When I started applying to colleges, financial aid was my first priority. I knew that I wanted to pay for my own education and I was terrified of debt. Luckily, I was given a full scholarship to the University of Vermont, so I didn’t have to worry about tuition. Even so, covering my bill for room and board was an enormous challenge. My parents gave me $2,500 for the fall semester and paid for my health insurance and phone bill, but for the spring semester, I was on my own. In total, my expenses for the spring semester were under $3,500, in large part because I avoided small but regular expenses such as eating out and buying stuff. In fact, I decided to avoid spending money on food and clothing at all costs for the spring semester of my first year in college; dumpsters provided nearly everything I needed.
I was determined to pay my own way through higher education, and dumpster diving turned out to be one of the most important contributions to that goal. Wrestling my way off the meal plan during my second semester and sourcing all of my nourishment from dumpsters and free food events on campus saved me $1,832. This financial cushion left me with enough money in savings to pay off the $3,500 loan I took out that semester. The loan is helping me to build my credit score, and it is subsidized, so the government will pay my interest until I graduate. When that day comes, I will have that $3,500 waiting in my savings account with a few extra dollars of interest to boot; not only has dumpster diving radically changed my perception of the consumer economy, but it has also allowed me to attain financial security while earning very little money and paying for my own college education.