Don't Starve. Budget!
Wondering how in the world you'll live on an intern's pay?
We'll show you how to pinch every penny and survive just fine.
So you eat corn flakes or ramen noodles a few nights in a row -
your internship experience will be worth the sacrifice.
There are proven ways to eke out a livable experience as an
intern. But you have to stick to a budget, or you may find
yourself singing for your supper in the subway.
Your internship is secured, you've found a summer sublet, but
let's face it-that internship salary won't allow you to live
high on the hog. Don't worry though-you won't starve, and you
won't be starved for entertainment, either, if you read
Experience's guide to surviving on a budget and still living
like a grown-up.
Being on a budget means you know where your money
goes-all of it. Don't scratch your head and contemplate your
paycheck's disappearing act. Instead, carry a small notebook
with you and record every purchase you make over a month's
time. A pack of gum, a 50-cent newspaper, your daily cup of
coffee, bills-leave nothing out. You may feel obsessive
recording the bag of pretzels you buy from the vending
machine, but doing so will help you create a realistic budget
and see that some seemingly insignificant purchases are
actually small extravagances you can do without. Some other
Withdraw your weekly allowance on a designated day, and
then leave your debit and credit cards in your dresser,
maybe saving one credit card in case of an emergency.
You can also separate your money into envelopes, with food
money in one, entertainment in another. That way you know
what specific portion of your budget you've spent.
Round every purchase up to the nearest $1, $5, or $10, and
keep the remainder in a jar. If you pretend that a $3.50
sandwich costs $5, you will be apt to spend less, as you
will reach the end of your money sooner. Yet you'll still
have a cushion tucked away.
Another man's treasure
Obviously you're not going to invest in new furnishings
if you'll be back in your student digs in three months. But
if you find your environment a little bare, be creative. Many
people throw out perfectly good furniture, especially
students leaving town with a fully packed U-Haul. Find out
where the local college students live, and figure out when
their collection day is. If that doesn't suit you, an air
mattress and milk crates can create a livable bedroom.
Other less tangible things we can't do without-utilities and
transportation-can also strain a budget. If you use public
transportation, do the math and see if a monthly pass will
save you some cash. Other advice:
Carpool if you must commute by car.
Run, walk, or bike to work instead of taking public
transportation or a car (or do this for part of your
commute)-you'll save on commuting expenses and potentially
on a gym membership.
Use heat and air conditioning carefully-turn the heat down
when no one is home, and agree on a comfortable temperature
and keep the thermostat there.
Go out rather than use your air conditioning. Plenty of
public places are kept cool.
Don't get cable TV.
Find the cheapest long-distance rates and limit your phone
Email whenever possible instead of making long-distance
In the "real world," you'll notice that there isn't
always a cafeteria nearby, and you don't have any flex
dollars on your ID card to spend at the University cafe. You
just have to get used to making your own meals-that's what
real people do, and it's always cheaper than eating out.
First and foremost, pack your lunch. Brown bagging may take
some extra time and forethought, but spending $5 on lunch
every workday will cost you a minimum of $100 a month.
When shopping, always sign up for your grocery store's
money-saving card, and scan the store circular for weekly
specials. Comparison shop for the lowest prices, and use
coupons. Many stores offer double coupons-take advantage of
this. Here are some other ideas:
Don't buy food at the corner store where it's more
Buy store-brand items, especially cold medicine and pain
relievers (same ingredients but much cheaper).
Plan meals for the week, and use the same ingredients for
multiple meals. For example, cook a roaster chicken, and
use the meat (which can also be frozen) for tacos, chicken
salad, tetrazzini, sandwiches, etc.
Keep a variety of frozen and canned food available. Freeze
leftovers, meats, and bread; you'll reduce waste and ensure
that there's always something to eat so you don't order in
or eat out.
Stop buying your morning coffee or tea. Either drink what's
provided at work, or bring yours from home in a travel mug.
Also, buy a bag of bagels each week, and eat breakfast at
The world can be a fun place, and every budget should
include room for simply enjoying yourself-just play within
moderation. Most cities have awesome-and FREE-activities all
summer long. Find a schedule of events and go to town. Your
monthly entertainment allotment is yours to spend as you
like, but if you can save enough on fun stuff, you might be
able to treat yourself to some good food once in a while.
Some other advice:
Run, bike, or follow an exercise video instead of paying
for a gym membership. Or see if you can provide a service
(like baby-sitting) in exchange for a free membership.
Go to friends' parties instead of bars.
If you need a vacation (why would you?), stay with friends,
in hostels, or go camping.
Use your public library rather than buying books.
Looking the part
Part of being a professional is looking professional, and
that means new clothes. Even if you work in a casual
environment, chances are you will need some new duds. Here
are some tips to get by:
Never buy clothes at full price-shop sales, off-price
stores, or factory outlets.
Try to avoid "dry clean only" items.
Borrow special-occasion clothes instead of buying a pricey
outfit for a one-time affair. Or "invest" with a couple of
similar-size friends in a few really good outfits or suits.
To sum up, remember: You're not made of money, money doesn't
grow on trees, a dollar saved is a dollar earned, and
everything else your parents told you before handing over
your allowance. Good luck.
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