It’s Sunday and I’m headed home from my first ever FinCon. While I had started blogging before the conference in 2017, I wasn’t enmeshed in the community in a real way at that point and didn’t really think about going.
2018, however, was a very different story. I still didn’t go – much because it was all the way in Orlando as well as bad timing with work, but I had met a number of people in person by that point and was friends with quite a few others, so missing that FinCon very much felt like missing out.
I watched the week unfold vicariously thanks to Twitter and Instagram, but it wasn’t nearly the same as being there physically with all the people there. And so I bought a ticket for this year’s FinCon once it was announced, though I still didn’t think I’d be able to go. I figured I could sell my ticket if need be, but at least in the off chance I made it I’d have paid the lowest price.
Over and over again I told everyone I likely wasn’t going, but Military Dollar wasn’t convinced and left space for me in the Airbnb anyway. And finally, just a few months before FinCon, I caved and figured out how to make those days work and bought my plane tickets and let her know I would be coming and staying in the Airbnb with all of them after all. Of course, as she says. And then, if you read Friday’s Frugal Five last week, I even extended my trip a bit longer by switching my flight home at the last minute.
While staying on site can have its perks, I almost always prefer staying in an Airbnb, and MilDollar found an awesome one just a quarter mile away from the conference hotel, which was perfect. And I got to stay with some of my favorites, which meant I was guaranteed at least a bit more face time with them because of it. We packed the space full, with Military Dollar, Reaching for FI, Fiery Millennials, Frugality and Freedom, Poorer Than You, Young FIRE Knight, Financial Mechanic, and myself.
The Airbnb also meant I had access to laundry, which was key once I had switched my flight and was flying Frontier home, which meant my luggage was EXTREMELY limited ($39 for a carry on so I traveled with a “personal item” sized 15L backpack instead). I did two loads of laundry over just three days and four nights, which meant I was able to pack very little and still have clean clothes (especially since DC is hot and muggy this time of year).
If you haven’t stayed in an AirBnB before, I would highly recommend it. We love the flexibility it gives us while traveling as a family – full kitchen, laundry, and extra bathrooms, and it’s usually considerably cheaper than a hotel, especially when you travel as a group. If you’re new to AirBnB, here’s a link for$40 off your first stay.
If it isn’t obvious by now, I clearly went to FinCon to hang out with my friends, not to do much of anything in any kind of “official” capacity. I also set very few commitments in stone so I could be flexible as things unfolded during my time there, and that proved to be a very good plan. I ended up filling my days pretty readily once I was there, but I was able to say yes to a lot of things because I wasn’t overbooked to begin with.
I missed the Wednesday night opening party because I didn’t arrive in DC until 4:45am, and then I had time to crash for another two hours before the opening keynote with Tanja Hester and Ramit Sethi. Courtesy of Military Dollar, I blinged out my badge with some awesome stickers she made, including one of my blog logo (ps she also has a Red Bubble shop with some awesome designs on mugs/shirts/etc and all the profits go back into supporting women’s financial literacy in the Women’s Personal Finance Facebook group).
Afterward, I did attend a FIRE panel – the one organized talk I went to – and finally got to hug Fiery Millennials in real life. You can get to know someone so well online and get so close to them, but there is nothing like getting to spend time with them in real life. That afternoon was the Women’s Personal Finance meetup, and I was absolutely blown away by the number of women who care to hang out and chat. My heart is so full and I am so glad to be a part of such a wonderful community of women.
That meetup is when I got to meet One Frugal Girl for the first time. She is one of the very first bloggers I ever read, back in 2010. She took a hiatus from blogging for a while, but she’s back these days and I’m loving it. As much as I love her blog though, I love that I got to spend so much time in person on this trip.
As she and I were talking with Jamie Griffin about Saturday night, I read her words silently for some many years (I never left a comment until I had a blog of my own). You never know just who is following along and what impact you’re making on others lives, but I promise it is well more than you realize.
At some point that day, I lost my phone charger cord (I think? Or maybe it was Friday? The days blurred together a bit). I ended up begging charges from a whole host of people over the course of the day (especially Moriah and Ms. Zi You) until Stephonee found a charger cord swag from the VA 529 Plan booth and gave it to me. I’m realizing that my level of forgetfulness and aptitude for leaving things places doesn’t always come through here, but alas, this is a very typical sort of experience for me.
I had originally planned to go to bed at a reasonable hour on Thursday after sleeping so little the night before, but I found it too hard to tear myself away from conversations I was having, so I didn’t get to bed until 1AM.
First thing Friday morning was the sustainability meet up organized by Triple Bottom Line FI, and I met a woman there who will be writing another #PrepperFI guest post for me, which was totally awesome. And clearly, the intersection of sustainability and personal finance is my space. Afterward I carved out some one on one time with Jessica from The Fioneers, which was so lovely. We’ve recorded a podcast episode together (not out yet) and have talked a ton, but it was our first time to meet face to face.
