How to Maximize Business Travel
If you look too closely at your finances you will drive yourself crazy. For example, a constant live feed to the stock market probably isn’t the best idea. I admit I’m guilty of obsessing over numbers, but this outlook will not help long term. Keep your savings rate as aggressive as possible and you'll be fine. But just as life can throw you some curveball expenses, like your 88 Suzuki Samurai locking up and gushing brake fluid, it can also throw you some favors.
In this post I want to focus on some positive things that travel has brought me recently, but things don’t always work out this smoothly. In the future I’m sure I will have negative scenarios to address and promise to never sugar coat the "experiment”. My ultimate goal is to inspire you be on the lookout for creative ways to pad that illusive net worth. Although traveling seems like an inopportune time to save money here’s how I did it and here are ways to apply it to your own situation.
About a month ago I learned that I had to spend two weeks in Ohio at the beginning of February. No offense Ohio, but you're not exactly the winter escape I was dreaming about. So... I wasn't super thrilled about it. Then my little financial formula fixations began to take over and I realized what an opportunity it could be.
For the week I was given a rental car (that’s two weeks without buying gas out of pocket). I would be put up in a hotel. Ideally that should minimize the utilities back home. Even though I can't watch over the thermostat the way I'm all too famous for doing. I was also be given an "allowance" or per diem of $58 a day for 12 days tax free and $82 a day that could only be used towards a hotel.
This is where you can go one of two ways. You can view that as "free" money and blow it on things you don't need. Some wouldn't even factor it into their budget or long term goals. Or you can maximize the opportunity and stick to the financial experiment. Although I love random trips, traveling, concerts, and experiences in general, I chose to maximize. Seeing at that I was in a cold region without friends and no real sites I hadn't already seen, what would be the point of wasting that money? It was time to maximize my resources. Here’s how I did it.
First I looked at the list of hotel options presented to me that where within my $82/day budget. Unlike per diem, whatever money is spent under the $82 is not given to me. Because of that factor, it was important that I find a hotel that gave me the most value (aka hot free breakfast...not honeybuns). After realizing that all the decent hotels in that range were booked, I decided to do something a little outside the box.
I found a hotel that offered not only a breakfast spread fit for a king, but also served a full dinner four nights a week with beer and wine. This option was $90/night so I had to cover the difference out of my per diem leaving me at $50/day, but now I could pack to-go boxes from the meals provided. This way I wouldn’t have to eat out and use my daily budget. Not eating out also gave me a lot more control over my calories because I'm terrible at paying good money for something healthy. Those cheese fries just scream out my name. I actually stopped by a dollar tree and bought a four pack of plastic containers to store leftover breakfast/dinner items provided by the hotel. On nacho night I brought back a plate of lean shredded pork to add some protein to some nice vegetable soup which allowed me to make some healthy choices. A huge plus was all the Greek yogurt and fruit you could ever want.
Not eating out also gave me more time to be productive. Taking masters classes, being in Ohio for a class, and trying to get my Security+ certification meant I was in a huge need for some quality study time but there was one more task that really had me excited. I started the idea several months ago of putting together a blog and accompanying budget tool. I got about 10% done and then just got too busy. So with my newly found free time, I started a blog, wrote my first post and perfected my budget tool for all of my fans...well all two of you. And i’m sure I studied somewhere along the way.
The one weekend I was in Ohio was Super Bowl weekend. I considered all the usual giant chain sports bars but while looking through an events page for Dayton I came across an advertisement for a Super Bowl potluck at American Legion Post 776. I decided that I would rather take part in a community event and assumed I could make a frugal fixin for the party in exchange for food and come out cheaper than the big chain sports bar. I started browsing deals at local grocery stores using the Flipp app and found avocados 3/$1, limes for 15 cents, and guacamole mix for 77 cents. Now I had a large portion Super Bowl snack that I made easily in my hotel room for $2 and access to a nice community watch party with amazing home cooked foods. Just another creative way to get the most out of my trip while keeping the expenses low. .
Now let’s take a big picture look at what I saved while in Ohio. In the end, I took the Ohio trip I wasn’t looking forward to and turned into $600 net income plus two weeks of gas savings for a total of about $640 positive impact to my monthly budget. Instead of wasting the money I was given on eating and drinking alone at a random restaurant, I now have that money for other more exciting adventures. I plan on taking 50% of the $600 to cover a weekend in Keystone — way more fun than middle-of-nowhere Ohio. The other 50% goes into savings because I don’t subscribe to the “free money” outlook mentioned earlier. All in all the once dreaded trip turned out to be a big positive.
There is going to be some days when you back over the mailbox, lose your wallet, or your car breaks down. But there will also be days of opportunity that you can turn into savings and experiences. It is up to you to take advantage of the opportunities when you can to balance out the bad.
Now for the recap:
- Tasked with a two week class in central Ohio in the dead of winter.
- Given $82 a day (only usable for lodging) and $58 a day cash
- Upgraded hotel to include breakfast and dinner for $8 a day
- Gas savings estimated at $40 for two weeks without personal car
- $2 expense in lunch container purchases
- $2 spent towards dish for potluck
- Ample access to healthy food and time to complete blog
Resulting in $636 in my pocket and a sweet new blog for all to enjoy!