I've been broke to the point where I found myself being chased in a parking lot by a little Asian woman yelling, "You no pay! You no pay!" as she waved the receipt to the Chinese buffet I had previously decided would be her good deed for the day. What I saw as her "giving to charity," she saw as "some girl just ran out of here with crab rangoon stuffed in her pockets." They really should be more aware of the influence a fortune cookie can have on a person. To someone who is poor and hungry, Your lucky numbers are 3 and 7 translates to Sure, you can outrun your waitress. Why not?
This moment would soon lead to others of similar nature, which is exactly how I know that as long as you're swift enough to dodge the wheelchairs, the easiest restaurant to walk out on is Cracker Barrel. I don't know who our third president was, or when my grandmother's birthday is, but I do know the best place to steal bread baskets. This knowledge can be filed under other useless memories, such as "The Exact Date Marty McFly Goes Back in Time," "How to Knit Half a Scarf," and "My Ex-Boyfriend's Sock Drawer."
I've come a long way in the past three years. I'm broke now, which is a huge improvement from being really, really broke. I choose the Dollar Menu now. Back then, the Dollar Menu chose me.
I've compiled a list of 10 maneuvers I mastered back in my poorer days, which I like to call my Bonnie & Clyde phase - which was less robbing banks and more robbing biscuits. I could never picture doing such a thing now, but that's the beauty of being broke. You discover a side of yourself you never knew existed. Believe it or not, but there's a bum on a budget in all of us.
Staying Alive for Dummies: A Survival Guide for the Financially Fucked
Use these 10 maneuvers to fake out your opponent and avoid ever having to pay for anything.
1. The Dumpster Dive
Keep in mind: There are starving children in Africa.
How to do it: Leave your house at two in the morning and hit up the hottest dumpsters nearby: the one outside the grocery store, the one outside the liquor store, and the one outside that other liquor store. Go with a friend. Diver 1 must stand outside the dumpster with a flashlight while Diver 2 jumps into the dumpster and begins sifting through its contents. Diver 2 will hand over anything that has potential while Diver 1 checks for expiration dates. Be extra cautious of eggs, vegetables, fruit, and milk. Keep all wine. It doesn't go bad, and you will find lots of it. This will confuse you - but in a happy way.
Alternative method: Call your nearby pizza place an hour before closing time. Order 5 large pizzas for pick-up. They will ask for your phone number. Ignore all of their calls for the next 45 minutes. Drive to the pizza place an hour after closing time. Find pizzas in dumpster. They won't be hot, but they will be warm. Take pizzas.
2. The 12-Pack in a Backpack
Keep in mind: There's a reason fanny packs didn't stick around.
How to do it: Go to the grocery store with an empty, unzipped backpack. Bring a friend. Grab a shopping cart to seem less suspicious. Shopper 1 pushes the cart. Shopper 2 wears the backpack. Walk to beer aisle. Shopper 1 grabs a 12-pack of beer out of the cooler while Shopper 2 turns their back to them. Walk through every aisle until you find one with no people in it. Shopper 1 places beer in Shopper 2's backpack and zips it up. Immediately head toward the exit door with Shopper 1 walking closely behind Shopper 2 to disguise the sudden enlargement of the backpack from passersby. Go straight to car.
Alternative method: Substitute backpack for the jacket you are wearing. Take off jacket, drape it over 12-pack, run toward exit. Do not stop for any reason, even when an employee yells, "Stop."
3. The Can Crusher
Keep in mind: Alcoholism pays bills.
How to do it: Drink a copious amount of beer every night. Keep all the cans. Place cans in giant trash bins. When you have filled six bins, empty them all in the middle of your driveway. Drive over cans with your car until they are all crushed. Place in trash bags. Drive to the nearest can-collecting center. They will pay you per pound. Use money to buy more beer.
Alternative method: Drink a copious amount of beer for several months and return them when you'll earn enough money to do something more responsible, like pay the water bill. Then get more beer.
4. The Create-Your-Own-Coupon
Keep in mind: Think like a coupon. Become the coupon. Be the coupon.
How to do it: Go to your nearest grocery store that has a self-checkout line. Proceed with grocery shopping as usual. When you get to the self-checkout, scan one item but bag two.
Alternative method: Scan one item but bag five.
