So we've all been in a situation where you go to a convention and you're not in a costume, you can't go to any good panels because they cost money, you can't afford even the Pocky sticks in the Dealer's Room, and your bugging your con-buddies for a meal. It happens to the best of us. In my case, it's happened twice. And it sucks.
So a lot of newcomers to cons always ask me how I save up enough money to go to conventions. Because if you think about it, going to conventions is a completely expensive hobby. You have to think about registration tickets, hotel rooms, transportation, food, and that's only the MUST-HAVE to go to a convention. Then there's buying stuff at the Dealer's Room, buying or making a costume, and spending money to go to the extra epic panels. Doing this multiple times a year can really add up. So how do I do it? Go to 4-7 cons a year? Careful planning. And I'll show you some easy ways to save up some money in 0 easy steps.
1. Create a budget.
Now, this is when you actually sit down and completely plan out your entire convention experience. Keep in mine that the only way this step is effective is if you plan your convention AT LEAST 3-6 months before the actual convention. Ask yourself questions like: will you be getting a hotel room? Approximately, how much gas money would you need? Do you want to cosplay? How much do you want to spend in the Dealer's Room or Art Gallery? Do you want to eat fast food or restaurant quality food? Think hard on all the questions that would have to do with money on your trip. And now estimate how much that's going to cost. A nice tip for estimating, try estiamting to the higher number. Meaning, if a hotel room is usually $70-100 dollars a night, just assume automatically it's $100. That way no matter what you decide to get, you'll know you have enough. Even if you get it cheaper, that's more money for the Dealer's Room to spend!
Add up all these expenses. I'll give you an example of what my budget looks like for Feburary 2012's MangaNEXT convention:
$50 - Hotel
20 - Gas
40 - Food
40 - Wig
45 - Registration
+200- Dealer's Room/Art Gallery
$475.00 - Total Cost
2. Arrange For A Group Payment
Another terrific way to keep the costs down for everyone is to get a group payment going. Chances are, you're not going to a convention by yourself, but in a group. Set aside a day to talk with your con-group and discuss how much of a cost this will take to go to your convention. Try to get everyone to decide on how everyone can contribute to the cost of a hotel, gas, and food. If there are four people in your group, agree to have everything split in quarters. And so on with however many people are in your group. This will help everyone in paying less and being able to start up their own savings for the convention
3. Research low prices ahead of time.
Seriously, don't wait for the last minute to get a hotel room or rental car. This is a bad mistake that a lot of people make. If you are getting a hotel room, start making reservations 2-3 months before the convention date. This tip is good because it's cheaper, for one. And for two, you may find yourself two cities away from your convention if you do otherwise. Play it safe, and reserve your hotel as soon as you get enough money.
4. Save each week.
Take out your calendars and start counting the weeks before you go to your convention. On the same day you create you budget, start with that week and count all the weeks before the con date. Let's just say you made your budget the same day I did and your going to the same convention I'm going to. That means your have 33 weeks until the convention. That's a lot of time! And this is a good thing. Now, divide 33 into your total convention cost. In my case, it would be about 15. That's how much you need to save per week, $15 dollars. A lot of people are thinking, well, $15....I can do that a week. That's why you need to plan early. The earlier you start planning, the less you have to save up each week.
5. Start a quarter jar.
This is one of easiest and most effective way to save. Obviously, you have to purchase something once in a while. After each purchase, save your coins. Honestly, save them. Don't keep them in your wallet or purse every day for a future purchase, just empty them all out at the end of each day. Search your pockets, do regular checks in the sofas, and search your laundry for any coins. The best ones to save are, obviously, the silver ones, especially quarter. If you fill an entire regular-sized coffee can with only quarters, you can have $428.75 when you cash it in. That almost covers the entire convention cost! Get into the habit of always saving your quarters. It will "pay" off when the time comes.
Good luck and happy saving. Look out for the "Dummies Guide To Saving $$$ For A Convention", coming soon, a post that can lower the cost of your convention by up to 80%, no lie! Stay tuned! =]