Tips For Congoers on Strict Budgets
As someone who used to go to cons relatively cash-poor a while ago, I figured some of my survival techniques might be appreciated. So, here goes...
First, remember that missing a convention won't be the end of your life. If, in the final analysis, you just can't make it and be able to eat, sleep, and bathe, save your money for next year, or the year after that.
Next, keep in mind that you absolutely need to eat, sleep, and bathe. I've found that furries tend to be better as a rule about bathing, but all three are essential for different reasons. Keeping these in mind, here are some tips by category:
Plan on eating a minimum of two meals a day. Starving does not enhance the experience, and leads to being crotchety. On a severe budget, having cheap ramen and instant oatmeal is better than nothing, and only takes hot water and (for the cheapest ramen and most oatmeal) a bowl to fix. On a slightly bigger budget, getting some sandwich fixings (peanut butter and bread is pretty cheap) can handle a lot of your food needs. With a touch more budget, bring a cooler and you can have milk for the weekend for cereal, as well as cold-cuts and cheese for more substantial sandwiches.
Despite the temptation to do otherwise, do not drink solely soda and/or coffee. Hotel air tends towards the arid, and dehydrating is the biggest contributer to Con Crud. Besides, water is free.
If you end up going to a restaurant, by all means not only leave a decent tip (see Kage's tipping lesson for more) but additionally DO NOT DINE AND DASH. This isn't only illegal, but heaps a lot of negative impressions on the con and furrydom as a whole. Equally important, if dining in a group, DO NOT STIFF THE OTHERS WHO DINED WITH YOU. One of the fastest ways to lose friends is to stick them with the bill, or to take money others put in because you don't feel like the tip should be that big. If you are going out and don't have much money to spare, either arrange ahead of time for someone to cover your share, or ensure you have enough to both pay for your share and to tip the server.
Ensure you have a place to sleep for every night of the con. Appropriate places are friends' hotel rooms. Inappropriate places include the hotel lobby, the Zoo, the presentation rooms, the hotel restroom, outdoors behind the hotel, under a car... the list goes on. As with dining, if you are unable to pay ensure that those you are staying with are clear and ok with you crashing.
While there is often activity all con long, there's no way on earth you can see it all. Plan for at least a modicum of sleep (at the very least 4 hours a night, 6-8 hours is highly suggested) each night. Hallucinations from sleep deprivation are not fun.
Room sharing can be a very good way to cut costs, but should be done with respect for the others in the room. Ensure that you talk out expectations with the potential room-mates before going, especially if someone's covering your share of the room. Going in with wrong expectations can lead to unnecessary friction. If you are expecting to be able to crash out in quiet and they are expecting a weekend long room-party and you haven't talked this out before hand, one or both of you is going to be most upset.
As I said above, furries seem to be better about bathing than some other types of convention goers. That said, bathing every day is a very good idea. You may not smell your own scent, but those around almost definitely can. Even a "bird bath" in a sink would be appreciated, if you can't for whatever reason get into the shower in the room you've secured. In addition, bring a toothbrush and toothpaste to avoid stale breath and at least enough clothes for all the days you will be at the con - one or two additional changes aren't a bad idea.
Budget, budget, budget. Figure out how much you can buy and still make your obligations, and try to spend less than that - do not go over. If you absolutely can not afford anything, please don't take up all the space in front of a dealer while browsing. Doing so only prevents the dealer from making sales, and that's why most of the dealers are there. Sure, they love their art, but it's the Dealer's Room - implying that they expect a certain degree of monetary transactions to be going on.
To sum up...
Hope this helps!
-Vulpin the ponyfox
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