Why live without money?
There are two main reasons:
1) to reduce my social and environmental footprint:
Everything I was buying seemed to have some negative impacts somewhere in their production lines. Buying anything was becoming a constant choice between evils – trying to work out which product was the best of the bad lot. We all have impacts but the use of money creates distance between producer and consumer, making those impacts less visible. Long supply chains (from the birth of a product to its disposal), cause a lot of needless damage to habitats, livelihoods, people and places and increases the production of carbon emissions, all of which will lead to the destruction of our home if continued. Without money, I was removing some of my power to do unnecessary damage to my world. I am forcing myself to do things differently and to look at the world through a different lens. Now I meet most of my needs very locally through interactions with people I see face-to-face and with no middle-man. I also emphasise the use of waste or excess resources from the world around me, reducing any need for the production of new resources just for me. This way I can meet my basic needs without the use of money.
2) to make my own life simpler, easier and less stressful:
Even in the relatively fun and easy job I had (Community Development worker at a local Neighbourhood Centre), I felt more stress than I was comfortable with. I was barely able to cover the weekly bills and had struggled to make ends meet for years. On the one hand, this made it easier for me to live as I do now – I had learned to live frugally from years of living on a low income – and on the other hand, it was too hard to maintain this lifestyle indefinitely. I needed to do something different!
How do you get food, water, and other stuff?
Food: grow it myself, help local market gardeners, help out friends who then feed me, sometimes bin dive and often get waste food/leftovers/excess from friends/family. See Moneyless Eating
Water: harvesting rainwater off local roofs where possible using repurposed plastic food grade tanks and using town water (although it has impacts)
Phone: using second-hand phones gifted by people who no longer need them and gifted credit as a Christmas present that lasts for a year
Internet: mostly accessed at friend’s places and sometimes through the local library
Toilet paper: I use coffee-stained, waste, café serviettes for brown waste and handmade cloths for urine.
Toiletries: many people have passed onto me their leftover shampoo bottles and toothpaste tubes which I drain completely, as well as bits of old soap. Sometimes unwanted toiletries come my way too. I now have too much of this stuff and have started passing it on to others.
Clothes: still using some of the clothes I had in my ‘moneyed’ days which I’ve added to through clothes swap events and giveaways. I also sometimes do a bit of sewing and adapting other people’s ‘waste’.
Where do you live?
For the first year and a half I lived on a friend’s farm near Lismore. There was a big vegetable garden so we arranged that we would grow food together. I also helped out with child minding and other things as needed. I used some of the leftover building materials from previous projects there, found some second-hand materials myself and used some of the last bits of my money to build a small shack there. This shack was just a place to sleep – I cooked and bathed outside.
When my agreed time there was up I house sat a friend’s place in Byron Bay for 3 months (turning off the fridge and gas and using as little of her resources as possible).
Then, for a year and a half I lived in a tiny wagon in town in a friend’s backyard. The ‘little blue wagon’ was built for another friend by my parents in 2014. She had a change of plans and didn’t need the wagon so I lived in it for that time and will pass it back to my parents (or on to someone else), when I no longer need it.
This arrangement was made with my friend as a way of helping us both out. I help ed her with growing food and other jobs around the house and she was happy for me to be parked up in her yard. We also both enjoyed the extra company too.
Currently (2018) I am living with another friend (although I sleep in a little sleeping loft I built in her shed using recycled materials). I cook and maintain the house for the others who live there and I am setting up what I intend to be a highly productive food garden. Sharon and I are very old and dear friends and we see this as a win-win. We are supporting one another as we work collaboratively to ‘retrofit’ her household and decrease the footprint of the whole family. This is the next step for me in my moneyless journey – keep my own footprint low while supporting another household to ‘degrow’. So far, so good…..
What happens if you get sick?
Trained in herbal medicine years ago, I usually take good care of myself and know how to treat common ailments using what I have around me (food and herbs). I have had skin cancer in the past though, so I have been to the doctor to have a couple of skin checks and bits removed and burned off over the last couple of years. Struggling with some guilt about using the health care system, I am very grateful that we still have some free health care in Australia. Maybe there’s a doctor out there who would be happy to gift me their services….you never know.
Do you really have no money?
I have no bank account, no government benefits and receive no monetary payments of any sort. Usually politely declining the many offers of money I have had, I once accepted $50 from my father’s cousin who would not accept my respectful ‘No, thank-you’. I spent that on a bus ticket and wrote it off as a birthday present.
What about the dentist?
When I was last working (2014), I was able to salary sacrifice some money in an account with my dentist. Not accounting for my dislike of dentists, I had expected to use all that credit in a few months. I didn’t. Happily, that meant I have been able to see the dentist using that credit for a while living without an income. We also have some free dental services here in Australia that I could probably access in future. Perhaps issues with my teeth might be the one thing that brings me back into the monetary world.
Aren’t you just bludging off other people?
Firstly, we all rely on others for most things in our lives. Living this way means I am much closer to the people who are helping me (and I help them too). When money is used, the people we rely on to meet our needs can be far away and we may not be aware of the things that are happening in their lives as a result of our desire for all the things we consume.
