especially the case for young people: the demographic most likely to be going to see Swift live. In the 13 weeks to January 7, Australians aged 20 to 24 cut their non-essential spending by about 1.5 per cent, according to data from the Commonwealth Bank. Despite rising prices, they were the only age group not spend more on necessities. All older age groups spent did spend more on non-essentials (and it was 3.7 per cent more for over-65s).

Many are being thrifty Swifties – in my case with the help of wonderful friends. To book my flights, I converted reward points from grocery shopping to my air fare, and one of my best friends let me stay with her in her room.

A Facebook post, a free ticket, first come, first served: inside the MCG with a friend who had a ticket to spare.
A Facebook post, a free ticket, first come, first served: inside the MCG with a friend who had a ticket to spare.

Not everyone has that luxury, so there may be a temporary spike in accommodation costs as Swifties make trips to Melbourne or Sydney. However, the impact should be fairly negligible for two reasons. First, Swift-induced spending by Australians should be cancelled out by a pullback in their spending on other things, before and after the concert. Second, while Swifties visiting from overseas may add to inflation (since the cash they splash here is money that otherwise might not have been pumped into the economy), they’re unlikely to comprise a significant proportion of concert-goers.

Another thing to note is that inflation, as we’ve experienced it, doesn’t stop most people from having fun. Some are struggling to get by, with no wriggle room at all in their budgets. But most people tend to spend on entertainment, even – and, sometimes especially – during tough times, as a means of escape.

Seeing one of my idols right in front of me was surreal. For the three hours she had us on our feet, I turned into a blissful airhead. It was worth every stale chicken, withered vegetable and sweaty commute I’d endured in the past few months.

The future might still look somewhat bleak. Even with hard work and scrupulous saving, big milestones such as buying an apartment appear out of reach. All the more reason to invest in the joy of this concert, not only the live event but the lead-up: crafting a concert outfit from a second-hand dress, threading bracelets with friends.

Occasional treats such as the Eras Tour cut through tough times and create memories. They can shine a spotlight on the generosity of friends. Not only did I join mine from across the country, but I danced with almost 100,000 strangers, all hustling through their own challenges but who, for one night, got to shake it off.

Millie Muroi is a business reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. She covers banks, financial services and markets, and writes opinion pieces with a focus on economics.

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Source: Thanks smh.com