This is What It’s Like to Be a Recent College Grad Who Is Dedicating Her Time to Helping the Less Fortunate

This is What It’s Like to Be a Recent College Grad Who Is Dedicating Her Time to Helping the Less Fortunate

I graduated college in December 2012 with a BA in Politics, which is my university’s way of saying “Political Science.” I mostly studied public opinion and a little bit of constitutional law. I am from California, studied in New York, and I am now an AmeriCorps member serving in Alabama. I get paid $12,100 for the year. I have an apartment that costs $455 a month, plus electricity. Half of my paycheck goes to rent. The rest goes to gas and groceries. I am currently waiting to hear back from the Food Stamps office about whether or not I will be receiving their benefits.

I cannot afford…well, anything. With the exception of one awesomely comfy armchair (with camels and palm trees printed all over it!) that I acquired from the Salvation Army, all of my furniture has been loaned to me through people who work in my office building. I have a twin-sized bed, two small side tables, a dining room table, and two folding chairs.

I have no couch, no TV, no internet, and no microwave. Please do not send me any of these things in the mail; it is important to me that I get them myself.

I saved money by spending 1.5 years at a community college before transferring to my university. My parents helped with the community college’s tuition and I owe no agency, government or private, for the time I spent there.

In the 2 years I spent at my university, I accumulated $30,000 in debt. Two of my loans are private loans, which means their interest is much higher and I cannot defer them for the time I am an AmeriCorps member. I must start making payments on them six months after I graduated. The six-month mark is June. If my food stamps come through, I will be able to pay them. If not, I will need to ask Mom and Dad for help.

I have a student credit card that has very low interest. I usually hover around $200 charged to the card. It goes up and down, but I’m not too concerned with this payment.

I spend my days running, cooking, sleeping, and blogging. I drive to a fast food place down the street and park my car out front to get their free internet.

My closest friends are scattered all over the country. I have a small group here that I am getting to know in Montgomery, all of whom are AmeriCorps members.

I currently have less than a dollar in my checking account and roughly forty dollars in my savings account. I receive my paycheck (which comes once every two weeks) of $438 dollars on Thursday, and my rent of $455 is due the following Tuesday. My parents are sending me $50 on Monday.

438 + 50 = 488.
488 – 455 = $33.

My gas tank is currently on E. Gonna need to charge a few bucks to the credit card to get me to work before those $33 get here. Thank goodness I have a kitchen full of food at the moment.

This life is such an experience. I hate that I applied for food stamps, but if the government wants me to pay back my student loans then I will need them to pay for my food. I hate it because it is a pride thing. I want to be able to take care of myself.

It is hard to imagine that I have peers who still live in their parents’ house. I don’t think little of them, I just cannot relate. My big concern right now is that I’m on my last roll of toilet paper. Has half of my graduating class from high school ever bought their own toilet paper?

My greatest adventures stem from my lack of funds. It’s this amazing experience that makes me incredibly smart with my money and it changes my perspective on the universe. I have zero dollars pretty much all of the time…which makes for a great story when you travel to NYC with your brother. Hostels, fast food, public transportation, and free entertainment are rampant when you’re broke and have a thirst for travel. When I go to a major city, I bring a backpack stuffed with underwear, t-shirts, a stick of deodorant, and like a thousand granola bars. I have my credit card, my blogbook, my cell phone, and my chargers. The world becomes my oyster.

The second I get a job that pays more than $12,100 I will have no idea what to do with all of my extra money. I’ll be filthy stinking rich.

…that’s not true; I’ll just spend it on more travel.

I work at an organization called Rebuilding Together. These awesome people provide home repairs for low-income homeowners at no cost to the homeowner. A primary goal of the organization is to keep communities in their place. I have met homeowners who have lived in their house for forty, fifty, sixty years. I have met veterans, disabled people, and senior citizens who are living in substandard housing.

And it’s only my first month.

Taking on this lifestyle has been such a ride. And I’m only 21! This is probably the coolest thing I have ever done. One person told me they didn’t think I should move because I was too young, too incapable.

Lol. Times get tough, but we’re all capable of living on a dime and helping out others. 21 is the time to do it.

-Liz

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