Most of us have been a situation where lowering our standards for money was a real option. As broke college students or poor kids growing up or just being down on your luck, sometimes that $20 to clean nasty drains is what changes everything.
These are 13 funny, sad and even heartwarming stories from people who were in those exact positions. Desperate for a few bucks and willing to do basically anything to make a little cash.
"I sold my dad's guitar, a nice acoustic Fender that he had given me for forty bucks - $20 for gas so I could actually get back home and $20 for crack.
I'm clean now (two years) and my dad forgave me. He's since passed due to complications from drinking too much. Our last Christmas together (a month before he passed) he gave me the only guitar he had left. Looking back I think:
A) he knew he was close to the end and wanted to be sure to give me a final gift while he still could and
B) he was proud of my sobriety and trusted I would take good care of it.
I will have that guitar till the day I die. Love you Dad.
Don't smoke crack."
"Worked at a personal protection service when I was younger.
Some of the clients were fantastic people. Comedians are usually great, actors and actresses are meh, politicians are usually pricks. But it's a job where your actual job is to die instead of the client, worst case. And knowing that? They often treat you like meat, or if you're lucky, you get slotted into 'the help' and they pretend you don't exist.
But the worst was their families. Are almost always awful. One gig, we were going to pick up an actresses ~12-14 year old daughter and take her shopping while mom was on set. We had a list of places we were supposed to take her, a list of places that were OK if she wanted, and a list of places not to let her go. With kids, the company had a two-body policy, one male and one female.
I did the meet and greet while my partner for the walk kept in the passenger's seat of the car. Talked to mom for a minute, got the lists and credit card and headed for the car. As I'm opening the rear door of the car for miss entitled, she informs me we'll be going to most of the stores on the 'no' list, and that if I argue she'll tell her mom that I touched her.
My partner gets out of the car at that point and stares at the girl, then points to the dash cam. Kid doesn't even have the decency to be ashamed, she just shrugs and gets in.
No further trouble from that one, but many family members were that kind of awful and demanding. The job was fiscally rewarding, I enjoyed meeting some of the clients, but on the worst end, it was the most degrading thing I've done for money"
"Me and my then girlfriend filmed ourselves being intimate for a museum. It was for a display on life in the Swedish Middle Ages.
$150 each for half an hour of work. Seemed easy enough. The problem was that during medieval Sweden living space was sparse. To accurately represent this we had to have an old guy in a bed by our feet and a kid in the foreground. Everyone was super awkward about it so we didn't really get any direction, everyone just wanted to shoot it and get out of there.
So, awkward grinding with a 10yo right next to you. Not an experience I cherish or will forget any time soon (it's been almost 10 years since).
The display was then a screen behind a fake window where you peeked behind a curtain. There was some public outrage; mostly elderly people writing letters to the newspaper. The entire ordeal, while I appreciated the quick and easy money, was more uncomfortable than I would be willing to deal with if I'd known beforehand."
"I was an absolutely broke student, we are talking literally zero dollars in the bank, when my friends said they were going to a house party that weekend. Well have fun guys, I don't even have bus fare to get there, never mind cash for a pizza or drinks. One of my mates says they will loan me $25 and just pay them back when I got paid from work.
It turns out the place we were going to was two bus rides to get there, with no late night student bus getting back to town, so I was going to have to use the remaining $20 to split a taxi fare with one of the guys back home, which would have been about $30 in total.
This left me approx $5 for food and drinks at this party that we had just rocked up to, Oh well, I'll just get the cheapest tall boy and cider I can find and work with that.
I get back to the party, and put the 2L bottle of something resembling apple cider and the cans on the kitchen counter and start looking for a pint glass to make some Snakebites when I hear a massive crash behind me. A completely trashed girl had knocked the cans onto the hard stone floor bursting two of them to create a shower of lukewarm Natty Light. Crap.
So my friends decided to host a 'fundraiser' for me, where for every dare I completed they would chuck in a $1 over the course of the night. I was desperate, and in.
I swapped my T-shirt with one of the girls, who was wearing a small petit pink tank top - I'm a six-foot tall guy who weighs 250 lbs.
I pulled out some of my chest hair and ate it in a bread bun.
I put some lip gloss on and had to refer to the other guys as 'sailor' for an hour.
I waxed my shins.
I made a fake account on an adult fantasy RPG forum and had to read out the few responses I got in the guise of Gandalf, complete with a mop for a beard and wearing a green dressing gown at the top of the stairs.
All in all, it was a fun night, but man, I was tricking myself out $1 at a time!"
"My dad was an addict and therefore took us around his addict friends and dealers. I was around 7 when they needed to keep me occupied so they could go get high so his friend promised me a $20 bill if I cleaned out his refrigerator. Of course, I agreed. Without even seeing the fridge.