5. The See-A-Penny-Pick-It-Up
Keep in mind: Why make it rain when you can make it hail?
How to do it: Go to the drive-thru. Any drive-thru. Order food. When you approach the window to pay, quickly open your car door and pick up all the change off the ground that the cashier has dropped throughout the day. Because you are pressed for time, grab higher value coins first, lowest value last, i.e. quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies, chewed gum.
Alternative method: Walk up to the drive-thru and grab all the change off the ground before someone catches you and tells you it is illegal to approach a drive-thru window on foot.
6. The Gas Station Giveaway
Keep in mind: Individual coffee creamers can be a very satisfying meal as long as you drink enough to make you feel nauseous.
How to do it: Go to the gas station and head toward the hot coffee counter. Fill pockets with creamers, sugar packets, and those little containers of espresso shots that some gas stations carry. Drink as many espresso shots and creamers as you can. Stop when you find yourself lying in the fetal position, clutching your stomach, and swearing you'll never like vanilla again. While you are doing this, you won't even realize that you haven't eaten in hours.
Alternative method: Go to the bathroom. Bring a backpack. Stuff as many of those giant toilet paper rolls only gas stations have into your backpack. Enjoy TP for weeks while your rash from not having TP for weeks heals itself.
7. The Dine and Dash
Keep in mind: The more expensive the meal, the faster your feet.
How to do it: Go to a restaurant you've never been to before and will never go to again. Be extremely nice to server. Carry purse. Order food. Eat food. Leave table periodically throughout the meal so the server grows used to your absence and becomes assured that you always return. When you get your check, prove them wrong. Walk out unless they chase you. This is when it is acceptable to run.
Alternative method: Go to a restaurant you've gone to every single year for the past 8 years with your entire family for their annual Christmas Eve tradition because you're an idiot and it never occurs to you that there are a million other places you could have chosen to run out of. When Christmas Eve rolls around and you find yourself walking side-by-side with your parents into the same place you got chased out of just three months ago, make sure you dress like a completely different person. When your parents ask you why you're wearing a wig, tell them the lo mein smells delicious. This is called a "subject change" and will distract them until you have safely left the scene of the crime.
8. The Think Outside the Socks
Keep in mind: Monkeys aren't the only things that can evolve.
How to do it: Dry your hair with socks. Blow your nose with socks. Wipe your ass with socks. Use socks as mittens. Use socks as beer koozies. Use socks as paper towels. Use socks as bath towels. Make a sock your purse. Make a sock your wallet. Make a sock your bitch. Glue googly eyes on it. Who needs a Pet Rock when you have a Pet Sock?
Alternative method: Socks + socks + socks = shoes.
Keep in mind: Don't get your panties in a bunch - unless you are stealing those panties.
How to do it: Go to the "intimates" aisle of any supercenter. Do this when you have run out of clean underwear and cannot afford a trip to the laundromat. Find underwear. Tear tags off of underwear. Wad up underwear and stuff into pockets. This works best if your jacket has a hole in the pocket that leads to the lining of the jacket. Then you can fit underwear along the bottom of your coat. Leave store. Wear new underwear.
Alternative method: Don't wear underwear.
10. The King Midas
Keep in mind: Everything you touch can turn to gold - or a refund in the form of a gift card.
How to do it: Walk around your home and grab anything you don't need at this very moment, which includes just about everything. Go to a store that sells many things. Get in their Customer Service line and wait until you are called. Tell the clerk that you would like to return some items, but you do not have any of the receipts because they were all gifts from your grandparents and they bought you the wrong things. Some of these items may include: CDs, some library books, recycled Dasani bottles you refilled with tap water, DVDs, lip gloss you only used once, a dustpan, etc. The clerk will try and tell you they cannot accept some items. Do not listen to clerk, not even when she says they don't even sell something you've tried to return. After a prolonged period of assuring her that yes, they do sell toilet paper by the square, she will eventually give up and give you a refund just to get you to leave.
Alternative method: Write to a bunch of companies complaining about their product. They will send you free things. Use these things as refund-material.
I may not do any of these things now, and I sure hope I never have to do them again, but I don't regret this time in my life. It taught me to value the penny, learn to let go of material things, and appreciate soft toilet paper. Live in poverty - discover your creativity. Just don't get caught while doing it.