Sunday, November 7, 2010

Because we aren't always photogenic

Taking passport pictures. What a daunting task.

It's daunting not because it's hard to do- all you do is go to a passport picture taking place, sit there and look awkwardly at the camera and a few minutes later you have your two passport pictures.  It's daunting not because it's hard to find a place to do this- you can get it done at the drugstore, at a Kinko's, or at any other office center type establishment. 

It's daunting because of the PRICE! You may end up paying $10 or more just for those two pictures. We don't all have $10 to spend on two pictures of us that don't even make us look that glamorous.  Of course, our reason for spending this money is usually because the picture needs to adhere to certain rules about proportions and things like that.

But we can do so much better by spending less money and having more control over the picture we print out simply by utilizing the right resources.

Here's what you can do. 

1. Take a picture of yourself. (Make sure you've got the right plain background and that you aren't wearing sunglasses, hat, etc)
2. Download picture to computer. (I used Photobooth, so I got to skip this step!)
3. Go online and find a website that will adjust your photo to the correct passport picture proportions.
4. Download this picture.
5. Open a word document and insert this picture. Then copy and paste it as many times as you can until the page fills up with this picture of your face. (For an American passport picture size, you should be able to fit about sixteen or a letter size paper)
6. Take this document via email or flash drive to a place that prints stuff on nice photo-ish paper. (If your own printer does this, you can skip this step!)
7. Print your document!

If you take this to a place to print, like a Kinko's, it shouldn't cost more than $5. And you get eight times as many pictures as you could with your $10.  AND you can re-take your photo as many times as you like.


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Return of Maoz

We're back on campus! This means we're back to our good old supermarket that feeds us, to our familiar Chipotle where we can get wonderful deals, to the sprawling subway system if we ever have the money to leave campus, and of course... to Maoz!

As you may have read earlier, Maoz offers great deals with their sandwiches.  But there's another way you can win at Maoz.  This is what you do...

1. Go to Maoz at an obscure time on an obscure day. (How about 3:30 pm on a cloudy Friday?) Bring a friend who will order in at Maoz.  You can order in too, but you don't have to if this plan works out.
2. Sit inside.
3. Look out the window for any Maoz employees standing outside giving away free samples of falafel.
4. If there is, go outside and take a sample.  It's a full falafel ball- not a small bite like most stores usually give away for free!

This free sample has a 70 cent value, because you can order five falafels for $3.50. (At our store, at least.)
That's the cost of upgrading a Junior Maoz sandwich (half sandwich) to a regular Maoz sandwich (the full circle).  So if you're feeling disgruntled about getting a regular Maoz vs. a junior Maoz because of the extra 70 cents, you can eat away the free samples and feel better about yourself.
Take that!

Yes, you're welcome.

Disclaimer: I do not guarantee that you will find free samples outside Maoz at 3:30 pm every Friday. It just happened today.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A PCS Summer?

Summer is winding down, now that move-in is only a few days away. The wonderful thing about summer is that you have time for a summer job, or internship...or even a summer adventure.

When you have your summer job or internship, you initially think of saving that money for the coming school year. The savings would definitely make college easier. But does summer savings really happen? Seeing your bank account fill up with money once a week, or every other week is a glorious thing that makes most people spend recklessly. Mike and I went to nice meals, and shopped a lot, since we had paid internships this summer. And now, just as school is starting up...we are poor college students again.

Bruce lived thriftily while having an internship in China, which is something we all should aspire towards. Having savings for those sticky times during the semester is a great thing!

Claire, on the other hand, spent her summer travelling, and minimized her costs by couch surfing, and depending on the kindness of others.

Who do you think had a PCS summer? Who is better off financially come this semester?!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

When a PCS Needs to Drive

Do yourselves a favor, and have a friend teach you how to learn the bulk of your driving. It took me three road tests, and 17 lessons to finally pass, and get my license. But it also cost >$1000 this summer. Learning to drive can be rough on the wallet, so don't use a driving school for more than the 5 hour course/certificate! You'll gradually end up with less money in your bank account if you are as shitty a driver as I am! Don't be an even poorer college student!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Blame Canada

Doing laundry in the dorms is suuuuch a pain.  Or for that matter, any place where you have to insert a bunch of quarters before the laundry machine will operate.

Mika and I were doing laundry the night before we left for our backpacking trip.  We put in the coins into the dryer only to find that it wouldn't accept the last quarter, and neither would it return the 4 quarters that it already ate. 

Confused, we abandoned this machine and tried again with the machine above it, but the same thing happened.

This was not just making us frustrated, but it was also making us progressively poorer and poorer. We had already lost two dollars.  We needed some quarters... so we scoured the laundry room.

