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4 ways to stretch your AmeriCorps stipend

Living on an AmeriCorps stipend

When you’re living on an AmeriCorps stipend, every penny counts. To help you make the most of your bi-weekly stipend, we compiled a few tips to help you get the most out of your dollar and budget your money.

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Use an app to track your spending in real-time and create a budget

The first step in creating a budget is to track your spending. Download any one of the many useful apps (AmeriCorps alumni recommend Digit or Mint) and track your spending habits for a month. After you’ve got a good idea for your monthly living expenses, you can then create a budget to help you stay intentional about spending and saving your money.

Use the app or Microsoft Excel—which has pre-made templates—to create the budget that works best for you!

Find the right banking option for you

You and your team of fellow AmeriCorps members will be receiving the same amount in your bi-weekly stipends. But, despite that, we know that folks have different financial obligations. For example, some corps members choose to live with relatives and won’t need to pay rent—and others may live by themselves with no roommates with whom to split living expenses.

No matter what your financial reality is, we recommend opening a high-yield, online-only savings account. At a minimum, try to put away $25 a month—or whatever amount works best for your budget.

Additionally, when money is tight, the last thing you want to do is spend it on something like bank charges. When choosing a bank, talk to a representative about debit card fees or minimum balance fees. Be sure to ask if they offer any rewards or perks, such as ATM reimbursements.

Apply for food benefits and join loyalty programs

Cooking your own meals is generally more cost-effective than dining out. Most City Year AmeriCorps members are eligible to apply for food supplement programs like SNAP benefits, which help you cover monthly grocery expenses. In many cities, you can use those food benefits at grocery stores and local farmer’s markets.

We also recommend customer appreciation programs at your local grocery stores and restaurants. Many offer free items or discounted prices for loyal customers.

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Check out these tasty and inexpensive recipes made especially for Corps members on a budget.

Have fun without spending a dime

Having a strict budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. In fact, at City Year we believe in making time for the things you love. Self-care is essential, and it helps you recharge and stay energized for a great day of service.

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Here are some free mental health and well-being resources offered to AmeriCorps members.

If you recharge by reading or watching movies, get a local library card. Not only can you check out books and movies from libraries, but you’ll also have access to their digital libraries as well. (The best part about borrowing eBooks? There’s no way to accrue late fees!)

If you recharge by spending time outside with friends and family, consider spending time at a local, state or national park.

We know your service experience will be filled with highs and lows and we want you to know how much we and your students appreciate your service!

Want to learn more about serving with City Year?

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Editorial note: This post was originally published in August 2019. It has been updated and revised to ensure information is current.

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