5 Tips for Saving Money During an Unpaid Internship

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Starting and finishing an internship is something that can be pretty difficult for the average college student. On one side, this internship will allow you to gain ever-important experience working and helping out at a company that corresponds with your chosen future profession, but at the same time, it has its downsides. The most obvious downside to interning is obviously the fact that you are working with getting paid. Even though you are getting valuable experience, course credit and a good addition for your resume, trying to make ends meet while volunteering your time without pay can get pretty nerve-racking. In the end, surviving a stint as an internet will teach you valuable lessons, not only related to your profession, but also lessons in life, time management and money management as well. Here are five tips that can help you to survive your tenure as an intern without starving or having to beg your parents to send money every month.

Create a budget and stick to it

Creating a budget is something that you most do. If you have been living on campus for a while already, then you should probably know a little something about planning your finances and

getting by with the little money you either earn or get from your parents. If you are just now becoming somewhat financially independent, then you need to learn how to not only plan a budget out, but most of all, stick to it.

First you need to make a list of the money you have at your disposal. You can either do this on a monthly or weekly basis by calculating how much money you are getting from your parents, student loans, stipends, or perhaps a part-time job that you are managing to fit into your schedule along with the internship. Now calculate the cost of rent, food, utilities, transportation, and whatever else you need to spend money on over the course of the week or month.

Delegate your finances to all these areas without going over your budget limits and try to stick to this budget plan every month. Not only will you save money this way, but you will also be learning an important lesson in financial responsibility that will help you throughout your life.

Leave the car at home

Now that you have a budget planned out and you know how much money you are working with, you can start to think of ways in which to save money on your necessities. The more money you save on your bare necessities, the more you will have to spend on entertainment and perhaps buying yourself something nice every now and then.

One of the best ways to save a lot of money as an intern is to leave the car back at your parents’ house. If your internship is close enough to walk or bike to – do it. You are not only saving a lot of money that way, you are also getting some great exercise in the process. If the internship is too far away, then consider taking public transportation instead of driving.

One great thing about public transportation is that most schools have some types of deals with the public transportation companies that give students discounts. If you cannot use public transportation either, at least try to find someone who you can carpool with and split the cost of gas with. If you are driving 20 or more miles to and from your internship every day by yourself, you will end spending way too much on transportation for someone who doesn’t have a lot of money coming in regularly.

Hide your credit cards

Using credit cards when you have no cash in your wallet is one of the most tempting pitfalls for college students. In fact, credit cards rely on you to do this, which is why they offer you credit cards as soon as you turn 18. To avoid the temptation entirely, take your credit cards out of your wallet and hide them away.

Don’t fall into the trap of buying everything on credit because in the long run, you will end up paying double the price once you’ve paid off all the interest. It’s alright to have one credit card with you for absolute emergencies, but keep all your other ones far from sight in order to avoid the temptation of reaching for the plastic when you are out of cash.

Brown-bag your lunch

It sounds cliché, but it really does save you a pretty penny. Eating out every day can cost a fortune, even if you are eating fast food – not to mention that eating like this every day is bad for your health. When you are packing your own lunch you are not only saving a lot of money, but you are also making sure that you are eating well every day. Buy some toast and cold cuts, your favorite fruits and vegetables, a 6 pack of your favorite beverage and some snacks – you’ll cut your lunch costs in half this way. Coffee is something else that working people spend a lot of money on. Cut down the trips to Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks and brew your own in the morning or wait until you get to the office and then have some from the break room.

Take advantage of your free time
Even though interning does ultimately provide you a great look into the professional world and some real experience at the workplace, let’s be honest – there’s a lot of free time to be had. Most interns are not working on anything serious and are mostly serving as assistants to the workers. In between making coffee and copies, you will probably spend a lot of time mulling around the office or sitting at your desk and doing nothing in particular. There are ways to use this free time on the job wisely.

The Internet is a great place to not only make some extra money, and do something constructive with your time. For example, you can start a blog about something – perhaps about interning – and update it regularly. Blogs can not only be valuable as personal journals, but they can also be very profitable if you gain a significant readership. You can also spend your free time doing online surveys or other things that student commonly do online for some extra money. What’s most important is that you use all of your free time effectively.

By following these tips, you will be able to not only learn from the unpaid internship and the work experience you are gaining, but you will also gain a lot of important lessons about life and managing your money and time as a young individual gaining independence from the support structure of a family and become a full-fledged adult.

Janice Blythe is a longtime contributor at the CometDocs blog. Her interests as a blogger include new media, technology and careers, among other things.