So let’s talk about this post

Business Insider provides us some food for thought today in an article about how one 20-something, Madeleine, is saving a ton of money on rent and utilities by hopping from friend’s apartment to friend’s apartment in New York City.

First, let’s talk about the most (initially) disturbing part of this post: the young woman, Madeline, is a staffer at Business Insider! Gah! Why should she have to do this if she has a job!

Well the comforting truth is she probably doesn’t HAVE to do this. It seems like she wants to do it. It’s a lifestyle choice.

On second thought, if she was truly rolling in the dough, it seems unlikely that she’d want to be effectively homeless. Unless she’s really, really super frugal. Or she has tons of student debt and wants to get rid of it pronto. OK enough speculating.

So does this work? Madeleine says her friends don’t mind her surfing because she doesn’t stay for long and she helps out with dinner, laundry, etc. And the only bad thing that’s happened is she’s lost some of her stuff. Generally, though she’s saving money! Hoorah!

Certainly there’s a stigma to this type of approach. Take commenter SoInspiredByYou’s comment:

You are a scumbag leach

Well that’s a little cruel, no? But at least it’s not as creepy as commenter Big Kahuna’s comment:

she can surf my couch any time!

A very nuanced and interesting response comes from commenter DeDe who writes:

I think that approach is a lot more common in younger people nowadays … In an apartment, you aren’t really using much electricity/heating and if you can sing for your supper, well that’s OK if you don’t cause any hassle to a lot of people … A few changes of clothes, make-up and meds – what else do you really need? I mean really? … It’s easy to scold but it’s awfully hard to make it in NY these days.

I happen to agree mostly with DeDe. Though I certainly wouldn’t try this lifestyle myself, I think if it works for Madeleine than all power to her. It IS hard to make it in NY, and sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve go to do.

You’ve got to hand it to this generation. If nothing else, we’re very resourceful.

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Give your mind to science.

It’s a jungle out there, guys. And sometimes you’ve got to be the guinea pig to survive.

That’s what college senior Amanda DeLuise would tell you. Since sophomore year, she’s been participating in psychology experiments to make money on the side. This year, after long internship hours forced her to give up her paying job, the money she makes from experiments is her only source of income.

It’s not as sketchy as you’d think.

Amanda subscribes to a listserv through the psychology department, and responds to posts that fit with her schedule. Sometimes the experiments are as simple as answering questions on a computer. At a recent gig, the experiment was like a game, where the participants  picked out points on a circle.

“I’ve probably only made like 50 bucks so far [this semester] because I hardly have time to do them. But that’s not bad,” she says. “If I did them every week consistently I’d be making probably like 20 bucks a week. Not bad for doing nothing.”

Of course, she has heard of a few sketchy experiments…

“I know my roommate did one where like, she had to watch all these really disturbing images and it was like monitoring her heart rate or some shit,” she says. “Or there was one where she’d get shocked.”

But Amanda stays clear of those, she says, and so should you!

Meanwhile, the pay is good. She says she’s seen pay days between 5 and 100 dollars, and usually walks away with at least 10 dollars. And the time commitment is minimal, from a few minutes to an hour.

So try it out, and definitely don’t do anything that involves electric shocks. Sounds like a good deal. Think about it: you’ll only need to do about 100 experiments a week to pay off your student debt!


The Juice Debacle

On days like this, I can’t help but think that college has robbed me of the best of my youth: When I was 18 I was an energetic young thing. I knew how to do basic algebra and I could swim half a mile (Alright maybe it was just a quarter mile and maybe it was only once but still, I was athletic, OK?) and I lived a serene, debt-free existence.

It may be futile at this point since Jordan and I have already problematized and deconstructed our way through over three years of institutionalized (individualized!) robbery, but we want to make the most of things before senior year is over. So we’ve been trying to systematically suck the juice out of NYU before it finishes sucking the juice out of us.

The idea makes sense in theory. On a campus this size, there must be at least 50 free events that include expensive catering and booze on any given day. Not to mention all the free shows and lectures any bright young mind would wish to attend. So we thought.

We set ground rules to make sure things couldn’t get out of hand. No nefarious activities would be allowed: All stealing was off limits, we decided. And that included taking toilet paper from university bathrooms and carrying entire pineapples away from the dining hall. Neither of us has ever done either of those things by the way. Maybe.

But it was soon clear that the plan was flawed. We just couldn’t find any time in our schedules to get more out of our NYU experience. Jordan was the first one to crack.

The juice-sucking nightmare culminated on Tuesday, when in a fit of midterm desperation and post-GRE stress I decided I would rely on the university for every need for just one day. I wouldn’t spend any money. I would go to a billion lectures and instantly become a genius.

