On The Road: Save Your Hard Earned Money!

Traveling in the lighting industries for many people is a daily, weekly, or monthly necessity – I am away from my wife, beagle, and cat for the next month, only to come home, do laundry, and hop on a plane for another ten-day week away from my family.  You have to pay rent, right?  You have to work.  Now I am saving up to go to Sweden for a year’s study.  Things are tight.  Time to starting working even harder.

I found myself thinking about all of the things that you can do to maximize your journey and travel’s cost effectiveness.  Do you have tips and tricks that you use to keep the dollar amounts down when you’re paying your own expenses?  Post in the comments – I’d be glad to have your suggestions, and share them for the world!

Some things that I try to do when traveling:

  • If you have a friend in the town you’re traveling to, see if you can’t stay with them.  Do something every day to show that you’re a good guest – Take out the trash, walk their dog if you have time, buy some groceries.  Little things are welcome surprises.  It’s also cheaper than 2-3 weeks in a hotel.
  • This seems like a no-brainer especially if your colleagues are the “everyday-out-to-lunch” type, but if you’re in a situation where you might have a refrigerator or a micro-fridge (like those in some hotel rooms), make a point to buy a few groceries.  Sure, local cuisine is great – but if you’re going to your place of residence either at lunch and dinner, or even just for breakfast, why not save yourself lots of dollars?
  • Airport living – remember that most things are more expensive at the airport.  No, you don’t “need” a shotglass that says “Hawaii” on it, and you don’t need to get a tshirt from every airport you step foot inside.  Have a cup of coffee before you leave the house if possible, eat a meal if you haven’t before you get to the airport.  It’s cheaper.
  • Driving in the car?  Take a cooler!  Pack some sammiches and drinks!  Preplan your snacks so that you don’t have to hit your favorite burger chain on the way to your destination.  My favorite in the car snack is beef jerky – neither terribly cost effective or good for me, but I save on average $3 to $4 by buying a sack of it at the grocery store before I realize I need it at the gas station.
  • Remember this:  when you are hungry, you are more prone to making bad choices on food, and you are prone to getting too much food.  I am anyway, that’s a proven fact.  Try to eat a little something here and there, as smaller meals or snacks help fend off hunger.
  • In most situations, ask yourself “would I buy this/eat this at home if I were doing what I am doing today at home?”  I keep that in mind, because I am not rich and have no disposable money.  I’ve never flown first class (don’t get me wrong, I want the extra leg room, dude!), and I’ve never had more than $15,000 in savings.  This doesn’t mean I don’t want to do these things, but right now you aren’t guaranteed the right to act like your budget is bottomless just because you’re working away from home.
  • My wife is my partner, in life and in business.  We discuss 95% of purchases we make together, and I always think, when dealing with money in a situation away from my business partner, if spending the money on myself benefits or hurts the business.  It’s a good way to think about spending, try it!
  • What about touring?  I have a lot of pals who tour shows.  When you’re making money in a situation that calls for giving you next to no time to spend your money and pays for accommodations and food (in many cases), why are you blowing it away?  I heard the phenomenon of spending ridiculous amounts of money on crap you don’t need called “iPod-Itis.”  You buy a new big expensive thing or stupid amounts of a medium priced thing all the time, and blow your paycheck like that.  You work really hard to come out with nothing.  I worked my rear off on traveling shows I’ve been the lighting director – I wanted to see some benefit of my efforts!

My wife and I were watching Dave Ramsey shows on our DVR for a while – his idea of “live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later,” or something along those lines is a smart idea.  Pay off all of your debts and stash a good chunk of money away each month, and if you have no debts, all of the money (minus Uncle Sam’s cut, of course) is all your money.  Now how many lighting iPhone apps can you buy with money that you don’t owe anyone?!

Seriously though, save your money.  You’re going to need to be frugal if you can do it.  If you suck at it, try harder, give it another shot.  Make a budget, stick to it, behave.  You can do it!