FinCon 18: Money, Friends, and Flamingos

FinCon 18: Money, Friends, and Flamingos

Ahh, what exciting times the past several days have been. Not only did I have the best time attending my very first FinCon; I also had time to see Universal Studios for the first time. To say that it was a good trip would be an understatement.

Like many others I’ve seen, I am pushing this post out kind of hastily for the sake of making it timely. So it may change a bit this week, but I wanted to get something out there sooner rather than later.

I won’t lie to you: considering the fact that this was my very first FinCon, I really had no idea what to expect.

I mean, you’ll hear people say that it’s not good for introverts. That they’ll be overwhelmed and go running for the hills at the very sight of another intimidating personal finance blogger.

Can you sense sarcasm? If so, you’re getting it.

Maybe the issue is that that’s just a blanket statement, but I can say that as someone who is decidedly an introvert, that shouldn’t preclude your attendance. Far from it!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why I mentioned flamingos in the title, it’s because the event was in Orlando. So, ya know, flamingos. They were all over everything.

FinCon Shirt
My FinCon Shirt

They were also on the program (which I lost…ugh). But arguably the best flamingo was the giant inflatable one. I didn’t get a picture of it myself, but Olivia of Birds of a FIRE did get one.

It’s a little hard to tell in the photo, but there is a pretty big seating area inside the flamingo. And by “pretty big,” I mean you can easily fit 6-8 people in it.

And as it turns out, some of the best conversations at FinCon were had that way. As someone who battles social anxiety daily, there is something about sitting inside a giant inflatable pink flamingo that just makes the anxiety melt away.

Day One

There were a few meetups on Tuesday but I missed them because I didn’t land until 9 p.m. Wednesday was the first official day, though, so that’s what I’m calling day one.

The very first thing on the agenda was basketball, but I decided not to attend that either. I didn’t have the right apparel for it; even if I had, I am pretty awful at basketball anyway (laughs awkwardly).

The first thing I actually attended was a meetup for FIRE bloggers. I met a few people there, but it was mostly those I did not already know from Twitter and elsewhere. I was able to meet Amanda of Rockstar Finance, which was cool since they featured my post, Frugal Living Isn’t Everything – Here’s Why. That was in their July 9th features, by the way.

After the meetup, I attended a session with Claudia Pennington about Google Analytics. It proved to be very useful. I do use Google Analytics and even I was able to learn a thing or two.

Claudia Pennington of SEO Audit Guide giving a presentation about Google Analytics at FinCon18.
Learning about Google Analytics

Yet again, there were a few sessions I did not attend. It’s important to note that several sessions are scheduled during the same time slot, so it’s impossible to attend them all (unless you miss some of each).

Next up for me was the keynote, where Jean Chatzky, Rachel Cruze, and Talaat & Tai McNeely spoke. They each had a slightly different speech, but I found the theme to be motivating us to take our blogs/podcasts/whatever to the next level.

A fairly packed day wrapped up with a welcome reception. I stayed for a couple of hours but then I had to leave because I had a headache and didn’t feel well. I actually only ate breakfast the entire day because of everything going on, which was likely to be part of the problem…but at least I made it to almost the end of the night.

Note to self: next time, don’t go 12+ hours without eating anything. Yikes.

Day Two

I kicked things off on Wednesday by attending a session with Jamila Souffrant. Although the session was actually about podcasting, I have listened to Jamila’s podcast myself and enjoyed it. So I decided to attend anyway. It’s always cool to see someone in person you are used to only hearing online.

After that, I headed over to a session on freelance writing. In that session was none other than Paula Pant, one of my favorite people in the personal finance space. My takeaway from this session was the importance of networking and how much it helps with landing freelance jobs. Job boards are nice, but your odds of success really aren’t.

Next, I caught some of the session with Jim Wang and J.D. Roth. This one was cool because these guys have been around a long time, so they compared the rules of blogging back in 2006 to how things are today. Much has changed, but many things actually haven’t!

I then wandered over to FinCon Central where they had booths set up in typical convention style. Truthfully, I only engaged with a few of them because I was a bit overwhelmed, I guess.

The last formal session I attended was Ignite FinCon, where I listened to a few influences share their stories, passions, and ways they were able to effect change in their communities.

The rest of the night was just hanging out and chatting with fellow FinConners – I think that’s what we’re calling ourselves. And yes, the hanging out is the best part.

I said many times that most if not all of the information from the sessions can be found online, but those connections are much more difficult to make. And it would be impossible to get everyone together at the same time!

Day Three

I started day three by attending arguably the most star-studded session – in the context of the personal finance blogosphere, that. This one was a panel discussion with Jillian Johnsrud, Carl Jensen, J.D. Roth, Physician and FIRE, and Mr. Money Mustache.