At Cents Positive last fall, I never got any one on one time with Sarah from Smile and Conquer, which was my biggest regret from that conference. Group conversations are great, but there’s no substitute for some focused time as well, so I made time to sit down separately with Jessica as well as a few others throughout FinCon (Smart Money Mamas, Mad Money Monster, and Accidental FIRE to name a few).
This worked well enough for me because I’m so extroverted and could talk through back to back conversations the entire three days, but clearly this doesn’t sound fun for anyone who is probably even a bit more introverted than I am. And even so, I felt like I could have used more time with so many people.
Friday afternoon I finally got to ride the DC metro (serious transportation nerd here) with Champagne and Capital Gains and Beau Humphries when we headed down to the Solvable Happy Hour on the roof deck of the W Hotel just down from the White House. The food was AWESOME, the drinks were great, and it was all free, which was even better. After that, Stephonee and I headed back to the conference hotel in time for the Afford Anything / ChooseFI fundraiser party and then the Plutus Awards.
The Plutus Awards
FinCon’s big event Friday night is the Plutus Awards, where winners are announced for a wide variety of different categories within the personal finance space. I was a finalist for two of the awards this year, Best FIRE Blog and Blog of the Year, and I was excited to just get a photo of my blog name up on the screen when they announced the winners.
The first award announced was Best FIRE Blog, and I had just settled into my seat soon before that. I was completely floored when they actually announced my name (as evidenced by my completely shocked face that Modest Millionaires snapped right after I processed what happened). This blogging journey has been incredible thus far and winning a Plutus Award at my first FinCon was absolutely beyond words amazing. I’m still processing it now. (And thanks to Stephonee and Good Life. Better who will be attending Cents Positive in Seattle next month, I will actually be able to get my Plutus swag home even though I was so limited in my luggage space – thank you so much, friends!)
Again, I stayed up far too late on Friday night and didn’t get to bed until almost 2AM. Saturday morning though I headed straight back to the hotel to record an episode of Marriage Kids and Money with Andy Hill. It was the first time I’d ever recorded a podcast face to face, and it was a pretty cool experience. Plus, it gave us some time to chat in person for the first time as well. (It’s live now! Link here)
The rest of the day was a blur of meals and small chats with a whole host of people before the closing party that night. I’d originally expected to leave soon after lunch, so I was especially aware and grateful for the time I had with people after that point.
I follow a number of non-blogger friends online now, especially after Cents Positive last year, and I had commented on the dress of one friend a number of months ago when she posted it on Instagram. She’s in the process of downsizing before heading on an epic adventure and remembered I liked the dress, so she brought it to FinCon as a gift to me. I wore it to the party Saturday night and took it home with me, a physical reminder of how amazing my friends and this community really are.
Saturday night ended on a high note on the lowest level of the hotel, where almost all of my favorites were hanging out in one of the larger spaces. As much as Tawcan tried to convince me that staying up all night would be the way to go, I headed off to sleep by 1:30am before getting picked up for the airport at 5am.
Not Saying Goodbye
While it probably seems like I listed an exhaustive amount of things over the three days I was at FinCon, I could have written twice as much if I wanted to include everything that happened over the course of the conference. And of course, that would also involve tagging at least another thirty or forty wonderful people I got to have conversations with, some the first time face to face and some another hug and conversation of how we’d missed each other. As Josh and I talked at the pool, some of our very best friends are now the people we know through the personal finance community. It’s amazing, but also sad, as we don’t get that face to face time nearly often enough.
I’ve purchased my ticket to FinCon next year, which is thankfully much closer in Long Beach California. I still refuse to say that I’m absolutely going quite yet, but I’ll admit the odds are higher. I’ll also see a number of wonderful women at Cents Positive next month, which reduces the sting of goodbye a little bit for now.
And of course, anyone who comes through Seattle should know by now that they have a standing invitation to hang out with me, be it getting myself downtown via the bus or feeding people at my home (my favorite). The one person I wasn’t terribly sad about saying goodbye to was Purple, as is probably clear to anyone who reads this blog regularly, since I see her at least once a month at home. Just don’t ask me about when she retires and Seattle is no longer her regular home base.
It’s time to go home and snuggle my guys. FinCon was the absolute best, but I miss my little family and as ready to be back with the two of them. Phone calls are good (and videos of the kiddo being excited about me having a “really, really good time with that REALLY BIG trophy” are great), but it’s time to be back to them in real life. I’ve missed them, and husband I am so grateful to you for holding down the fort so well so I can go to these events and really enjoy myself without worrying about how things are going at home.
FinCon Roll Call
The rest of the crew I spent at least some quality time with over the course of three days (please let me know if I missed you! I’m notorious for being bad at remembering everyone when I try and list them out – even people I’m extremely close to, so please don’t take it as being left out!):
First time face to face time:
Have you been to FinCon before? Do you plan to go next year?