Conventions are one of the best things a geek or nerd can experience. If you’ve spent your whole life feeling like an outcast, spending some time reconnecting with your tribe can be powerfully healing for your self-esteem. Connecting with others who share your passions can be a wonderful source of personal growth and friendship building. But very few of us have disposable income in this financial climate. So what’s a nerd to do? I’m so glad you asked. Here is my list of the top ways to make conventions more fiscally possible for you. Geek tested, nerd-approved.
- Set a budget. Seriously. None of the below tips will help you if you lose control of your wallet over the weekend. So step number one is to set a budget. Set aside your food money in one place. Set aside money for spending (you know you will want some, so plan for this, even if it’s only $5). Have both of those amounts in cash on you in different locations. Use your bank card ONLY in emergencies.
- Volunteer. In exchange for a few hours of your time throughout the weekend, you’ll get to attend the convention for free. If you have valuable life skills to bring with you, you’ll have the satisfaction of contributing to the magical world of conventions. As a bonus, you’ll make tons of friends among the other staff and regulars. You’ll also be more likely to find people to room with too, which is number two.
- Find roommates. Plan to go with other people or connect on social media with others who are attending. Splitting hotel costs makes things cheaper and hotels can make extra keys for a small fee.
- Travel in a pack. Most conventions have a group discount (and did I mention the built-in roommates?). You can also carpool with them. Sharing costs for travel, attendance, and lodging is how a lot of geeks make it work.
- Find the Con-suite. Most conventions have a convention hospitality suite that will typically have at least snacks and drinks and possibly even some real meals or meal like options. There’s usually something for everyone (sometimes even gluten free vegans).
- Bring food. Most convention hotels feature a mini-fridge and a microwave (you can always call ahead to be sure). You can also bring a cooler and some small cooking items such as a rice cooker or a George Foreman Grill (TM). There are plenty of real food recipes you can make in your hotel room easily. Bring your own snacks and a water bottle to carry on the convention floor with you. You’ll be less likely to impulse buy expensive food if you’re not already starving.
- Be a GM. Seriously. Most conventions also give passes to people who are willing to run games (usually for the same minimum hours per weekend as the volunteer hours). If you love to game, it’s a great way to meet other gamers, have fun gaming, and get to attend the con for a bit less money.
- Start a blog/podcast/radio show/YouTube channel. Share your convention experiences and advice with others. There are ways to monetize such things. Plus, if you have a large enough following, a lot of conventions have a category for fandom/geek life/podcasting guests. By creating your own media source you can use your skills to attract other nerds with talent who need editors, photographers, etc. Speaking of which…
- Start a small business. Make geek crafts? Are you great at Cosplay? Do you have mad editing skills? Are you a photographer? You can purchase a booth space and sell your products or pitch your skills. Even if you don’t get a booth, there are ways to write off your convention expenses on your taxes if you can make it into a business trip. Use conventions as networking opportunities that will pay for themselves at the end of the year (or hopefully before then with new clients and/or sales). And if you talk nerd with others at dinner, you may be able to write off your food expenses too.
- Show off your skills. Enter art shows, costume contests, game tournaments, etc. Even if there aren’t immediate monetary results, you will have an opportunity to get your name and product/services out there.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the ways that people find to make convention life more affordable. What is your favourite way to make conventions more affordable? Do you have a tried and tested way that I haven’t listed here?