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How to live without money...

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posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 06:06 PM
Rising food prices, soaring utility bills, credit crunch ... it’s all pretty depressing these days. Yet, as the country hurtles towards the locust years, I wonder if the nouveau pauvre isn’t such a bad look. After all, conspicuous consumerism is kind of déclassé, non? Even Vivienne Westwood has been telling people to stop shopping. Money, it seems, is rapidly going out of fashion. So, for one week only, I decided to stop using it and join the “freeconomy” – a friendly and burgeoning community based on bartering and swapping.

“The problem with money is that sometimes there is none,” says John Rogers, the founder of Value for People (, an organisation that specialises in “community currency, time banking and co-production”. “But people are willing to work and there are the raw materials. The future of the planet depends on biodiversity – but we also need financial diversity.”

So what, exactly, can human capital buy? When Mark Boyle, a freeconomy campaigner, headed off to India on foot, with the intention of living solely by trading favours for favours, he got as far as Calais. How far would I get before I was written off as a freeloader?

There are various means – from supermarket grazing to ploughing through your apocalypse rations of past-sell-by-date larder staples.

Sadly, I can’t recommend cadging from the deli counter, so I approached a man with an allotment (the grow-your-own movement is, well, growing – vegetable-seed sales are up 60% from last spring). “Perhaps I could do your weeding in exchange for a turnip or two?” Result: six tasty organic carrots and three black radishes (I came at the deadest time of the year, apparently). The fallout was a good hour of scrubbing (the veg, then myself) and three hours of travel and labour – not exactly a nice little earner. I was still hungry.

For spiritual, physical and comic nourishment, my local Hare Krishna temple lays on a free, pretty-tasty-for-vegan lunch. There is, however, a price: quite a lot of proselytising.

Then there is that other cult, the Freegans – feral foragers who mop up society’s excesses by living off discarded food. I tried to locate someone to take me dumpster-dining, but they proved elusive: “Why inform the public?” one said. “It just gets dumpsters locked and brings more competition.” Secretly relieved, I turned instead to Wild Food, a new National Trust book on how to harvest nature’s free fruits. “It’s a tricky time of year,” warns its author, Jane Eastoe. “I would start with nettle soup. Nettles are incredibly good for you – full of vitamin C, potassium and calcium.” The calorie count, however, is equivalent to chewing on air. “Free food gives you a glow of virtue,” she chirrups. All I got was a mouthful of bitter grit. Eastoe also recommends roadkill: “Just wait for the first maggot to drop – that indicates it’s tender.” Roll on the summer, for blackberries, plums, wild strawberries and more.

Dressing for free

With so much disposable fashion swilling around, it’s hardly surprising that fashion fans are “shwopping” – clothes swapping.

At Swap-a-Rama (, a roving club night, people swap what they are wearing for something they prefer from a neighbour every time a klaxon sounds. Tupperware-style “swishing” parties ( are a more productive take on the theme.

It’s a concept that works well online. allows its users to swap dresses, shoes, bags and so on. It even features eBay-style ratings. While there are more than 1,000 swaps a month, there is also a good deal of trash: “Some users are scared to say no,” admits the website’s founder, Judy Berger. “Sometimes I do tell them to take their stuff to the charity shop.”

Travelling for free

I am lucky (and wise): I have a bike. But what if it rains or the distance defeats me? Join the fare evaders at the back of a bendy bus? Thumbing a lift is the rock’n’roll route, but, with a bit of organisation, carshares are now the best bet. Try, a nationwide database of 222,000 members – and you don’t even have to have a car. Just register your journey and the website shows other users taking the same route. It makes for quite a weird encounter, but a welcoming one. Take some broken-biscuit cake to ingratiate yourself.

Getting favours for free

Local exchange trading systems are community-based barter networks that encourage local trade for “local currency” or pledges – no money required. Baby-sitting for three hours earned me 30 pledges, which could buy me IT support, interior design, language tuition or all manner of alternative therapies.

Getting treats for free

I needed to find a birthday present for someone. is another local-network system where things are passed on for free. From secondhand ukuleles to discarded Masai spears, it was a treasure trove of ideas. When I made an appointment to collect the present, however, the owner never showed. It’s understandable: what was in it for them?

There’s more. Want to catch a show? has details of radio and television programmes recorded in London, such as Al Murray’s Happy Hour and 8 out of 10 Cats. Now that’s what I call free entertainment.

