By Shaunacey Ferro
I’m about to move to New York City, where I’m working as an unpaid intern for three months this winter. This means digging myself into debt as I overpay to share approximately 10 square feet of a Manhattan bedroom and shell out subway fare to get to my job that is paying me in academic credit. Academic credit is great, but you can’t eat it.
But I’m excited to explore a new city. I’ve been to New York a handful of times, so I can skip the basics, like the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building, but there are plenty of places I’ve never been to, museums I’ve never seen, to-die-for restaurants I’ve never tried, and this is my chance. Plus there are the little things – what if my coworkers invite me out for happy hour? What if I don’t have time to make my lunch every day before work?
It’s not going to be a cheap quarter. I can’t change the amount of rent I’m paying or how much it costs me to take the subway to and from work each day. But a little planning can help cut costs in a few places. Here are some of my plans:
Get an expense app. There are plenty of Android/iOS apps that help you keep track of your spending. I’m going to start with Mint, a free app that securely links to your bank accounts and credit cards to help you break down and budget your spending. You can set separate monthly budgets for movies, alcohol, fast food, coffee, groceries, restaurants and clothes. I’m already over budget, it seems!
Break the caffeine addiction. I’ve gotten used to drinking a lot of coffee. Between the necessary early morning wake-up, the just-for-enjoyment afternoon latte to break the monotony, and the weekend purchases to justify an 8 hour squat in a coffee shop, I drink away my money more than anything else. Instead, I’m going to pare it down and start drinking decaf so I don’t turn to a $3 cup of coffee to sooth caffeine headaches, and try to drink more tea, which comes in packets I can easily keep in my desk or purse for a cheaper pick-me-up.
Keep a “fun” budget. I’m a big fan of the “treat yo self” mentality, but the whole point is that you can’t go wild every day. Instead, I’ll set aside some money, maybe $20 a week, to dip into for cultural excursions or fun with friends. That’ll keep me from telling myself that yes, of course I should spend $15 dollars on one drink or $40 on a spur of the moment concert ticket after a week of eating out every day. A little Googling turns up plenty of free tours, museum days and events in the city each week where a small budget can go a long way.