We found two in another dryer!!!

We tried putting one of those in one of the machines we'd tried before and the machine finally agreed to start.

Then, we realized why the machines kept stopping at the last 25 cents.

It was a Canadian 25 cents.

Poor college student blames Canada for confusing us and helping laundry machines eat our money. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Living in New York City, you grow accustomed to paying ridiculous prices for everything from haircuts to suspiciously vague school fees (student life fee). The upside is that in the majority of places you go outside of the U.S., cost of living is half as much and in most cases much less.

In China, any poor college student can live as well as your average New York City investment banker. I present to you the $0.88 haircut, with complimentary before-and-after shampoo.

I feel pretty and spoiled.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Unexpected Cash on Hand

Accompanying my excitement as I waited to start my internship in Shanghai was my resignation to the fact that I am not getting paid. Sure, they’re reimbursing the plane ticket (quite expensive), and providing housing (ridiculously expensive) but I could still use some cash on hand! As happy as I am to be money neutral for the summer, I decided to let my old vice, Poker, back in my life.

With $55 in my account the night before the flight, I did not meet the minimum requirement of $100 to withdraw cash from my account. Rather than slowly build back up to a playable bankroll, I decided to just shove it all in. Half an hour and one super-turbo tournament later, I was $172 richer!

Divide that by .5 hours and my hourly rate is:


If only cash always came so easily.

Poor College Student Summer Housing Fail

Poor college student wanted to save money this summer by subletting an apartment near campus. Campus gates are on 116th and Broadway. Campus housing is about $3100 from May 23-Aug 15, and on 114th or 115th and Broadway. My sublet is $4900 (including $1200 deposit) from June 1-Aug 31, on 123rd and Amsterdam, while the last 15 days of August will be wasted due to travel, and free housing for people doing orientation.

Worst poor college student fail in the history of poor college student fails.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Poor Hungry Engineers

There are a lot of things we poor college students will do when hungry - eat cheap ramen, eat bagels, eat anything that is less than $1.00, bum off friends, find free food events on campus, eat samples. Doing these things are common place, and not taboo. One of the greatest feelings as a college student is the feeling of eating free food. YUM! Free Chinese food? Yes, please!

Have you ever eaten a random person's box of leftover Chinese food without asking them? Now, "random person" is a little loaded - this person was not random, but we also did not ask for permission to eat his Chinese food when he left for the night. We took his leave as his way of saying he abandoned his food. This all happened at one of the Engineering building's computer labs recently, and suffice it to say...we probably would do it again.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Free Samples = Dinner

Amuse-Bouche: Fresh Pickled Vegetables

Soup: Maria's Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Entrée: Rice Crackers with Assorted Dips

Cheese: Stella Fontinella, Two Sisters Dutch Gouda

Dessert: Peanut Butter and Jelly on Toast Points

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Poor College Students Support Other Poor College Students

Did you forget it was Mother's Day? Why not buy your mom some Mimi Truffles? Handmade by our fellow friends Poor College Students Megan and Melissa, these truffles come in delicious flavors like Hazelnut, Blueberry Muffin and Red Velvet. At 3 for $4, these are a steal! Place an order online through their website or buy them in person at Westside Market on 110th and Broadway!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cheap Drinks at Starbucks

Mmm, coffee. The sustenance for most college students. It's not uncommon to hear your friend, classmate, professor, TA...or anyone on campus really saying "I need coffee." We live off caffeine...but for the most part, it costs money.

Now, if you like brand name (and in my opinion, not so great) Starbucks coffee, you can spend nearly $4 dollars on an iced latte. Imagine getting 3 or 4 lattes a day during study week! That's a lot of caffeine! That's even more money!

For full disclosure, this may or may not work at all Starbucks. Some of the baristas know of the following trick, but if it works...score!

When it's your time to order, say "I'd like n shots of espresso poured over a tall/grande/vente cup of ice, thanks" and after receiving said cup, go to the napkin/straw/sugar/milk area and fill your cup with milk! Each shot of espresso is approximately 55 cents, and if you want a flavored latte, each flavor shot is 55 cents too! Talk about reasonably priced!

Another Starbucks pointer - there is another size of drinks called "short." It's on the register, so you're not making it up when you ask for it. It's an 8 ounce cup that is 1/3 less expensive than the tall! If you are looking for flavor over caffeine, this option saves you money and calories!

Next time you go to Starbucks, try these tips out!