Secondly, I try not to use new resources, this includes any new resources that are paid for by other people, that are just for my consumption alone. I attempt to use what is already in circulation, excess to need, or just plain waste, thus reducing my need for new stuff and unnecessarily increasing the burden on the planet and her finite resources. Sometimes, being around friends and family and helping out can actually decrease their need for new resources as well.
Finally, I believe in giving and helping. I have more time now to help others and I spend some of my time doing that (see being of service and working hard or hardly working posts). Sometimes those others will help me out too as humans generally like to do. I live in a gift culture. When I give, I give freely without expectation of a return and certainly not with any calculating in terms of money or credit/debt thinking. Of course, like most of us, I find it difficult to receive without immediately wanting to give back to that person.
What’s the hardest thing about living this way?
I also do not enjoy hand washing my clothes – especially dirty gardening clothes. I’m hoping my father (the best tinker/bodger/fixer-upper in the world) will build me a pedal powered washing contraption soon. He likes to experiment with such things.
What’s the best thing about it?
My actions are finally aligned with my values. This is a wonderful feeling. Also, I no longer find myself stuck in shopping isles trying to work out which product is going to cause the least damage to me, the planet, other people and other creatures. Another fantastic advantage is having time. I am Time Rich.
I get to float around visiting people I care about and helping out here and there in a way I never could before when I was living the ‘fast’ life. I often wake up in the morning not knowing what I will be doing that day or where I will end up. There is so much flexibility and freedom to this way of being in the world.
How long will you do this for?
I will live this way for as long as I can. I would like to live in a low impact community though so I will have to adapt to that situation when it arises. I would like to experiment more with the gifting culture – in community.
Aren’t you still having impacts?
Yes, sadly, I still have negative impacts on the planet. This is why I have called myself ‘Jo LowImpact’ rather than ‘Jo NoImpact’. I try very hard to minimise my impacts as much as I can and still have a comfortable life.
Examples of the impacts I still have are: moving my wagon using a vehicle and fossil fuels, using the internet, sometimes consuming new products (locally grown brown rice, gifted powdered milk, local raw honey or locally grown organic vegetables which still use fossil fuels in their production), using hot water and energy when visiting friends. I calculate I have reduced my footprint by about 80 or 90 percent by living as I do.
I do have intentions of living an even lower footprint in the future – I’m working my way to that – but I think it would take living collaboratively with others on some shared land to work well. My guide for this are groups like The Possibility Alliance in the US.
What is the ‘gift’ culture?
This way of living is much older than money itself. A common way humans have interacted throughout history is to share with each other. Living carefully and respectfully on the land, I believe there is enough to go around if we grow our innate drive to share and ‘gift’ things to others.
My lifestyle now is a lot about me helping others and others helping me – gifting. This is different to barter. Gift culture, unlike bartering, swapping or trading, is not based on a reciprocal arrangement where I do this for you so you will do that for me. Bartering feels to me very much like living with money where everything has a price attached. Bartering mentality is very different to a gifting mentality. ‘Gifting’ is where something is given freely without expectation of anything in return. Sometimes gift culture is referred to as a pay-it-forward system.
We can’t all live without money?
I don’t expect others to do this. My reason for taking money out of the equation was to reduce my own footprint. It’s my personal approach and it works for me.
I believe we all need to be looking very closely and seriously at our personal footprints, especially in the West. It is people like me (in my former life) – people from white, middle class backgrounds – doing most of the damage. I DO want people to take responsibility for this and make drastic changes.
Some people are making these needed changes while still using money. Artist as Family in Victoria, Australia, are a great example. I am also a fan of Professor Kevin Anderson, a highly regarded climate scientist who walks the talk and lives a relatively low-impact lifestyle.
I knew I could not be truly low-impact while living with money – I am too weak-minded and would not be able to resist buying things that have impacts. Short-term gratification is strong in me. Good on those who do this WITH money!
What can individuals do?
There is a lot of power we have as individuals. The destructive, money-driven, industrialised system we live in exists because we keep ‘buying’ it. It is a simple supply and demand issue. They can’t keep selling what we refuse to buy. The quickest way to reduce your personal footprint is to stop buying things you don’t need. So much of what we spend our money on, here in the West, is driven by our desires – and these have been co-opted and messed with over time.
We actually need very little to be happy and comfortable. In fact, I think we would be a lot happier if we did just stick to consuming for our needs. Research has shown that people in the US were happiest in the 50’s before the advent of all the new stuff we think we need now.
As we buy less we need to work less, we can have more time, quality of life and deeper connections to those around us. This simpler lifestyle is good for us and I’m convinced it is what most of us yearn for. None of this is news to anyone these days. It’s just very difficult to achieve when we are stressed and stretched.
I needed to get rid of money in my life to be able to achieve this. If that’s for you, great! If not, but you want to decrease your footprint, ask yourself if the thing you are looking at buying, or doing, is a ‘need’ or a ‘want’. My Mum taught me this when I was young and it’s a valuable lesson in frugality. Also, if you want to buy something that is just a want, source it second-hand or waste and buy guilt-free.
Why do you have ads on this blog?
I apologise for the advertisements on my blog. I get the irony. They are there because I am using a free account. To have ad-free costs money.