I opened up a nasty moldy stinky bug-filled box. It was completely covered inside with spilled soda and potato bugs, maggots, black mold, fuzzy mold. It was awful. And I'm fairly certain this would be considered child endangerment today. They didn't provide me with a mask or gloves. But I wanted that twenty dollars, so I got to work.
I'm not even sure how long I was working on it but I got it as clean as I could before my dad told me it was time to go.
I never got that $20. The next time I saw my dad's friend, I mentioned he owed me money and he laughed and said 'oh that's right I owe you $5, I'll bring it next time kid' and that's when I learned people who abuse substances, also abuse people."
"We were on a bus for wrestling.
We arrive at the venue and everyone is dehydrated/starving, as we're all geared up for weigh in. Weigh in is on Tuesday and the actual competition starts on Wednesday and goes through Thursday. So we weigh in and then comes the sports drinks followed shortly by the nearest buffet: Cici's Pizza.
It is a post-apocalyptic scene of mayhem as we descend upon this unsuspecting venue like a biblical plague. Bets are flying as teenage boys brag about how much food they are going to put down and how quickly.
To this day, I don't know why I did it exactly. There were certainly less appalling ways to get money, but I had just blown my paycheck on an Xbox and Halo 2, and I really wanted to take Kasey Robinson out that Friday. I'm talking THE Kasey Robinson, if you'd have seen her you'd understand.
I hatch this half-baked plan and it starts right there in the restaurant. I barely eat anything. Just one slice of pizza off of someone else's plate and water. Everyone's asking why I'm not eating and I just reply 'I'm saving room for dessert.' Understandably there are confused looks as the dessert section is just over there, but I nod knowingly and give a wink and everyone just kind of moved past it.
Fast forward an hour and a half and we're back on the bus. Half the guys are green in the gills and I watch the second part of what I had seen in the restaurant. Money changing hands, and it's all going to Big Bryan, who wasn't looking too hot after making a substantial dent in a certain pizza chain's bottom line.
He stuffs the money in his pocket and I move over next to him, concerned for his well being. I start talking about all the different times I've seen people like him just before they start puking, describing the smell in detail. Lastly, I tell him about a time I'd seen a dog eating it up. Seconds before my story was done Bryan becomes a firehouse of vomit, all pizza, and Coke and Dr. Pepper.
The noise in the bus shuts off like someone closed the tap and everyone is looking from Big Bryan to the mess on the floor, stunned. This is where my foresight pays off and my stomach growls loud enough for everyone to hear. I see looks of disgust pass between the guys near me.
I spoke up into the quiet, and everyone heard me clearly.
'Anyone dare me to eat it?'
The entire bus exploded.
I yelled back that everyone would have to make it worth my while. Money started piling into the seat next to Big Bryan. Jason made himself my honorary treasurer and started counting, yelling the new amount as money started pouring in. It got quiet again. We agreed on how much I had to eat to get the money: two handfuls. I tried to get it down to one, but no one was having it: 'anyone could eat one,' they said.
Fine. Okay. I looked down at the wad of cash and back up Jason and shook my head before looking at Big Bryan. He got the picture and fished out his winnings, throwing it into the pot.
Before I could open my mouth, an arm reached over my shoulder and threw a $20 onto the pile. We all looked up to see the Coach smiling down.
It was at this point that I started to rethink my entire life. I'd put myself on the spot in a big way and I'd never live it down if I didn't follow through. But then there was his huge pile of half-chewed, soggy, predigested gruel in front of me.
Jason shouted the count: $127 and change.
It was quiet again. I was about to chicken out when I thought about Kasey Robinson. THE Kasey Robinson and I knew what I had to do. This one's for you Kasey.
I reached down and grabbed a still warm double handful of slop, held my breath and brought it up to my mouth. I knew I'd puss out unless I just went hardcore.
So I did. I started eating as fast as I could, imagining it was instant oatmeal, slightly Coke flavored.
I heard this last bit from the Coach, because I was trapped in a different world at the time and don't really remember the actual deed, like most of our deepest shames. The coach said that everyone recoiled and groaned, but they all held it together until at one point I peaked around my hands and saw a line of slop dripping down my forearm and leaned around to lick it off.
He said that's when everyone else started to throw up.
That was about the time I started noticing the world around me. It was the smell that had finally broken through whatever mental barriers I had put up. Windows were dropped, one guy didn't quite get it down as he puked directly into the glass and himself while others were hanging out the window as we drove and more were just tucking in between their knees.
It took two days for us to clean the bus because we had to go into and out of it in shifts because of the smell. But we got it done."
