– I've never spent money on clothes, and now I´ve found that I do not have to buy food either, says Gregor.
Gregor is a computer science student at the University of Oslo. His hobby is to save money. He haggles on everything from his mother's mortgage to computers. Now he has also begun with «dumpster diving», on which he expects to save several thousands.
– In a gray area
It is a quarter past eleven at night when Gregor wanders into the winter darkness. It is important to be at the shop early, before other «dumpster divers» arrive. He waits until the employees at the store have gone home before he climbs into the garbage container.
– Do you take some precautions before going out? – No. I just dumpster dive. If anyone sees me, then okay. I do not see it as very wrong. It is in a gray area. When I have spoken with store employees, they are only positive.
Home at Vestgrensa, Gregor may return with pounds of food. So much so that he has handed out food to his roommates.
Fresh in the game
Gregor began with «dumpster diving» only a month ago, but has already managed to go on 11 garbage raids.
– It was after watching a documentary on food waste on the BBC. The time was around three- four at night, and my mind raced: «I must go to inside the dumpsters now», «I must try this,» and then I found a dumpster.
Last month Gregor just spent NOK 40 on food. That was a bar of chocolate.
Gregor says that the «professionals» have a little more equipment than him, but he plans to buy a headlamp, so that it becomes easier to look in the trash.
– Some might find it disgusting to find their food in the garbage?
– That’s up to them. I think there is a bit too much hysteria around cleanliness. Completely sterile is not good, even if garbage is not good either. It was thrown in the trash just seconds before, and the packages are wrapped. Now that it is winter, the dumpsters can be regarded as primitive refrigerators or freezers, since it's so cold outside.
Gregor did not want to talk about it, but Universitas has gained access to a secret Facebook page for «dumpster divers» in Oslo, where a Google Map is available. All the shops in Oslo are marked with colour codes showing the shops that are suitable for «dumpster diving», and which ones not yet explored. The map is regularly updated by the group's 300 members.
Hallgeir Kvadsheim, consumer economist
Impossible student loans
Far from all students are willing to go as far as Gregory to save money. Consumer Economist Hallgeir Kvadsheim, known from «Luksusfellen» on TV3, has lots of advice to students who are in a financial pinch.
He believes «dumpster diving» is a creative solution. He still thinks that the motivation should come from environmental considerations rather than economic.
– If students are looking through trash for food primarily to help their private economy, I think it's a shame, having to resort to that, says Kvadsheim.
The TV3 presenter explains that students have a much tighter economy today than when he was a student. This is primarily due to increased housing costs that have not been compensated for in the student loans.
Kvadsheim’s initial advice is to stay away from a credit card. Doing so will keep you out of most trouble, he says. Most pay rent when their student loan comes, and in worst case, the landlord deduct unpaid rents from the deposit.
– Living only on the student loan is nearly impossible. Maybe politicians believe that it’s possible, but that is a myth.
Three ways to «salvation»
Kvadsheim lists three ways one can go for an easier financial life. The first is to get cheap accommodation. He suggests including a simple and concise rent-CV that you can leave on views, so you stand out in the crowd of potential tenants.
– That could mean that you get a single room for NOK 4,000 instead of NOK 5,000 kroner. There are also those who live at home or who live cheaply with an aunt. That might save your economy. The second is to get a part time job in addition to their studies or get a summer job. The third way, according to Kvadsheim, is to live as an ascetic. That means one who lives on a bare minimum of material goods; one who is little involved in the community and spends little money.
– There will always be someone who says, «I can do this for sure» and there is always someone who can do it. They live, among others, on expired goods from Kiwi. So I will not say that it is absolutely impossible to live on a student loan, but only a few can do it.