Budgeting Your Movie

For an actor, New York is one of the best cities on earth. It’s also one of the most expensive. Professionals in the business suggest saving three months’ worth of expenses before moving here, particularly if you don’t yet have a job or a place to live. (When budgeting for an apartment—likely the single biggest expense—you will probably need to amass five times your monthly rent, because of up-front costs such as a security deposit and broker’s fee.)
To get a rough idea of how much it costs per month for an actor to live in New York, Back Stage surveyed the expenses of five actors and averaged them out. Not included in the total are moving expenses, health insurance, taxes, and savings—all of which will push your total higher.

A caveat: Actors are a varied lot. One actor’s monthly total came to less than $1,400; another’s was almost $3,700.

Rent: $950
Groceries: $325

Transportation: $89
(one actor said he spends
an additional $40 a month
on cab fare)

(gas/electricity): $45
Cable/Internet: $70

(cell and landline): $100
Clothing: $80

Dining out/
entertainment: $200
Laundry/dry cleaning: $120

Acting classes/voice and
dance lessons/coaching: $360
Mailings/post cards: $125

seminars: $50

Online casting services: $25

sheet music: $25

Headshots: $500-$750
(this is an infrequent
expense, although many
actors get new headshots
soon after moving to
New York)

Prints: $300-$500 per year
(in the digital age,
there is less demand
for them, but they’re
still necessary)

Total average
monthly expenses: About $2,500,
not including health
insurance, taxes,
and savings

What you need to move here: $10,000

How did we get that last number? If your average monthly expenses are $2,500, multiply that by three months and you get $7,500. Add two months’ rent ($1,900) for up-front housing costs and you get $9,400. Factor in incidentals—and our penchant for round numbers—and the total is $10,000. If you want new headshots after you arrive, figure an additional $1,000.
How can you lower that number? Several ways: Find a roommate and maybe your rent will be in the $500–$750 range. Get rid of several expenses, such as the cable and the landline, and hold off on classes and new headshots for a while. By cutting other expenses in half, you can lower your nut to about $1,300. With incidental costs, maybe you need only $4,500 to get to Gotham, less than half the original total.

Whatever you decide, plan a realistic budget before you come, and talk to as many New York actors as you can. (The message boards on BackStage.com are a good place to start.) After all, it’s not just about moving here; it’s about staying here.