"I once agreed to buy pseudoephedrine to sell to my cousin's dealer for her because she was flat broke and he was paying $50 a box. At our last stop of the day as I was making my purchase, the pharmacist realized what I was doing. The lady flat out said I should be disgusted with myself for what I was doing. Definitely was. Never did that again.
I mean, she was also partly to blame as she knew she could have turned me away, but I was also a dumb teenager then. I live less than a mile from the same store and whenever I go in I'm thankful she doesn't work there anymore."
"I needed money pretty badly when I was 17, I moved out of my parent's house and couldn't afford to eat or pay rent and I got laid off my job. I went around house to house asking if they needed their lawn raked. After a couple confused looks (why is a 17 year old doing this), I prepared a fake clip board and donation slips for Multiple Sclerosis, saying I would rake their lawn if they made a $10-40 dollar donation. I couldn't believe how many of these I was able to do (by the way, raking lawns is hard work). I never donated the money, I used it to live, but since I lost my mom and sister to MS which kinda put me in that situation, I don't feel too bad about lying to all those people."
"I lived with other two girls. One was a red-headed adult dancer named 'Ruby' and the other was a single mom. The single mom was short on rent and so, to help her out, I went to work as 'Diamond,' with Ruby. I wore nothing but glitter and platform stilettos with a rhinestone studded slinky wrapped around my ankles. They put me on the backstage to try me out. I was surrounded by frat boys when the song 'Holla Back Girl' came on.
That was also the exact moment I realized that I didn't know how to strip to 'Holla Back Girl.'
I'm not entirely sure how I started, but I do know how I finished. I kicked my leg out a little and my shoe flew off, hit a kid square in the jaw and sprung back with the exact amount of force it would take to tip me over on the floor. I sat in a pile of my own glitter laughing so hard tears were flowing.
When I finally was able to focus, I noticed all the dollar bills and a room filled with high-fiving 21-year-olds.
I made enough for rent and retired."
"I made a back alley sale of old photographs.
Basically, we were very poor. My brother wanted to go to community college but didn't have enough money. We lived in a house previously owned by our grandmother who was a bit of a hoarder. The basement was full of things that had belonged to her mother in the late 1800s, early 1900s. My brother and I gathered up anything that looked valuable and went to an antique store in town. Most of what we had was worthless. Except for the photo album. But they wouldn't buy it from us. I'm not sure if they didn't think it was ours to sell or what. They had such a look of pity on their faces as they turned us away.
We exited the store pretty dejected. A man who had been in the store followed us out and told us that he was interested in looking at what we had. He asked us to follow him down the alleyway and looked through the photo album. There were black and white pictures, old style posed portraits, of a girl with her doll and teddy bear. He told us he would pay $5 cash for each one. I'm not sure what made those valuable but even as a teenager I knew we were being taken advantage of, but we needed the money, so we pulled the 4 or 5 pictures out of the album and gave them over. We were always poor, but nothing else ever made me feel as poor as that incident.
The women in the shop with their pity, the back alley deal with the smug smiling man. Awful."
"I'm a straight male.
While in the grips of addiction, I responded to a post on Craigslist offering money for a man to watch me pleasure myself. I drove to a backstreet and met him, let him hop in my car and watch me - try - to pleasure myself. I was going through withdrawal from smack and that conspired with the shame and guilt that I was feeling, I didn't succeed.
He let me keep the money anyway.
Substances have the ability to take me to a place where nothing stands in the way of getting one more, not even my morals or values. Today, I've been clean from everything for 3.5 years and no longer participate in any behavior which robs me of my dignity.
I can live my values today."
"I was 13 and my brother had to do community service for some stupid, illegal thing he did. My brother didn't want to do it and decided he was not going to go. My father asked me if I would do it in his stead (no one bothered to check ids, just expected a kid to show up) so my brother wouldn't get into more trouble. I negotiated for a new video game if I would do it.
The community service was about 80 hours at a local park. All of the guys there treated me like crap and talked down to me because I was 'some jerk kid that messed up.' I took it and just bided my time until the end. At the end of my last day, after I got the signed form, I told them how crappy and stupid they were for not realizing that someone else did the community service. One guy threatened to tell someone about it, I countered that it would look really bad on them for not asking for something as basic as identification and left. Nothing ever came of it.
Yes, it was bad parenting but the flip side was my brother was pretty bad at not being a delinquent. If memory serves the game I got was Earthbound for the SNES, so, totally worth it.
My brother stopped being a delinquent after life dealt him a series of harsh blows. He is married with kids, a nice job, and a nice house. So yeah, he's got his crap together now."
"When I was in the Marines, a couple friends and I rented a house on the beach in the area of southern North Carolina. I was jogging on the beach one night and met some people partying behind a huge mansion beach house. They were very obviously wealthy. I befriended them because they seemed like cool people.
