Could I live without money? Seeking inspiration from the moneyless men...

in philosophy •  last year

I think learning to live with less money is a crucial life-skill that pertains to greater freedom, and it's something I'm going to have to do when (ideally before) I quit work this August.

For personal inspiration, I've been looking into some of the people who actually live without money altogether... Here's two of my favourites: the first from the UK and the second from the US.

Mark Boyle: The Moneyless Man


Based in the UK and author of the Moneyless Manifesto, Mark Boyle gave up money for more than 2 years in November 2008, on Buy Nothing Day.

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Having studied economics for six years, Mark found himself looking around for a 'big cause' to devote his life to, and concluded that the one thing that disconnects us from nature more than anything else is money.

Boyle points out that while we tend to associate money with independence, in fact it just makes us dependent on people far away from us, and less likely to look to our local communities for our sustenance. It is also money that is the root disconnect which facilitates the type of global production processes which are associated with social and ecological injustice. In the video below he makes the point that he couldn't really proselytize about such things unless he actually lived them, and hence the moneyless experiment was born.

He originally set out to do this for one year, but after that year started to question how he could return to a money based economy, so he carried on.

Reflecting on the experiment in a 2015 interview he says:

I lived in a caravan I found on Freecycle, and I kitted this out with a wood-burner made from an old gas bottle, which I fueled using wood I’d gather from the land around me. I cooked my simple fare outside, 365 days of the year, on a rocket
stove…. I gathered up the unused apples from the surrounding area to make cider, and the campfire became my pub, around which friends would sing and dance and make music together. We became participants in life, not only consumers of it.... I brushed my teeth with toothpaste made from wild fennel seed and cuttlefish bone. I had a composting toilet and used discarded editions of The Daily Mail for toilet roll – a fine use for it.

Find out more...


More details about the practicalities of living without money can be found in Mark’s book – The Moneyless Manifesto, along with the foundations of his critique of the money system and an explanation of his preference for economic systems based on gift exchange.

Before commencing his experiment, and indicating his broader commitment to gift-economics, Mark established a gift and skill sharing platform called Freeconomy, which has since merged with the similar site Sreetbank, where anyone can sign up and offer skills or stuff for free.

Since the money-free experiment Mark has co-founded the first moneyless pub: The Happy Pig is based on a Permaculture gift-based smallholding, An Teach Saor, soon to be offering free workshops, free education, free accommodation and of course, free alcohol. The pub was converted from an old pig shed and funded through a crowd souring campaign, so while not entirely money-free, it is still at least gift-based.

Dan Suelo: The Man who Lived Without Money


A second example of, this time from the U.S. is Daniel Suelo who lived without money from the year 2000 until very recently, when he had to give up living 'off-grid'in order to return home and care for his ageing parents.

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Dan says that he'd thought about going money free ever since he was a child, when he used to question why his Christian household didn't really keep to the ideals of Jesus. He then went on the study other religions and realised that what they had in common was that they all stressed the importance of living a 'giving' life based on compassion, rather than one in which you do something now for future gain, which is precisely the typical lifestyle associated with our money-based economy. There's a major ecological thread running through Dan Suelo's philosophy – he lives a 'natural life' rather than an 'accounted' life, and if you want an interesting perspective on death, the video below is a must watch. (Also, I may have this completely wrong, but Suelo is what I imagine the Zen Masters of the Tang to have been like.)

Back in his full-on money free days (I'm sure he'll return to them later!) Dan said of himself:

I don’t use or accept money or conscious barter – don’t take food stamps or other government dole. My philosophy is to use only what is freely given or discarded & what is already present & already running. I don’t see money as evil or good: how can illusion be evil or good? But I don’t see heroin or meth as evil or good, either. Which is more addictive & debilitating, money or meth? Attachment to illusion makes you illusion, makes you not real. Attachment to illusion is called idolatry, called addiction. I simply got tired of acknowledging as real this most common world-wide belief called money! I simply got tired of being unreal.

The man who quit money from Sacred Resonance on Vimeo.

Find out more...


Dan Suelo occasionally updates the Zero Currency Blog -at time of writing the latest entry is from November 2017 and outlines a very interesting analysis of how domestication is basically regressive.

Suelo's become a bit more active on Facebook since he took on his 'caring role' recently - and maybe just a touch more
political than spiritual..... check out his Facebook page for updates.

Brief Commentary


Both of these radical lifestyles serve as a reminder of not only how central money is to our present social system, but just how colonised the average mind is by the very idea of money.

It's interesting to note (unsurprisingly) how central networks are in the 'survival strategies' of both of these 'experiments in living', but also that both of these experiments are far more than just that, especially for Suelo, they are are a re-imagining of the entire basis of human interaction. In many ways their lives appear fuller for being money-free!

Could I go Money Free?


In all honesty, probably not, certainly not with a £110K mortgage, but that aside, reducing my dependency on material items, and seeking to meet my needs through skills-share networks rather than cash-exchange is definitely something I'll be seeking to do going forwards, it just seems like sensible resilience strategy even if I can't see myself being totally money free.

Could you go money free?


I'm sure that many of the people on steemit who are homesteaders would have stumbled across these two, and are well on their way to weaning themselves off money, but I wonder how many people have gone as far as them and sustained it for any length of time?

