I wish this topic existed when I was going through interview season! I am going to share some tip and tricks on how to get through the hectic interview season as cheaply and conveniently as you can. I love to plan every little detail when I travel and pride myself on doing it as economically as possible. I had 20+ interview and attended most of them and here was my experience!
I had already spent nearly $5000 on applications and with 20+ interviews I thought boy it’ll certainly cost more than that on travel alone! But I managed to attend these interviews for much much less than I thought.
I bought 2 suits for the interview season, you don’t need to overhaul your entire wardrobe. In most cases you are only attending each program once, they don’t know what you wore at your last interview or for that matter what you will be wearing at your next as long as your clothes are clean, respectable, and you look presentable. I bought two suits from Ann Taylor for about $300, signing up for their membership allowed me to knock off something like 15-20%. The takeaway here is that a couple of suits are enough and preferably buy them from the same place if they offer some sort of new member discount
Local is cheap
My favorite interviews were the in-state ones since you don’t have to break the bank to attend them and also you wont get homesick! All of my local interviews were within a 3 hour drive so transportation was cheap (having a hybrid helps!) and being day trips we didn’t need to book hotels. I paid around $100 in total for gas for all in-state interviews.
I don’t consider this a cost to consider since food is a fixed cost regardless of where you are, obviously its cheaper to eat at home but with the hectic schedule who has time to cook anyways!
For our first out of state interview we traveled by road with a relative who happened to be going there at the same time as our interview and it cost us nothing. Our next set of interviews were on the east coast, my spouse and I both flew round trip from the west coast to New York twice for free! Most of our out of state interviews were in NY or neighboring states to which we traveled in a rented car. The only flight we paid for was from NY to FL and it was for a total of $266 for 2 tickets.
Now you must be wondering how I got those free flights, the secret is credit card signup bonuses. When you signup for most credit cards in the US they give you signup bonus miles. There is one small caveat – you only get those miles after you have spent a minimum amount of money on the card – in most cases it was $3000 per card.
I signed up for 3-4 credit cards and spent that amount fairly quickly thanks to residency application fees! I also used the cards for all my personal purchases as well rather than using cash or debit. If you plan on using this trick the key is to signup for the credit cards well in advance of interview season preferably before applying so that you can rack them up with application fees
Hotels can get expensive although we tried to save as much money on them as we could. During my first trip to the east coast a relative of mine worked for a large hotel chain and one of the perks he had was the ability to get us discounted hotel rates, he hooked us up with hotels for cheap as $35/night. However on our second trip to the east coast he had moved on from the company and that was bye-bye to our discounts. So we booked our hotels at regular price, the prices across hotel search engines don’t vary more than a few dollars. We resorted to AirBnB whenever we had to stay in NY since hotels can easily exceed $200-300/night there
The optimal piece of advise would be to crash with friends and relatives wherever you can, although we had friends and family in many of the cities where we stayed we preferred to get our own places. You can also offset your costs by renting out your place on AirBnB we did this for a few days and earned a decent amount of money.
Total Costs by Category
Hotels: $1498 = $1,748 – $250 (earned by renting out our place on AirBnB)
Car Rental/Gas/Uber: $1,128
Flights: $266, we saved about $1500+ on flights using credit card signup bonuses!
Per Interview Average: $177
An average cost of $177 interview is not shabby at all! That includes getting there, putting a roof over your head, interview clothes, etc. We used the extra money we saved to travel in New York and Florida: we visited Epcot, the Everglades, Florida Keys, Times Square, Statue of Liberty.
So the takeaway in summary is use those credit card signup bonuses, stay with family and friends (great opportunity to spend quality time aswell!), don’t go overboard with cloth shopping