February 26, 2009

How-To Guide for Making a Budget for a Convention

by Elizabeth O'Malley, AnimeCons Writer

It's no secret that going to a convention isn't cheap. You need to pay for transportation, your registration badge, and food. That's what you need at a minimum, but you may need a hotel room, and probably want money to spend in the dealer's room and artist alley. Let's compare the costs of two hypothetical conventions: a local small to mid-sized convention and a large convention that's several hundred miles away.

Let's start with the smaller convention. Let's assume that the pre-registration price for the badge is $30. Next is the hotel, if you need one. The rate is $125 a night plus 12% tax, and for two nights that's $282.50 for the room. Let's assume you'll be splitting it with 3 friends, which is $70.63 per person, plus $2 each for housekeeping tip, making the total for the hotel $72.63.

Next, transportation, including parking. Since the convention is in the area, it makes sense to drive. This con is 100 miles away from you. If your car gets 25 miles per gallon, you'll need 4 gallons each way, times $2 a gallon, is $16 total for gas. There are also tolls you need to go through, totaling $5 each way. Parking varies a lot from convention to convention. This one is in a hotel with free parking, which is always nice. For transportation, you will need about $26.

You can't go through a convention without food, so make sure to put money aside for that. Before you go to the con, check out the convention's web site or forums for a list of restaurants in the area, or search around the area on Google Maps. Check out what restaurants are nearby and see if you can find their menus online. Also, bring your own snacks and drinks in a cooler if you can. For this con, there is a fast food restaurant and local sub/pizza shop within walking distance. I would recommend planning about $10 per meal for lunch and dinner at those places ($20 for Friday, $20 for Saturday, $10 for Sunday). Plan for more if you want to go to a sit down restaurant and order more than a salad. For food in the hotel room, I would suggest things like granola bars, meal bars, cereal bars, peanut butter, jelly, and bread. All of that, plus a bottle of water or soda for each day, is about $15-$20. So, for food that totals $70. I like to over budget by a lot for food, because if I don't spend it all, I have more money to buy things in the dealers room on Sunday.

Badge: $30; Hotel: $73; Transportation: $26; Food: $70; Total: $199

Those are your essentials, totaling $199. Again, cons aren't cheap. The rest of the money you need is up to you and what you plan to buy in the dealers room and artist alley.

Let's look at the larger convention. First, the badge to this convention is $50. Next, the hotel is $200 a night plus 12% tax. The plan is to come in Thursday night, so for three nights plus tax the hotel will be $672. Divided among you and three friends, that's $168 per person, then $3 each for housekeeping, with a total of $171 per person.

Transportation this time involves flying in. Depending on from where and how far you are flying, the flight could be very costly. It's hard to say what you'll pay on this, but we'll put the flight at $250 (with all fees and taxes). Next, you need to get from the airport to the hotel. Many hotels offer a shuttle service, sometimes free and sometimes at a cost. You can also take a cab and sometimes there is mass transit available. The hotel you are staying at has a shuttle service which is $5 each way, plus a $2 trip for the driver. That makes the total transportation cost $264.

Next is food. Since you flew in you may or may not have had room in your luggage for snacks. If you can, try to find a convenience store or grocery store near you to get some snacks and bottled water or sodas. We'll budget this at $20. For restaurants, again check out the area before hand to see what is available. I would budget $10 for each lunch (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and $15 (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) for each dinner on this trip, or $75. The total for food budget is $95.

Badge: $50; Hotel: $171; Transportation: $264; Food: $95; Total: $580

Those are your essentials, totaling $580. This will vary, of course, depending on if you find a cheap place to eat or get a good deal on a flight.

Budgeting is important to do in advance so you can make sure you can go and start putting money aside. Judging by the budgets above it would be best to plan on around $200 for a small local con and $600 for a large con, less so for both if you don't need a hotel room. There are ways to cut costs and make cons more affordable, which we will cover in a separate guide.

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