6 Ways to Save Money as an Unpaid Intern

According to a recent survey carried out by Savoo, 85% of graduates would be willing to work as an unpaid intern to gain experience- and the majority would be happy to do so with no job guarantee at the end. As one graduate commented: “If you won’t work for free for a few months, there will always be others that will!”

So as a graduate looking to gain valuable experience in your chosen sector, what are some easy ways to save money during an unpaid internship? Here are six tips to get you started.

1) Travel Smart

If you can’t wangle yourself an expenses allowance towards travel , find out if your working hours are flexible; if they are, try to organise your shift around off-peak travel times. Arriving and leaving later might eat into your evening plans, but the money you save with off-peak fares is totally worth it- particularly if you are travelling in and out of London. And don’t forget to invest in a 16-25 Railcard: it costs just £30 and will save you a third on rail fares for a year.

2) Work on the side

When first offered an unpaid internship, try and negotiate your hours so that you can work part time elsewhere. If you are capable of doing the required intern work in less than five days, push for a three or four day week and get yourself a paid job on the side; bar, cafes and restaurants offer shift work and the chance to earn tips alongside your wage, and you might even get lunch or dinner thrown in for free.

If you don’t fancy hospitality why not look into tutoring? You can work around your own schedule and the pay is pretty good (plus it will look great on your CV!).

3) Bring your own lunches

You’ll soon discover that many people don’t bring packed lunches into the office- instead preferring to nip to Tesco or Pret for an overpriced sandwich. But that doesn’t mean that you have to join them; as an unpaid intern the only financially sensible option is to bring in food from home (unless you are offered expenses towards lunch costs); this will save you a minimum of £15 a week.

And whilst we are on the subject, try to resist the temptation of takeaway latte every morning, no matter how much you need a caffeine fix.

4) Avoid the shops

Whilst it can be tempting to splash out on an expensive new wardrobe when you get offered your first internship, try to curb your enthusiasm and stick to a budget. Invest in a capsule wardrobe with a few key pieces, such as smart trousers and a comfy pair of shoes- no one is going to notice what you are wearing as long as it is presentable, inoffensive, clean and crease free.

Note: you can pick up smart clothes at a very affordable price from supermarket clothing brands like F&F by Tesco (and always use voucher codes when shopping online). If funds are really tight, then head to your local charity shop in search of some vintage bargains.

5) Use your graduate overdraft

Nowadays most banks will allow graduates to keep 0% interest on their overdraft for at least a year after leaving university, so don’t be afraid to use and abuse it. Just think of it as a no-interest loan, which you can start paying back as soon as you find full-time employment.

6) Live at home first

If you have the option of moving back in with your parents after university then make the most of it. Rather than jumping straight into looking for work experience, it consider getting a fulltime job locally and saving up some money to help fund your unpaid internship instead; just a few months of employment and living frugally could save you over a grand.

Once you start your internship do not be ashamed to sofa surf with good friends or relatives who live nearby, offering money towards bills and food as a thank you. But watch out for socialising after work- those pints will soon eat into your bank balance!

Have you worked as an unpaid intern? How did you save money? Get in touch, we would love to hear from you!

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