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How to Budget for a Work Placement

Aly Song / Reuters

A placement year in investment banking is a huge learning curve both in and outside of the office.

Whether you’re in New York, London or Hong Kong, successfully managing a budget for the year in industry may turn out to be one of your most valued achievements.

A well-maintained budget permits a fully immersive placement experience, but we all know doing this effectively is easier said than done.

With that in mind, IB Insider explores some simple ways to lower the expenses to ensure you won’t break the bank.

Budgeting as a student is hard but everyone eventually settles into a stable routine. Limiting those post-club takeaways and the temptation to blow your overdraft in the first few weeks of term makes conquering the budget demands of a university life seem achievable.

However, once you’ve secured that all important work placement, a student budgeting plan can go out the window.

Where to live

The biggest budgeting challenge for any placement year is living costs. The transition from small city/university living to the higher living costs that come with these areas can be daunting.

Try to get a flat with someone else doing the same placement or working in the same area as you, but make sure it’s in a cheaper area. If you’re working in London, look at flats in Zones 4 or 5 – it’s a little further to travel but it will save a lot.

In New York, try the Bronx or Queens, two of the most affordable boroughs.

Bronx, New York. Image: OneKeyMLS

In Hong Kong, Wan Chai and Sai Ying Pun are only a couple of metro stops away from Central (where most banks are located) and are much cheaper.

In the UK, Split the Bills finds the cheapest utilities companies and automatically divides the cost between housemates, something worth signing up to so you can worry about other things.

Train or Limo

Travel can put an extra strain on your bank balance. A lot of placements will offer to cover travel costs, but some may not be able to. With most financial placements being city centre based, public transport is your best (and sometimes only) way to get around.

You can pre-pay for weekly passes on National Rail and Transport for London services, which will end up being cheaper than buying a ticket every day. Companies also offer student travel cards which will get you an extra 30% off travel expenses.

London. Credit: Joseph Balzano

In Hong Kong an Octopus Card will make life a lot easier: not only can you use it in most shops and supermarkets but getting a student version of the card will make travelling on public transport a much smaller financial inconvenience!

The cost of a social life

You want to fully immerse yourself in the placement to get as much out of it as possible. This means being involved in the social aspect – going out for lunches, coffees, dinners and drinks.

However, the excitement of socialising in new professional circles is counter balanced by the harm it can do to your bank statement, particularly on an unpaid placement.

An easy solution to this is to bring a packed lunch and avoid going out after work. That said, socialising with your colleagues and superiors goes a long way towards helping to get a post-placement job offer.

Good food at yummy prices

The most obvious tip is using your student discount whenever possible. If in London, UniDays, Student Beans and NUS Extra all have a range of shops, cafes and restaurants that will give you at least 10% off your order.

In Hong Kong use OpenRice – an app which shows you all the nearby restaurants, which it can sort by price. If you do choose Hong Kong for your placement, don’t miss out on Tim Ho Wan in Kowloon – the cheapest Michelin-star restaurant in the world where you can fill yourself up on dim sum for under US$10!

Tim Ho Wan in West Kowloon Station, Hong Kong

Necessary for New York, however, is Groupon which picks out deals for (otherwise pricey) eateries in the Big Apple.

Always ask places what they offer – just because a café isn’t on any of the student discount sites doesn’t mean that they don’t offer one. Make sure to always bring your student ID with you just in case.

Also never forget a reusable coffee cup. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but it can also get you discounts in all coffee shops (a win-win situation!).

With lunches, make some in advance so you can just grab and go in the morning.

Websites such as have some tasty, affordable lunch ideas if you’re struggling for inspiration.

However, sometimes a lack of time or a forgetful moment will leave lunches in the fridge at home. This doesn’t mean you have to go without.

Keep a back-up snack in your bag just in case and make sure to download Olio. This app has many cafes and restaurants on it that give away their leftover food stock free at closing time.

Credit: Annabel Staff

Check first if you are in one of the 49 countries that Olio services, then just set up an alert for the venues closest to you and you can fill up on free sandwiches, pastries and salads that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Finding the combination of budgeting tools and tips that work best for you will help you to manage your money effectively and get the most out of your work placement.

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