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It’s hard not to blow all of your cash when attending an anime or comic convention. All of the geeky t-shirts, books, and knickknacks you compile starts to add up, and before you know it, you’ve spent $500 in one day.
Luckily, you can still save money without sacrificing your precious merch. Hang onto your wallet, and keep these tips in mind at your next convention.
1. Don’t Buy Anything Until the Last Day
Most convention-goers are impulsive (myself included) and will instantly purchase anything related to their fandom no matter what the price. First thing’s first—you need to break this habit!
Sellers always hike up their prices at the beginning of the convention. On the final day, sellers get anxious to get rid of their products and start holding sales. Take advantage of the final day discounts to buy all of the items you’ve been dying to own.
You’re probably hesitant to wait so long, as you don’t want your favorite product to sell out. If you’re really worried about that, just buy the goods you really want on the first day. But you should definitely wait until the end of the convention to buy anything else.
2. Bring Your Own Food and Drinks
I think we’d all rather spend our money on geeky gear rather than processed convention center food. Make sure to pack a water bottle and plenty of snacks before you set out. Munch on filling granola bars, and fill up your water bottle when you feel parched.
The food at a convention center consists mostly of ultra-crispy fried chicken, “soft” pretzels, greasy pizza, and french fries bathed in salt. In other words, it’s pretty gross. To make matters worse, the prices are outrageous—expect to shell out a minimum of $10 for your whole meal!
Most of the time, the restaurants surrounding convention centers aren’t a budget-friendly option either. It’s better to stay on the safe side and just bring your own food instead.
3. Set a Budget
Before heading to a convention, do you take hundreds of dollars out of the ATM, stuff it in your wallet, and end up with nothing more than a few bucks by the end of the day? We’ve all been there.
Instead of bringing an unlimited amount of cash, limit yourself to a certain amount each day. Putting a cap on your spending makes you consider: “Do I really need this?” You’ll end up saving a lot more money by spending on only the items you absolutely need.
If you really want to go hardcore, put only $40 in your wallet for the day. You’ll survive, but you might suffer a little when you spot an expensive item that you’ve been wanting.
4. Avoid Parking Fees
Parking garages surrounding the convention centers charge hourly, and this rate is far from cheap. The best case scenario is having someone drop you off at the convention center. However, this only works out if your friend or family member is willing to give you a free ride.
Other than that, you should consider taking public transportation. A subway, train, or bus ticket often costs less than parking. Plus, you won’t have to go through the headache of finding an empty parking space.
You also have the option of walking to your destination. Obviously, you have to book a hotel room close to the venue (which is also pricey).
5. Buy Your Tickets Early
Try not to wait until the last minute to buy your tickets. Buy them one whole year in advance if you can. Some conventions offer early bird pricing or discounts to people who register early.
In my opinion, you get the most bang for your buck when you buy an extended pass. There’s no point in buying a one-day pass when you can get an extended pass for only a little extra cash. The price of the extended pass sometimes increases as the convention nears, so make sure to grab it early.
6. Book Your Hotel in Advance
I’d suggest booking your hotel room at least a year before the convention. Rooms fill up extremely fast, and it gets next to impossible to find a vacancy as the date of the convention approaches.
As time goes on, the price goes up. If you manage to find a cheap hotel room that’s close to the convention center, snag it as quickly as you can.
Keep in mind that your hotel doesn’t have to be inside or directly next to the convention center. Closer hotel rooms often come with a hefty price tag in exchange for their optimal location.
Look on the outskirts of the convention center instead—bed and breakfasts and smaller hotels often have a much more affordable price. You’ll have to walk farther to get to the convention, and you might not have five-star accommodations, but at least you’ll save some money.
7. Do Some Volunteer Work
Volunteering at a convention doesn’t have to be stressful—you get to see the inner-workings of a convention, make new friends, and check out people’s wacky cosplays. Although you won’t have the freedom to roam freely that day, it’s still an interesting experience that can actually save you cash.
You’re probably thinking, “Volunteer work isn’t paid!” but that’s not true. Most conventions will give you free admission for volunteering your time. Depending on how many hours you work, you could receive a pass for the entire convention or just one day. Either way, it’s not a bad way to save you from purchasing an expensive ticket.
8. Pay in Cash
Cash gives you a lot of flexibility at a convention. Some sellers charge more when you pay with credit or debit cards (if they even accept them), and that’s a no-no when you’re tight on cash.
Cash also gives you the advantage of haggling. You can’t really haggle with a credit card, but you can tell the seller, “Can I please buy that Hatsune Miku figurine for $20 instead of $25? I only have $20 in my pocket!” Bingo. You just saved $5.
Don’t Get Conned by Your Convention
Conventions want you to spend a ton of money, so don’t fall into its trap. It’s a challenge to resist spending on something that you really want, but sometimes it’s not worth the high price.
After your bank account recovers from your previous convention, check out these nerdy conventions that you should consider attending.