Making the Most out of Your Unpaid Summer Internship

The unpaid internship is the biggest conundrum of your college career. On the one hand, it offers invaluable experience that could help you find a job once you graduate. But on the other, you don’t get paid!

A whole summer without earning cash is hard when you’re already shouldering some of the biggest student debts on record. But it’s possible.

To help you survive with your finances intact, check out this list before your first day. These money-saving tips can help you make it to the fall semester with some money left over.

Search out cheap digs

In the ideal world, your internship is somewhere close to your parents’ house, where you can live for free. But in the event the commute is too far, you need to find somewhere affordable to live.

It’s hard to find a sublet on a broke student’s budget. If you’re struggling to find something, check in with these alternatives:

  • People you know.Check to see if you have family, friends, or friends of friends willing to put you up.
  • Although designed for short-term stays, this site might connect you with a host willing to open their home to you for a month or two.
  • As long as you’re willing to sleep in the same room as 10 other people and share a bathroom, you can save a lot of money by staying at a hostel long-term.
  • Local universities: Plenty of colleges open up their dormitories during the summer at lower prices for visiting faculty, students, and people like you.

Meal plan like a professional

While you can cut out most other “frivolous” spending during the summer, food is one of those staples you can’t live without.

Plenty of students survive off ramen and the occasional slice of pizza, but you can do better than this without spending a fortune. The answer is in meal planning.

Check out Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap. Brown created this free cookbook to help people living on food stamps — which gives you just $4 to spend on food each day. Besides a ton of recipes, she shares special tips on how to shop on a tight budget.

Find free money

There’s no such thing as free money, or so they say. But this general rule may not apply to students. Every year, millions of dollars in scholarships, bursaries, and other awards go unclaimed.

Best of all? You won’t have to pay anything back if you win something. The only “price” to pay is the time it takes to search and apply for these scholarships. For that, we think it’s worth it.

Use a budget

A good rule of thumb when making a budget is to be as accurate as possible, so don’t fudge any numbers. Be as precise as you can be, using official invoices, transcripts, and contracts to fill out the basics.

Once you have a good idea of how much your internship will cost, compare it to what you have in terms of savings, bursaries, and leftover student loans.

If you don’t have enough to cover the bare bones of your budget, review your budget to see if you can change anything. For example, if you live relatively close to your internship, you can walk or bike to work instead of paying for transit or gas.

Try tweaking your expenses before you search out a personal loan. There are lots of reasons to get a personal loan when you’re on a tight budget, but paying for an anticipated expense isn’t one of them.

Online short term loans like lines of credit and installment loans are ideal for unexpected emergencies — like if the bike you use to get to work gets stolen, not if you can’t pay your rent every month.

Proactive thinking like this can help you get through your internship with some money left over. But hopefully, it doesn’t come to this.

Your internship is a fantastic opportunity to gain as much experience as possible. So make sure your finances are ready for the ordeal. Once you have your cash in order, you’ll be able to put 110 percent into your internship and maybe even get a job offer by the end of the summer.

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