Iyashikei's Guide to Conventions: Part 2 - Money

Money is the invaluable resource at conventions. Everything runs on it, and without it, you’re not even getting to the convention. Well-funded congoers can easily blow over a thousand dollars at a convention, not including hotel costs, travel costs, and the attendance fee.

Managing your money well is an absolute imperative to having a good con experience. Running out of money too early is a big deal. Failure to plan ahead and think before spending can bring about disastrous results.

Because at that point, having no money for figures, plushies, and posters also means having no money for food.

1.       Cash

While more and more dealer room booths are making themselves able to run credit/debit cards, I still recommend carrying cash, and there are a few reasons for this.

·         Cash gives you a clear physical representation of how much money you currently have.

·         Cash can be rationed day-by-day to self-enforce a spending limit.

·         Cash can be freely transferred between friends.

Cards are convenient, but that convenience is a double-edged sword when it comes to trying to budget money at a con. It’s very easy to just swipe a card and make a purchase without thinking. The layer of abstraction between the card and the money it represents creates an out-of-sight, out-of-mind effect. Carrying cash forces you to look at how much money you’re spending.

In addition, though cards do represent money, exactly how much money they represent takes effort to call up. As a result, it’s easy to overestimate your remaining money pool.

Lastly, cash is much easier to give to friends, whether it’s paying your share of the hotel room, chipping in for pizza, or handing a friend (that you trust) money to buy something from the dealer room for you.

I should emphasize, however, that cash should always be carried safely and securely. Keep it in a place where people can’t just reach their hand in without you noticing.

2.       Make a plan

There are a few ways to plan out your con budget, however they all begin with setting aside the money that will be used for travel, the hotel, and the attendance fee, provided you haven’t already paid for them. Knowing how much it will take to get to and stay at the convention is important. Given that, it helps to overestimate these required costs. This leaves money aside to pay for any unexpected costs. If there aren’t any unexpected costs, it’s extra spending money.

Budgeting daily

I know a few people who split up their spending money into little envelopes and only open one envelope per day of the convention. Some go further and split those into spending money and food money. It’s a lot to manage, but adhering to the system guarantees that you won’t run out of money prematurely.

Budgeting for the whole con

A variant on the previous method is to simply split the money into spending money and food money for the entire convention, rather than day-by-day.

Prioritize food

Put simply, this method is about not really caring how much you spend on food in relation to how much you spend on goodies. Depending on the convention’s proximity to places with good food to eat (Or that deliver) and how expensive that food is, this can potentially be a very balanced and much less structured and restricted way to budget a con, especially if you’re the kind of person who’s picky about what they get from the dealer room. Also, it’s healthier for you, as it keeps you eating decent food throughout the convention (Not eating well at cons contributes to Post-Con Depression).

Prioritize goodies

This is for people who like to live dangerously. In a nutshell, this method is the opposite of the previous method. It maximizes your convention haul by cheaping out on food. If you can run for a long time on not much food and don’t mind the food you do eat being crap, you can maximize the amount of stuff you take back with you from the convention.

3.       Be prepared

While carrying cash is highly recommended, it’s also highly recommended to keep some money in the bank and/or carry a credit card for emergencies. In addition, I like to put a stop to spending once my cash has dropped to a certain amount. It makes me conscious of exactly how much money I have and gives me pause when I go to spend more.

4.       Don’t worry

Make a plan, and then forget it. Prepare for an emergency, but plan not to act on it. Worrying about your money is a good way to stress yourself out. Have a plan, have a budget, but don’t be afraid to change things up. Don’t be afraid to switch from prioritizing food to prioritizing goodies for a moment because you need that 1:4 scale Cecilia Alcott figure with the real fabric fishnet stockings.

Stay conscious of how much you’re spending and how much you have left, but don’t drive yourself crazy over it.


If you’ve got a question, or if there’s anything I missed that you’d like more detail on, drop a comment!