Why running out of salt can teach you about budgeting.

I’m a salt-a-holic.

I’m not as bad as my little bro, who salts his bacon hamburgers, but I’m still pretty bad.  I’ll add extra salt to things like, oh McDonald’s fries (which come pretty doused as is), pizza crust, and if you find yourself between me and a bag of those salted-in-the-shell peanuts, well look out.  I’ll not only eat the peanuts and the salty shell, I’ll take down the bag with me too.

So imagine the horror I experienced at about 12:30 AM last week when I got home after a long day, sat down for a little fast food, and found out I was out of salt.

There haven’t been expletives invented to express what I was feeling.

I needed that farkultic salt!  (Farkultic is a new expletive I just invented to describe such a saltless situation as this, by the way.)

But son-of-a-salt-shaker, there was none.

What was worse was that I remembered how just a few days before I had partaken of a local fast food restaurant and grabbed a whole ton of those little paper salt packets (McDonald’s has the best).  And at the end of the meal, there were shockingly a few paper packets left, still filled to the brim with their sodium chloride goodness.  “There are a lot more where those came from,” I thought.  “I’ll be fine without ’em.”  And I swept ’em up, and tossed them away.

Three days later, and I was saltless.

If only I hadn’t wasted those little packets away.  What was seemingly meaningless at the time, now, in my hour of need, when I was desperate, seemed like the holy grail of NaCl.  But it was too late.

What I should have done is apply the same strategy that I do when producing shows, and I would have been fine.

During the early stages of a show, from pre-production up until the last few weeks of tech, I can be pretty thrifty.  Some might call it cheap.  But those folks would be failing to look at the big picture (and we all know it’s a Producer’s job to look at the big picture).  Why am I mindful of trying to save every dollar on the journey towards opening night?  Because I want to make sure I have enough salt left when we really need it.

You see, during those last few weeks of rehearsal, or those final few days of tech, that’s when things happen fast and furious on a show, and that’s where massive amounts of money can be spent.  And that’s when massive amounts of money sometimes need to be spent.  You may need an extra set piece.  You may need more orchestra rehearsal.  You may need a new lead actor.  All of these things may be essential to your show’s success.  Is that when you want to be out of money?

No, which is why you need to mind every dollar before you get there so when your team asks you for something, you can say, “Absolutely, because we’ve saved enough along the way, that I can give you what you need without the show going over budget.”

I’ll even let creatives and staffers know of my strategy early on in the process when I get a request that may seem a little luxurious.  “I’m saying no to this now.  Because I don’t want to have to say no to you later, when you really need it.”

Try it.  I find that it works . . . because it makes sense and saves cents for a saltless day.

Because you never know when it’s going to be 12:30 at night, and you’ve got a plate of bland french fries in front of you.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.