As a late-night Lyft and Uber driver, I’ve heard many stories from college students about how to afford a decent social life while living on a budget. Mostly because my passengers like to get drunk and tell me their entire life stories, but also because it’s my job to listen, even to the stuff that’s not being said.
Venmo and Walking ATM Machines
One thing I’ve learned as an Uber driver is that most college students aren’t embarrassed about borrowing money or talking about how they get their extra spending money. Some students have full or part-time jobs while others admit to relying on monthly contributions made by their family to a prepaid account, such as PayPal or Venmo.
Here’s an example of one conversation:
“Shit! Is there a cover charge? I didn’t bring any cash with me.”
“That’s fine. I’ll cover you. Just buy me a couple drinks.”
“Wait! I don’t have any cash either. Should we run back to the apartment?”
“No, it’s fine. I can cover you, too. Just Venmo me.”
The word Venmo becomes a verb when students start talking about who still owes them money for last week’s food, cover charge, drinks, or an Uber ride home. And I hear this type of dialogue almost every night. Sometimes the conversation involves just a few people, but more often, there’s a group of six or more people trying to negotiate their debts with one student who’s acting like a credit counselor.
That’s right parents reading this post. There’s usually one passenger in the group who ends up financing the entire night out. And more often than not, it’s usually the student whose parents give them money, rather than someone who works for it.
Shady Late-Night Gigs and Side Hustles
But what happens when a student runs out of money? This next part may come as a shock to parents reading this but many college students find side gigs to help earn extra spending money.
For instance, I’ve heard students brag to their friends about gambling, dancing at a strip club, donating blood or plasma, doing hair, and even selling weed or cocaine for extra spending money. And it’s not just the business students who like practicing their entrepreneurial skills.
College Pregaming with Weed and Whiskey
I don’t know about bars in other towns, but the bars in my town are open every day of the week. Monday and Tuesday are trivia nights. Wednesday is Greek life, or family night, so all the fraternities and sororities meet up on campus. Thursday is thirsty-Thursday, so the drinks are cheaper—often $1 for a pitcher, and then there’s the weekend.
Some students make bar-hopping a weekly marathon, while others can’t afford more than a quick sprint. But every student knows where to find cheap drink specials.
But since most college students can’t afford to go to a bar every night of the week, they often find other ways to party when family isn’t around to buy them drinks. Sometimes college students save by pooling their money together to buy a keg, and throw a private party, or to buy smaller bottles of liquor to keep at their apartments. Then they pregame with a few beers, or shots, or by smoking a few bowls before going somewhere the drinks are super expensive. So it’s not uncommon for passengers to get into my van already smelling like weed and whiskey. Some even try to bring alcohol with them for the trip to the bar.
Uber Driver vs. The Party Bus
Every Uber driver knows how expensive it is for passengers to request a ride every night. But so do the private limousine companies around town, who have figured out how to cash in on the rideshare expense. Especially when large groups want to bar-hop or hit the strip club together.
In my town, some larger groups of students prefer to ride a dedicated “Party Bus” to and from their social events. Each school bus holds 48 students, so the company banks around $300 per bus, each night, for about a twenty minute round trip.
For $3.00, each student can ride a large white school bus to the downtown strip. Then, once the bars close, the bus drives the students back to campus, which is only about two miles from downtown.
Sometimes the same students ride both ways, but there are others who decide to test the laws of gravity and try to walk home—drunk. So I’ve received many late-night ride requests from college students who have either missed the bus to go back home, or think they’re sober enough to walk home until they actually try.
Last year, I even received a call from a student who face-planted on a dance floor, broke his nose, and then tried to walk himself to the hospital because he didn’t want to pay for an ambulance. As his Uber driver both ways, I got to hear the whole story.
Drunk and Dis—Order Me Some Chicken Nuggets
Have you ever went to a restaurant or through a drive-thru with a bunch of drunk people? Well, I have—many times—and it’s always a strange adventure. Because most of the drunk people I meet during my late-night shift don’t realize how drunk they really are until they start riding in a car.
Drunk college students are no different than adult drunks. They are loud, belligerent, argumentative, and indecisive, especially when it’s time to leave the bar. go home, to a store, or hit a drive-thru on the way to an after-party.
But broke and drunk college students are great problems solvers. Some schedule their Uber driver to pick them up at a certain time before they get too drunk to use the app. Others learn to leave the bar early to miss the rush, and then ask me to drive them to a store to pick up more alcohol before shutdown time.
The biggest problem I’ve had is taking drunk college students through a drive-thru for fast food. Nobody ever seems to know what they want, even though they’ve had all night to decide. Most end up splitting a 20-pack of chicken nuggets and then pass out on a friend’s couch with their faces covered in BBQ sauce.