Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How to Get By on Free Food, Or Nearly Free

As a homeless and unemployed college grad, you have to be shrewd. Conserve. Ration. Plan. Your days of copious amounts of wonderful food have been put into an immediate halt! You look in the cabinets, you scavenge around in the fridge, but there isn't much except a baking soda box. And you aren't in the mood for baking soda. So, what do you do?
Free samples, my friend.
You would be surprised how many places give out free samples. First of all, grocery stores are a haven for free samples. Mornings to early afternoons are the best times. One of the best places to find a ton of free samples are Costco, Schnucks, and Dierbergs. Trader Joe's always has free samples as well. Also, most deli departments will allow you to try what they have. Feel bad about trying something but not purchasing anything? DON'T! You literally can't afford to feel guilty. And plus, a lot of that stuff will probably be thrown away at the end of the day anyway. Sample away!
Speaking of grocery stores, a lot of times you can score a free cookie from the bakery department. They usually just do that for kids, but hey, put on some of those puppy dog eyes and be pathetic as possible. If they don't give you a cookie, well, they are probably horrible people that hate puppies and kittens.
Food courts in malls also always have people giving out free samples. Just do a couple laps. Procure some fake mustaches/wigs if you think they may have caught on to your scheme. Another great opportunity are free events and parties. Go to fiction and poetry readings. Don't like to read, you say? First of all, that's ridiculous. Second of all, DEAL WITH IT. You can get over your boredom by consuming as much free cheese and crustinis as humanly possible. Bring a purse. You're a dude, you say? DEAL WITH IT. Bring a man purse. Then, when everyone's distracted by talking to the author, slip as many free food morsels into your man purse as you can. Layer the bottom of your man purse with napkins if you are worried about ruining your $3 thrift store prized possession. Then, there's always free sample websites. If you are too poor to afford the Internet, you can try to make your way to a library and hit up those 'sites. You'd be surprised what free food samples you can find. The good news here is that you won't starve if you are resourceful. I might even call it plucky.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I am 100,000 McChickens in Debt

I'm just going to come out here and say it: I am 100k in debt because of student loans. You would think that I went to school to be a doctor or something with that kind of debt. Guess. Guess what I got my Bachelor's and Master's in.

A Bachelor's in Creative Writing.

A Master's in Literature.

When you stop laughing, I'll still be here.

I thought it would be easy to get a job, or, at least, not as difficult as it has been. I thought that I could teach if worse came to worse. But alas! I have discovered that you need to get certified to teach, which means going back to school. Which means more debt. If I do all that and become a teacher, I can try to do the program that removes some of your debt if you teach a certain number of years. However, it is only a small amount (compared to my $100,000), you have to teach five or ten years (I can't remember which because there are a couple of options, and each one has a different length of time) in a terrible school district. Also, you still have to be paying off your loans during those years in order to qualify.

Bankruptcy won't work.

I have to either be a vegetable and unable to do anything for myself and/or dead for these suckers to go away. And I'm not that great of an actress, nor do I have any idea how to fake my death, so those aren't options for me.

I thought about becoming a librarian, but you need a Master's in library science to do that.

So, what am I supposed to do? Around here, the jobs are especially thin. I finally found a job at a department store, but my hours are not guaranteed, and I'm making about $7.14 an hour. And my loan payments are about $1,000 a month.

On top of all of this, I want to get a place with my boyfriend. Unfortunately, he cannot afford to pay for both of us (considering he graduated from college about two years ago), so we can't live together until I can help with the bills and whatnot. I wouldn't want him to pay for all of it anyway because I hate being a mooch. I want to be able to support myself.

I'm probably not going to be able to get deferment or forbearance on all of them because some are private education loans. I simply do not make enough to pay the monthly bill. I'd love to be able to start paying them off because I know I'm going to be in debt for the rest of my life, and I'd like the get the ball rolling. But even if my entire paycheck goes to paying off loans, I'll still have plenty left that needs to be paid.

I keep thinking about things that are equivalent to $100,000 because that amount seems so unrealistic to me. When I realized that some people could get a house for that much, it made me incredibly sick. Do you know how many McChickens I could buy with $100,000? I could order about one hundred thousand McChickens for one hundred thousand people. Yes, I know that's not including tax. BUT HOLY CRAP.

For some reason, saying I owe 100,000 McChickens seems less threatening and intimidating to me.

I know a lot of people out there will say that this is my own fault, and I should have known better. But, I was a stupid kid who had silly dreams about going to amazing colleges and then landing my dream job. They do not educate kids enough about the debt they are getting into. I wish someone had been there for me before this whole mess was started to tell me the mistake I was making, or at least someone to educate me on better options for paying for school. And I wish there were more scholarships out there. I remember being told of these magical scholarships that would pay for my education, but they were hard to come by, and the qualifications were very particular. I had to be part of X denomination or background, my parents had to make X amount of money, I had to be studying X subject, etc. For those who are English majors or Master's students studying literature, they know how little money there is out there for that field.

And I know some people will say that my cosigners should be able to help me. One of the reason why I had difficulties qualifying for grants and so forth was because of my father's salary. FAFSA claimed that my parents should be able to pay for a decent chunk of my schooling, but it was completely untrue. My parents were my cosigners, and they had to get a Parent PLUS loan at the last minute my Freshman year because I underestimated the cost of tuition, but other than that, my parents didn't pay for my education. I know plenty of people who are in this same situation.

The amount of debt I'm in is staggering, and I've cried almost daily about it. I haven't been eating much, either. This debt is ruining every part of my life like some sort of cancer. It's been especially hard on my relationships with people. I've been hesitant about hanging out with friends because I can't afford it, my parents are freaking out about how it'll affect their credit, my boyfriend and I have no idea when we are going to be able to get our own place, etc.

