Tips for traveling electricians to keep more of their per diem
For industrial electricians and commercial electricians, per diem jobs can add to your hourly rate - but only if you plan wisely. Some electricians look for jobs that are posted as per diem, with titles like "Electrician Jobs Per Diem," "Traveling Electrician Jobs Per Diem," or even "Per Diem Jobs" but it's important to talk with the agency rep to make sure you know all the details in advance. Make sure your per diem adds to your paycheck by getting all the information upfront and using smart methods to cut the costs of working on the road. Here are some tips that will help you add these additional funds to your bank account instead of spending them unnecessarily.
Avoid Per Diem Surprises
Work with an ethical agency that focuses on working with commercial electricians, industrial electricians, or PV electricians. They shouldn't be making money on your per diem, but just passing it through to make your pay better while you are on the road. Get the whole deal in advance - that's the kind of respect you deserve as a traveling tradesman. For most jobs, it is very specific to the location, and the specific customer may have a unique per diem offer or restrictions that you need to know about. There may be increases for specific states or locations, or even a hotel provided by the contractor directly.
9 Key Per Diem Money Savers
Here are some of the most important ways that you can keep the per diem in the bank from your traveling electrician jobs, rather than spending it on the road (there are more ideas in the advanced section that follows this). Planning ahead for per diem costs and things like retirement, make your work as a traveling tradesman more rewarding.
- Plan to use the grocery store as your primary source of food. Eating dinner at a grocery store or tailgating is always less expensive than a restaurant.
- If you do want to eat out, consider the happy hour menu, which offers lower food (and drink) prices.
- If you are a seasoned road warrior, you know that the ice chest is a life-saver not only for keeping food available when you want it, but for shopping for food that you can travel and fix in your hotel room.
- Even though you are spent at the end of the day, avoid Uber Eats because the food doesn't taste better and just costs more.
- Choose hotels with free breakfast. While you are at the counter, grab a banana or orange to add to your lunch.
- Skip the case of plastic water bottles - buy larger bottles and use your own travel cup.
- Take advantage of hotel lounge happy hour or manager's receptions. Free food and drinks are always the right price.
- Plan for laundry supplies in advance. Buying any of the soap or other items at a hotel can get to be expensive. You can pack dryer sheets and a few of the dry detergent packs. Or stop off at Walmart or the Dollar Store to buy a cheap jug of laundry detergent.
- Bring your own medicine. Bring with you a few of every over-the-counter medicine you may need to avoid having to buy them on the road. Having things like Tylenol, Aspirin, Allegra, or Aleve, can make travel easier if you need them. Don't forget basic first aid for cuts, bruises or sore feet. They are going to always cost more if you buy them on the road.
Stretching Your Dollar on Per Diem Jobs for Traveling Electricians
For those who already have the basics down, here are some additional ways you can keep the most of your per diem dollars.
Use a Cheap Gas App
One example is Gas Buddy which allows you to find lower gas costs on the road. Some of the price differences between gas stations within the same area can be big money. The GasBuddy App tells you how much the spread is between the cheapest and the most expensive gas stations in the area where you'll be stopping, so you can find potential savings and make a good choice about where to stop.
You can also use the GasBuddy Gas Card and save as much as 25 centers per gallon. You can also use the app's fuel log to track spending for tax records.
Bonus: if you have a credit card that offers rewards based on what you spend, you can allocate a percentage back from buying gas.
Master the Hotel Game
Preplanning your hotel stays is an important way to save money. You don't want to roll in late and have to pay the rack rate. Here is a way to save some money on your stay.
First, book a hotel room that has a good price. There are tons of internet tools that make that easy and fast. The cost savings come in when you check updated prices on the day of arrival. Use one of the online services to see if there are hotels looking to fill some rooms at a discounted price. You can use Hoteltonight or Booking.com to see if lower prices are available than what you planned to pay.
Of course, be sure to cancel the other hotel before you've charged for the stay.
Pay attention to the location of the job site and where you are booking your hotel. Lots of extra travel expense occurs when you have to drive back and forth every day. Having a responsive recruiter can help with some of these advance planning needs - you need someone who has your back and can share details from what other travelers are doing on the site.
In some instances, you may want to consider renting an RV or a Camp Trailer for your stay. Job site, availability of suitable campgrounds nearby all make this a factor. Check out rvshare.com to see what you might be able to find. There will be trade-offs which could include access to laundry, free breakfasts and clean sheets.
Of course, there's also the granddaddy of them all: AirBNB. If you have worked with someone in the past who will be on the new job, you could share a house for the duration of the job. Not to mention, once you get to know people on the job and like them, it would be super affordable to get a house together on AirBNB. And you can enjoy a lot more amenities from AirBNB than a hotel can offer.
How Much Can you Make on Per Diem?
Since every job is different, and the per diem changes every year, a basic calculation can illustrate just how much per diem can add to an electrician's pay. For example, if you get $50 per diem and you spend only $15 a day, it would give you a savings of $35 per day, and over 6 months would have $6,300. A 3-month job would net you $3,150. If that number doubles because you get $100 a day, what you keep will be even larger.
With a little advance planning and the support of a great recruiting team, you can know in advance how much you'll be able to bring home.