For voucher and competition junkies, there is Freebieworld (, a user-generated network on which news of all freebies in the world (software, cosmetics, books, even a suspiciously inviting £250 grocery gift voucher) is posted online. Trendspotters call the growth of available freebies “free love” – a race for consumers’ attention made possible by the decreasing cost of producing the freebies. There is a catch, of course. To make it viable, you will need to become a marketing statistic – expect to hand over your personal details and receive constant bombardment from the ad men. Like free love, it can leave you feeling empty inside.

By the end of the week, I was seriously hungry, but otherwise I had coped. I had spent absolutely no money and found lots of support networks that will drastically reduce my spending in the future. Be warned, though: the money-free lifestyle is far from utopian – it’s tough and time-consuming.
Still, when needs must . . .

Another interesting piece - Couldn't we live perfectly well without money?

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 06:17 PM
Props... now if only I could get my family to go for it.

What if everyone just up and did it at once?

Great information, great thread.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 06:32 PM
Hey great post and I actually lived like this with an unorthodox Christian community for about 5 years in my late teens.
However we did still use money but didn't let it be the motivation for getting up in the morning
Though back in the late 80"s it was seen as weird etc. As there was a nucleus of about 25 of us back then and we would just share all our rescources and live together like Jesus and the 12 disciples did and we would go from town to town and advertise that we did freework for people as an example of the Kingdom of Heaven etc We never proselytized to people and just simply did the work for people.

It was mostly aged and in-firmed people that wanted painting and mowing done and general maintenance of their House and property etc and most often than not at the end of the day people would give us a gift of food etc to us.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 06:46 PM
Also on craigslist there is the "free" option in the for sale section, so you can check that out too.

Ive managed to live pretty well for not having a heck of a lot of money. I have never had a car. I walk or bike. And i cant imagine doing it any other way because i can hardly afford bills as it is, let alone with a car bill on top of it

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 06:48 PM
I'd rather hold on to my money then go dumpster dining. I heard roadkill is bad for you but who knows maybe some people love road kill. As for me I'll stick with cooked food.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 07:26 PM
What a great post. I don't think I could live like that myself unless all my family died, the government took everything I'd inherit and then the economy got so bad I wouldn't be able to find a minimum wage job anywhere (wait sounds like the norm these days!)

I do live on under 1k a month. How do I do it? After working to pay for everything, including school, you learn to save money for rainy days. Also being a college student you tend not to have that much flexibility in how much you can work.

Rent is $450 (I have 3 roomates! It's not that bad, we are all relatively private and all have different schedules so we don't have a line to the bathroom)

Utilities we split 4 ways.

Cable and electric costs about 21/mo + 20-35 a month for electric depending on time of year.

We do have to buy our own oil, cost about $89 each 2 months ago. We still have most of it.

Trash/Recycle is $65 a quarter, so $16-17 every 3 months.
Gas.. well I don't drive much, a bike ride to campus is only 20 minutes.
Usually end up spending about $40 a month.

Food? We basically live on a farm and grow a lot of our own food. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, corn, basil, garlic... etc. I do tend to spend maybe $50 a week at MOST. That's if I really go pig out. I tend not to eat that much.

What else? Insurance, $400 a year. Anything else I buy is for pleasure.

Rounded all up it comes out to $821

I'm not saying this is how everyone should live, or that I enjoy it, but it does show that if you can find ways to cut expenses and only spend what you need to then you can live very cheaply.

We also share food with other growers.

Now with a minimum wage job @ $8 an hour working the standard 40 a week thats 1280 a month before taxes. Hardly enough to live on your own like this. I feel for these people

posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 06:14 AM
I used to constantly hear about how the monetary system was a 'paper prison', now a 'plastic prison', and that we needed rid of it. But i could never understand how we could live without it.

It seems it is possible and not just possible but socially constructive. I dont think it would be easy though, and whether it will happen anytime soon is up to us. I cant see it happening in my lifetime.

Viva la revolution!

posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 06:34 AM
i don't see money as the problem, money is just an efficient way for the entire society to run a barter system. you do work for which you receive tokens you can exchange for goods or services.

money isn't the problem, the attitude to money is a problem. when money is an end in itself rather than a means to live, it becomes toxic. i believe that if you use money with the same attitude you need to use to "live cash free" then money wouldn't be a problem.

posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 07:44 AM
reply to post by LiveForever8

There are isolationist cults and eco-communes already in existence living a completely self-sufficient lifestyle.

