We’ve all been there, the skint intern who has to turn up and shine everyday even though their bank account is reaching deep into the negative. It can be hard keeping up with the lifestyles of colleagues who are higher paid or who move within high-flying and high-paid circles. As an intern ‘living’ in Brussels, I really struggled to operate on the same level as the rest of the office who had many benefits (such as free accommodation, paid utility bills, free flights to home and help on the ground with some of the life admin that living in another country entails), none of which I had access to as an intern.
On top of this I was still out partying and socialising as though my bank account accommodated the same pay every month as theirs did. The days and nights rolled by (as I myself rolled in and out of bars and shops and expensive days out) and it all resulted in me being quite short on money – to the extent, that I was coordinating mealtimes with networking aperitifs or free lunches – attending only for the food despite having to go through the dullest of seminars. I was also, as my then boyfriend lived in Germany, using any savings (hahaha…ha) to pay for flights. If Easyjet did loyalty cards, they would owe me a house by now.
Looking back I don’t regret any of this. It taught me to value money and to really consider purchases before committing. It also showed me that investing in my future meant a lot more about time than it did about money. Thanks to the internships and placements I held, I am now in the best job of my life to date and still have people from my past life in Brussels contacting me to congratulate me on where I am.
Below, I’ve included some tips on how and where you can save money when on an internship or just generally if your current wage doesn’t stretch to meet those little extras that add up.
Most hairdressers will have 2 or more trainees on their book. These guys are always looking for models to practice on and their appointment hours are often later on in the day. Some salons will also stay open later into the evening to allow for these bookings. The cuts cost next to nothing and some may even be free. You’ll leave the salon having had a full wash, cut and blow-dry and you may not even have to book time away from the office to do this. They use the same high quality products on your hair as they would if you were being seen to by a senior stylist. They also ensure the finish on the hair (bouncy blow-dry, straight, curly) is up to the same standards as if you had paid full price. But…these appointments may take longer than normal. I still go for a trainee cut from time to time as I don’t dye my hair and don’t want to pay astronomical prices for taking a few inches off. I’ve noticed that instead of the standard 45min session that I normally get they can sometimes take up to 1hr30 as their work needs to be checked by a manager before you leave and they sometimes re-do certain sections to provide the best possible service. Also, they usually ask over the phone how much you would like off the length. Often, they will not accept any clients who want less than 2inches to give them decent space to practice.
This is a great tip for anyone looking to get their eyebrows/eyelashes done, waxing or nails taken care of for a fraction of the price. As with the hairdressers, the college is usually open for appointments later in the day and you will be seen to by the friendliest, most welcoming students. They are graded on both the quality and customer service, so they really pay attention to you as a client. Again, the work is checked by a senior member of staff and the only downside I’ve found is that they might have more than one beautician observing or working on you at a time. This will depend largely on the college or the amount of customers they manage to attract. Which, in my local college’s case, is a lot – they offer treatments and services for 25% of the local rate!! Get in!
Commute on foot
Walking to work is an excellent, de-stresser, money saver and sure fire way to keep fit. I would recommend, coming up to summer, to make a point of walking to work, especially if your commute takes you through a park. The benefits of walking allow you to relax on your way into work and on your way home. It’s also a bit of free, gentle, exercise which can give you time to listen to a podcast, your favourite music or just allow you to get some fresh air away from the all too often bed-bus-office combination that we subject ourselves to. Commuting on foot is also a good barrier against the commuter flu. When I travelled to work by train, I used to get ill all the time because of the germs that people carry with them and the close proximity to others in the carriage. Exercise in general can help boost your immune system, making you stronger against coughs and colds. It’s important to take time out of your busy schedule to get a bit of fresh air or move around for a bit. Your health should always come first and compliment your working style, not suffer because of it.
A healthier way and a cheaper way to keep your bank balance and waistline in check. There’s no last minute hesitation at the canteen to opt for the unhealthy choice on the menu and you know where that food has come from and what’s gone in to the meal – not that I’m saying all canteens are disgusting, far from it. I just know that food that sits out can be exposed to coughs, sneezes, hands and other hazards that your lunchbox won’t come into contact with. If you’re trying to eat healthier this is the safest option which will keep you from giving into some of the puddings and extras such as fries which you can normally smell coming from the canteen. In terms of saving money, I try to use the leftovers from the night before. They are still fresh enough and sometimes, especially as an intern, you’re unsure where your social life will take you in the evening – you might never get round to eating that massive vat of cous-cous for the rest of the week. Amen for lunches!
Coffee to go
I don’t really want to think about the amount of money I’ve given over the years to Starbucks and other take-away coffee shops. Of late, I’ve been trying to avoid the coffee giants and if I absolutely have to I’ll buy from a smaller, independent café. However, the true holy grail of saving money on the coffee run is to bring it in from home. Whether this means buying the coffee and storing it in the fridge, and bringing in a cafetiere, or just making the coffee in a thermos and trotting off to work with your flask it all adds up to money saved in the bank. Also, if you didn’t know already, all Nespresso stores offer customers one free taste per visit – usually in espresso form, sometimes with milk if you’re fortunate. Something to remember when you’re out shopping and looking for a pick-me-up on the cheap.
If you’re doing an internship that pays peanuts, hang in there. In my experience it is worth seeing this through and can be used as a trampoline on to other great roles. If you’ve worked as an intern, and have any good tips on how to save money, please leave a comment in the box below. Or, if you’re thinking about applying for a low paid internship/new job, what are you most concerned about?