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How to Save Money as an Intern

Before graduating from college, many students participate in a ritual known as “the internship.”

I was an intern myself at one time. For many interns, this period of time is entirely devoted to trying to obtain a marketable skill while subsisting on crap wages — or even no wages at all. I wasn’t paid for my internship, and in the current economy, many students find that the best internships are already taken.

So, what can you do when your main source of compensation is college credit? Three former interns (who have “real” jobs now) share their tips for saving money:

Dan Wilkerson, Social Media Project Manager, LunaMetrics, LLC

Dan Wilkerson took an unpaid internship in New York City. While he has a job with LunaMetrics right now, in 2011 he was working for free with “zero savings.” He suggests that you “go to school where you want to work. It makes everything cheaper and easier.”

Additionally, he points out that you can look for organizational ties in the area. “I found a chapter of my fraternity and arranged for super-cheap housing,” Wilkerson says. He also suggests buying a bike to get around so that you don’t have to worry about paying for gas and parking: “It keeps you in shape and gives you the chance to experience the city in a totally different perspective.”

If you want to be offered a job, Wilkerson suggests that you “find a way to make yourself indispensable at your internship, and they will offer you a job.”

Finally, he suggests that you moderate your culinary preferences. “Learn how to cook pasta and accept your ramen-flavored fate.”

Brian  Beltz, Inbound Specialist, Highrank Websites

Brian Beltz knows first-hand that you can transition from intern to full-time employee. He started as an intern with Highrank Websites, and now he pulls down a regular paycheck with the company. His tips mostly focus on how to save money on food.

“Never buy coffee,” he says. “Our office has a coffee maker — and I’m sure almost all offices do. Even though I desperately wanted coffee every morning when I woke up, I always waited until I got to the office to have my first cup. …Even if you make it at home, it can save you $10 to $15 a week.”

Beltz brought lunch to work at day, and made it a point to cook inexpensive foods like chicken and pork chops (and save the leftovers) for dinner.

Talia Beckett, CEO, Pink Pearl PR

Along with an assistant, Sandra Rose Salathe, Talia Beckett, who has her own PR firm, Pink Pearl PR, reminisced about her days as an intern — and what she did to save money. Bringing your own lunch was one of the tips, but she also recommended shopping at the thrift store and paying attention to sales.

Additionally, your clothing choices matter. “When shopping, try to look for key essentials that are a must in every wardrobe. Don’t just shop for items you already have in your wardrobe, like another purse or a pair of heels.” She also recommends that you, “look for pieces that are unique and can be worn for every season.”

Creating a budget, clipping coupons, and using Skype to make phone calls are some of her other tips for living as an intern.

What are your favorite tips for saving money as an intern?

(Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center [3] )