How to Save Money at Conventions

I am one of the couple hundred for whom the new year doesn’t start until I sing Auld Lang Syne at GaFilk. GaFilk is a convention for incredibly talented singers and entertainers (some of them professional) who also happen to be in the science fiction and fantasy community. Think about every time that you’ve made up new words to songs, that’s filking.

There’s a good definition of what filk is over here for those who are curious. That article explains it much more thoroughly than I can.

The convention itself is held the first weekend after the new year, and has been a long standing tradition. If you’ve never been to a con before, think about going to one, whether it be a financial bloggers convention or a science fiction convention or a furry covention or … well, just go to one. It’s an experience that should be had at least once during your life, no matter how staid and normaly that you believe you are. Go with an open mind, and you will be rewarded.

All told, between the room, food, gas, membership, and swag, we’re (me, my mother, and TUM) going to spend between $600-$700 for the entire adventure. It’s WELL worth it. As a financial blogger, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer up some tips about how to be frugal and still have fun.

1. Save up during the year
Calculate how much you want to spend for the convention. Depending on travel costs, a convention can easily top the $1000 mark for a single three day event. I can tell you from experience that it’s still well worth it. The earlier that you decide to go to a convention, the better, because you can save up your cash during the course of the year.

2. Make a grocery run or bring your own food
Most conventions have a con(vention) suite where, for the price of membership, you can get munchies and sodas which will carry you through the course of the convention. The stock of the con suites vary from con to con, some having ‘real food’ and others having slim pickins. If you buy a loaf of bread and get some PB&J, you should be set for food.

I spend a lot more money on food at a convention than anything else. It can often be bunches more than the con itself. Hotel food is expensive, and you can’t count on there always being reasonable fast food or restaurants around the area. The PB&J sandwiches will cost you under $10 and save you a ton.

3. Capitalize on your Travel Discounts
If you need to fly to the location, take advantage of your frequent flyer miles and the other discounts that you tend to use when you have to travel. Sometimes, because of the stuff that you’re bringing, it’s easier to drive to the con (and avoid the excess baggage fees). Either way, I figure that you know of the best ways to redeem miles and get plane tickets.

4. Carpool
Most conventions have message boards, where general excitement is built up around the convention, the guests that are going to be there, and more. Usually, there are rideshares offered on this board, which can significantly cut your travel costs. It gives you a chance to hang out with a new person for a little while, one who is considered part of the X (science fiction, financial blogging, anime geek, board gaming, etc) family.

5. Make a List of Stuff to Bring
It’s a foregone conclusion for seasoned congoers that there’s always going to be something forgotten at home. Many just hope that the thing that they forget isn’t too terribly important. When you make a list of things to bring, it saves you from needing to get replacement items at the gift shop or in the local area. Like with gas prices, food prices are sometimes more expensive even in the local area because of convenience.

Conventions themselves are relaxing events (most of the time) because you get the opportunity to see friends, hang out with like minded people, and enjoy the comforts of another venue. They’re (generally) well worth going to, cost less than many vacation activities, and let you get a good recharge in your life. I’m going to be at GaFilk over the next few days, and will return on Monday (more than likely, I’ll be singing a song).