Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Allison Pittman gives us more suggestions to save for conference!

Your F*R*E*E* Conference
Part 3

Everybody agrees: the surest road to publication begins at a writers conference. But between the conference fees, travel expenses, and little extras along the way (at least one new outfit!), you might have to pay a pretty toll to travel that road. So, if you’re wanting to go to a conference, but you’re not sure how you’ll fund it, let me introduce you to the concept of the FREE conference. For the next four weeks I’ll share my tried-n-true methods for paying for your conference without robbing your family.

F= “Free Money”
R= “Reconsider the “Must Haves” in Your Life
E=Earn a little on the side. I’m at least 2 months behind on my current manuscript, but the other day I left the laptop at home and drove out to a lovely private Christian school where I spent the day grading essays, watching 2-actor skits, and listening to speeches. Why? Because at the end of that day I walked away with a check for $75. You see, I was a judge for a TAPS competition. I’ve got a gig at another school next week. Schools, public and private, hold these competitions throughout early spring, and the sponsors need people to judge the contestants. Don’t get me wrong. It’s an exciting, rewarding day, and I love to see the kids. But the money isn’t bad, either.

Even if you already have a job, you probably have pockets of time and overlooked resources that could bring in a few extra bucks. Academic contest judging isn’t always readily available, but there are loads of other options…
Re-connect with your inner teenager. Think about it, how did you earn money when you were in the school? Babysitting, mowing lawns…Those of you with little ones might not see this as an attractive option, but if you’re an empty-nester, or the parent of your own teens, there’s probably some lovely young couple who would love to employ you so they can have the all important date night. I know when my kids were young, a babysitter with experience and a driver’s license? Pure gold.
SSS…Sell Some Stuff. The almighty yard sale is always good for a few bucks, especially in this economic climate where everybody’s looking for a bargain.
If you have a job that offers overtime or extra shifts, go for it!
Think seasonal. Some of the big conferences are in the fall, leaving the intervening months to explore the world of the summer job. Yes, it might be tedious and monotonous. Yes, you’ll be looking at minimum wage. But think of the wealth of potential new story ideas that might await!

Who knows? This might be enough to fund the entire conference? If nothing else, combined with the other suggestions, you should be well on your way!

Your F*R*E*E* Conference
Part 4

F= “Free Money”
R= “Reconsider the ‘Must Haves’ in Your Life”
E= “Earn a Little on the Side”
E= Estimate how much of your income you can reasonable devote to this endeavor. I’m not recommending a particular percentage—every family is different. Different incomes, different expenses. But you need to look at the conference total, including fees, meals, lodging, travel. Add a couple of hundred dollars for “extras,” and that’s the number you have to work with. How does that feel? Easy? Scary? Impossible?

Last semester I taught a class at UTSA. Every day on the way to my office area I walked past a Taco Cabana, a Starbucks, a Panda Express, two soda machines, a Gyro shop, a bookstore, a little office supply place, and a little snack shop. Oh, daily temptation. Oh, yeah, and Chick-Fil-A. And a SubWay. I am not a person who’s real good at self-control, so I needed a different strategy to keep myself from gaining a thousand pounds. So, every week I put $10 in my bag, and left my actual wallet locked up in my car. At the end of the week, that $10 went into my underwear drawer cash stash, and I put a new one in my bag. Week by week I proved I didn’t need to spend that money, but it was always available. Some of you need to save $5 at a time. Some of you can do $50. Keep it in a special pocket of your wallet or in your car’s glove box. Each bill on its own doesn’t do much, but saved up over time…that’s a lot of breakfast tacos!

Look, things come together in God’s timing. You want to be able to go off to conference with a feeling of financial security. Not coming back to a mountain of debt. Not with a family made vulnerable by taking funds away from their needs. Not with a neglected tithe or unpaid bills. My goal is to have a little stash of cash that has been set apart for purpose of the conference. Money that otherwise might not exist at all in your underwear drawer. (or, you know, wherever) If that’s this year, great! If it’s next year, great! God will meet you where you are.

No comments: