Strange moneyBy Jessica Williams | Photo by Griffin Harrington

When you’re in a financial pinch, sometimes you have to get creative. Pick up a few odd jobs, start selling things or find a new way to beg mom and dad. There’s money hidden in places you’d never think to look — and many students are doing everything they can to find it.

Sarah Groth, a senior biology major, found the solution to her financial problems at BioLife Plasma Services where she donates plasma twice a week. The pay is nice. In fact, you can make up to $240 a month, or more, depending on what specials the center is offering, for a process that only takes about two hours each time.

“I had a friend who signed up, so I had heard about it. Then I got into some financial trouble spring semester and decided to do it,” Groth says.

After a round of questioning and a short physical, you’re taken to the donation area, where they place you in a chair and swab your arm for a few seconds before inserting the needle. There’s a short sting, but very little pain afterward, and you’re free to do whatever you want while you wait. There’s even free Wi-Fi, which is more than can be said for some hospitals.

The center encourages college students to donate. There’s even a “buddy incentive,” where if you refer someone and they come in more than four times, you both get an extra $50.

Donated plasma is used as a supplement for people getting chemotherapy. It is also used for people with certain diseases.

“It’s money, but it’s also for a good cause,” Groth says.

But, if needles give you the heebie-jeebies, there are always more creative (and less painful) ways to make money. Emily Rosser, a senior music industry major, earns her income by styling wedding hair for women around Harrisonburg.

“I’ve been doing hair for money since high school. When people realized I could do it, they asked me to,” Rosser says.

She uses Instagram to advertise her skills (getting up to 15 likes per picture), and says that’s how most people find out about her. Her ability to do wedding hair led her to an unofficial singing career, as well.

“I’ve also been hired to sing at funerals and weddings. I sang for one and word got around, so people I didn’t even know started hiring me. I think I’ve probably sung at four or five of each,” she says.

Samantha, a senior math major, had to drum up a lot of courage to take her job. She does modeling for an art class that teaches students how to draw figures — nude figures. Three to six times a week, for $12 an hour, she attends classes where students sketch her without a stitch of clothing on. The classes are between two and three and half hours, and she has to stay completely still.

“I was scared I was going to have to be examined and they would say I needed to drop 20 pounds, or something, but they take pretty much anyone,” she says.

There are pros and cons to the experience. While it pays relatively well, some people aren’t as mature about it as others.

“I’ve had some people thank me for modeling, but then there are people at D-Hall who will point me out and make a joke,” she says. “It’s a double-edged sword.”

No matter what you do, there are opportunities to make money everywhere. Think about what skills you have, explore options that most people don’t. If you’re in financial trouble, you aren’t doomed to a job in retail or the food service industry. You just have to be willing to do some eccentric things for money.