This past year I have gone to more gaming conventions year then ever before. Mainly as designer attending the various local Protospiels to run playtests of my designs. I’m still unpublished , so at best this is a hobby for the time being. While I enjoy doing it, I have other financial goals i’m trying to accomplish so I’m trying to be as budget minded as possible. The here some tips in no particular order .
Bring your own food/meds
While it’s fun to eat out with friends, food and drinks can really rack up your expenses. The method I use is to bring bread and peanut butter. Yeah the bread will get smashed up but you can eat and peanut butter sandwich for just about any meal of the day. 7 bucks could feed you for several days. I also carry a water bottle with me most cons will have water ether in water coolers or from vending machines. Try to avoid foods that need to be cooked like Ramen since you might not have consistent access to a microwave or hot water. Bring a small ration daily medications just in case you get a migraine or have stomach issues while attending the con. These medications are gouged pretty heavily at hotels.
If you are like me you may have some games in you collection that you are no longer playing. While you could spend some time to list the games on Ebay and deal with shipping and other hassles. Many gaming conventions have Flea markets for gamers to sell unwanted products. Now to sell games at the at flea market the convention may charge a fee for the table. Work together with your friends and share a table at the flea market. Now your not going make the most you could on what your selling else but for the amount of effort used to move the product it could be the best bang for your buck. If I plan on buying anything I try to limit to less then what I take in at the flea Market. If there is a game that you have your eye see if there a used copy at the flea market that can be a huge savings over a new copy.
Volunteer at the Con
This can take several forms. Many conventions will give gamers who run X hours in registered slots free admission to the con . So if there is an RPG one shot that you can run in you sleep or with little prep (dread, fate, Fiasco) if you sign up to run the required slots and enjoy your admission for free. Another form may be in agreeing to help assist the con, watch the door to the dealer room ect. Most cons will have these details on their website.
Driving Home vs Staying in a Hotel
Depending how far away you are from the convention you may consider not staying in the hotel. I was an hour and 15 minutes away from my last con and even if I split a room at a nearby motel. It was sill about $30 cheaper for me to drive. While staying at nearby hotel my save you from #FOMO (fear of missing out) you need to examine all of your options if you carpool and drive different days that could be a huge savings.
These are some the strategies I employ to limit my expenses at gaming conventions. Let me know how you stay on budget while attending game conventions?