Today, our City Year New York AmeriCorps members are receiving their first paycheck! (*Cue ‘N Sync*It’s Friday night and I just-just-just-just-juuuuust got paid!”) With that said, our ACMs will have fewer 0s on their checks than Justin Timberlake because they are getting a stipend. This biweekly stipend is part of the living allowance they earn from participating in AmeriCorps, which is operated by the federal government’s largest grantmaker for service.

Although the stipend may seem small, it is important to remember our first value: “Service to a Cause Greater than Self.”

Today’s guest blogger is Sam Cho, Program Manager at IS 123X and CYNY alumnus (‘14, ‘15), who offers his payday advice for our new ACMs. ***

Hi everyone! My name is Sam Cho and I've been living on a stipend for 2 years. That kind of seems like an introduction to a support group meeting, but I guess I’m a survivor. Anyway... first of all, what is a stipend? According to my dictionary, a "stipend" is a fancy government term for "welcome-to-the-non-profit-life."

Now you may be thinking: “HOLD YOUR HORSES, folks can't live on that kind of money, especially not in NYC! How do I eat? How do I live? What do I do for fun?” Well I used to think that too, but then I spent two year living #stipendlife and learned that it is tough, but absolutely do-able.

Despite the fact that you live on lean monetary means you will:

1. You never have to pick out your outfit, because pants, shirts, and outerwear are provided for you. Time and fashion stress gone forever!

2. You get crisp unlimited Metro cards every month. NYC at the palm of your hands, or rather, a yellow card in your wallet! In contrast, your non-City Year friends have to struggle at those rusty Metro Card machines, pressing those mysteriously sticky buttons while other commuters *groan* and *sigh* behind them when they accidentally press the wrong option.

3. You may be eligible to receive food stamps, also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that helps people with limited incomes buy food. Grocery stores like Trader Joe's accepts food stamps and, lo and behold, TJ has a location on 6th Ave one minute from the CYNY office. You can also use your food stamps at many of the small grocery stores and bodegas near your school.

4. Feeling sick? Not anymore! You can sign up for CY’s healthcare plan, which will get you good quality care, so you can care about your students. [See page 141 of the Idealist Handbook.]

Maybe that hasn't convinced you of the benefits of #stipendlife. Maybe you're still sighing and saying, well, I can't even go out and have fun, everything is expensive! But there are a TON of things to do! NYC has some of the most historic and beautiful sights in the country, free activities in Central Park, free comedy and arts performances.

My past two years were tough, but they made me realize the value of what was really important in life: to focus on quality time with friends without constantly feeling the need to be entertained with the use of money. I am grateful for the experience of living on a stipend as it made me more resilient, thrifty, and clever.

And you know what they always say: YOU CAN ONLY GO UP FROM HERE!

Peace, love, and cocoa puffs,

Sam Cho

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