Monday, July 4, 2011

How to Attend Three Cons a Year

It may surprise you that since the first con I attended in 2009, I've been attending about 3 cons a year.  Nebraskon in the fall, Naka Kon in the winter, and a wild card each summer.  I'm likely to remain a regular at each Nebraskon and Naka Kon, unless one of them really ticks me off.  They are both good, fun, and generally reliable cons.  There is rarely a shortage of things to do, and certainly never a shortage of people.  And the cities they are locale to are generally places where there's other things to do, should the con for some insane reason bore you.  (Although I find that highly unlikely.)

Here's where things get tricky.  I live off of about $100 dollars a month.  During the summer, I am cared for by my parents, so most food and travel expenses are accounted for... and during the fall and winter, I live on the dorms, fed in the dorms, and within walking distance of almost any place I'd ever need to go.  But there are still considerations of personal wants/needs and holiday gifts to buy... and soon, since I'm getting my license... gas. (It will be difficult for me to figure this expense in when planning for cons.)  You may be trollin and rollin your eyes at me saying, "Just get a job."  But for various reasons, that isn't always possible for some con goers. (Myself included.)  So I'm going to share some of my not so secret secrets to attending cons when you're poor.

First: Odd jobs.  I was mowing lawns and trimming weeds before I was twelve. (I don't remember exactly when I started.)  That got me 30 dollars, if I did everything (20 for mowing, 10 for trimming).  Shoveling walks gets you at least 15.  Sometimes, your customers will even provide the tools for you, especially if you're asking such a reasonable price.  That is usually the most profitable.  But even if you're unable or unwilling to do such a muscle-intensive task, there are still ways to make an occasional buck.  Even in a household where chores are split up evenly and expected to be done without payment, most parents will still have something to offer if you ask for something to do for cash.  If not, what talents do you have?  I can draw.  I have a couple of friends who make cosplay weaponry.  And even a few that make costumes for pay.  Your talents can be used to your advantage, and your fellow con-goers are the perfect target.  That's why it pays to...

Make friends in the con-going community!  Trust me, if it weren't for my con-going friends, I would not be able to make more than one con in a year... and only that one because it's near to where I live.  For one thing, going to cons in a group is a L O T less expensive than trying to go on your own.  You split the cost of gas.  You split the cost of hotel.  And if you're really lucky, you can pull some favors, friendship bonuses, and dating privileges to get your registration paid for.  That's really only the minimum of what having friends in the community gets you, but the additional bonuses depend on the friend.  For instance, a friend that's good with making cosplay weaponry, will give you tips, help you make it, and sometimes even make it for you.  Same can be said for people in costume making.  And while they may charge you for the help, I can guarantee that it costs less than buying it professionally made online.

Speaking of costumes, if you don't have the skill, money, or friends to make a costume... try something simple.  You don't have to be cliche` and go as L.  Many anime characters have multiple outfits, and the only thing that makes them recognizable as that character are one or two distinguishing features.  If you can find or make those features for less, you have a simple costume that will still be recognized.  I have an example, I'll talk about in another post.

Speaking also of registration, whenever possible you should register early.  Not only does this save you a ton of time waiting in line to register at the con...

Where, yes, this really does happen...
 But also, it can cost anywhere from 10 to 30 dollars less, depending on the con.

But before you do that, the most important thing of all is budgeting.  Now this is a difficult one, so I'll go through it step by step, using Naka Kon as an example.  The very latest I'd start planning for Naka Kon immediately after Nebraskon.  Naka Kon is in February, and Nebraskon is in November.  Assuming I end November with 0 dollars, and that I won't have any more than 100 dollars at the beginning of each month, the most I could possibly have by Naka is 300.  Now that's pretty unrealistic.  I'd have to spend a bit to get X-mas gifts for people, even if I spent absolutely nothing on myself... And knowing that a con was coming up so soon, I'd likely do some of those odd jobs I mentioned earlier.  This is just an estimate.  Next, I add up all that I would spend at Naka, including my share of the hotel room in a worst case scenario, which is 85, my registration assuming that I don't prereg, which is 50, food for 3 days, which is at least 40, my share of gas money, which is 20, and the minimum amount I'd want for self spending, which is 50.  (That last bit is really flexible. Oftentimes, I'll go with only enough to eat, and no spending money.)  This totals out to 245.  Sticking to previous assumptions, that means that for those three months between, I can spend no more than 18 dollars a month.

There is a lot of flexibility here.  If you preregister, your total for naka drops to 235, and your monthly max is 21.  If another person goes and helps with the hotel room, the naka total drops to 214, and your monthly max is 28... And say you do some of those aforementioned odd jobs and earn 20 dollars a month, that is an extra twenty you can add directly to your monthly max.  You can possibly spend more than your max in case of emergency, but know that it comes out of your next month's max.

The hardest part about all of this is sticking to your budget.  When you know you have 100 dollars, it's hard to pass up a 40 dollar video game to buy Christmas gifts for your family.  When you know you have 180, it's hard to spend your max on gas and not go to the movies with your friends.  When you know you have 260, it's hard to eat boring food at the dorm so you can pay for college supplies.  But you should be starting to learn now, how to do it.  Because you'll be budgeting from the moment you leave the security of college until you're cared for in an old folk's home.  And it won't be any easier to stick to it then, just because you're a motherf*cking adult.

Until next time,
Cap'n Kyrie