Searching for a new job can take weeks or even months. During that time, you have to keep up with your bills while paying for the extra costs that come with interviewing, such as transportation and clothing.
If your budget is already tight, coming up with extra money for your job search can feel impossible, especially if you have federal or private student loans. However, there are ways to stretch your money further.
1. Put Together a Budget-Friendly Interview Wardrobe
When it comes to job interviews, it’s important that you make a strong first impression. That usually means putting on a crisp suit, wearing nice shoes, and carrying a quality briefcase or purse.
However, picking up these essentials at the mall can cost hundreds of dollars. There are easier and less expensive ways to look like a million bucks:
- Raid your closet. Chances are you have some decent work clothes in your closet; you don’t need to buy a whole new look. If you own the basics, such as black pants, a blazer, and a nice shirt, you can probably skip a shopping trip. Some items, such as shoes and handbags, can be refreshed with a little polish or leather conditioner.
- Check out local thrift stores. If you’re willing to do a little digging, you can find quality items at thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. A new suit can cost as little as $10 at a thrift store.
- Shop online secondhand stores. If you don’t have interview-appropriate attire on hand and can’t find anything at the local thrift stores, consider shopping at online secondhand stores like thredUP andPoshMark. You can get name-brand clothes that are new or like new for a fraction of the original price.
2. Cut Your Transportation Costs
Transportation costs can quickly add up during your job search. Whether you’re paying for gas for local gigs or for hotels and flights for out-of-state positions, you can go broke just getting to the interview. Reduce your costs in the following ways:
- Ask for a phone or video interview first. Although many companies prefer in-person interviews, it’s fair to request a phone or video interview for the first round if you’re applying for an out-of-town job. With new technology making video calls more reliable, more companies are open to this approach.
- Negotiate a travel stipend. If you do have to travel out of town, ask the company’s human resources representative if the company will reimburse you for some or all of your travel. Not all companies will do so, but many will offset at least some of your expenses.
- Use discounted gift cards. Whether you need to fill your gas tank or book a hotel, purchasing and using discounted gift cards can help save you money. You could get as much as 45 percent off hotel reservations and flights using this tactic.
3. Save Money on Your Student Loans
If you’re a recent college graduate or are between jobs, student loans can be a huge burden on your finances. Without much income coming in, keeping up with your payments might be difficult, if not impossible. Before you fall behind on your payments, consider the following ways to take charge of your debt:
- Enter your loans into deferment or forbearance. If you lost your job or are facing financial hardship, you might be able to enter your loans into deferment or forbearance, where you temporarily stop making payments without entering default or damaging your credit. Even some private student loan lenders allow you to stop making payments while you get back on your feet.
- Apply for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. If you have federal student loans and can’t afford your current monthly payment but can afford to pay something each month, another option is to apply for an IDR plan. Under an IDR plan, your loan servicer caps your payment at a percentage of your discretionary income and extends your repayment term.
- Consider refinancing. If you have private student loans, you don’t qualify for perks like IDR plans, and not all private lenders allow you to postpone your payments. But refinancing and consolidating your student loans might be an option. With refinancing, you take out a new loan for the amount of your old loan(s). The new loan has different terms, including a new repayment period, interest rate, and monthly payment. If you opt for a longer term, you can reduce your monthly bill and get more breathing room in your budget.
Searching for a new job can be exhausting and expensive, but by doing some extra work, you can stretch your budget and save money so you can focus on landing the perfect position.
Kat Tretina is a contributor to Student Loan Hero.