Between my third and fourth year of university, I took a sixteen month internship outside of my home city. After spending money on the living costs that came from moving out of town, I managed to take flights home three times during my stay, pay off two years of student loans and save over ten thousand dollars in savings. It’s completely doable – and being away from home for the first time in my life, I didn’t hold back on splurging a little. Here’s how you can do the same.
Look for Affordable Accommodation
The first idea which comes to mind when considering accommodation for a year or more is to rent an apartment or a condominium. That’s anywhere between $900 - $1500 a month, perhaps more depending on where you rent it. Instead, see if you can find a cheaper place to live, such as a basement suite. Many basements are rented out at $500 or $600 a month. During my internship, I lived as a paying guest. I was provided a room and meals for $550 a month. That not only cut my rent, but also drastically reduced my food costs.
Set Up a Pre-authorized Savings Plan
Whether it’s for retirement, or a TFSA (tax-free savings account), make sure you set one up. You can pre-authorize it to save a portion of your money every month, or at specific intervals. By setting this up so that money is transferred to your savings account right after your paycheck arrives, you end up saving before you spend, and reduce the risk of overspending or impulse buying. I set up an savings account which hid away $200 a week, and I saved over $12000 this way.
Travel vs Party
I don’t drink, so it was easier for me to avoid partying and instead choose to explore the city. This option was also far less expensive. A bus ticket to and from, perhaps a ticket to the event or place I was going to go visit (although many places don’t charge tickets), and maybe a lunch in between my day. All in all, it was a lot cheaper than a night of dinner and drinks, and I learned far more about the city and ended up getting a lot more out of my internship experience.
Cook and Use Meal Plans
I can’t emphasize how important cooking your own food is. Though if you’re reading this post, you’ve likely read others and you already know how important this is. What will save you even more is to create your own meal plans. It’s hard cooking for just one person, and harder still when so much of the food you buy ends up spoiling. That’s a lot of money down the drain. Weekly meal plans can help you decide exactly what you are going to eat and exactly what ingredients you will need to buy, preventing impulse buying. Not to mention that you can overlap certain ingredients for different meals, such as a bunch of cilantro or a tomatoes on a vine. Ingredients that you would otherwise only use a little of before they go bad. If you already cook, meal plans can save you up to another $100 a month.
Splurge, but Keep a Budget
It’s fine to spend a little when you’re on internship, especially if it’s the first time you’ve been away from home. However, keep a limit for yourself, and if possible, withdraw the amount of cash you allocate towards “luxury purchases”. Paying in cash will prevent you from overusing your credit card and over-spending. This will also allow you to indulge yourself every so often, while ensuring that your purchases are things that you really want, and not things that provide temporary happiness with a large bill.
Keep some healthy snacks in your desk at work. In university, I was used to eating whenever I was hungry, in whichever class I was in, and switching to the normal work routine with one designated meal at noon was difficult. It also caused a lot of trips to the cafeteria for mid-morning or post-noon snacks. The next time you go to buy groceries, pick up a few healthy treats to keep with you at work. It’ll keep you thin and your wallet fat.
Internship can be a great time to broaden your horizons and gain a brief outlook on what your working life may be after school. If you’re being paid on internship, it can also be a fantastic way to save up for tuition and living expenses. Hopefully these tips can help you reduce that student loan and save a bit of extra money on the side.