I just renewed my MLA membership and registered for the annual meeting in Chicago. While my annual meeting expenses will be reimbursed, my membership is not. Quite frankly it always hurts to see that much money leave my account at one time regardless of whether it is work related or fun like a vacation. I am cheap. My kids know all too well I am always looking for deals or ways to save money.
First: If there is no way on God’s green Earth that you can afford or physically be able to attend MLA in Chicago, seriously consider attending online by registering with the e-Conference attendance. At $120, it is a pretty good deal and is half the cost of one night in the hotel.
Second: Find a roommate. Even though my institution reimburses me, I am asked to find a roommate. I find the majority of the meeting expense is the hotel and splitting it with at least one person helps a lot.
Third: While I love staying at the conference hotel, I also realize that isn’t always an option. Sometimes the rooms are too expensive or sometimes they are sold out. Find a cheaper hotel or go on AirBnB. I found several places to stay on AirBnB in Chicago from $10-$150.
Fourth: Get a conference only registration. This saves about $160 off of the registration price. Now that means you will not be able to attend some of the receptions that include food and networking opportunities. So you will need to figure out your own cheaper food and networking opportunities to make the savings count. Don’t let your conference package savings get lost on the cost of getting meals that the receptions normally would provide.
Fifth: There are a lot of ways to eat well and save money at MLA. Buy snacks and breakfast stuff at CVS, Walgreens, or a nearby grocery store. That food is always cheaper than what you pay for at a restaurant or in the hotel. Go to Sunrise Seminars. Not only are they informative but they often have food. There are also some vendor seminars that are during lunch time that have food. There aren’t a lot of them and they are trickier to find and often require an RSVP in advance. Go to vendor parties for your dinner. I love food, I don’t skip meals and I found I have never gone hungry at MLA and my food budget is very very small. I also have stopped buying snacks and breakfast stuff at the local grocery store. I found I often didn’t eat it because there were other food events for me to attend that sounded more appetizing than my CVS bagel.
Sixth: Apply for a travel award from every section, group, etc. that you belong to. Many travel awards are graded based on the applicants’ need to be at MLA. So submit a paper or poster to MLA to show that you are contributing to MLA as well as needing financial assistance. Obviously it is too late to submit a paper or poster for this MLA, but do it for the next one. If it gets accepted and you still can’t go (btw institutions are more apt to fund somebody presenting) then you can ask to be removed. It sucks but it isn’t the end of the world.
Seventh: Try budgeting a year in advance. I have Browns season tickets…they cost me a pretty penny each year. Every May like clockwork the Browns organization wants their pound of flesh. If I had to come up with that money all at once I would be dead. Instead I have created a Browns account that I put $200 in every month. By the time May rolls around I have $2400 ready to send and while I hate to see it leave my account, I don’t feel the pinch. If people buy my tickets, I direct the deposit to that account. I have also created an MLA account that operates much the same way as my Browns account. I auto deposit a relatively small amount every month into that account and by the time MLA rolls around I am set.
I love going to MLA. Not only do I consider it a professional activity but it is also fun. While it isn’t a vacation exactly, I find I am refreshed and looking at librarianship in different ways….almost as if I was on a real vacation. OK I’m a nerd…I kind of think of it as a vacation.