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How To Budget Like An Intern

Ylan Mui

Our intern Emma Carew is back again! We love to see persistence. And Emma has a lot to write about from personal experience, especially as a summer intern in Washington. She polled her colleagues for their favorite tips on living large for less that anyone can use, even if your intern days are a distant memory. We won't tell.

What are your best intern-worthy tricks? Send them to Emma at carewe[at] or post them in the comments.

For the most part, we Washington interns are broke. And while we anxiously wait for pay day we have to get creative. So here are the Washington Post Intern09 tips on living on a budget.

Editorial writer Alexandra Petri:
* If you are at all a Starbucks aficionado, get one of their membership discount cards. It costs $20 but gets you 10 percent off, which definitely pays for itself over time.

Copy editor Morgan Schneider:
* Order an “intern latte” — a double espresso over ice at your favorite coffee shop and add your own milk at the bar.
* Blend softened butter with olive oil and stick in a Tupperware — cheaper butter spread, better for you! Use about two sticks of butter to one-third cup oil to start, add more oil if you like it softer.
* Telling you to eat ramen is too obvious. And gets mildly boring after a while. Try using seasoning packets from ramen to flavor fried rice, chicken or anything else. For 13 cents a pop, it’s a great dose of salty flavoring. But caution: use sparingly.

Metro reporter Martin Ricard:
* Give up TV to cut down on bills. I’ve realized now that since I don’t like most of what’s on cable anyway, I can get all the entertainment satisfaction I need with my laptop, Hulu and a Netflix account.

By Ylan Mui  |  July 29, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Bargains , Ylan Q. Mui  
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Wow, they can afford Starbucks! If you can afford to buy enough coffee to make getting 10% off as a result of a $25 investment to pay off, you probably aren't on a terribly tight budget. Buying a pound of the good stuff and making it at home is way more frugal. Ramen "seasoning packets" are bouillon. You can buy those separately and inexpensively without wasting the noodles.

Other than giving up TV, these don't really seem like budgeting tips. I can't see how blending olive oil with butter saves money. What about getting DVDs from the library? Ways to stay in shape on a budget?

I would like to apologize for the negativity, but this post seems to be missing the point.

Posted by: MzFitz | July 29, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I was an intern in DC in the olden days (during the Iran-Contra hearings!). I bought groceries at the supermarket at Watergate and packed a bag lunch to the office every day, brewed my own coffee, and drank tap water. We interns quickly learned which bars served food during happy hour, and those appetizers were our dinner. I walked or took the metro - no cabs. Couldn't afford a gym membership, so walked or jogged around the Mall for exercise. On weekends I visited every museum and monument offering free admission.

Posted by: newengland1 | July 29, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

MzFitz has a point. If you really need to scrimp, you're better off re-evaluating what your needs really are, rather than just trying to find a slightly cheaper way of doing the same things you always do. If you have a car, taking Metro, biking, or walking can save a lot more than searching out cheaper gas.

At the same time, if it's something you're going to splurge on anyway, it makes a lot of sense to find a cheaper way. Back when I was in school and wanted to go out with my friends, we did like newengland: we chose the bars that offered free food during happy hour. For the cost of one drink (which I'd have had anyway), I had dinner.

The key is not to fool yourself into thinking you're "saving" by doing that. You are still spending. And it's still a want, not a need.

Posted by: laura33 | July 29, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Have to agree with the first poster - what sort of a budget are you on if you are drinking Starbucks?? How can I take this article remotely seriously when that is the first "tip" offered? The comments include better tips. I'm guessing most of us in DC were interns at one time.

Bring lunch from home. Get a library card. Enjoy everything free DC has to offer. Stop drinking Starbucks and make your own coffee.

Sounds like these Post interns haven't yet truly experienced tighten-your-belt budgeting that many of us have gone through or are going through now. Those budgets don't include Starbucks at all.

Posted by: eemcgee | July 29, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

This blog isn't really about saving money, it's about "saving" money publicly.

Frugal is chic, so it's cool to flash your Starbucks discount card and bring your own wine to a restaurant.

By the way -- the "intern latte" was specifically banned by Murky Coffee last year, because its basically stealing. Kinda like grabbing a "free" scone out of the basket, because the guy behind the counter wasn't looking.

Posted by: gettingdizzy1 | July 29, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

The way to cut back at Starbucks is to acquire a taste for brewed coffee and stick with that. Bring your own insulated mug and save another 10 cents.

These 2 steps will enable you to transition to a cup brewed at home - which unlike a latte can be prepared with nothing more elaborate than a $5 secondhand Mr. Coffee.

Posted by: mattintx | July 30, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

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