Saving Money Tips while attending a Reader’s Convention

We all love going to cons, they are so much fun, we get a ton of books, get to meet our favorite authors. The problem – they are extremely expensive. If the con is out of town, the hotel and travel expenses can be anywhere from $500 to $1500 and then you have to pay for the con itself, $150 to $650 is the average. A lot of money. At least for me, I don’t have that kind of extra money just lying around and if I did, it would probably be better spent on a new air conditioning unit for my house – or so my husband says.

No one wants their husband or wife grumping at them, so let’s try and save some money once we get to the con. The extra expenses can really add up, just eating out three meals a day can tack on hundreds to your already expanded pockets. So, let’s try to cut back just a smidge…

  1. Meal replacement bars for saving money at a conventionBring Your Own Snacks/Meals
    You do not have to eat all three meals at a restaurant or the hotel “gift shop”. Some conventions will offer a lunch or maybe even a dinner. But, usually all three meals are not covered. Before you leave for the convention, pack for the long haul, or make time to hit a Walmart or grocery store once you get to your destination. If you are going to a city like New York orĀ Los Angeles where the prices tend to be higher, purchase your groceries in your own hometown. I tend to pack low fat protein or granola bars. The diet ones are filling and they make them in cookie dough flavor, so you can’t beat that.
  2. Carry a Water Bottle & Travel Coffee Mug
    Brew your coffee in the room while you are getting ready and keep a water bottle with you to fill up at water fountains or from the pitchers that they usually place at the back of the rooms during panels. This will save you at least $5 a day if you need coffee. There is always a coffee shop in the hotels these days and seeing a Starbucks can be very tempting…so make sure your coffee is brewed! If you need to have extra additives in your coffee or a special brand – bring those with you.
  3. Get a Roommate
    You don’t spend much time in your room, so consider getting a roommate to split hotel costs.
  4. Carpool
    Parking at the convention can also be very expensive, if you are driving in, think about carpooling with people staying outside of the convention area. You might even be able to drive in with another attendee if you ask around.
  5. Volunteer
    A lot of conventions will offer volunteer spots that apply a discount to the conference fees. It is also a fantastic way to make friends quickly if you are attending the conference alone.
  6. Have a Budget
    Have a realistic budget and stick to it. I do not like carrying cash, because it goes a lot quicker then when I use my debit card, so I’ll only keep about twenty dollars on me at all times and will only use it if credit is not available. Your budget will be tested during the book fairs, stay strong.
  7. By Wikimedia Israel (Wikimania 2011 Pre-Conference) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    Attend Panels that Offer Food
    Make sure to go to the panels that offer breakfast, lunch or dinner. You get a nice hot meal and you don’t have to pay for it. These panels will often have the highest attendance, so get there early.
  8. Stay Organized
    From registering early, to having a set itinerary, being prepared can save you some cash. Early registration will save you good money and getting to know the area you are visiting will help you plan where to go for affordable grocery shopping or last minute forgotten items without tacking on the “tourist costs.” Remember you can’t plan for everything, so be prepared for anything.
  9. Know Your Targets
    The book fairs and large signing events that are popular with conventions can be overwhelming. They can also get really expensive if the authors are selling their books instead of giving them away. I usually look on the list and highlight authors that I SERIOUSLY need to meet, WANT to meet, WOULDN’T mind meeting and it WOULD be nice if I happen to meet them. Then I plan according. I estimate how much each book might cost. They usually sell their higher priced books, not the mass market paperbacks, so estimate about $10 – $15 a book. Then I put my budget together. If I don’t have a lot of cash, I just try and avoid certain authors that my will-power would just be sucked away if I saw them. Or if I think I do have the will-power, I would bring along a Kindle for them to sign and mention I have all their eBooks and if they would sign it. I also like to set aside about $20 to purchase “books on the fly” from authors that I’ve never heard of, or ones that I’ve met during the con and really enjoyed. I also advise not to make eye-contact with most of the authors as you walk by their tables…eye-contact usually leads to many more purchases then you bargained for!
  10. Budget for Shipping
    If your goal is to get a lot of books, budget for shipping costs. A large box of books shipped media mail can be around $25-$30 and is well worth not having to haul those books onto a plane. Most of the con hotels will offer a shipping day.
  11. Bring an extra bag or luggage
    You will have a lot of swag and fun things, if you don’t want to ship them all home, make sure to bring an extra piece of luggage.

Just make sure you enjoy yourself and don’t stress! Cons are meant to be fun, my biggest tip is keeping things organized and know what you are getting into before you arrive.