Financial Advice

When to Save Money vs. Attending a Conference

conferenceYears ago when I worked at newspapers, I rarely had the chance to attend a journalism conference, mainly because my employers couldn’t afford to send me. And if they did have the money, it was usually only for a portion of the costs, such as a registration fee. Hotel, transportation and meals were my responsibility.

At one of the few conferences I did attend, I came back with so many ideas that I implemented that I’m sure my work more than paid for the cost of attending the conference.

But this week — as I’m into my seventh year as a freelance writer specializing in personal finance content —  I’m unable to attend a conference that I’ve attended the past two years that caters to my niche. FinCon, a financial conference for personal finance media, starts today, Sept. 16, in Charlotte, N.C., and I won’t be there.

Most people there are freelancers and work for themselves, so taking time off to attend the conference is probably costing them money if they’re not working during FinCon.

It’s breaking my heart not to be there, and for many reasons: meeting other personal finance bloggers, attending seminars, networking, and best of all, finding new clients.

The reason I’m unable to attend is simple — I can’t afford it.

It’s a reason that many people don’t attend work-related conferences, especially freelancers who don’t have a staff to do their work while they’re gone, or paid time off to attend a conference.

Conference pays for itself

For the two years I’ve attended previously, FinCon more than pays for itself with new clients. Most conferences, I suspect, pay for themselves in tangible and other ways.

But this year for me, however, I couldn’t justify the expense of attending the conference Why? In part due to the successes I’ve had from what I’ve learned at FinCon. After years of writing for other websites, I finally got my own personal finance website — CashSmarter — off the ground in January 2015 in an attempt to write for myself and not others about a topic I’m extremely interested in. As a personal finance writer, it didn’t make sense to just write for others and not for my own website.

Took on 4 sites this year

After attending FinCon14 and getting some advice from some expert personal finance bloggers there, I started CashSmarter. It was tough to build a PF website from scratch and gain readers, so I was on the lookout to buy an established personal finance site that I could write for.

A month later in February 2015, I bought the personal finance website, as an investment and another site to write for myself.

Four months later, in June 2015, I bought two more websites. is another personal finance that I also own and write for.

The other site,, is a parenting site that I bought in June 2015, partly to diversify my sites, but also because I’m a dad and I already write about teaching personal finance to my daughter. FamousParenting curates the best parenting articles online, and I’m trying to figure out how to monetize it.

Still in the red

Of those four sites I started or bought this year, none are making money except for CashSmarter — and that’s because I started the site myself and the initial cost was low. The other three sites are slowly making money, and I expect all of the personal finance sites to be out of the red and making money by the end of 2015. The parenting site will take longer.

The bottom line is that will all of these expenses, including an excellent virtual assistant who helps me run them, and a top-notch tech expert, I can’t afford to attend FinCon this year. I’m often happy to be frugal and save money if I know it will help our family finances in the long run.

But missing this event and all of the costs associated with it — flight, hotel, registration fee, meals, etc. — is one of the toughest frugal choices I’ve ever had to make. Attending FinCon may have helped me more in the long-term, but sometimes I need to consider the short-term implications.

This article by Aaron Crowe first appeared on and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.