(Author's note: I fully support smaller coffee shops and chains, such as Oren's and Joe the Art of coffee, so you should just buy their drinks. Also, they know the iced latte trick, and probably won't let you get away with it - and for good reason! Their coffee tastes GOOD.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How to win at Maoz

Not too long ago, a new Maoz opened up near campus. In case you haven't discovered it or heard about yet, Maoz is a vegetarian restaurant chain that serves extremely delicious falafel sandwiches.

Now, I know plenty of vegetarians, but I know more omnivores who will say "Wait, what?? Only vegetables?? I can't get full from only eating vegetables!"
Omnivores, fear not. I will teach you how to win at Maoz.

There are a few "meal deals" at Maoz: a Maoz sandwich, fries, and a drink; a Junior Maoz sandwich (half the size of a regular Maoz sandwich), fries, and a drink; a salad and a juice. These cost $7 or $8 but are nice deals because the salad bar is free and you can keep going back for more. This is key!
However, the other great thing about the salad bar is that you don't have to order a salad to utilize it- if you get a sandwich you can stuff the top with salad bar vegetables too, which, by the way, are varied and plentiful.

Seven or eight dollars isn't too bad, but what if you don't care for fries or a drink and want to spend under $5? That happens, right?

This is what you do.

1. Order to stay in. This is key! You'll see why.
2. Order a full sandwich. You could get a half sandwich, but a full one only costs 70 more cents!
3. Receive your sandwich.
4. Take a fork, and eat the sandwich filling (falafel, etc), leaving the pita bread more or less intact. This is key! You'll see why.
5. Take the pita bread and return to the salad bar.
6. Stuff the bread with salad bar food (Chickpeas, eggplant, carrots, broccoli, etc... they may sound boring here but they are cooked fantastically!! ), using the bread as a salad bowl.
7. Eat the renewed sandwich filling with your fork. (Or fingers, whatever)
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until satisfied.
9. Return to salad bar and drench pita bread in dressing of choice (eg. yogurt sauce, garlic sauce, tahini sauce, white sauce)
10. Eat pita bread.

See? See how much food you can get out of that? What's more, it was totally flavorful every step of the way. Omnivores, even those of you so devoted to eating meat will forget your carnivorous inclinations when you've taken these ten (or more) easy steps.

Try it!!

You are welcome.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

In which Poor College Students attempt to be Takeru Kobayashi

Today my friend entered a hot dog eating contest - and ate one hot dog. She entered just for a free lunch.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How to win at your local supermarket

You know how sometimes you want to buy fruit, but it's a little pricey?

$4.99 for one box of strawberries.... whaaaat?

Well, sometimes all you have to do is look around in the store for a cheaper option, because it might be further inside the store.

Other times, you don't have to look very far. For example, at this particular store, all I had to do was turn around 180 degrees and I found a winning deal.

A quarter of the price!!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Super-size and Save

Although America is facing an obesity epidemic because of it's need to super-size portions, you have to admit super-sizing has some merits. The cost to quantity ratio is just too good to ignore sometimes. As much as I would LOVE to have a discussion about America's waist line problems..this is a site dedicated to poor college students, and not college student discussions.

I love cold green tea. It's very refreshing, and has 0 calories. Normally, I purchase a bottle that contains only 2 servings, or approximately half a liter of tea, for about $2, plus tax. A lot to spend on a liquid, right?

Well, I went to my neighborhood supermarket one day, and found a whopping TWO liter sized bottle of the same tea from the same brand! And the news gets better! It was only FOUR dollars! Did I really just get 8 servings of my favorite green tea for only $2 more? Yes I did! This two liter sized bottle will last for days, and means I just saved $6!

Super-sizing has its time and place, and when it concerns my favorite, usually overpriced beverage, I give super-sizing a resounding thumbs up!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Poor College (and High School) Students

This Poor College Student is involved with his school's admissions office, and volunteers for events during our annual yield season when we try to convince accepted students to enroll in our school.

For students who can't come for one of three different overnight programs, we offer a day program that lasts for the month of April. During this day program, students are staffed at a table to answer any visiting admitted students' questions, and takes admitted students to the dining hall for a free lunch to talk more in-depth information about the school. Though I the dining hall isn't the best place in the neighborhood to eat... it would be a free meal if I volunteered for the program.

I signed up for every single day that I was available.

Note to any Poor High School Students out there, go visit the schools that you were accepted to and maybe they'll give you a free lunch!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brunch or Baby

Poor college student really needs to see someone about managing money/time/hunger. This post may sound familiar as the same poor college student had to decide between money and birth control. Only hunger won.

A few months ago, I had only $50 dollars in my account. I wasn't going to have any money till the weekend, and it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break. A dear friend asked if I wanted to get brunch at Community Food and Juice - sometimes delish, always pricey. However, I also needed to buy birth control, which was a hefty sum of $40.