What you describe in the first post is actually different in that it feeds off of existing social and economic structure. But that isn't a requirement.

Rather than integrate self-sufficiency into existing culture (i.e. utilising the waste of existing society) you simply set up another community where self-sufficiency is the prime intention.

I understand the intention of the piece in that it states how to live in an existing social and economic structure for free, but it would be far easier to simply set up a parallel community where such a lifestyle of self-sufficiency is the goal.

If I found a safe, advanced, stable commune tomorrow, free of religious ideals, where self-sufficiency and community were the key objectives, I do believe I would join them in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, such a place is rare (it won't be in ten years though).

Just wait, in ten years, once the $ has completely collapsed and the remaining financial systems are in continued turmoil due to financial terrorism and corruption, people will start to "utilise" land and property formerly owned by corporations and businesses that have collapsed and start their own communities.

You'll see people signing up to it, because they are tired of struggling in the existing failed monetary system. They'll let the few money obsessed people continue in their tiny rat-race, and continue their own path the way Humans should live.

And I look forward to it with glee.

posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 07:46 AM

Originally posted by pieman
i don't see money as the problem, money is just an efficient way for the entire society to run a barter system. you do work for which you receive tokens you can exchange for goods or services.

money isn't the problem, the attitude to money is a problem. when money is an end in itself rather than a means to live, it becomes toxic. i believe that if you use money with the same attitude you need to use to "live cash free" then money wouldn't be a problem.

Indeed, it's hard to see money for what it is. But that's because so many abuse the system and use it as a means to control other people.

When money is gone, there will be no method of control other than peoples inability to manage on their own. But that's an education and intelligence issue.

The idea of money itself isn't a bad one, but the ability to use it to gain power and influence is the real issue.

posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 08:17 AM
As great as this sounds, it's fairly bogus.

Money is the representation of trade value. This X is worth this much of Y. She used this most basic principle in her trek. Her wedding service stuffs was worth some carrots and radishes.

The reality is that it isn't money that is corrupting and evil, but people. People can use money, just like they can use real goods, to buy people. If money were removed we'd simply move on to heads of cattle, weapons, and other things like was typical in ancient history.

And it would still be representative of the same value that money is.

The reality of this is that she didn't teach anyone how to live without money. She showed that there are alternatives to using money, that once you spent money you can not spend money, or spend less money, while trading items for services or items for items.

Money is based on gold, and gold is something that is used in trade, and has been used in trade, for quite a long time. It's absolutely no different.

posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 08:31 AM

Originally posted by detachedindividual
The idea of money itself isn't a bad one, but the ability to use it to gain power and influence is the real issue.

as far as i can see, there is no method that allows you to force control on another person reliably, it's almost impossible. a person must willingly give up control, and the truth is, most people are perfectly happy to abdicate responsibility for their lives. people like to be led.

from this perspective, money is not a means of control, the ability to accumulate money is just a yardstick people use to judge the competence of those we abdicate responsibility to. this is reasonable enough in a capitalist society.

that being the case, in the absence of money, there would just be another medium which people will use to judge the competence of those to which they will abdicate responsibility.

eradicating money will not lead to a fair society by itself, it isn't even necessary or particularly useful. what is needed is a better way to judge the competence of those we choose to lead us.

posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 08:52 AM

Originally posted by pieman
as far as i can see, there is no method that allows you to force control on another person reliably, it's almost impossible. a person must willingly give up control, and the truth is, most people are perfectly happy to abdicate responsibility for their lives. people like to be led.

While I agree in the propensity for people to require leadership, money is indeed used as a means of control, both socially and politically.

You only need to look at the American government to see clear example of this.
The banking system and recent bailouts are also obvious and clear signs of this. They basically held the nation and your government to ransom, they demanded money in return for security of employment and financial structure.

And when a centralised government is in place as it is now, the damage caused to society in general by the influence of this monetary system upon it is immense.

While I accept that another system would inevitably replace it (although I think that this would be dependent upon the circumstances) without the structure in place to nationalise such a system, the fallout and influence of such is minimal and localised, therefore easily overcome.

The "token" or financial systems we have easily allow for global trade. Which in turn allows for global control and manipulation. If we were trading with goods and services, the globalisation of such is near impossible, thereby guaranteeing that any centralised control is limited to regional community.

Ultimately, a world without a monetary system would be better IMO. Yes, any trade still allows for abuse of power and exerting of influence, but such would be minimised, limited and easy to topple.

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