The countdown is on. Students from all over the world will migrate to large metropolitan areas over the next few weeks to start their dream internships. Some of these are going to be paid internships, while others, unpaid. Regardless of the pay, they all have one thing in common: the need to budget.
I was an unpaid intern – in fact, I had 15 unpaid internships when I was in school (hence the title, Intern Queen). I understand the need to budget, the need to get all of your ducks in a row, and make sure you can actually afford what’s happening over the summer. The summer internship was hands-down the best time of my college life. I had the privilege of interning for some of the best companies in the world, making friends from all over the country, and being independent in a large city for the first time. With each internship experience, I learned more about my personal and professional goals and myself. These internships were priceless but the summers could bepricey. Below are some tips that I used to budget for my internships, many of which can help you prepare for yours!
1. Get a Part-Time Job.
If you have an unpaid internship this summer, it should only require 12-15 hours per week. You should be able to simultaneously manage a part-time job. The easiest part-time jobs to land are waiting tables (in the evenings after you internship and on the weekends) or working at a small boutique (on the weekends or on days off). I’ve also had friends pick up secretary jobs or lifeguarding jobs over the summer to help pay for things.
2. Make a Budget.
If it makes sense on paper, it can make sense for your summer. Make note of how much you are getting paid from your internship (if anything) or how much you’ve saved up over the school year for the summer. If your family is giving you any money towards the summer, make note of that as well. Then, write down all of your expenses (rent, food, gas – if it applies, subway tickets, entertainment, etc.). Determine how much extra money you need to raise on your own to make ends meet. That will help when trying to figure out if you need a part-time job or not.
3. Say No, If Necessary.
When you are an intern, you make a ton of new friends. These intern friends are going to want to hang out all of the time. It’s so important that you have an understanding of your budget so that you can say no when needed. If they are going to a super expensive restaurant or an ultra trendy bar where you know the drinks are going to cost an arm and a leg –sayno! Another option is just to eat ahead of time at somewhere affordable and go to the dinner for the company. Do what it takes to stay within your budget.
4. Look for Deals.
When making plans, look for the deals. Look for bars with no cover charge, restaurants that have specials, and buy supplies for wherever you are living in bulk. You are independent this summer and need to make smart decisions.
5. Put a Cap On It.
We talked about creating a budget. I also suggest you put a cap on what you will spend over the summer. You don’t want to empty your bank account in one summer. Pre-determine the maximum amount of money you will spend so that you can make decisions around that. If you hear about something that sounds fun but will wipe out your account – refer to point #3 – just say no.
What are your best tips for getting by as a paid or unpaid intern?