I'm so desperate that I've even considered selling my eggs. But, if you are lucky, you can only get about $15k for that, and it's a very selective and long process.

So tell me, Internet, what is a person to do in this situation?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How Following Your Dreams Leads to a Post-Graduate Nightmare

You were told at a young age that you should always follow your dreams whether it was told to you by your parents, the media, or perhaps your invisible friends. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a mermaid and a famous writer. Well, I'm neither right now, so you can see how well that panned out. But, those weren't my only dreams. I wanted to be a paleontologist, an archeologist, a gymnast, an F.B.I. agent, a detective, a member of the X-Men, you name it. I wanted it all. You spend your childhood thinking about how cool and fabulous life will be when you are an adult, and once you become an adult, you remember how cool and fabulous it was like to be a kid.
You worked your ass off in school to the point that you almost had no social life, and you never did drugs, or drank. You were always one of the best students in your class. You always felt like your efforts would pay off--that it all mattered. You invested in student loans because scholarships are hard to come by unless you are extremely lucky and know the right people. It was okay that you invested in student loans because you were doing something with your life. You were following your dreams. Your major in college was something some people raised their eyebrows at, but that was alright because it was your dream.
If any of these statements apply to you, you may be a homeless and unemployed college grad.
Well, how about this. You have graduated from your undergraduate school, but you soon realize that there is very little you can do with your degree you just spent thousands and thousands on. You begin to realize that if you aren't in school, you will have to start paying your loans soon. Well, that's alright because you love learning. You'll just go back to school! You'll get your Master's in something you love because that's still kind of following your dream. And that'll give you more experience to get a job. And you'll get a teaching assistantship while you're there which will help push you a little closer to your dream.
After applying to several graduate programs, taking the GRE or whatever irritating test you have to do to apply to these things, you are out of a lot of money. After all, each application usually costs at least $50. And the GRE is over $100. And you recently graduated and you cannot find a decent job. But that's okay. You are trying to hold onto the scraps of your dreams. You are exhausted from the application process because each one is different and requires copious amounts of silly writing about yourself and/or massive essays you have edited and rewritten from an undergraduate class.
Rejection letter after rejection letter comes through the mail. You are eventually waiting to hear from one more place. If you aren't accepted, you have no idea what you will do with your life. Finally, the day arrives that you receive an acceptance letter. It wasn't your first choice, and it wasn't your last. But it will have to do.
You feel relief rather than happiness. And later you discover you didn't get an assistantship, and that most people who apply the first time don't get them. So, you take out more loans to pay for that school just so you can, sadly, avoid paying those other loans you have. It's okay, though! Once you graduate, your phone will be off the hook because everyone will want you to work for them.
Oh, and you are trying to achieve your dreams. So, perhaps more debt is worth it.
Does any of this sound familiar? You maybe be a homeless and unemployed college grad. Still doesn't apply to you? Keep reading.
You keep applying for the assistantship once you get to the school. You find out that, actually, you have to suck up to the administration and faculty and play the politics game for them to even consider you for an assistantship. You try that. You aren't very good at it. But, maybe you still have a chance. You, at this point, are so burnt out on school that you start to forget why you came here in the first place. You somehow graduate, extremely unhappy and jaded without any field experience because you always came THIS close to getting an assistantship.
You figure that there is no way you can have both a Bachelor's and Master's and still have trouble finding a job.
At this point, your dream has crawled into a very tiny corner of your mind. Sometimes you think about your dream, and say "that would have been nice." Now, it has all come down to making money. Considering where you live, it is almost impossible to find a job unless you move. But you can't move because you can't afford it. So, you have to try and get some job that doesn't have anything to do with your degrees.
But here, even jobs as a cashier in your local department store are hard to come by. The college grads are competing with 16-year-olds Justin Bieber fans for the same job.
You can't pay your rent. You can hardly afford food. You are going to have to start paying loans in a couple months. You spend hours on Monster and Craig's List just hoping that maybe you will find the next job to get you by.
All because you tried to obtain a dream you've had since you were five.
Ring a bell? Perhaps you are not in the same exact situation; maybe just some of it applies. Nonetheless, many of us are on this same sinking ship. When did college degrees stopped meaning anything? Sure, there are some degrees that are guaranteed to get you a job (like if you go through medical school, for instance), but what about everyone else?
Does none of this strike a chord with you? Maybe you are one of the lucky ones. You happened to get a degree in something you both loved and could place you in a nice paying job. Maybe you have rich parents, and you never had to worry about loans. And you can just laze around in their mansion all day. Or, maybe you are a genius and happened to have a ton of scholarships thrown at you. Or perhaps, you never went to college so you didn't get into massive debt, and you were lucky enough to find a nice job. Maybe you didn't follow your dreams, and you got a degree in something that you don't really care about, but you are good at it, and you will be making bank as soon as you graduate.
Whatever it is, I ask that you sympathize with those of us who have followed their dreams only to be crushed beneath the foot of debt and rejection. Maybe you can offer some advice. Or throw a quarter into our cup whenever we are sitting on the sidewalk with sign asking for donations for the poor (a sign we recycled out of our degrees).
If you are part of the Homeless and Unemployed College Grad club, then perhaps this blog will serve to show you that you aren't alone. It may be painful to remember that happy-go-lucky kid that wanted to do everything and has ended up doing nothing, but at least you tried. Your degrees may count for nothing now, but maybe one day that'll change.
If not, I hear McDonald's is always hiring.