How to do Conventions on a Budget

As I wait for the next season, biding my time and my wallet, I think about all of the amazing experiences I’ve had this year. I tried so many new conventions this week and I feel grateful to be able to afford these in addition to my favorites.

But I realize unfortunately certain aspects of the nerd culture come with a the price tag as many hobbies do. While it is good to support the artists and entertainers that continue to foster spaces for nerds, especially in the Nerdmunity, some of the “pay-to-play” aspects can limit some people from attending certain events.

So here’s a couple of good tips to cut down on costs while still supporting the people who run conventions

Buy your badge in advance: Generally buying in advance is cheaper than buying at the door. A lot of times for the conventions I go to, the price is almost the same for an advance ticket as it is to buy it at the door.

Take transit: Parking especially in Chicago is really expensive. Sometimes parking can be up to $20 a day. CTA, depending on transfers and such can get to about $5 round trip. Also conventions like C2E2 will have shuttle buses to major train or bus routes making it super simple to get to and from downtown. Two years ago, the green line opened up the Cermak-McCormick stop, making it even easier for con-goers on the green line to get downtown.

Pack a lunch: While you should check with the convention center or hotel to confirm if they allow outside food, most conventions care more about checking for illegal items (i.e. real swords) than about bringing your own food. Food at many conventions can also be a bit pricey and sometimes not the most healthy, as only a cornucopia of nachos and pizza can be.

Volunteer: Volunteering is especially great for people who don’t have enough money to go to a convention or who want to save some money. Generally you donate about 10 hours of your time and get a free badge. Some cons will even provide snacks or food for volunteers. While sometimes it’s frustrating to miss a panel or two, it’s a great way to make a lot of friends and get familiar with a convention. Be sure to sign up in advance though. Many organizers will ask for volunteers at least a couple of months to half a year in advance notice.

The people who run conventions put a lot of time and effort to make this happen and work to make spaces where nerds can be around their community. Hopefully these tips can help you attend and support more events without spending all of your money.