Being a nerd is easy. Affording to be a nerd can be hard. With so many conventions held every year that cater to tastes from comic books to television shows to movies to little ponies, chances are better than average that everyone on the internet has at least one convention they’ll attend this year, or wish they could if they could afford it. And with the ticket prices alone ranging anywhere from $0 to $200 – not to mention how much they all want for a simple pretzel – the price of attending a comic con can add up quickly. So here are some easy tips to help you get through your geeky weekend without coming home broker than Wimpy (He owes Popeye a lot of money for all those hamburgers he never paid back on Tuesday).
Sandwiches Are Your Friend
Or any food, really. One of the biggest drains on the wallet can be forgetting to bring your own food, and even though just like anywhere in the U.S.A. there are Subway restaurants near most convention centers, a five-dollar footlong is still five dollars whereas the bread and peanut butter you brought to the hotel will cost much less and go a long way. Just avoid using meat or condiments that will spoil if not eaten right away. Stick with something that’ll be okay sitting around in your backpack for a long time. I’d also recommend power bars and fruit snacks for the same reasons.
If you do eat out, try to keep it to one meal a day. Remember, you’ll be walking the convention floor back and forth many times over throughout the day, so a big breakfast before you start will go a long way when you’re too busy to stop for lunch. And once all the panels are over, a good-sized dinner will be a huge relief. But try to only go all out on one and don’t be afraid to skimp on the other.
Couches Are Also Your Friend
Even cheaper than keeping your own food in your hotel is keeping your own food in a friend’s fridge. Hotels pretty much always account for the biggest expense at comic cons, so ask around and see if you know someone or know someone who knows someone who won’t mind you dumping off your six new exclusive Transformers and stretch out on that air mattress they never use. And if you can’t track anyone down who has a usable couch, hostels, Airbnb, and Craigslist are all great places to search for temporary housing.
Planes? No. But Trains And Automobiles? Heck Yes!
If you can reasonably manage it, driving is always going to be cheaper than flying. And if you have friends who are also going, it just makes sense to carpool. It helps the environment, which is always nice, and it saves everyone a ton. Splitting gas is going to be pretty much your only cost and the more people you can fit in the car, the less everyone has to pay. And if you run out of friends, you can fill out the car with passengers found on Zimride or that trusty site Craigslist.
You should also consider trains, busses, or if you’re extremely close, public transit in and out of the convention destination every day. Even if you’re halfway across the country, trains and busses are usually cheaper than planes. It might take you longer to get there, but that’s more time to plan out your wishlist of Aquaman issues to look for while you’re there, and to decompress on the way home.
Volunteers and Press
Two of the best (and completely legal and ethical!) ways to get free comic con admission is to volunteer or work as press. Volunteering is a bit hard to get on the list for, and if you get on it you have to arrive early every day when the assignments are handed out so that you can be more likely to pick your required three-hour block of time to volunteer and avoid missing that panel on why Michael Keaton deserves a million Oscars for being the best Batman ever. But by helping them, they’ll help you by giving you free admission for every day you volunteer. There are some rules and requirements, and people who volunteered the previous year are able to register for next year first, but it’s a good deal if you can get it.
Another good deal is working for the press. While there are certain requirements all press members must meet, these aren’t that difficult to achieve and can easily be done. Once in, press badges don’t give you special access or reserved seating, but not having to pay for your admission is already a bonus too good to pass up.
Finally, don’t forget to pick up all the free giveaways you can carry! Not only is that cheaper than buying a variant cover of a $4 comic book for $25 just because a well-known artist did it, but if you get something very rare for free and sell it on eBay, you’re going home in the black. In fact, eBay can become a second full-time job following comic con if you pick up any of those $25 comics. Some of them are so rare that you can realistically make 5 times that much, or more. It’s a smart investment because every con has items that will never be sold anywhere else in the world. Except for your eBay store, that is.
And if all else fails, just remember that Batman’s secret identity is billionaire Bruce Wayne, so just corner him on the convention floor and threaten to reveal his secret unless he pays off your hotel bill. How could that possibly go wrong?!
Matt Wilkie is a writer, puppeteer, and puppet builder living in Los Angeles by way of Pennsylvania. He has puppeteered for music videos for Aimee Mann and J Mascis, and has built puppets that have been featured on Funny or Die, at The Upright Citizens’ Brigade Theatre, and on Adult Swim. His writing is also pretty good, I guess, whatever.