Life Without Money?

(wellÖ almost)

Royce Carlson - October, 1999


Is it possible to live comfortably in todayís American culture without money or a job? The thought of living without money conjures up images of homeless people in rags pushing their junk-filled shopping carts around the dirty centers of cities, sleeping under bridges and begging for food. Yes, some people do live this way, but itís hardly desirable. There are other ways Ė comfortable ways.

John (not his real name) has lived a nearly moneyless life for the past seven years, yet he enjoys a freedom that others, slaving at their jobs, only dream of. He is not suffering either. He lives in a house in a beautiful mountain area. He eats well. He is warm in the winter and has time to spend studying nature, relaxing, and traveling. His living costs average less than $200 per month. Once a year he helps someone remodel a house for a month and this pays his entire yearís expenses. Sound impossible? Thereís more!

Liz (not her real name either) owns a house that she rents out. The rent covers her mortgage, plus a little left over to live on. She camps on a rock ledge next to her house and trades reflexology massages for just about every thing she needs from shoes to gasoline for her car. Every other year she spends six to eight months in Asia, traveling.

These are just two examples of people living in America on little or no monetary income yet they are far from suffering. They are enjoying life to the fullest. How is this possible? There are ways we can meet our needs without working 40 hours a week, without debt, without depending on welfare or other government benefits, without a trust fund, and without lack. Letís start with alternative ways to meet our most basic needs: Air, Water, Food, Clothing, and Shelter. They are all available for next to nothing.

Air and Water    The first needs are for clean air to breathe and for clean water to drink. These needs are the easiest to meet. The air is free and water to drink is also easy to find. Drinking fountains are everywhere in cities and creeks and springs abound in the country. There are many sources to fill up water bottles without having to pay for it.

Food    The next need is for food. In America we have become accustomed to eating three times a day and if we miss a meal we feel awful. This is an aberration. Humans are quite capable of living on a lot less food than we are used to eating. In fact, our digestive system never gets a rest. We would be healthier if we ate less. We would also be healthier if we ate less processed foods. If we skipped one meal every other day or fasted one day a week our food costs would be reduced by about 15%. But we still need to eat something. Here are four ways to get free food listed in order of how much work it takes to get it.

1. Forage Ė There are many resources available on harvesting wild edible plants in every climate. Itís amazing the amount of free, healthy food grows as weeds all over this country. There are abandoned orchards, and gardens that have gone wild, too.

2. Scrounge Ė Grocery stores throw out a lot of produce that is still mostly good. The big stores have rules against this but small rural markets probably wonít mind. Food items that have reached their expiration dates have to be pulled from the shelves even if the food is still good. Restaurants throw out a lot of food, too. Itís strange that there are laws requiring restaurants to throw the food away rather than giving it away. What a waste. You might be able to arrange a deal with them anyway.

3. Grow your own Ė If you can find a piece of land to grow a small garden you can grow some of your food supply without much work. Maybe a friend or acquaintance has a small area they would want food grown on. You could plant the garden and share the bounty. Some people plant small gardens on city, county, or state property. Yes, you are taking the chance that your garden could be removed at any moment, but it probably wonít be.

4. Barter Ė trade some of your time working on an organic farm or at a small market for food. Trade a skill you have for dinner. My wife used to periodically offer to do a small drawing or painting of a restaurant or its owners in exchange for a meal or two. Make yourself available as an entertaining dinner guest!

Clothing     A tremendous amount of clothing can be found for little or no money. I have realized on occasion that I was wearing an outfit that cost me less than $2 (including shoes!) that would have cost almost $200 if I had bought it at a store. I got four pairs of hardly worn Patagonia shorts for fifty cents each at a yard sale once and just last week I found a $60 pair of shoes my size lying on a deserted beach. Now that was an unusual find, but thrift stores have stacks of shoes for really cheap. People are always cleaning out their closets and might be happy to give stuff to you. We live in a society of abundance. In the USA people throw away more each week than many third world residents accumulate in a year.

Shelter     You donít have to live in a cardboard box to have free shelter. You can have a luxurious house! One person I met made herself available as a house sitter and was so much in demand, especially in the summer, that there was no shortage of choices of which house to live in. I have had care-taking opportunities offered to me in resort areas of Mexico during the off-season. There are many wealthy people with summer homes, winter homes, hobby ranches and mountain cabins that need people to take care of their property while they are away. An artist near here takes care of a beautiful ranch for its distant owners. He has the use of all the facilities, including the hot tub, all year except for the two weeks per year that the owners vacation there. The owners have to work so hard to pay for the property that they canít "afford" to live there. The artist lives there for free!

Luxuries   Now that your basic needs are covered, how about free luxuries? Theyíre available, too. Travel, for example. You can drive a car almost anywhere in the country for free. You are delivering the car for someone else. They pay the gas. You get the free ride. There is an air courier association that can get you extremely cheap and sometimes free flights to many destinations in Europe and Asia. You deliver a packet of papers, take your vacation, and fly home. Your round-trip flight is paid for by someone else. If you travel to a country where English is not the primary language and you can speak and write it fluently, you can exchange your language skills for many things. Write a menu for a restaurant in exchange for food. Make signs in English for a hotel and get free lodging.

The library is an incredible free resource. Thousands of books are available for nothing. In the U.S. most libraries have computers and some offer free or very cheap Internet access. You can get a free e-mail address and a free web-site from the major Internet portals.

Dumpster diving is a hobby you can take up. Itís amazing what you can come up with. If you are in the right areas you can get free computers, phones, and all kinds of slightly out-of-date technology. Furniture, building materials, bicycles and more are available for nothing to the person who has time to look for it.

You may not want to push the limits of living without money, but you can change your lifestyle so you can live on minimal money. If you can somehow come up with $200 to $500 per month you can practically live like a wealthy retiree. What you do have to buy, you can find a way to get it cheap. Everything from real estate to sports and travel can be obtained outside the usual system for much, much less. Living the simple life will give you time to find the unusual opportunities and good deals as well as time to hike the mountains and deserts and lie on beautiful beaches. You wonít have to cram all your fun into a weekend. You can have every day to play and enjoy life.

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