How to go to Conferences for Free

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I love blogging. I mean, I really really love it. There’s something so cathartic about sharing with perfect strangers, and having those strangers come to understand you like none other just from your writing. It’s also great to have a place to put all of your thoughts down, and see how far you’ve grown in weeks, months, and years. But I have to admit, I do have a new obsession: blog conferences.

My first and only conference so far has been Bloggy Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a magical experience, and right after it was over, I knew I wanted more. But, one thing was holding me back from attending every one of them: money. Conferences can be very expensive, and for a frugal blogger, they are usually not in the budget at all. There are always sponsorships, but if you put all of your faith into some company (or companies) sponsoring your whole trip, you will more than likely be disappointed. So, I decided to do something radical: I will sponsor myself. No, I won’t use money out of our budget, causing us to scrimp on other parts of our lifestyle, I will actually “sponsor” myself. As of today, I am fully sponsored for my next conference, Type A Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. How did I do it?

1. I partied it up on twitter. One of the best secrets about twitter is that it’s chock full of people that just want to give you money. Seriously. The only catch is that this money is in the form of gift cards and in order for you to win, you’ll have to be part of a twitter party. What’s a twitter party? It’s an online gathering, usually for an hour or two, where you tweet with companies, their representatives and their social media contact that may be helping with the party. That’s it; all you do is talk. You learn new information about companies you’ve never heard of, or companies you’ve always loved, and you have a chance to win great prizes. You follow a hashtag (like #Crayola or #BoarsHead) and you get chatting with others in the party. It’s really that easy. Never been to a twitter party and not sure what to do? Check out this post about How to Participate in a Twitter Party by the “Oprah of Twitter Parties,” Resourceful Mom. Amy is the queen of twitter parties and she’s a great resource for some of the best ones out there.

2. I talked directly to companies. This is yet another secret that only twitter fanatics know about. Do you have favorite companies or stores that you love to frequent? Have you ever decided to look them up on twitter? Well, you should! Most companies are trying to take advantage of social media and are offering up prizes just for liking them on Facebook or, my favorite way to win, following them on twitter and “ReTweeting” their tweets. Those prizes can even be gift cards to their establishments, Visa gift cards, or even Amex gift cards. Some companies even do this once a week!

3. I watched tweets from my favorite bloggers. My biggest win so far has been 500 dollars cash. Yes, cash. How did I win this? One of my favorite personal finance bloggers, J Money from Budgets Are Sexy,  tweeted about a contest on his blog where all you did was share a frugal travel tip. Since I’m a blogger, I had a chance to win the cash by leaving a comment and also making a blog post about my frugal travel tip. Just from checking my twitter, and doing something I would have already done, I won 500 bucks.

4. I turned my gift cards into cash money. I bet you’re saying “well, that’s great that you can win all those gift cards, but gift cards aren’t money.” And you’re right! But if you know how to use those cards in a proper manner, you can turn them into cash and save up for that conference in no time. Anytime I won a Visa, MasterCard, or Amex gift card, I immediately took out that amount from our account. I mean, immediately. Then that money is saved in a safe place at home. The gift cards are then used for other parts of our budget, usually groceries, since that’s the easiest way to use up the money. You’re already going to spend the money, so why not just switch it out for the cards you won? Also, since the cards are a specific amount, it instantly gave me a challenge of trying to keep the grocery bill within that 25, 50 or 100 dollars on the card. So, on some weeks I ended up saving even more on groceries because I didn’t want to spend more than what was on my card.*

5. I bought my conference experience. I made a point of writing a list of what I needed to purchase in order to attend Type A Conference, and placing it on my bulletin board in my office(or as a note in my phone). As I collected each amount from my prizes, I placed that amount back into the bank and bought the items I needed. When early bird tickets were available, I looked at the price, deposited some of my winnings, and bought my conference ticket. I did the same for my flight, my business cards, and as of right now, I have enough left over to pay my half of the hotel room and to eat (and shop) for the 4 days I will be gone.

I’ve become a big fan of twitter parties. I’ve found some great online buddies and bloggers from attending them, and it was a complete bonus that I could use them to fund my whole trip to Charlotte. It worked so well that I am in the process of doing the same thing for BlogHer Conference in my favorite nearby city, NYC. I can’t wait to see how well I do with that challenge.

*This also works well with chain restaurant gift cards. If you have a budget for eating out, you an apply these cards to that, and take out money from that part of your budget.
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About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

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  1. 7.10.12
    Helena said:

    You are a freaking genius! I’d love to get in on a conference and not have to pay for the larger part. Maybe next year! Thanks for the post!

  2. 7.10.12

    hahaha thanks Helena! Not really a genius, just determined to not pay full price, even for a conference :-D. I hope you get to try it out for your next conference!

  3. 8.21.12

    GREAT tips! Thanks for sharing, I’ll be trying some of them soon.

  4. 6.19.13
    Kira said:

    Wow you’re chock fill of knowledge, will try some of these techniques out, hope I get lucky.