Art & Money Matter Monday’s
Over the past month, we have been blogging about money-saving tips for artists “in transition” from student to working artist and vice versa.  In this blog, I wanted to focus on another important transition that maturing artists face as they become more established and are in greater demand.

Personal Testimony I was preparing to go on national tour with the Broadway musical, FELA! and planning all the items (mostly clothes and shoes) I’d need to make living in hotel rooms feel like home.  Then I realized all my “stuff” had to fit in 2 suitcases and a mid-sized trunk.  Coats and boots too? Huh???  I realized pretty quickly that in packing all that “stuff” I should’ve brought things that would have helped me save money…..non perishable snacks/foods, my NutriBullet, a small crock pot or portable cooktop and small pot to cook a meal or two.  That’s just one of the many lessons I learned on that tour.  But I polled other friends, from different artistic disciplines, who worked regularly and were always on the road.  Here are the top 5 things I learned from them:

  1. Live off of per diem:  Per diem is that lovely little daily allowance that artists get to cover meals or travel expenses while working.  Instead of dining out, buy groceries and store perishables in the hotel room fridge (many hotels have mini fridges available, you just have to ask).  If you have any per diem left, use that to purchase any personal items.  That way you can save more than 50% of your paycheck.  Add it to your Emergency Fund! Pay down debt! Save for retirement!
  2. Save 10-50% of each paycheck: I know too many Broadway performers who’ve have had successful runs and leave the show with little to $0 in savings.  Every paycheck represents an opportunity to save!  Think of it as paying yourself an artist fee before paying anyone else.  Put that savings into a “high” yield savings or money market account where you can access the money rather quickly if needed.  We can’t expect the 5% interest rates of yesteryear but shop around for the best available.  Credit unions and online banks tend to have relatively higher yields than the big named banks. Do a little research to see which credit union or online bank is best for you.  Some key features to think about are:  accessibility to your money; cost, if any, to access your money; rates offered;  # of transactions allowed per month; customer support;  is the bank/credit union insured by FDIC/NCUSIF?
  3. Sublet or rent out your residence:(…if you are often out-of-town)  Whether you own or rent your current dwelling, find someone to take over the full cost (rent/utilities/maintenance fees) of your residence or the portion of the rent you contribute.  If you own your apartment or home, sublet it at a price that not only allows you to recover your costs but also make a little profit.
  4. Negotiate everything in your contract: Payment is not the only thing that is negotiable in a contract.  If you’re not satisfied with the level of pay offered, be prepared to ask for other items like:  more vacation days, fully covered transportation costs, a stipend for meals, sponsored or discounted housing.  The more your contract covers, the less you spend and the more you can save!!!
  5. Manage storage costs: one of the biggest concerns for artists who are often on the move, is storage costs. It’s like paying rent for a place where you do not reside.  So to minimize that cost here are few options: a)sell your biggest items and take the smallest storage space offered;  b)band together with other friends and share the cost of storage space; c)ask a relative or friend if they have space in their basement or attic to store your items.

My mission with this blog is to help artists and creatives feel empowered around numbers and finances.  Please share your feedback and reflections in the Leave A Comment section and click Follow to have weekly posts emailed directly to you.

Tricia M. Taitt