The crowded and fiercely competitive world of the Fringe sets up a market for some great ticket deals, with half-price or 2-for-1 offers available right through the Festival season. Some of these deals are promoted by the Fringe box office; others are more ad-hoc, driven by the performers themselves. In any case, offers change quickly and sell fast, so you'll need to do a bit of daily research if you want to stretch your budget to the limit.
For a cost-effective Fringe, the key is to get here early. In 2018, the Fringe officially starts on Friday 3rd August, but many venues offer discounted previews from as early as Wednesday 1st. Although there are disadvantages of going to the previews - not least that you won't have seen any reviews yet - teething problems are comparatively rare, and the savings are substantial.
After the previews, the first Monday and Tuesday are given over to 2-for-1 offers on many shows. These deals are heavily promoted, but be warned that there are limited numbers of tickets on 2-for-1 and the events are often fully booked. If you're going to be in Edinburgh on these days, it's worth picking a few shows and ordering the tickets before you leave home.
Trumping even the 2-for-1 offers, canny early-bird visitors can often get their hands on comps - complimentary tickets offered as a way of getting a show off to a good start. Finding comps is a dark art, but if you have an hour to spare looking for them you should be in luck. The best approach is to hang out around the Royal Mile or Bristo Square - and to make sure you chat to the performers you find, as many companies keep quiet about their comps until they know you have a genuine interest in their show. Comps usually dry up around the first weekend of the Fringe, so get in early.
Beyond the first weekend, you'll still find 2-for-1 offers around, usually on shows which haven't been selling as well as expected. These aren't available from the Fringe box office - you have to go directly to the venue hosting the performance - and they aren't advertised centrally. You either need to wander round the venue box offices looking for deals chalked up on blackboards, or wait until someone hands you a flyer advertising an offer.
Less legwork's required to use the Fringe half-price ticket hut, located at the bottom of the Mound near the Royal Scottish Academy and Princes Street Gardens. The half-price hut does exactly what it says on the tin, selling a selection of Fringe tickets at half their face value - and with no tedious requirement to buy them in pairs. To save a bit of walking, you can download the Fringe's official app to find out what's on offer at the Half Price Hut today.
If you want to see a big-name act you'll be out of luck looking for any attractive deal, but you can still save a few pounds by planning your trip away from the weekend. Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday nights are usually priced higher, while ticket availability is often best on a Tuesday.
And finally - if you're really minding the pennies, don't do anything at the venue except to watch the show. Drink, food and almost everything else is far more expensive at a venue than outside, as the owners quite naturally exploit their captive market. It's cheaper to wait until after the show - then pick a cheap bar or restaurant nearby.