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Wow I love it. Although going money free is a bit extreme. It may be viable If you are single but with a family I don’t think it could work.

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Fair point, pretty much everyone I know that does it is single!

thanks for this @revisesociology! i thought about these questions a lot in college and share this sentiment

when he used to question why his Christian household didn't really keep to the ideals of Jesus.

from my youth. After graduating college I did live on very little money each year, perhaps under $1000, traveling and doing work exchanges on farms. I had participated in a buy nothing year ( i think i broke it one time that year to buy a pair of 5 finger shoes!) and since then my ideas around needless consumption, especially buying new things were never the same!

now that i'm in my 30s and stabilizing a bit on a homestead in the US, i do need money to build things, buy plant genetics, etc, but i also find myself increasingly being involved in trade and barter economy with local friends who are likeminded. i admire the people who go "all-in", but at this point I don't feel called to be one of them. I do feel they're very important for us to learn from however, and this post was like a breath of fresh air for me.

It is true as they always say, life is simpler without the care of money :)

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Hi - thanks for the comment: sounds like you had a really good go at it. I guess the thing about money is that it is efficient... i.e. it saves you a lot of time making your own, which at times can be crucial: e.g. building your shelter before December!

As you say it's all about balance... one of the things I admire about Dan Suelo (which is why I liken him to a Zen master - NOT an analogy I use lightly) is that he 'gave up' money free living to care for his parents temporarily - now THAT's non attachment!

Were the five-finger shoes worth it?

We seem to have some similar views on a lot of things. One of the reasons Aimee and I are moving towards a homesteading life style is to drastically reduce our need for money.

I always laugh at these financial planners that encourage people to cut out a few luxury items like coffee and eating out so they can save a couple hundred dollars a month. That isn't going to do jack when your mortgage is $2000 a month plus utilities and 2 car payments. Don't even get me started on food which seems to go up like 5% a year with shrinking package sizes to boot!

The only problem I find is that if you want to be really comfortable and use very little money you need to invest in a lot of infrastructure up front so that your needs will be met. I sort of look at this like any other investment, in that it returns an ROI, not in money but in money savings.

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It's a great strategy... oddly I think I'm so used to paying such a huge amount on my mortgage that I don't even regard food/ heating as that expensive. My initial strategy is just killing my mortgage...

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Yeah that is a huge load to get off your back. Mortgage literally means "death pledge" so getting rid of it should be a priority.

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YES! I wish more people knew this and gave it some thought.

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The only problem I find is that if you want to be really comfortable and use very little money you need to invest in a lot of infrastructure up front so that your needs will be met. I sort of look at this like any other investment, in that it returns an ROI, not in money but in money savings.

This is so true. We try to spend every penny so that we can avoid spending it in the future. It's difficult when you rent and such, but we do what we can with what we have.

If the financial planners really helped people deal with the big things I wonder how long they would stay in business in general.

Thank you for spreading this information, @revisesociology!

Do you know Colin R. Turner (from Dublin, Ireland), Author, speaker, free world advocate and Founder at The Free World Charter?

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Hi - no I don't actuallly - I'll loom him up, thanks for the tip!

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You are welcome, @revisesociology!

I think the eco homesteaders, farmers and survivalist can and the older generation. Our forefathers did in the western days.

The secret to it is rarely done nowadays its called family, friends and community. Where i grew up everyone in town new each other and all helped one another. Farmers donated excess food to the schools to keep costs down. If a neighbor knew a family was struggling they would invite them over for dinner and eat and trade hand me down cloths for the kids if needed and let them take the leftovers home with them along with their pride. People gather at church on sundays and visited after and pretty much could tell when someone needed help just by the way they dove into the pot luck dinner after church ended.

These ways are mainly gone now for the younger generations. So much is happening that puts family on the back burner, instead of neighbors you do not need them anymore , now the GOV will take care of you from funds your neighbors make in taxes minus their cut of course.

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Well said - yes networks are so important - as in close networks!

Interesting post. We as a society have probably become too dependent on money. I feel like many of our ancestors, especially in rural areas, lived life without much money at all. People grew a lot of their own food and often traded goods they produced for other good or even services. We have become too much of a consumer based society focused too much on material possessions.

I have heard of Dan's story, but not of Mark. I find the lifestyle very intriguing, but it is not something I would do personally.

Reducing my use of money, sure, but money is merely something used to ease transactions.

I'm currently reading Surviving off off-grid by Micheal Bunker. It's a Christan book, and although I don't agree with him on everything, it's very thought-provoking. He talks about history a lot and the lessons we have not yet learned and how we went from an agricultural society with little need for money to an industrial one with a giant need for it.

Even before I started reading this book, we started an independence fund. Every time we do something ourselves, which we would otherwise have to pay others to do, say haircuts. We put the estimated money we would have to spend in our independence fund, which is currently our downpayment fund.
I've always been fascinated with the idea of how little money we could possibly live well on. I know I could live on a rock, but I wouldn't thrive nor would my family. So we are in a constant search to learn more and to find out our 'number', what is enough to thrive? The balance between our dreams, the time we spend working for others and the time we spend doing things for ourselves.

Great post,lovely picture can i join you?

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