Poor college student knew what she needed to buy but alas...hunger prevailed.

There are many lessons to be learned:
1. Prioritize your finances: You're friends will give you a bowl of cereal if you are hungry, or you can get a bagel which only costs $1. There are some things money can't buy, but in this case, money buys you your birth control.

2. When desperate, your friends are there for you: I learned after the fact that my friends would have loaned me the money for my bcp if I asked, because they too know how important somethings in life are.

3. Don't drink and eat without thinking: I drank heavily the night before, and as some people know about me, I love a huge hangover breakfast. I did not think about my bcp until after the fact, after charging about $20-odd dollars to my account. Huge d'oh.

Drunk pangs of hunger can never trump true necessities. And thinking before eating can save you from a month of trauma!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How to win at Chipotle

Do you like Chipotle? The delicious cilantro-lime rice, excellent beans, meat cooked to perfection, and the flour tortilla that wraps all of it together?

And the guacamole? Oh, the guacamole. Sooooooo good. "Made from fresh avocados, hand mashed, three times a day", like they say. But who likes to pay an extra $2-something for it, on top of a $7 or $8 burrito?

Chipotle is so good, but you can end up paying a lot more than you have to and then falling uncomfortably into a food coma afterward. That is what happens when you get a burrito (or even a burrito bowl) with (or even without) guacamole, but it doesn't have to happen. You can eat exactly what you want and pay less and feel great when you're done eating. You can win, bean and cheese burritos aside. You can win.

Here's how you can win at Chipotle.

1. Ask for two tacos (I like soft tacos).
2. Specify that you want one vegetarian, one with meat of your choosing (I like chicken).
3. Get rice on both tacos, and beans on one, peppers and onions on the other. (Or both ingredients on both tacos- I don't think it matters)
4. Ask for the meat on the tacos with beans and rice. This is important!!! Meat must only go on ONE taco!
5. Move on to toppings. I like to get everything: salsa (mild), corn, sour cream, cheese, and lettuce. Get the generic toppings on BOTH tacos. Then ask for guacamole on the other, only-veggie taco. This is important!!! Guac must only go on the taco with NO MEAT!
6. Pay. Make sure that the cashier knows it is two tacos vs. three (which costs $8). It is under $6 and I'd have gotten everything I wanted at a good quantity.

Under $6 for meat AND guacamole? WIN-WIN! How did this happen?

Guacamole comes free in vegetarian tacos, so if you keep one taco meat-free, you don't have to pay for the guacamole you get on the veggie one.

You may think two tacos will not fill you up, as I thought before I switched from burrito bowls to two tacos. But, surprisingly, it does. If you like eating burrito bowl style, you can dump the contents of the tacos into a bowl, too. Then it's like you got a burrito bowl with free tortillas! For under $6!!!


You are welcome.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Poor College Student doesn't have to buy folders

Tips for future Poor College Students:

If you interview for summer internships, sometimes they give you a company folder with information about the company/position/interview process inside! After the interview, you have a nice (shiny) new folder to use for school! This is the second R in the 3 R's that everyone learned in elementary school - reduce, REUSE, recycle!

This semester, this Poor College Student got THREE (3) new folders!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Poor College Student can splurge on groceries

I just got a new paycheck from my campus job. Now I can afford more substantial things to eat for maybe once a week, like when I go grocery shopping I know I can make chicken stir fry instead of just vegetable stir fry, or pasta with meat sauce instead of pasta with just sauce, or pork katsu instead of just bread crumbs.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Eat Right

Hands down, the thing that makes me look forward to the next day the most is breakfast. What else is there to look forward to each ordinary college day? Going to sleep knowing that I have breakfast waiting for me the next morning makes me excited to wake up. That's right. The idea of food makes me want to wake up before I've even fallen asleep.

Of course, poor college student doesn't have the time or money to have an elaborate breakfast. That's why we eat cereal- so delicious, nutritious, and fast. And not too expensive either. You may argue that a box of cereal in New York can cost up to $5 and sometimes even more, but that's where the bargains come in.

Keep in mind, there are more places to get cereal than the store just around the corner where things may be ridiculously overpriced because of the store's proximity to campus.
How about the grocery store five blocks down? Two boxes of Special K cereal for $5!
How about the pharmacy a block away from there? Two boxes of General Mills cereal for $5!

Spending just a small chunk of time a week to find the good deals will land you great cereal for about two weeks. (Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios, two boxes of Special K with Strawberries? life doesn't get too much better than that)

Careful though, because hungry poor college student friends will be sure to raid your stock of cereal. But no worries- you just got yourself four boxes at a time.