September 28, 2016
Money Blogger’s First FinCon!
Y’all. I haven’t shown my face publicly as a money blogger in ten years. Plus, I’m an introvert. FinCon16 seems like a Pretty Bad Idea for a pseudonymous blogger. But it also sounded like an awful lot of fun and so, with some persuading, the 6th annual year of the PTMoney FinCon was my year.
I met so many people and didn’t want to depart with haste, not even once. Oh wait, I did, once but that was just from one session.
The thing about FOMO
When I finally got off the hotel shuttle and walked into the hotel, I barely suppressed the urge to raise my arms and bellow “TO ME, MY MONEY NERDS”. Only the knowledge that going all Professor X on the half empty lobby might end the fun Very Quickly stopped me.
Friends on Twitter were feeling the FOMO well before we left, and it’s certain that if I weren’t a veteran of SDCC and ECCC (comic cons, my other love), that feeling could have ruined the trip from the get-go. Heck, I was Right There, and by arriving late in the day, I was already missing out on all the Wednesday activities – the Experian dim sum lunch, the chance to meet and chat with people before the conference madness started.
The reality is missing out isn’t a risk, it’s a certainty. Even while on site, I was missing out because there was just simply no way I’d make it to every session, meet every person I wanted to meet, and achieve All The Things. For example, I almost got to say hi to Tonya of Budget and the Beach but she was moving too quickly, I never found Kathleen Celmins of Frugal Portland, Mr. 1500 Days was only identifiable on the first day in a sheep tee, and those are just the few that my sleep-deprived brain can recall right now.
The only sure thing about my health is I can never accurately predict if I’d be physically up to it. As my dear friend Abby knows only too well, chronic fatigue is an unpredictable, abusive drunk that can attack you at any time, without rhyme or reason.
Thankfully, a long history with SDCC has taught me that it’s not worth agonizing over that which you can’t do – enjoy the moment you’re in.
Hugging the stuffing out of old friends
I wasn’t prepared with a list of people that I wanted to meet but I tweeted reminders to myself each day to keep myself from going full-introvert and social-avoidance. It’s been too long since I saw Lazy Man and Money or J.Money. I just met Athena in person this trip, but I’ve been her sounding board for so long that I’d forgotten we’d never met. Thanks to Abby of I Pick Up Pennies, Donna Freedman of Surviving and Thriving, and Crystal of Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, I had introductions to a plethora of people and made some wonderful new friends.
If you’re an introvert, I highly recommend getting adopted into an extrovert’s clan. Riding that extrovert’s wake makes a huge difference in whether you hide in a corner and pretend that plant is fascinating, or have an awesome Saturday ooohing over JD Roth’s puppy videos, and Pauline’s Great Dane.
Also, they’re way better at making introductions to others when my response to “Hi, I’m [Blogger you read].” was a halting “Hi! I’m .. uh … oh. What name do I use?”
The best thing I did was have friends who understood my limitations existed and helped me stay engaged without pressure.
The best thing I did before coming was spending years forming deep friendships with people. Who knew that would make this meeting thing so much better?
My favorite quest was Abby’s and my quest to find a water bottle. She had lost hers, and I’d forgotten to bring mine, so we swept the Expo Hall in search of the perfect replacement bottle. In the process, we collected some other fun, decent quality, swag: a beach mat, Vanguard’s fantastic zippered tote, an insulated thermos small enough for PiC’s coffee when we road trip, an insulated tote that’ll be great when we picnic, a Swagbucks gift card, and a handful of unbelievably soft t-shirts. I’d sworn off collecting any more t-shirts but these were like cloud puffs. They had to come with me. JuggerBaby’s favorites were all from Donna’s picks: a squishy blue pig, a blow-up beach ball, the emoji plushes. PiC also loved the running socks I snagged for him. All useful things!
The best surprise was winning $500 in the PennyHoarder social media giveaway! I’d been concerned about the cost of the trip since AGSL hasn’t been generating income this year and this was an awesome offset.
The best unexpected edit to my agenda was that PiC braved TWO solo flights with JuggerBaby so that they could join me and have a birthweek dinner together.
My favorite session was a tie between the FIRE talk and Grant Baldwin’s talk on booking speaking gigs (which, if you know me, is the opposite of what I’d be interested in). The former was just interesting chatter about how the panelists choose to live their FIRE lives, the latter was clear, great actionable information, and persuasive.
I’ve been going to San Diego for over ten years, but I loved seeing it through the eyes of other non-Californian bloggers. Everyone had a sunset photo!
The grossest moment was that jerk security guard working for the hotel accosting me to say that if I ate that cupcake I was holding it would ruin my figure.
The second worst moment was understanding that I wasn’t the only one who had to hear unsolicited comments about our appearance. Other attendees commiserated with their reports of harassment after I vented my frustration on Twitter.
This shouldn’t be something we have to deal with.
In the words of Monty Python, “it got better.” I made an official report, PT Money and Jessica Bufkin (the event organizer) dealt with it, and though the hotel’s handling of the situation is purely crap, I am satisfied that FinCon doesn’t sweep the harassment of their attendees under the rug. Next step: heading it off before it happens.
