10 Signs You’re Living on a Small Stipend or Salary

By Anna Mulamba, AmeriCorps Community Engagement Assistant & Computer Literacy Instructor  

Serving as an AmeriCorps member is very rewarding in many ways, but it’s also very low-paying. I’m one of nine Byte Back AmeriCorps members feeling the rewards of serving the DC community but also making sacrifices to serve. I’ve learned that for me using humor is a key to staying positive, especially in times of financial struggle. So, here are 10 signs you’re living on an AmeriCorps stipend, making about $15,000 a year:

1. You base your restaurant orders not on what you want to eat, but on how much is in your wallet.
2. You learn to do your own hair and nails … because why would you pay for something you can do yourself?
3. You stick around at functions for as long as it takes for the free food to come out, and you’re not embarrassed to admit it.
4. You work a 12-hour day, but serving the community somehow leaves you with energy to do things after work.
5. You find fun things to do all the time… all free things, that is.
6. You’re constantly searching for a job for the future.


7. You use public transportation to get around, and only public transportation.
8. Your answer to the daily question of, “How do you survive on that?” is, “Because I’m awesome.”
9. You get excited thinking about what the future has in store for you.
10. You find your joy in spending time with the people and things you enjoy the most, which is priceless.