By Kara Carlson
Over the summer I had the opportunity to intern in Seattle, and explore a new city I had no familiarity with. Living in a new, big, and expensive city all summer completely on my own made me really see money and budgeting in a new way.
Being in a new city, I naturally wanted to take in as much of the sites, tourist attractions, local food and of course Seattle coffee as possible. The catch of course was how to manage this while balancing most of my costs on an intern’s salary.
It was the first time living completely on my own. I had previously lived in the dorms while at school, and at home during the summer meaning many costs were already a factored in cost during the school year or non existent during the summer. Being in Seattle meant not just adjusting to a new place, but also a new cost of living and much more of a need for week to week budgeting.
It made me have to really learn to budget, and be more mindful of activities that were cheaper or free, such as discounted museum days. It let me see more of the city and surrounding areas on the most efficient pricing. I actually ended up exploring different activities like festivals I probably would not have if not for the attempt to save money.
One of my biggest advantages was where I lived. I ended up finding relatively inexpensive housing in a dorm right near where I worked, and because I paid rent upfront I was able to not worry about the cost for the rest of the time I was there. This significantly cut down on housing costs and worries, especially in a city with one of the fastest rising rents in the country. It was also ten minute walk to work so it made for an inexpensive commute every day.
The first week I ended up overspending, eating out most dinners as I settled into a new routine and explored the area around me. After that first week, I quickly fell into a routine of primarily eating in for most meals, which ended up saving me the most money. I saved most of my big “splurges” on meals or places for when I went out on weekends on daytrips or visits to museums, saving during the week when it was just as easy to eat in.
An unexpected challenge I found was getting around Seattle. It quickly became a constant but almost brainless calculation of weighing both time, efficiency and cost. Everywhere I went alone or separate was a decision, was it worth to drive to an event, to take public transit, to take a Lyft? Was it walking distance? Are the rates going to surge if I take a Lyft? As I quickly found out, with parking costs and heavy traffic in Seattle the answer was rarely to drive, not even to a grocery store.
Ultimately I ended up actually saving a lot more money than I expected and still sightseeing, traveling and, eating my way through the Puget Sound area. Learning to be a more efficient budgeter helped me have a fun, and stress free summer.