living on the VISTA stipend… (or, thoughts on not having a lot of cash.)

hi all!
I wanted to talk a little bit about money. (wait! it’s so taboo! I know, but when it comes down to it, it’s important to talk about.)

I’ve been living on the VISTA stipend since September, and only a few overdraft dramas. Before that, I was in National service, which pays the big bucks of $1040 a month.

If you have a spare $100 in cash, my advice would be to set it aside – put it in an overdraft savings account, or just keep it in an envelope in your desk. If you don’t, consider what you can live without… which, I think, is the point of the VISTA stipend. Try not to live on credit cards, because the banks will gauge you. (They might change the rate laws in February; don’t hold your breath.)

Let’s share some ideas and stories and laugh and cry and… prevent being overdrawn!

  • cheap haircuts: (Great Clips, local community colleges, beauty schools, etc)
  • dental: check your community and four-year colleges; some offer assistance; some non-profits will hook you up with reduced rates.
  • food stamps: YOU NEED THEM. a lot of people who work at DSHS (or whatever granting agency it is in your state) will perk their ears up if you tell them you’re in national service. don’t be shy about it.) some places like Papa Murphy’s also take food stamps – look into it.
  • clothes: Value Village is your friend! Goodwill, Salvation Army, YWCA… also, some places have "career clothing" shopping appointments if they have a community clothing closet. (you might have to ask.)
  • potlucks! (yes, these are your friends! you DO love casserole!)
  • housing? most states have housing agencies – you might be able to get on a waiting list, depending how bad the needs are in your area. (try to connect with a post-service Americorps, VISTA, or Jesuit Volunteer Corps; sometimes they’ll help you out or send you to someone who can)

other ideas?

besides knitting your own legwarmers?

in other news, I straightened out my food stamps today. they were going to give me $16 a month. What, I ask you, can a person eat on $16 a month!!! I know, you will talk about your dumpster-diving days. that just kinda scares me, though. no offense. I got them restored to $130 a month, which is not as much as I did have, but about as much as I need. *whew!*

I’m also feeling a little bit better today, and will probably go into work tomorrow. good times.

happy birthday, !!! you’re a joy and I’m happy we’re friends.

2 thoughts on “living on the VISTA stipend… (or, thoughts on not having a lot of cash.)”

  1. dumpster diving is for the uninitiated. In-kinding yourself a pizza or a grocery gift card–that’s where it’s at!

    I had the 150 max and I still ran out of food every month. It got so bad I would treat myself with tofutti frozen pizzas and crumpets on welfare day, resigned to ramen at the end of the month. When I heard someone call Whole Foods ‘Whole Paycheck’ I almost died because I did spend the majority of my EBT there…but tragically a lot of their stuff, like pasta and canned foods, were cheaper than the soopermarket.


    and at the time I was living la vida ebt, there was this: Later on in the challenge, one of the female congressmen burst into tears when her PBJ for the week was confiscated by airport security.

    I find volunteering one the weekends helps–classy places provide food and if you’re at a bread pantry they’ll give you expireds. W00t w00t!

    I didn’t mean to be this long winded, but I listened to a UU podcast recently about an unemployed lady who was humorously talking with her minister about living off a 10lbl bag of rice. Like, this is where UU is epic fail–other churches and esp. synagogues tend to pony up $$$ to help out their congregants in times of need. What do we do, give a pound of coffee and some tattered Thoreau? *headdesk*


    1. I was hoping to get some pearls of wisdom from you!

      I should definitely look into volunteering – good for the spirit, good for the soul – but I’ve been feeling so blah lately that I just DON’WANNA help others. I think once the “christmas” thing passes, I will feel better.

      blah blah.

      a pound of coffee and a tattered Thoreau sound about right for the UU gift basket! there are “ministers’ discretionary funds” in most churches – a fund for the minister to give away to people who are needy. but you’ve got to pony up and ask!

      I think it’s harder when you don’t really do the whole “processed foods” thing – especially vegetarian/vegan. you gotta cook everything yourself, and that takes time!

      there’s an organic food store here, Huckleberry’s, that is owned by one of the bigger foodstore chains in town. eh. sometimes it’s nice to go and get some Odwalla protein shakes and sooper-nommy rice crackers! but eh.

      hope you’re well, my dear. hugs!


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