If you’re interning in a big hot spot like New York, Chicago, or DC, it’s going to be really important for you to keep a budget. This is especially true if you’re like me and you’re working an unpaid internship.

Let’s say you’re working in one of those cities above or one like it, and you’ve never lived there before. This is what will happen. When you first get there, you will be utterly floored by the cost of food, transportation, and housing (though hopefully that last one you figured out before you got here). In a sense, this is good. It will keep you paying attention to every time you drop twenty five dollars on a mediocre meal, which will happen way more often than you’d hope.

What’s worse is when the sticker shock wears off and you’re no longer thinking twice about dropping that kind of money. This is where you should start getting worried–when you’re not worried anymore. And this is the point where you’ll start to wish you had a budget you’d been sticking to. So I’m going to give you my method of sticking to an intern budget.

First, figure out what your spending limit should be each week. To do this, take out all of your set expenses (rent, transportation if it’s consistent), and then divide the amount you have left by the number of weeks you’ll be in this city. You might want to add a week or two for after you leave so you can count the weeks you won’t have a paycheck yet.

All this is pretty elementary: figure out how much money you spend and divide that by the time you have to spend it. But the way I’ve helped myself to actually keep to that budget is by going to the ATM, getting that money in cash, and trying to only pay cash as much as possible. This is especially helpful if you know your average daily spending limit. This is a way of making it more visual. Spending cash, at least to me, feels more real than using a card, so I spend less.

Why not try it out for a week? Go to the ATM and pull out your next week’s spending money in cash. Try to keep to around your daily limit for the week, even saving some if you can. I try to only keep two days’ worth with me at a time so I’m not tempted to spend more, and so I’m not carrying too much cash around.

So, simple, but it seems to be working for me. Do you have any other good budgeting tips? Let me know!


Related posts:

Intern Tip #1: Just Do It

Intern Tip #2: Don’t Dress like an Intern

Intern Tip #4: Take Advantage of Everything