# The Con Game: 3 Tips for Conning on a Budget

My local fan-con, Pure Speculation, happens this weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, I love going to cons. I think there is no better place to celebrate our mutual nerdiness than a convention. And while I like all types of conventions, fan-run cons are my favourite. They may not have all the bells and whistles of company-run conventions, but with very few exceptions I always feel the sense of nerd community stronger at a fancon.

Big or small, though, many people stay away from conventions because they think it will cost a ton to attend. And certainly, with that much geekery packed into an enclosed space, the temptation to “GET ALL THE THINGS!” is quite high. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As someone on a budget myself, let me pass along three tips that will make your con experience affordable, and keep you from having to eat cheap ramen to atone for your mistakes.

1) Volunteer – The one expense you know you’ll have every convention is the pass. Whether you go one day or all weekend, you have to pay to get in. But every convention I know of needs volunteers to make the con run, and I know of very few that ever have enough. And they all offer free passes if you volunteer. Usually you need to volunteer for a set amount of time to get the free pass, but so what? While you’re volunteering you’re still AT the con, so you don’t miss anything. When I volunteer, I try to use the time to look around the con as much as possible. I always try to look around the dealer room and landmark where I need to go for panels before I actually have to shop or attend panels. If I can do that while I’m volunteering, so much the better; I’m earning a pass while doing something I’d do anyway. Plus, volunteering is a great way to make sure the con keeps happening. No convention anywhere would run without its volunteers; doing your part keeps cons healthy. And you can meet new people who are also nerds, and there are usually volunteer perks and activities throughout the year…the list goes on. In short, volunteering can net you a lot more than a free pass.

2) Set a Budget Before You Go – And stick to it. Yes, there will be lots of pretty-shinys, and yes, maybe you do have enough in your account to get the gold bust of Gary Gygax you’ve had your eye on. But do you have enough to get it and pay your phone bill? It’s amazing how we forget about or minimize other necessaries when something we desire is right in front of us. To minimize the lure of the impulse buy, set a daily budget for yourself before you go to the con. Setting it before is important; chances are that budget will inflate if you set it while salivating at the dealer’s room. Nope, save yourself the grief and set it the day before. Then stick to it. Doing this will help you when you come face-to-face with that gold bust. You can remind yourself you only have x dollars to spend, and move on. But do keep that bust in mind for later; no one is saying you can’t save up for it. Pro Tip: If you are someone who has serious impulse control issues, most banks will allow you to change the daily withdrawal limit on your bank card for a few days. Just remember to change it back after the con.

3) Look for the Free (and then Cheap) – If you know where to look at a con, there is a plethora of free stuff for the having. Promotional items from companies can be anything: pens, pencils, hats, posters, buttons, water bottles. Hey, maybe the company isn’t your favourite, but…free. At gaming cons, its possible to get free or discounted gaming material, and all it will cost you is sitting down and trying out a game’s demo. That’s practically like getting paid to play a game! Regardless, the con-goer on a budget doesn’t turn down free stuff. The con-goer on a budget says thank-you, and puts the free stuff in the bag he brought for that purpose. Also, don’t ask for seconds or thirds of something, that’s just crass. Think of the other con-goers on a budget.

## Pure Spec Board Game Pub Night Fundraiser

Join the Pure Spec crew at Elephant & Castle (10200 102 Ave NW) for a night of good food, good friends and games, all in support of the Pure Spec Festival!  They’ll be eating from 7-8pm, and then gaming until exhausted.  This is casual gaming, so don’t worry if you don’t know how to play something; someone will teach you.  Better yet, bring a game of your own to teach others! Cost is $3 for gaming only, or$15 for your choice of a beef or veggie burger, fries, a pop, and gaming (cash only, please).  Get your game on and support Edmonton’s premiere nerd event, Pure Spec!

## Graphic Content Presents: Superman

The first Tuesday of every month, The Edmonton Science Fiction Appreciation Society holds their Board Game Night.  Join them Tuesday, October 4th at 6:30pm at 10575 114 Street (Edmonton New Technology Society) for a fun night of games and conversation.  Try out games you’ve never played and meet some new gaming buddies.  Bring snacks to share, and if there is enough interest (ie, $5 placed in the kitty) pizza will be ordered. I’ve been, and it is a relaxed good time! ### Zombie Walk: Zombies in Space! The River City Zombie Commitee has set their next zombie walk for October 7 at 7:00 PM. This time the theme is Zombies in Space! The walk will start off in Gazebo Park around 7:30, and head towards the Legislature Grounds. It will take off again from the Legislature grounds at 9:00, ending up at Churchill Square. Don’t worry if you don’t have a themed costume, all zombies will be welcomed! And if you don’t want to be a zombie, then bring your camera, take some pictures and protect your brains! No cost to take part. * * * So there you are, five nerdy events for you to enjoy with your fellow geeks. What are you waiting for, get on out there and nerd it up! Maybe I’ll see you there… Did I miss any events? Let me know below and I’ll slip it into the post! # Aurora Awards Update Those of you that have hung around my blog long enough may remember that I was nominated for an Aurora Award. For those what missed that, I posted about it back in May. I bring it up again because voting is now open. I would encourage you to register, vote and show your support for Canadian SF. The Aurora Awards is our chance to honour the best our country has in sci-fi/fantasy literature, art and fandom. It deserves a moment of your time. A few things about voting: if you aren’t already you will need to become an Aurora member, which is free. Just fill in the form and you’ll have your membership number straight away, which allows you to vote (It also allows you to nominate people for the 2012 awards, so keep your eye open for that). Voting can be done online or by mail-in ballot, and the deadline is October 15, 2011. There is a small fee to cover administration costs ($5.50 if you vote online, \$5 if you mail-in), which is a pretty small price to pay in support of Canadian SF.

I hope you will take the time to vote.  The Aurora Awards are an important part of the SF landscape here in Canada, delivering much-deserved recognition to our community.  There are a lot of people on the ballot this year that deserve that recognition.  Plus me. \end self-depreciating humour\

On a personal note, I was chuffed to just get on the ballot for this year.  To have the work that the Festival Committee and I did for Pure Spec recognized like that is an amazing honour.  Winning the Fan Organizational award is not even something I’m contemplating at this point, up against such heavy-weights as Liana K. at FutureCon and Alex von Thorn at SFContario, never mind the Constellation Awards!  Anything is possible, of course, and we could get a whole flock of supporters coming out of the woodwork.

And I will admit, it sure would be sweet to see my name on an Aurora Award.

So tell me what you think.  Aurora Awards, like/dislike?  What do you think about awards in general, or any of the things I’ve talked about?  I’m interested in your comments…