Despite the big names, I arrived a few minutes late. That 8 a.m. start is killer. Regardless, it was an interesting session. Each of the panelists discussed some of the ways they reached FIRE, reinforcing the idea that there is no one way to get there.

We all have a unique set of circumstances that influence each decision we make; thus, our paths can look very different while the end result remains the same.

After that session, I mostly just walked around and chatted with people I knew. I believe it was around here that I met Adine of Average to Awesome. Adine is a Dutch personal finance blogger. I really like meeting people from other countries, so I asked her all kinds of questions about life in Holland. I find that stuff to be pretty fascinating.

Lunch was provided by FinCon this day, which was nice. They didn’t do that the other days unless you purchased a food pass, which I chose not to do.

Next, I attended a few more sessions. The highlight for me was Caroline Vencil, who talked about strategies for monetization. Although I am still unsure how far down that path I’d like to go, it was really interesting to be taken step-by-step through the process.

Later, I got dinner with a few of my newfound friends. It’s so awesome how friendships are so fluid and spontaneously formed while at FinCon.

The Frugal Fellow having some fun at FinCon!
Lisa (The Give and Get) and I

The night wrapped up with the 9th Annual Plutus Awards, which was really cool. It’s like The Oscars for personal finance media! I knew several people who were nominated and some of them even won some of the awards.

Day Four

Day four, Friday, was the last day of the conference. By now, it had reached that weird point where it felt like an incredibly long week and an incredibly short one at the same time. So much had already happened, but in what seemed like such a short period of time.

I started the day by sitting on a talk from Felicity of Fetching Financial Freedom. This one was good because she talked about the value of adding interactive graphics to your blog posts. I will be looking into this and hopefully adding some in the future.

After that was a panel discussion about the interaction of mental health and finance. It featured Emilie of Wise Mind Money, who I personally have been following for a while. Yet again a valuable session, as our mental health can hugely impact how we spend our money.

The last session I attended was a discussion about personal finance for those on a low income. Though not necessarily the same as frugal people, there can be some overlap there. The speaker, Elaine Miranda, discussed finance in Nicaragua, which is her home country if I recall correctly. Incomes there are vastly lower, so it was interesting to hear how very different things can be.

The very last talk was the keynote. It featured Chris Hogan, Mr. Money Mustache, and Emma Johnson. Similar to other keynotes, the focus was to motivate us to move forward with our blogs, podcasts, etc.

Then, to finally wrap up the conference was the closing party! Among others, I got to hang out with Krystel from All She Saves, who is yet another connection I met through Twitter.

FinCon Closing Party
FinCon Closing Party

It was a great way to wrap up a fantastic week.

You could just feel it. As the night wore on, no one wanted to leave.

But eventually, everyone slowly filtered out of the ballroom, and FinCon18 had officially come to a close. Now I’m seeing many people have already purchased their tickets for next year. I haven’t bought mine yet, but I may do so in the next few days.

It. Was. That. Good.

Until next year, FinConners – I can now safely say the experience lives up to all the hype.

Bonus: Day Five

Although FinCon Officially ended on Saturday, I decided to take a couple of extra days off. As a result, I didn’t leave Orlando until Monday and had all of Sunday free.

So I, at the ripe young age of 30, did something I had never done before: I visited Universal Studios.

To top it off, despite my usual nomaddery (okay, that one definitely isn’t a real word), I tagged along with Lisa from The Give and Get. Most other folks were either gone or on their way by that point.

I was definitely glad I went. We only visited one park which I believe is the larger one, but we saw almost everything there.

The highlight was almost undoubtedly Diagon Alley. We are both Harry Potter fans, although I will admit to not having read all of the books – yet. I need to start book number six…I swear, I’ll get to it eventually.

Diagon Alley at Universal Studios
Diagon Alley at Universal Studios

Pro tip: if you haven’t been before, you can buy a wand that will allow you cast various “spells” throughout the area. However…if you aren’t a kid, you probably won’t be particularly impressed. At least in my opinion.

After we got our butterbeer and explored all of Diagon Alley, we continued on to the rest of the exhibits. Everything there is themed after a TV show movie under the Universal umbrella.

So, we also saw exhibits based on The Mummy, Fast and the Furious, the Simpsons, Transformers, and…I think I’m forgetting one or two. But you get the idea.

Decepticon at the Transformers exhibit
Decepticon at the Transformers exhibit

Most of them just have a 3D/virtual ride, and some of them were pretty cool. I like the Transformers ride. The Simpsons one was just…weird. That’s all I have to say about that.

We also went on the one “real” roller coaster there called The Rockit. This ride is INTENSE (click the link), but we both enjoyed it.

