#FinCon13, also known as the Financial Blogger Conference, crept up on me suddenly. It was a crazy week at work and at home, and all of a sudden there I was, clutching hastily-packed hand luggage and boarding a shiny plane to the American Midwest.
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Yorkshire anymore.
But I could get to like this place. (This was the view from my hotel room, up on the 14th floor. If you look carefully, you can see a baseball game going on at the back of this picture…)
I go to various digital and blog-related conferences, for work and for pleasure, but FinCon is the first conference from which I have left feeling like I’ve spent a few days bouncing on a giant trampoline in an oxygen tent. On the cheapo red-eye flight back, I fell asleep while writing up my list of takeaways and to-dos. I was energised and exhausted, all at the same time. In truth, I still am.
It is quite a lengthy action list, and I could tell you allllllll about the great talks and breakout sessions. Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income gave me some great ideas to make some changes to the blog homepage to make it easier for first-time visitors to navigate the site. Shannyn from Frugal Beautiful had tip-top pointers for a media pack to attract new advertisers and sponsors. David from Money Under 30 gave a great coding tutorial. I managed to give my own talk without mixing up the slides or toppling the water jug. But shucks… I’m not sure you really want to hear about all this stuff.
So instead I’d like to focus on my biggest takeaway, or “learn”, from #FinCon13. It isn’t about blogging, as much as it is about living and doing.
On the plane on the way over, a couple of things happened. Firstly, I realised that although it felt like I knew lots of people there, I didn’t really. I have chatted with people on Twitter and a couple of forums over the years, but the only fellow attendee I actually knew in person was my friend and fellow UK blogger, Maria from The Money Principle.
Secondly, I whipped out my Kindle -preloaded with discounted books and 99p
historical romps bestsellers, as per my recent post – and read a book by James Altucher called Choose Yourself. I don’t usually read personal development books, but this one jumped out at me after I read the free first chapter. It reads differently. He writes differently. The book struck a chord. Anyway, I read the following lines:
Only think about the people you enjoy. Only read the books you enjoy, that make you happy to be human. Only go to the events that actually make you laugh or fall in love. Only deal with the people who love you back, who are winners and want you to win too. This is a daily practice.
I fell to thinking about loops, and the idea that what you give is what you get back. I wouldn’t describe myself as the most outgoing person in the world, but it hit home that by catapulting myself over the Atlantic and out of my comfort zone (not least because I was away from Thrifty Baby for the first time), it was down to me to get the most out of my time away.
So I bloomin’ well did.
I made some great new friends like Daniel from Bills.com, Jason from Phroogal and Jeremy from Pierry Interactive, with whom I went for dinner on the first night of the conference. Phroogal, by the way, is worth checking out: it’s a crowd-sourced financial information site, which is soon to launch following a successful crowdfunding campaign. Go Jason! (He’s just raised $78,000.) The second night I went for speed dinner with Tonya from Budget & the Beach and Michelle from Shop My Closet, before heading off to an Ignite event at a nearby bar, where speakers including Maria had to give talks lasting exactly five minutes, with 20 slides.
It was also good to meet bloggers with whom I have chatted online or whose blogs I have followed for years. They included Glen from Free From Broke, Maggie from Square Pennies (a formidable Pinner), J. Money from Budgets are Sexy and Elle from Couple Money. Ah, so good to put real-life faces to those eeny-weeny Twitter profile pics.
I (finally) made a video!
On the first day I attended a multimedia meetup, where a group of us played around with video cameras and mikes for the afternoon. Now you may have noticed that since the new Miss Thrifty site design launched, there has been a link to my YouTube channel at the top of every page. And what, until now, would you find there? Naff all, apart from a couple of videos I favourited ages ago in which people remove dents from their cars with hairdryers and condensed air.
Here I am, finally taking the plunge. I thought it would be fun if a group of us contributed our top money-saving tips – and there are certainly some good’uns here. This debut video on the shiny new Miss Thrifty YouTube Channel guest stars Amanda Grossman from Frugal Confessions, Steve Stewart from MoneyPlan SOS, Kristie Howard, Dustin Hartzler from Your Website Engineer, Jackie Beck from The Debt Myth, Lance Cothern from Money, Life & More, Derek Knight from Free At 33, his lovely wife Mandy from Lemonade CEO, Michael Taylor from Household Budget Coach, Brooke from Rakuten Linkshare and last, but certainly not least, Kraig Mathias from Young Cheap Living.
Having avoided popping my video cherry for ages I have now found that, like Pringles, once you do pop you can’t stop. A couple of days after returning to the UK, I filmed a video about the thrifty (and not so thrifty) make-up I use. That will be going up on the Miss Thrifty YouTube Channel soon… and after that? Let’s see. If you are a brave soul, you can subscribe by visiting the link at the top of this page. 😉
Looky: it’s Antoinette from Extreme Couponing!
At a get-together organised by Shannyn from Frugal Beautiful, I got to hang out with some terrific bloggers including Amanda Abella, Erin from Red-Debted Stepchild, Sofia from Caviar & Quarters and Michelle from Making Sense of Cents.
At the same meetup I also met Chicago blogger Sister Save-A-Lot, also known as Antoinette from the American TV show Extreme Couponing.
Now regular readers will know that I am a huge fangirl of this programme, which features some of the smartest shoppers on the planet shoveling their supermarket shops through the checkouts for next to nothing. That show has a very, very special place in my heart – not least because couponing is a much bigger thing in the States than it is here. Antoinette kindly agreed to be interviewed on Miss Thrifty, so expect to see more of her couponing prowess soon. (And if you have any questions for her, just let me know…)
Whew! This post is taking an age to write. And I have only just got to the part that I like best of all: the fact that all the enthusiasm and ideas I picked up at FinCon didn’t end when the conference did. Instead, the flight home was just the beginning. On the last night I met a lovely blogger called Jana, who organises the Bloggers Helping Bloggers mentoring group. I signed up to be a mentee, and Jana has since paired me with Aaron from Three Thrifty Guys, who is awesome. Last week we chatted over Skype and this week we are working through various ways in which we can make this site better for readers. It’s a six week programme and after that, I’m going to be a blog mentor.
One of the very last people I met before heading for the airport on the Sunday morning was Joe from the popular Stacking Benjamins podcast. Joe has since invited me to join a blog mastermind group with which he is involved. This is a regular Google hangout of about five of us, in which we discuss various blog-related challenges, ideas and workarounds. I know it sounds geeky, but this is particularly exciting for me: nerding out like this about personal finance-related blog stuff isn’t something I really get to do up here in my North Yorkshire nook.
So did I get the most out of #FinCon13? I think I did…and then some! Plenty of changes on the way, and some interesting times ahead…
Night night #FinCon13.
I’ll be back next year. Thanks to Phillip of PT Money for organising my favourite conference EVER.