I started by sleeping in the library. If I hadn’t, I would have spent $2.25 on the subway, which was against the rules.

Around 10 a.m. Jordan came to my temporary campsite, and he tried to help me brainstorm ways to get the best of NYU.

“Why don’t we go to an exhibit at the Grey Art Gallery?” he asked. “That’s free.”

“Ugh, not art. Art is dumb,” I quipped back, still grumpy and drowsy following the few hours of unsatisfying sleep I had gotten in Bobst.

I had done a bit of research beforehand. I was planning to go to the International Relations club meeting to nab some supposedly fancy French pastries, and the Student Health Center for some snacks.

Tuesday was also the opening night of NYU’s Uruguay Film Festival.

“You guys should go. There’s a reception afterward,” my professor had told our class on Monday. I heard the word reception and pictured myself eating a giant piece of lasagna while the Uruguayan intellectuals in the room looked on coldly. I licked my lips.

But everything went terribly, terribly wrong.

I started out on a pretty good note — after my night in the library I headed for the class I am auditing. AUDITING. That’s right: 2.5 hours of free learning just for the sake of learning, every week.

Arielle: 15. NYU: 0.

After my next class I was supposed to head for pastries and snacks, but I had a standard half-hour meeting with my adviser to breeze through first. Or so I thought: The good professor, bless her soul, kept me there for over two hours.

I emerged at 5:30 p.m., devastated and starving — I had missed all the food events. NYU was in the lead.

I needed a shoulder to cry on. So I called the Wellness Exchange to schedule the first of my 12 free counseling sessions. They put me on hold, and my cell phone flickered out of service. I gave up.

I made it to the film fest with the knowledge that food was right around the corner at the reception. Wrong again! They were serving wine and apple juice — no lasagna in sight.

I quietly accepted the sweet apple juice and a very bitter defeat, whipping out my wallet to buy some Chinese food and a subway ride home. You won this round,  NYU, but I’ll be back …


Foods to eat when you are poor

Here at Plastics, we’re all about finding our own paths to personal fulfillment. Being bold. Having adventures. Living the revolution. But we’re also realists: We’re aware that whiny humanities majors don’t always (read: never) make big money after college. That in mind, we would still like to eat decent meals.

New York-based nutritionist Barbara Mendez pointed us toward the cheapest foods to keep us full and keep our minds focused on that fulfilling career breakthrough that’s surely around the corner.

If you want a filling meal, beans, rice and lentils-based dishes are your best bet, Mendez said. They’re as cheap as it gets, they’re versatile, and they’re packed with protein.

For snacks, stick with the basics as well — apples and peanut butter are cheap and high in energy, although with the recent peanut shortage, prices may go up …

Alternately, eat carrots with hummus, which is high in fiber and is also a great source of calcium, Mendez said.

For breakfast, make yourself a bowl of oatmeal with chopped nuts for added protein and an apple for some flavor. Throw in lots of cinnamon, which acts like insulin, taking the strain of digesting carbs off your body.

You could also scramble some eggs or boil them and eat one as a snack during the day.

If you’re trying to study, omega-3 oils may keep you on task, as they have been linked to improved brain activity. Mendez ate salmon and kale every time she studied for her masters’ degree for exactly this reason, but for us budget starved youngsters, flaxseeds may be the best source of omega-3 oils. Look for flaxseeds in small health food stores and grind them yourself — flaxseed oil is sold for a higher price than the seeds.

Sugar and refined foods may be inexpensive and delicious, but avoid them like the plague, especially if you’re trying to get work done. Whenever we have negative thoughts (or are freaking out), we need serotonin in our brains. Sugar boosts serotonin levels very quickly, but the crash later makes it very difficult to stabilize the body.

Below is one of Mendez’s recipes — It’s tasty, cheap and simple, and it covers some of the ingredients we’ve talked about in this post.

Three Bean Salad

½ Minced medium Red Pepper

1 Minced Carrot

½ Minced Yellow Squash

15oz frozen corn, defrosted and drained

15oz cans of beans (Black, Kidney & Garbanzo)

1 Cup chopped Scallions

3 Cup of finely minced Red Onion

½ Tbsp each chopped fresh Basil, oregano and Parsley

½ Tbsp each chopped fresh Basil, oregano and Parsley

2 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

½ Cup Olive Oil

¾ Cloves minced Garlic

3 Juice from 1/2 a large Lemon

Salt & Pepper to taste

 Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for two or more hours. Serve as an

appetizer with tortilla chips or as a side dish to grilled fish.

— Arielle