Ask the intern: How to budget when interning abroad
“Hi Laetitia. I am starting a Business internship in New York over the summer and I’m really excited to go, except I’m worried about how I’m going to afford living there. I want to make the most of my time there and travel around, but it’s an expensive city to live in and I don’t want to blow all my money in the first few weeks. Do you have any money saving tips that you could share with me? I’d really appreciate it!” – Chloe
Hi Chloe! First of all, congratulations on getting onto the New York program! Budgeting is hard when you’re living abroad, because you want to do and see everything in the short space of time that you are there. I find it tough to say no to lunch or dinner trips out because I don’t want to miss out on anything, and I want to take every opportunity to make new friends. However, being abroad for some time now has taught me that it’s possible to do everything you want to do, but on a budget. The key is to cut down on the little daily things that rack up in order to save more money overall. You don’t need to stay at home everyday, but you do need to be smart about what you spend your money on.
7 money saving tips for your internship abroad
1. Get a currency card
Being charged to withdraw money on top of the conversion rate can automatically make your bills sky rocket. So before you leave, make sure to get a currency card such as a Halifax Clarity card or Even card. These allow you to transfer and withdraw money with no charge, which is a great advantage when living abroad. They also charge you the same currency exchange as in banks so that you get a reliable conversion rate. I would strongly recommend getting a currency card as you can pay with it wherever you go and won’t need to take out big sums of money at a time. Moreover, if you happen to lose it, the card will be relatively useless to someone, in comparison to your credit card. With this in mind, I would also recommend only transferring small amounts of money onto the card at a time, and topping up when you need to.
2. Turn off data roaming
As soon as you land in your new country it’s crucial to turn off data roaming. Only using wifi for internet access will cut down your mobile costs significantly. You are guaranteed to have free wifi access in most places as you’re living in a cosmopolitan city: work, home, cafes, restaurants, shops, and even public parks and areas. I would avoid getting an international plan since when I tried this, I ended up using the wifi available anyway. If you need to call home, be sure to use Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype or even Snapchat so you don’t run your phone bill into the ground. I will admit that internet is useful for google maps when trying to navigate around a new city. However, on google maps you can load your journey before you leave the house, and the location services will still be activated even when you have no internet. Alternatively there are lots of map apps such as Navmii and Maps.me which will help you find your way around without internet.
3. Eat in
You don’t have to miss out on hanging out with friends if you want to rein in your spending. Instead of going out for lunch or dinner, why not cook or buy something cheaper at the supermarket. At work, bring in your lunch from home for example, and eat it with your friends. You don’t have to exclude yourself because you aren’t eating out. This will help reduce your spending by a little bit each day, which will make a big difference at the end of the week.
4. Take advantage of free or discounted activities
If you are a full-time student, I would recommend getting an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) in order to make the most of student discounts abroad. Many places may not accept your regular student card, so it’s best to sign up for an ISIC. Scout out the places that offer student discounts, perhaps museums, tours, or restaurants. In addition, you could also get involved in free activities around the city. Visit a museum when it’s free entry, or go to cultural spaces, and public events; you can do a lot without breaking your budget!
5. Find cheap traveling options
With The Intern Group, the transportation to and from work (in some destinations only for the first month) is covered by the program fee, so this is already saving you a lot of money. If you wish to travel further out of the city on weekends, I would suggest looking at buses or even carpooling to reduce the transport costs. Another advantage is that your rent is already included in the program fee, but if you take a weekend trip, try couch-surfing, Airbnb or staying in a budget hostel to keep the costs low. You’ll find that you meet much more people when traveling this way, so embrace it!
6. Make a list and stick to it
Write out a realistic budget plan every week, and stick to it! I always add a bit more money than I think I will spend, in case something comes up at the last minute. If you are strict with yourself, then you will find that a budget plan is a very efficient way of living within your means. However, make sure that it’s not stopping you from enjoying yourself, so be strict, but not too rigid. You don’t want to be stressing out about money when interning abroad!
7. Avoid buying pricey souvenirs
Even though you may want to bring something back for friends and family, don’t blow your money on pricey souvenirs. These will often be over-priced for tourists, so avoid the trap. Instead, make a scrapbook, bring back postcards, tickets, and photos. Your parents and friends will much rather see photos of you having a good time, than have a souvenir t-shirt that cost you $20. So spend that $20 on your meals for the day instead!
If you’re yet to secure your internship abroad, apply today!
Photo 3. by The Intern Group.