Free Things

The Cost of Fixing Up a Free Bike

This summer I rebuilt a bike whose frame had been gifted to me by my friend Hope’s little sister. She had found it in an alleyway and, thoughtfully, had asked me if I’d like to have it. I was thrilled because I had been wanting a bike and figured this would be cheaper than buying one from Craigslist.

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Above The ‘Fold: The Very First Billfold Live Event!

The Billfold is having its very first live event at Housing Works Bookstore & Cafe in NYC on Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

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The Cost of Finagling a Trip to Abu Dhabi

1. Befriend the international students and 2. Tip your waitresses; they probably have cool and too-expensive plans in the works.

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In College and in Search of Free Food

The only place that has more free food than Costco is college. I’m not kidding—if you know where to look, you can get at least one meal a day at no cost. Since I’m now on a serious, serious budget, I’m taking full advantage of this phenomenon and mooching as much as possible.

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The Allure of the Free Thing

Nothing feels as good as the free thing. Leaving your apartment and stumbling across a box of free books, or kitchenware, or a sofa that you find on the street that is hopefully not full of bed bugs is like finding treasure when you were just trying to go to the grocery store. I stop and look at every single dresser, or chair, or mirror that’s left out on the street, pausing and envisioning how it could fit in my room at home. “I need one of these,” I tell myself. “Who can help me carry this home,” I wonder, as I scroll thru the texts on my phone.

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Kids Trick-or-Treating Across Class Lines Makes 1%er Feel Faint

Halloween, as much as Thanksgiving, is a holiday about generosity.

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Advice for Retirement: Invest in a Metal Detector

There’s gold in them thar hills — at least, the hills of Scotland, as a retiree with a metal detector recently discovered:

Amongst the objects is a solid silver cross thought to date from the 9th or 10th century, a silver pot of west European origin, which is likely to have already been 100 years old when it was buried and several gold objects. “Experts have begun to examine the finds, but it is already clear that this is one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland,” Scotland’s Treasure Trove unit said in a statement.

The Viking hoard is McLennan’s second significant contribution to Scotland’s understanding of its past. Last year, he and a friend unearthed around 300 medieval coins in the same area of Scotland. … The latest find, also containing a rare silver cup engraved with animals which dates from the Holy Roman Empire, and a gold bird pin, is the largest to be found in Scotland since 1891 and could be worth a six-figure sum, the BBC said.

(If, like me, you’re reading the Outlander books, about a WWII nurse who accidentally time-travels back 200 years to the Scottish highlands, this news is particularly apropos and entertaining.) Vikings, man! They came to rape and pillage and they did a lot of burying treasure in Scotland and England too, which means there’s probably more to find.

But even if you can’t fly out to the UK and start marauding, you can still find money just by looking down when you walk: I’ve collected easily $50 over the years that way, as well as a really pretty tiny diamond ring. One morning, when I was a kid, I found $100 in an unmarked envelope hidden in my dresser. No idea what the story was but for a while there I lived like a king.

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Visiting Hogwarts When You’re Broke

Yeah, I paid $31.12 for an enchanted (discounted) piece of plastic. But *it* chose *me.*

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“If You’ve Got Some Sugar For Me, Sugar Daddy, Bring It Home”

Is it more fun to work at the Atlantic and report stories like this one – about how many “sugar daddies” are putting their “sugar babies” through college – or to work here and shake our heads at the Atlantic?

In 2013, Seeking Arrangement announced that approximately 44 percent of its 2.3 million “babies” are in college. This is a trend that the website encourages—if babies register with a .edu email account, they receive a free premium membership(something the guys have to shell out as much as $1,200 for). Seeking Arrangement creates the illusion that the sexual element of these relationships isn’t forced, but organic. No one associated with the website wants to admit that what it’s doing is facilitating sex-for-money exchanges. The large number of college women on the site helps preserve this illusion, for both the daddies and the babies.

“Dating a college woman fulfills these guys’ wildest dreams. They want someone highly educated who is eager to learn,” said Parinda Wanitwat, director of the documentary Daddies Date Babies, which profiles several college sugar babies living in New York City.

In related news, “women are most attracted to men in a similar age bracket to them. On the other side of the spectrum are men, who pointedly prefer women in their 20s, even when they are quite old themselves.”

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MacArthur Day is the Best Day! Joy Money Recognition Joy

Around these parts, we like to poke fun sometimes at prestigious prizes that come with very little money attached. Because, like, thanks for that Pulitzer but I still gotta eat, you know? Maybe Pawn Stars will give me something for it. Gee, a Fields Medal, huh? Greaaaat. If only I could afford childcare so I could get back to the lab.

The MacArthur Foundation understands. Its “genius grants,” which it gives out once a year, are actual, substantial, maybe life-changing amounts of money ($625,000!). Best of all, they are a SURPRISE. No one applies to be a genius. They work hard and do their thing and get by and then one day someone shows up with a giant check.

Pamela Long, 71, an independent scholar based in Washington, works from home and almost never answers her phone. So when she received an e-mail from the MacArthur Foundation asking her to call, she thought it was for an interview about someone else who had been nominated. Then she was told she had won. In the days that followed, her initial reaction — shock — slowly gave way to relief.

As a historian not affiliated with a university, she never knows how she will afford to do her work — research on the science and technology of 15th- and 16th-century Europe — from year to year. So far she has supported herself through grants. “But I don’t think you can get a grant every year for the rest of your entire life,” she said on a video call from Rome, where she is studying archival material for a book tentatively titled “Engineering the Eternal City.”

SNIFF. Read about all the happily surprised winners here, including my favorite, “Genius to Watch Out For”* Alison Bechdel. Yay Alison!

Thanks for that, Bec

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