5 Tips for Cutting Costs During an Unpaid Internship

In the fashion & lifestyle industries, unpaid internships are a bit of a necessary evil when it comes to gaining real-world experience in your chosen field. However, working without a paycheck isn’t without its challenges.  As someone who has volunteered for more fashion weeks than she has completed semesters, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to save money while building relationships and making the most of all the great opportunities out there for an aspiring PR professional.

1. Negotiate Different Forms of Compensation

You may not be receiving weekly compensation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a complete lack of monetary support. Many companies are willing to pay for or provide lunch and reimburse for travel expenses and you should absolutely discuss how you can take advantage of existing benefits the company already offered to employees (i.e. paid lunches, subway tickets, etc.) as an intern.

2. Get a Part-time Job

Okay, let’s be real here. There are plenty of other things you would be rather doing with your small amounts of free time, but getting a part time job will help to alleviate the few days a week that you’re spending getting to know your dream career.

You can search for something related to your ideal field, like fashion retail, or find flexible work where the tips or standard wage might be a bit higher – like waitressing, nannying or deliveries. Having a few extra bucks in your wallet for an afternoon pick-me-up at Starbucks can only help when you’re working two jobs and working on your degree. Don’t worry – it will all be worth it in the end.

If you need a certain amount of hours at the office for your internship, ask to narrow it down a few full-time days rather than a few hours here and there. This helps cut down on travel-related expenses and opens up your availability to take on paid work.

3. Clean Out Your Closet

While not related to your career as such, it’s amazing how much extra cash you can find in your own closet. I closet purged last year and made $120 in just one week from getting rid of unworn clothes and accessories. Whether you are a Marie Kondo  convert or just someone who can’t pass up a good sale, it is always a good idea to cleanse your closet of things that no longer fit or that hold no sentimental value. You can bring your haul to a consignment store, cash/trade operation like Buffalo Exchange, or post them online on sites like eBay, Poshmark or Thredup.

4. Pack Your Own Lunch

In New York, a chopped salad can often cost more than your train ticket. Planning your lunches will help you to make healthier choices instead of getting Chipotle every day because it’s convenient to your office and packing your own lunch will easily save you anywhere from $5-$15 a day.

5. Walk it Off

Walking is good for your mind, body and wallet! If you don’t have to pay for a $12 Uber or hop on 3 different subways, why would you? The best form of transportation is your own two feet! So many professionals commute to and from work by walking, they wear sneakers and change into their dress shoes upon arriving to the office. If you can plan your time wisely, choosing to do something like parking at the less expensive parking garage a few blocks away really can make a difference.

Being conscious of your cash flow during an unpaid internship is important, and so is knowing that your internship is an irreplaceable experience. Properly budgeting can help to alleviate stress during the duration of your internship so that you can show up excited and committed to making the most of the opportunity.

About Nicole Biscardi

Nicole  is an emerging fashion communications professional who has completed fashion internships for Harper’s Bazaar and Caravan Stylist Studio. This motivated New Yorker has attended Fashion PR Confidential and is a graduate of the PR Couture PRISM Course. She loves to express herself through fashion and is currently pursuing a blog and her next professional opportunity.