You might hear a lot of warnings about how difficult life is if you work in the arts – and it can be a struggle at times – but one thing you don’t hear about very often is how very lucrative touring can be.
I’m not even talking about being on a super high paying gig. I’d say that if you can reach steady employment even around $500-$700 a week with a per diem, you can make some real financial strides.
Well, the key here is steady employment. If the company you’re working for is putting you up along the way, and you can teach yourself how to live under your per diem (which isn’t that hard to do), you actually have a decent cash flow to either pay off your debts or super charge your savings.
There are a few skills you need to work on though to make your money really work for you.
You need to do everything you can to get rid of paying rent or a mortgage while you’re touring.
New Yorkers in particular are gangbusters at subletting. There are countless Facebook groups dedicated to finding subletters in all areas of the States (again, for New Yorkers, Gypsy Housing comes to mind) and there’s always Craigslist.
If you’re really lucky and you have a good relationship with them, moving back in with mom and dad when you’d really only be living there a few weeks of the year anyway can be a great option (and one I took advantage of for years). Pitch in when you’re home and they likely won’t even mind that you’re there.
If you’ve been touring for a while and feel confident you plan to continue, you can also house hack by living in a cheap area. As long as there’s a big airport within a distance you feel comfortable driving to (and from – after 20 hour travel days from whoknowswhere), you can likely live just about anywhere.
If you do own a house you’re barely in, that seems like a great time for a roommate. Not only do you save on the mortgage, someone is actually in the house to deal with issues that arise while you’re out of town.
Whatever you can do to minimize your recurring housing bills is probably going to make the biggest difference in really killing it while you tour.
Yeah, everyone hates that word. But your budget number is super easy now – spend less than your per diem.
And let’s be real, this is mostly super easy on tour. Do you know how often you get fed? If you’re hotel touring, it’s pretty rare to not get breakfast with your stay (unless you work somewhere super fancy – but most 2/3 star hotels have a breakfast buffet).
You also have a green room full of snacks and a lot of times you might get fed between shows on multiple show days.
I’m just saying, it’s a rare week when I’ve spent all of my per diem – and that includes hanging out with friends after work.
This means that all of the paycheck that hits your bank account can go to:
- Paying Off Debts
- Building an Emergency Savings Fund
- Saving for Retirement
Let me share with you a story of three early/mid-twenty somethings who worked on a cruise ship together. Two of us lived on next to nothing and were turning over nearly every paycheck for about two years to destroy our student loans. One did not take this approach.
Two of us are totally debt free and really financially stable now in our mid-thirties. One is not. Want to guess which one?
And from my point of view, I really wasn’t deprived of much making this choice while traveling the world. I saw tons of the world. I went on crazy adventures. I drank too much and ate tons of local foods. I just made sure I stayed within my per diem/budget.
…I definitely just got Hard Work from Fame stuck in my head for a second.
A key component of this plan also requires that you are re-hireable. So you want to make sure you do a good job on your tour. Every show closes eventually.
It’s a tiny community we have here, that gets a step tinier still in the touring subsection of it. If you do a good job, your name will get around, and you will get more work. If you do a crap job, your name will get around, and –
It’s not that we don’t all mess up sometimes, because we do, but overall strive to make sure you do better than you don’t.
The longer you can tour steadily, the bigger difference it’s going to make in your bottom line. One of the tricks though is to not get in the mindset that you just have tons of “extra” money.
Make your money work for you from day one. Redirect it right into other savings and investing accounts so you don’t get used to the idea of having a super flush checking account. Some companies might even let you make direct deposits into your retirement accounts or emergency savings account. The more you can set and forget the better.
Published in Collaboration with brokeGIRLrich