Touring is one of the best ways to make money in theater. Your per diem is nontaxed money in addition to your salary which you can use any way you want, which means you can bank the extra each week. Here are my tips for maximizing your per diem so you can add to your salary each week:
- Get a roommate
Hotels on tour are already pretty cheap with the group rate. But if you get a roommate and split the cost, the room is even cheaper and can save you $350 that week. If you’re not a fan of the double beds, consider getting a 2 bedroom in extended stay accommodations like a Residence Inn or the Oakwood in LA. The room rate might be more expensive but if you compare it to the studio rate, it might actually work out to be less and you’ll still have your privacy.
- Stay in the Cheapest Option
Obviously, choosing the cheapest option is your best bet to save you money. If you’re on a Production Tiered tour and the options are around the same price, it might seem like either option is good EXCEPT when you consider the Housing Cap (which is paid out every 13 weeks). The cheapest option is this case will actually save you even MORE when you add in each night you stay there.
- Shop Around
In some cities, tours have a hard time finding affordable options. So try AirBnb or even other hotels and you might find a great deal. AirBnb has so many options and if you really want to save money, considering sharing a room or getting your own room instead of the whole place to yourself. My friend paid off her mortgage by sharing rooms for $40/night.
- Stay with Friends and Family
This is really the cheapest way to save money. Even if you have to travel 30 minutes, your rental car will still be cheaper than a whole week in a hotel.
- Always get your points
ALWAYS add your rewards points. Even if your hotel is paid for by the company. This will come in handy when you want to take your own trips or even if you want to redeem points for a closer hotel, etc. plus you’ll gain status very quick which means upgrades and free things like bottled water and snacks. Don’t forget to add your frequent flier miles to your flights too!
- Get a travel credit card
There are so many options when it comes to travel credit cards but the one thing that they have in common is extra points when you pay for hotels, flights and even gas stations. If you’re pretty loyal, a specific hotel or airline is a good bet otherwise the Amex Platinum or Chase Sapphire are good general travel cards and come with great perks as well.
- Go to the Grocery Store
Food is the #2 expense to your per diem. If you want to save money (and your waistline), consider taking a trip to the grocery store the first day you arrive in each city. You’ll save a lot of money if you can get creative with the microwave or even just for snacks. If you’re a big drinker, consider getting your booze here rather than the hotel bar. Trader Joe’s is one of my favorites as all locations are consistent and their frozen products are easy and delicious.
- Don’t go to the bar
This might be one of the hardest things to do on the road as theater people, especially stagehands. But how many times have you gone out and ordered rounds of shots for everyone and ended up with a $100 bill at the end of the night? You can be just as social grabbing your alcohol from the 7-11 and drink in the hotel lobby as you are at the bar and it will save you a lot of money.
- Don’t forget to budget!
I have been a huge culprit of being a little irresponsible with my cash and avoiding a budget but it can save you a lot if you keep a budget and watch where your money is going.
- Invest the rest
The best way to maximize your money is to invest it. If you have extra per diem, this is the perfect time to invest or even better, add to your retirement account. You’ll be grateful for it later.