A week later and we are vacating the beach house. The guy who owned the mansion, J, stopped by to say goodbye, which was cool and asked for my number. He calls the next Friday and invited me to a party on Saturday. I go and when I get there they immediately start plying me with drinks which I gratefully accepted. We're all just hanging out when the guys start daring each other to do stupid stuff. I join in and the dares get progressively worse to a point where no one will do them.
Cue young hammered me yelling I'll do it for a hundred bucks. Which leads to crazier dares for more and more money, and at this time most my money went home so I needed the cash. After a few dares, one of the guys says to me that J was right, I will do anything for money. That hurt me. I was too young to realize they weren't my friends, but I did realize they had only invited me to entertain them. So, I milk the situation for more money until they date me to jump through a window.
The money got high enough to where I couldn't turn it down, so I wrapped myself in a heavy blanket and jumped through this big picture window. That was enough, so I quietly snuck off with my money and a few bottles of their pricey hooch. I left with almost eight grand and J invited me back for the next weekend. I wanted to and told him I would, but my pride wouldn't allow me to go back.
Thinking back on it now I am so embarrassed to remember I did that.
I have never told anyone about it until now."
"Once upon a time, I was an up and coming disk jockey. I worked nights, didn't make a lot of money then but loved my gig at a classic rock radio station.
The radio station had a mascot. One day the boss asked me if I wanted to earn some extra cash as the mascot and I agreed.
To make a long story short, Santa Claus, Big Al (The University of Alabama's mascot), and me in my radio station's mascot suit were touring a VA hospital to spread some holiday cheer. It was going fine until we went to the psychiatric ward. My first clue trouble was brewing should have come when they unlocked a metal gate, let us in, then locked it back behind us. But whatever, right?
We are going along miming 'hi' to patients, etc... when a disturbed man leaps out of his bed and knocks me down. My mascot suit was pretty chubby so it mostly protected me from the blows to my body as he attacked me. Thank god the head was so big. The dude pounded away at it leaving several deep dents in the character's cheeks and head.
To me, it seemed to take forever as I was being mauled, but in fairly short order Big Al and Santa Claus came to my rescue and got the patient off me. I have no idea where the orderlies or whatever had gotten off to, but they showed back up and restored order.
And that was the first and last time I've ever worn a mascot suit."
"Back when I was in eighth grade, there was a kid named Nick who was in several of the same classes as me. He was a short, painfully naive guy, ready to believe just about anything if it was told to him in an authoritative tone of voice. He also fancied himself as something of a tough guy, and as such, when he was told that a surefire way to increase his reputation was to clobber the tallest guy on campus, he threw himself into the endeavor.
As it happened, I was the tallest person that Nick knew and he wasn't exactly confident that he could beat me up.
'Hey, Max,' he said to me one day, 'do you want to make some money?'
Nick and I had gone through numerous 'business transactions' before, usually involving beef jerky, so the question didn't strike me as particularly strange. 'What do you need?' I asked.
'I have to beat you up,' Nick said, 'and you have to pretend to lose.'
He glanced around as though he was afraid of being overheard. 'Some guys said I'd be more popular if I kicked your butt, but I don't want to fight you.'
'Again,' I repeated, 'why? Why would that make you more popular?'
'Can I pretend to beat you up or not?!' Nick snapped, looking anxious. 'I'll give you ten dollars.'
I'd given stupider performances for less, like the time that Nick had paid me to kick a garbage can full of bees, so I reluctantly agreed. At hearing this, he wanted to choreograph a drawn-out fight scene, but I talked him into a more believable alternative: Nick would walk up to me, in full view of his audience, who would be watching from across the basketball court and sock me in the stomach, then drive his elbow into my back when I doubled over. I'd fall to the ground, he'd kick me, then I'd claw my way upright and chase him until I succumbed to my injuries.
That afternoon at recess, we put our plan into effect. Everything went exactly as we'd discussed... until it came time for me to meet Nick behind the gym and collect my money.
'It didn't work!' he lamented. 'Everyone says I lost the fight!'
'How does that work?' I asked. 'I never even touched you.'
'Yeah, but you got up and chased me... and I ran away!'
The logic of that interpretation didn't make a lot of sense to me, but I didn't care enough to question it. 'Well, I did what we agreed, so you need to pay up.'
'No!' he replied. 'The deal was for you to make me look tough! Now I look even worse!'
'Just imagine how you'll look if you don't pay me.'
At the time, I had meant to imply that I'd let the cat out of the bag about the true nature of our 'fight,' but Nick took the threat as something a little bit more physical in nature. He offered hasty reassurances, handed over the money, then asked if we could stage another altercation in the near future. I told him that I'd need a larger bribe that time around and that I'd need it before we fought.
The price was apparently too steep because we never had our rematch."