Monday, 1 February 2010

Look no cash

Could you survive without money? We're so used to needing the stuff that our immediate reaction is probably no. But a guy near Bath in Somerset is doing just that - and he says it's a fantastic experience.

Mark Boyle makes his own soap and toothpaste and gets food by foraging, working or collecting leftovers. He runs his laptop off solar panels, uses a wood-burning stove for heating and travels around by bike. He lives in a caravan he found through Freecycle.

He gave up using money in November 2008 and says "It's been a fantastic experience. It's taught me a lot about myself. I've never been happier or fitter. I see no reason to go back to using money."

He says the only things he misses are going for a few pints with his mates or going out for a meal with his parents.

Mark's ability to do without money makes me realise just how used we are to spending huge amounts on what we see as the necessities of daily life and how the idea of doing without all those things seems totally absurd.

How could we possibly enjoy our lives without a proper home, central heating, exotic foods and 101 over-the-counter products? Not to mention books, music and sundry cultural fixes.

I couldn't possibly give up all those essentials, I'm far too accustomed to a cash-fuelled lifestyle. Mark's existence is way too spartan and self-reliant for my liking.

But I do think about the sheer scale of spending our modern lifestyles entail and how much of it is really necessary or life-enhancing as opposed to habitual and socially-prompted.

I'm sure we could all simplify our lives considerably without feeling too deprived or out-of-step. I must say I admire Mark's persistence and ingenuity. We all need to reappraise our engrained values occasionally, even if it doesn't lead to such a radical makeover.

See also the story of Joan Pick, whose ultra-abstemious existence aims to slash her carbon footprint to zero.


  1. i really really admire people like that.
    if we all could just cut down a bit it would be amazing

  2. So what do i cut out next? The heating or the internet.... I am not ready to give up either of them yet.

  3. I agree - it's important to examine our dependence in our relationships with money. But where does this guy park his caravan for free? Where are the trees he's chopping down, or where does he get the wood from? I guess what I'm wondering is can anybody say they really don't use money, or just that they don't use their own?

  4. This is really cool. I couldn't do it to the extent that he is, but I can happily report that our own spending fast at Chez Weatherinthestreets is going brilliantly. You'd be amazed at what you can just say no to...

  5. I've had to cut back drastically since I quit my old job but I can't do without some luxuries and I certainly don't fancy collecting leftovers for my food. I'll be on the lookout for a free caravan though!

  6. I can vouch for the possibility. The more one simplifies one's life, the more one has time to enjoy other aspects of it. The less one has, the more there is room to receive new things.

  7. I remember reading about a guy in the states who's done this for yonks. It serves in assessing one's own life. As you know, I've simplified and am growing my own veggies etc., in anticipation of the great meltdown which is on its way.
    Now my whole village is getting to self-sufficiency. It is amazing.
    Even if we all did just ONE thing..

  8. We've done without an oven for sixteen months. I have had to replenish our undergarments, though.

    Um...those two facts are not at all related...

  9. Kylie - I'm sure we could all cut down a bit (or quite a lot) if we wanted to, but we're so used to the idea of buying things.

    Grannymar - No way could I do without the heating or internet. But then a caravan would be a lot easier to heat than a house.

    Tattytiara - That's what I wondered, surely there are things he has to buy? What about shaving and getting his hair cut? Indeed, where does he park his caravan and get his wood? I suspect a lot of things are given to him by friends and well-wishers, but isn't that cheating a bit?

    Leah - Of course, you're on your own cutting-down experiment. As you say, saying no isn't that difficult once you ask yourself just how essential something is.

  10. Quicky - You're right, there're some luxuries we're all attached to. I couldn't do without wine or chocolate or music or books.

    Ramana - True, simplify the basics and we can pay more attention to those subtler things we tend to overlook.

    www - Growing your own vegetables is great, I really should be doing it myself. I'm sure we can all make radical changes like that if we can just break our engrained habits.

    Megan - Jeez, no oven for 16 months, how do you manage that? Takeaways, sandwiches, raw food? Glad to know you replenish your undergarments....

  11. Despite the odd extravagance I'm actually a bit of a non-spender...
    I'm not a foodie and I don't like wine.
    I would miss the power shower the most.

  12. Scarlet - I'm not so keen on power showers, I prefer something gentler. But that's another point - where does Mark get his water from?

  13. I couldn't do that - I like a shower a day and the smell of clean bedlinen and yes my electricity bill was huge but wrong.....and a glass of wine!!!

    I can't help it.... I just like my life and to enjoy it I go to work and earn money.... compost toilet? no way Jose!!!

  14. Kate - More or less my own feelings, I think. I wouldn't be able to rough it for long. Even camping is a no-no. I've got too used to being pampered.

  15. Not sure I like the vagrant life because it IS dependent on the goodwill of others. He's parking somewhere, subsisting by the charity of others and probably drawing social security to boot! Not much of a life if you can't afford to go out with your mates and he's hardly in a position to entertain at home. However, having dropped my salary by $10,000 a year since last June, it's amazing how you can survive on less. I guess we're fortunate here in being able to control at least energy bills thanks to the weather. But, caravanning around the UK and foraging for food and fuel? That's just dumb.

  16. Baino - Doesn't appeal to you, then? I do wonder about all those hidden costs and handouts he's not telling us about. Can he really be totally cash-free?

  17. Brave of him, especially in the cold weather!

    I will need to 'draw in my horns' regarding spending soon, I hope I can do it well...

  18. Suburbia - I wouldn't fancy a caravan in sub-zero temperatures, that's for sure! I guess if you have to draw in your horns, you'll find a way, and it'll be in a good cause.

  19. sorry I havent visited in a while. I am going to restrict my blog access for a while, you are welcome to come and visit as an invited guest. If you email me on then I can add you to the list. I would hate to lose touch. hulla xx

  20. Hulla - Will do, thanks for the invite!

  21. wow, what a great story, I love it! I've been learning how to spend as little money as possible now that I don't have an income. It's a struggle but I'm slowly getting better :-)

  22. Conor - It's surprising what we can do without when we start seriously assessing our careless lifestyles.