Going without money

Money. It seems to be the core of our society.

Everything has its price. Everything is for sale. Without money, who are you?

Increasingly, as this decade winds on, more and more of us will find ourselves outside the money economy as we’ve known it. If we’re lucky, a minimum wage job or barely turning over “business” will take the place of a position in an organization with a title and a decent salary.

Governments may choose not to call people who’ve exhausted their (un)employment insurance benefits unemployed, but when the end comes, they still are. That puts them on the road out of the money economy.

Yet you can live on surprisingly little cash flow.

What it requires is that you put time into things, rather than simply purchase them. Never mind restaurant nights out, you stop buying ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat foods. Pizza isn’t ordered, it’s made from dough you make yourself. What goes on it came mostly from your garden (even if that garden is in a few pots on a balcony).

Going without (much) money requires that you choose where you live carefully. It needs to be somewhere you can walk to just about everything you need. Some will choose small town life for this; others will choose to be in an urban area, near a retail street.

That town, in turn, is chosen because it has the shops in a traditional “main street” configuration that caters to you on foot, rather than on the highway surrounded by acres of parking. Without much money, you won’t be a driver, at least, not regularly. The same with transit systems (if you live in a city): yes, they allow you to go without a car, but without money you’re not going to be a regular user of them.

The tax credit (in Canada) for a monthly pass, in other words, won’t be being used. It’s outside your budget.

Your residence will be chosen for (or brought up to spec through hard work) energy efficiency, so that you simply use less electricity, less natural gas, less heating oil, etc. Moreover, unlike your neighbours, you’ll deal with some temperature fluctuations the old fashioned way: wear another layer, or take it off. (My neighbours — I live in an urban infill townhouse complex — responded to a string of 22° days this past week differently: some opened the windows, others flipped their air conditioners on. Guess which uses less cash?)

You’ll become someone who deals mostly in cash, even forgoing the use of your debit card (because you’re going without much money, you’ve probably switched any banking you do to the bare minimum set of fees you can find — which would mean paying for every convenient swipe of that card). Cash is a funny thing, especially when you don’t have much of it. It becomes a brake saying “do I really need this?”

That’s how you can go from living (in the same place) on 1/3 the money overnight (as I did last year). Just pay cash for everything.

Along the way, you’ll learn how to make your own breads — I can buy enough flour to make 20 artisanal loaves and more for the same price as two loaves of artisanal bread at the bakery or grocery store — a raft of other hodge-podge recipes to “use things up” that expand your family’s food intakes — and you’ll learn how to make soups and stews galore (that provide meals for days when made).

You’ll also lose weight, drop your blood pressure, restore your blood sugar balance, get rid of that cholesterol problem … and there goes spending money on medications for most of us.

In other words, going without money in a money economy isn’t the end of the world.

It may, in fact, be the beginning of it.



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  1. So true. I lost a job in 2006 and earned barely 25% of that income in 2007 and 2008. Things are better now financially, but it meant a radical re-think, which is not a bad thing. I shopped for clothing and shoes in consignment shops and did almost nothing else that cost much; luckily I am married and he has a steady salary. It is easy to spend to your income and panic when it drops by a large amount. As long as you are housed and healthy, that’s a lot to start with.

    • I’ve been going through this myself — ever since 1999 it’s been one job where either the company’s been acquired out of existence or other forms of downsizing have occurred punctuating long periods of imposed self employment at whatever after another. In my case my wife is disabled with ME/CFS and thus when I’m not “in work” there’s no safety cushion (or benefits to cover medical expenses beyond what provincial health care covers). Your observation about what matters is important: if you’d asked me if we could live well as a family of 3 at home on $35,000/year back in 1998 when my tax return exceeded $350,000 I’d have told you “can’t be done” — but here we are, doing it.

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