Last, the final keynote speaker was bad. For a minute I wasn’t going to discuss that but if not here, then where?
The speaker sent an interminable period bragging about how he’s rich and oh by the way, SO rich. He was so over I was convinced it was some absurdist parody, but it wasn’t.
I walked into a business conference, and walked out of a frat house presided over by an entitled pontificating Frat Bro bragging on how he’s rich and had sex in the company bathroom. Such business. Very class. Wow.
The key points he made that would have been useful were:
- making it as an entrepreneur takes time, work, and many failed attempts to pay off,
- winning the lotto isn’t the way to get rich,
- there was probably a third but it was lost in the grandstanding.
The point he really made was: When you have enough money, you can do and say anything you want. Remind you of any particular unqualified political candidate?
He clearly had some fans, particularly when he started flashing cash and stuffing it down the shift of his attendee helper, perhaps signalling the shift from a frat house to a strip club, but there were plenty of quietly disgusted attendees later on as well.
The money part
I planned for my flight, but then PiC and JuggerBaby flew down too! For a limited time, JuggerBaby is free as a lap infant. Boy howdy is it going to be painful to start paying for a 3rd seat always.
Dog boarding, $150
It was just too much for PiC to manage all of Seamus’s medications and supplements while chasing a child so he was better off taking a short vacation with our sitter. He got to run with the pack, and cuddle with a puppy, so you know he wasn’t missing us at all. And the sitter is great – she does all his medications, takes them for hikes, and washed his bedding for us!
I originally agonized over the decision to have a single room to myself but it was the right call, not least because of my surprise visitors, but also because I needed a bit of quiet decompression time each night. Which isn’t to say that my FinCon buddies wouldn’t have been good roommates, but sometimes you just need to be alone.
Also! I signed up for the SPG Double-Triple your points promotion just before we went, and opted for the Green Choice program, so my 4-night stay netted around 5000 SPG points.
The shuttle to and from the hotel was free for all of us. Free and they were pretty good – I didn’t fear for my safety going to and from.
We walked to the restaurant for dinner the one night we all went out together and to the deli for lunch but that was about it for accessible dining. We had to catch cabs or Uber to and from the Gaslamp.
We had to park at the airport at the other end (darn car seats!) and after a coupon, the cost was around $40. Coupons for airport parking, who knew? And before you ask, yes, I absolutely checked for cash back rebates on top of that but there wasn’t a stackable deal. Had to try!
I picked up some provisions, transport kindly provided by Abby, at the local grocery store but I should have grabbed more. Breakfast provided by the conference each morning was hit or miss. Each day, the provisions were fewer and ran out faster. As Ms ONL noted it was noticeably beige food: carbs, carbs, more carbs. I was hankering for some protein and roughable but it wasn’t happening at breakfast.
FinCon provided tickets for food truck lunch on our first day. Abby wisely insisted that we hit the lunch trucks first before the place filled up. To absolutely no one’s surprise, I had the BAT (bacon, arugula, tomato) grilled cheese sandwich. Bacon and tomato? I’m there. Tomatoes and greens? Taste bud heaven. I was so full that I had to pass on the Vanguard cupcakes that day. (Not the next day, though!)
As a birthday treat from Crystal, we had In’n’Out burgers for lunch the next day. Then it was all about the Mexican food: awesome chips and salsa to go with our carnitas for my birthday dinner, and enormous burritos on Friday night across the street from the Ignite event. I missed some hosted Happy Hours, unfortunately, let’s pretend the nibbles there weren’t amazing.
We need a suite with a kitchen so we can throw together some healthy meals. Too bad we couldn’t book out an enormous Residence Inn and host family style meals. Cooking for small scale groups is bonding, right?
As much fun as I had this year, this is too expensive a conference to attend two years in a row without business goals in mind and business income to cover it.
San Diego is on the same coast and our bill was a whopper.
I did pick up a badge during the Flash Sale but that’s no guarantee of my attendance.
At a minimum, the flight and hotel have to be booked on miles and points if AGSL isn’t earning enough to send me out. Say it isn’t, then I have about 7-9 months to amass enough points and miles to book in time, assuming our other travel commitments don’t eat into the stash.
I have to be able to take 5-6 days off work to travel as well. I’m still swamped under a mountain of work and the outlook isn’t good for the next six weeks. That’s got to change, or I might collapse under thousands of emails!
A great point that both Ms. ONL and Ms. Montana made was that a huge part of this blogging conference was meeting people. Whether just socially, or for specific mentoring, we grow, strengthen and deepen our relationships when we spend time with each other. Even for an introvert, this was a wholly enjoyable event because of the socializing, not in spite of it, and that’s saying something!
Not everyone can spend this kind of money or effort to attend, though – it’s a lot of money and a lot of time. Heck, obviously I’m not sure if we’ll be able to repeat the experience, Dallas-style, but I’m taking steps to making it happen.