Other than that, we at the diner within the park, and that pretty much wrapped things up.

Some Thoughts About FinCon

Overall, it was a great experience, clearly. But I did have a few lessons learned, which I expected. Most of them are in terms of logistics.

Accommodations

I didn’t stay at the resort, mostly because I arrived on Tuesday and they had no availability on Wednesday when I made my reservation. However, that meant it would have been a real inconvenience to go back to my hotel room if I wanted to take a quick rest. It seems like a minor thing, but this event can be a bit draining at times. Even if you can’t stay on site, try to get something as close to the venue as possible.

Parking

I made kind of a silly mistake here, and it ties into the previous point. My hotel was a 10-15 minute drive from the resort. So, I decided to rent a car instead of using Uber/Lyft because it was about $25 per day and a round trip with Uber would have cost around the same. However, parking cost me $18 a day, so I ended up spending quite a bit more. The takeaway here is don’t forget to look into what cost (if any) there is to park at the venue.

Have a game plan

Being the person I am, and because this was my first FinCon, I more or less tried to just “wing it.” Here’s the thing, though: while it seems like a long event in some ways, if you don’t have a game plan, those days will go by fast. Next thing you know, it will be Saturday and you will have just kind of been floating around without really having accomplished much. So, before you go, figure out what your goal is. Are you looking for freelance work? Sponsorships? Business partners? There are limitless possibilities, really – but figure out what your mission is before you leave, and then take steps to accomplish your goals.

Don’t be afraid to miss a workshop

Again, this ties into the point above. After all, if you don’t know what it is you hope to accomplish, there is no guarantee every workshop will be helpful. And besides, as I said earlier, the people you meet there are honestly the best part.

You can find much of the information learned in workshops online. What you can’t find online is the kind of friendships you will form while at FinCon.

If you remember nothing else about this post, remember the two sentences above. Because in the end, that is the best thing about FinCon.

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This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Thanks Bob for the recap. I missed it this year because of my own stupidity and talked myself out of going (excuses like I am too new as a blogger etc). I did buy a pass and already hooked the conference hotel today so I won’t make that mistake again.

    Universal studios is awesome and man I miss butter beer. That stuff is addictive.

    Hope to see you next year and I’m already counting the days.

    1. No problem, Mr. Xray! Indeed, the experience was well worth it. I certainly had my moments of apprehension before deciding to go, but that is all behind me now. And I’m glad you will be there next year! As I said I will probably buy my ticket soon. We’ll have to be sure to meet at some point.

  2. Bob Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I’m hoping that I will be able to attend next year’s conference and meet all of you in person. I really enjoyed reading your post and look forward to my first FinCon experience too.

    1. Yeah, you need to be there! Like I said, it can still be overwhelming, especially for us introverts. But everyone is so friendly and approachable, and that really helps a lot.

  3. It was great to meet you! I agree that it can be good to miss a workshop if there’s nothing you’re thrilled about — especially if it means accomplishing other things (including just meeting other bloggers that you really like). If you buy a ticket early, the virtual pass is usually included, which means that you can just catch the workshop later

    Hope to see you there again next year.

    1. I just got my ticket (!), so I also have my virtual pass. I’ve told people that even if you decide not to go, you can sell it later for at least what we’re paying now since the rates go up so much.

      But as of now I am planning to be there. See you then!

  4. It was great meeting and chatting with you! 🙂 It’s so awesome you were able to get to Universal! It was in the back of my mind to get there if I found time…smart thinking to wait ’til Monday to leave.

    1. Likewise; it was great to meet you, too! The Universal thing wasn’t even planned in advance, so it kind of worked out perfectly. I would have just been bored at the hotel all day otherwise, haha.

  5. Thanks for your write up. We just booked our tickets for next year so it’s great to hear your perspectives as a first timer.

  6. Great overview and first-person account of FinCon! I do so many conferences for other parts of my work and don’t really enjoy them so hadn’t considered FinCon, but your coverage makes me want to go in future years — that’s the hallmark of great coverage! I agree 100% with your point about having a purpose for the conference (that’s true not just for FinCon), and it reminds to think about what purpose I would pick regarding my own blog. Thanks for the prompt! See you at a future FinCon!

    1. I highly recommend going! Next year is in DC, too, which probably means things are going to fill up fast. So don’t wait too long. I already have my ticket to the conference. I hope you decide to go – it’s always good to have new people there!

  7. Nice recap! I also tried to wing it and regret not having more of a plan going in to FinCon. Had the opportunity to meet some great people, but also missed a lot. Sounds like you had a great experience!

    1. Well, I already have my ticket for next year if that tells you anything about the experience I had!

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