Let me just say, going to a conference in your niche is always a good idea. I would have liked this even if it weren’t put on by the amazing Taylor family (seriously, I love that whole family — those girls! Phil’s wife! Even his mom was there to help!), but I’m glad that’s just a hypothetical, because he’s gotten GREAT at this whole “putting on a financial conference” thing. He took everyone’s suggestions from last year and truly made my time in St. Louis one of the most productive, laid back, and fun four days of the year.
Wednesday, October 16
I flew from Portland to Denver, bought a Quizno’s salad ($8) at the Denver airport, then flew from Denver to St. Louis. I arrived in St. Louis in the 10:00 hour and took public transportation ($4) to the hotel. Arrive around 11:30, and woke up awesome roommate, who is not feeling well. Sleep.
Cost for Wednesday: $12
Thursday, October 17
Roommate is gone when I wake up, and I realize I have most of the day free. Gloriously unscheduled time. I tweet at the man of many names to see if he wants to come have breakfast with me. He says he ate, but he’d be happy to join me. I find him downstairs with someone who is interested in talking business, but isn’t fazed by my appearance. In fact, I’m invited to join, and could he buy me breakfast? Sure!
The guy is from PenFed, which is a credit union I know from my DC days. I’m a firm believer in the credit union movement, so I enjoyed talking with him very much. As an aside, if you’re not a member of a credit union, you could be missing out on some money. We can talk about this another time, but think about it. Non-profit financial institutions don’t really make sense, except for the consumer, who is treated like a member, and given things like low interest rates and reimbursed ATM fees and interest on a checking account.
J.D. was down at breakfast too, so I was able to sit and chat in a small group. I soaked this up, because I knew that there would be much bigger groups later.
Around noon, Carrie texted me to see where I am and what I’m up to. Did I want to go up in the Gateway Arch? You bet I did! We met up with Kim and Sofia and Travis and Vonnie and headed over. We lost half our party when they realized they’d have to pay money ($10) to be claustrophobic, but it was one of the best things I’ve done. I mean, the Arch isn’t a building. But it is. With an elevator that ping pongs back and forth until it reaches the top. And an observation deck on top.
It was pretty rad.
I parted ways with those friends — they were headed to a late lunch, but I’d eaten what felt like a dozen eggs, so I wasn’t hungry. Plus I told Harlan I’d help pack the backpacks of magic for that evening’s awards. Yes, of course I offered because I’m nosy! I wanted to know what was in those backpacks I’d been dreaming about for months. We set up an assembly line, and I joked back and forth with Crystal and Jason, who are both pretty funny. Miranda, of course, is a wonderful, professional, calm person. You can tell by looking at her that she could be trusted with your secrets. I bet too many strangers tell her their secrets.
We went to rehearse for the evening’s awards, and Tonya came to join us. She was so awesome to help at the very last second, and later that night we presented awards together. But first, we met up with Joe and some other folks at the downstairs bar for happy hour ($10).
The Plutus Awards
I did not win a Plutus Award. But! It was an honor just to be nominated. Seriously. Thanks, friends!
There was an after-party with drink tickets and a bajillion people to meet, or meet in person for the first time. I ended up in the back corner of a table, which suited me just fine, since I got to talk to Andrea, who I met over the summer at WDS. That woman is amazing. My favorite quote of hers came later, when she said, “don’t undervalue yourself. I cannot pay my mortgage with chips and snacks, so I do not work for free.” Powerful, right?
Thursday’s cost: $20
Friday, October 18
If you want to buy a virtual pass, you can do that here. It’s my affiliate link, just FYI, so if you click it and buy a virtual pass (which I still need to do!) I get some money. No chips or snacks, though. The price for a virtual pass is $79 if you did not attend the conference, but $10 if you did. Well worth it, either way. I’m certain you can find enough value in the tactics to more than cover your cost.
Keynote speakers were Pat Flynn and Jean Chatzky, who were both excellent. Pat’s keynote was interesting, because I wasn’t expecting to have solid takeaways. But he definitely delivered. Also he’s so likeable that even his dorky entrance was endearing. Not many people could pull that off! Jean’s talk was about the tenacity to do what you want even when people tell you it’s impossible.
There were sessions, too! Three tracks this year — beginner, intermediate, and advanced — and an additional “Success Stories” room filled with inspiring tales of people not so different than the rest of us who have somehow made it big.
I talked about the importance of voice and story when it comes to blogging. What makes you unique is not the amount of debt you’re in, or what you financed, or the fact that you reached financial independence at a young age. What makes your blog compelling is how you react to the things life throws at you. Also, keep writing. It can take months to develop your voice.
I didn’t go to Ignite, because I was exhausted. When there are parties three nights in a row, I knew I just had to make a decision. Instead, Jen, Cathy and I walked over to a sponsored happy hour for some free food and drinks. Then Cathy and I watched part of the Cardinals game and went to bed early.
Friday’s cost: $12
Saturday, October 19
More sessions, which were great. A boxed lunch. In the afternoon, Cathy joined me for a slow 5 mile jog (slow for her, I was panting like a puppy!) then as I was headed in to hear the keynote, I saw Tonya and Kim, who were headed to happy hour. I changed my mind about the keynote right then and there, and sat and relaxed with them at this cool wine bar.
I ate dinner ($21) with them, then walked over to meet some of my family (who just happened to be in St. Louis the very same weekend!) at the City Museum, where we climbed around and talked and caught up on gossip. That was an amazing break that I didn’t know I needed until after they dropped me off at the after-party.
I suppose I got to the after-party somewhat late because I’d only been there half an hour before they called last call for our party, and people were heading to the after-after-party. I spent some time with Jeff and Mandy, who are so adorable and have found great success on the internet. I really wanted to hate them, but they were too nice! :)
Speaking of nice, I walked over to the next party (Frugal Portland does NOT recommend taking a cab five blocks!) with J and Nate. The party was in a brewery, I suppose, but the dance floor was recessed and in a cage. “Are they cage dancing?” Yes, they were. We stayed 15 minutes and walked back to the hotel, where I sat with Joe and Pete and some woman who did not like me and talked into the wee hours of the 2am.
Cost for Saturday: $21
Sunday, October 20
Big breakfast with eggs and bacon and fruit. Said goodbye to too many people. I felt equal parts sad that it was ending and ready to be home. It was an odd combo, actually!
Jen and Shannyn and I spent about 20 minutes checking out (my share of the room split three ways was $208 for four nights) due to some complicated math. Then we walked around and took pictures. St. Louis in the fall is extremely photogenic.
We sat in the lobby after walking around, when Pete told us about a fancy room on the 17th floor with snacks and drinks and a great view.
That’s where I spent the rest of the afternoon. Erin joined us for a bit, then we left the lap of luxury and headed straight back into real life, taking public transportation (free for me since J.D. gave me his 7-day pass that I would be willing to bet was highly underutilized!) to the airport, eating another Quizno’s salad ($8) and flying back home.
Cost for Sunday: $216
Cost for the flight: $290
Transportation to/from the Portland airport: cost of being in a relationship ;)
Total Cost for FinCon: $571
Add $175 if you’re not a speaker, and $2 if you don’t get someone to give you their MetroLink pass.
Here’s another chance for you to buy a virtual pass. It’ll be worth it.