The Winner of $500 University Scholarship 2020
If you suddenly had to live at the National Poverty Level of income, for the foreseeable future, what changes to your current life would you make? Give extensive descriptive details on what would change and why you feel the changes you would make would work for you to succeed.

Name of Winner: Beren Sabuncu

Winning Essay:

There are many important values one would benefit from living by. Some of these values include humility in service of others, creativity, environmentalism, and productivity. Without delving into the systemic inequality and discrepancies that would result in many of the governed living below or at the national poverty level of income, there are many steps one could take to ensure that they minimize their spending. If I suddenly had to live at the national poverty level of income, which is $12,760 as per informed by the HHS Poverty Guidelines for 2020, I would get creative with community groups. As this change of income is categorized as sudden, I would assume that I could still use my current phone and computer. Sustainable living is important to be mindful of regardless of income, so I reckon I would continue frequenting social media pages to look for opportunities. There are many community groups on social media that endorse minimizing spending. Technology has created a uniting social web, pun intended, that connects likeminded individuals. If I didn’t already have them, I would reach out to ads on house sharing websites to find roommates, and doing so would help me save money. I would get my furniture for free online as well (Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace). My rent and utilities budget would be $600 per month. For food shopping, I would buy basics like rice and dry beans in bulk, and frequent local farmer’s markets for vegetables and fruits. I would allocate $325 for food per month. I have been vegan for seven years, and I do tend to be mindful of how I spend my money, so this wouldn’t be very difficult. There are also webpages that share coupons and deals for food, toiletries, houseware, and much more. I would invest in a motorized bicycle and use it for my travels. Unlimited public transport passes come out to $ 1,524 per year, whereas a motorized bicycle ($299), its approximate gas usage ($1.50 per tank), and the necessary gear ($100) come out to much cheaper. I could afford to spend an extra $100 on public transport passes and I would still be making a large profit. For health and wellness needs, I would apply for Medicare (Medicaid) and I would legally qualify for free healthcare based on my income. For cultural satisfaction, I would benefit from the student discount of Spotify, additionally get Hulu for free for $5 per month, and find free books and textbooks online. The current budget would leave me a rainy day fund of $1000. I would use $100 to use on apps that help support individuals through free market investments (RobinHood, Acorns). For additional income, I would open up an online store on websites for independent artist\ and sell my art. Besides conserving money through apps and social media, I would explore ways to connect with members of my local community (online and offline) to barter goods and services. Sustainability-motivated groups have long supported organizing local clothing and book swapping events. This would mean that I could refresh my closet and get professional outfits when I need to. I’ve been formally educated on a wide range of topics, and completed two majors and a minor (Psychology, English, and Women & Gender Studies, respectively) during my undergraduate education. I am currently attaining my Master’s of Social Work. Currently, I am working for multiple NGOs some of which I’ve been liaised through United Nations. I have experience in a multitude of fields and positions. Though I am proud of my credentials, I’ve recounted some of my current and previous activities and accomplishments to say that I possess many qualities that could be of benefit for others and thus can be capitalized off of. My education also posits that I have a deep understanding of the multidimensional nature of poverty. There are multiple forms of capital and they are interchangeable in most circumstances. The field of Economics generally considers the following to be the five major kinds of capital; financial, natural, produced, human, and social. If suddenly I were to live and survive at the mentioned level of income, I would still have my educational background, my social support system, and professional know-how. This would mean that I already am cognizant of sustainable ways of living, have a social web to help support me, and that I could create new sources of revenue. The experience of a person that doesn’t have any of the mentioned forms of capital would be completely different from mine. There are individuals who haven’t had the opportunity to receive formal education, to be supported by friends or family, or to be guided in the way others have been. There are creative and sustainable ways to live at any level of income, but those who cannot shouldn’t be judged for not having been exposed to the necessary tools. In fact, all who are on the quest of sustainable and comfortable living at any level of income would benefit from seeking out information on media literacy, budgeting, and sustainability. It is also important to keep in mind that time is a luxury many cannot afford. This is why values are of importance. If one sees the values of humility in service of others, creativity, environmentalism, and productivity as their North Star, they will steer towards sustainable and creative ways of living. To revisit the main prompt of this essay, I already live close to these financial bounds. Implementing the above mentioned changes into my routine wouldn’t be difficult as they are shaped by values that also shape me. Not revering money results in constitutionally resilient generations aware of their self worth. In order to attain this goal, we must constantly unlearn and unpack our desires. To risk sounding like a cliche, I would say that enriching one’s life rarely takes riches. The beauty of life is that we get to experience it, not that we are in designer outfits and on yachts while doing so.