A Primer on Financial Survival while You Get Your Liberal Arts BA

One of the oldest sources of collegiate humor is really not that funny at all: the penury common to most students. And let me tell you—in can be really unfunny. I’m in England right now and the dollar is trading at about half a pound. The result: I’m eating 8-pence generic ramen at an alarming pace. Please sir, may I have another?

So this column is about addressing that issue: how to go from poor to rich, even if you’re not in Wharton. The answer is simple: do something degrading or unethical, even if you’re not in Wharton. Pause and take a seat, for here’s a moment of candidness: it’s unlikely that you have the skill or good looks to create wealth. So while this is ostensibly a humor column, you really might consider as more of a reality check, fatty.

You can earn substantial compensation simply by doing things that are kind of gross for the amusement of other people. That’s like that kid from elementary school that would eat worms if you paid him. Or that one prostitute you keep hiring even though she’s busted because you can pour shampoo in her eye while she plays with your third testicle. That’s professionalism. You can also do things that are dangerous. There are always medical trials going on at your local hospital. If they’re unpleasant enough, you’ll get compensation. The other day, I was approached by a lady offering me several thousand dollars to sign up. All I had to do was agree to be infected with a genetically-engineered strain of malaria to test the effectiveness of their new vaccine. There was another one that paid out only half as much—because you only had to agree to contract tuberculosis, and they’re much surer they can cure that. Sometimes, the compensation just doesn’t make sense at all—one got you $100 for brushing your teeth with experimental new toothpaste. One only paid you $50 for a year’s worth of highly invasive prostate examinations. I don’t really know how to follow that with a zinger.

You can do things that are awkward and unpleasant, and vaguely disreputable. Just the other day, I volunteered to be in police lineups. So if you get your purse snatched in Oxford and you want to finger the guy who did it, here’s a quick hint: it probably wasn’t me. Then again, I had to sit in the police station among other desperate students waiting hours to get my picture taken. And then, there are those paper mill websites. It’s pretty flattering to think that anyone would want to pay you to write academic papers. After all, your writing is bad enough that you’ve spent your whole life paying other people to read them. I prefer not to think of this as unethical, because you’re rendering a valuable service. If a kid is willing to buy a paper off the internet, what more appropriate punishment exists than giving him one of your crappy papers for his money? Revenge is a dish best served through your pedestrian commentary on chivalry and masculine social roles in Henry IV, Part II.

Lastly, if you’re just a few cents short of a sandwich, you can just go up to people and ask for it. This happens to me frequently outside of WaWa. I don’t drink at all, and I just want to have some lunch, but I’m a few pennies short. Also, if this might be relevant, I am a pious Christian. Just thought you should know. Of course asking a whole lot of people is pretty hard work, so I thought it might be more efficient to make a sign—it would be like asking everyone who could see it…at once! Unfortunately, the only materials I was able to find around were some discarded cardboard and a sharpie.

Of course, if you can’t make ends meet doing any of the above things, and you’re starting to get really desperate, you can fill out Penn Dining surveys until you win an iPod. And eat the iPod.

Leave a Reply