Thursday 20th June 2024

Life without money: is it even possible?

Shoestring Jane explores living without money inspired by Mark Boyle’s journey. She shares tips on finding free items, reducing waste, and community sharing for a more sustainable life.


The love of money may be the root of all evil, but love it or hate it, it seems we are stuck with the concept.

Not many communities today are able to operate without money. It’s an inexorable fact of life: we need to work for money in order to survive. Or do we? What about a life without money?

A few years ago, I read Mark Boyle’s first book, The Moneyless Man, with fascination and admiration as he asked himself this very question.

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Boyle set out to answer it by challenging himself to live entirely without money for a year. He bought nothing: no food, clothing, transport, energy or nights out in the pub. No books, music, holidays, no tools or equipment. 

Sounds impossible, right? However, not only did Mark Boyle get through the year without any money, he continued with the moneyless lifestyle for a further two years. In these times of economic strife, can we learn anything from ‘the Moneyless Man’? 

You might very well be asking how Boyle achieved his goal without suffering starvation and homelessness or relying on other people to support him financially.

You need to read the book (free via your local library) for the full picture. However, here are some ways to live for free, inspired by The Moneyless Man and Boyle’s follow-up book, The Moneyless Manifesto. Maybe there are some lessons for those of us struggling to make ends meet.

Finding free stuff generally

I happen to live in a small town in Essex that has no charity shops. This means that the easiest way for residents to get rid of things they no longer have a use for is to leave them at the front of their houses with a sign for passersby to help themselves.

Although I was initially bereft at not being able to browse any thrift stores on my doorstep, I have to admit that I enjoy the street freebies I come across on my daily dog walks.

In recent months, I have picked up a small sander, a brand-new silk scarf, books, a set of tins from Joules and various pictures, including a limited edition framed print by a local artist. 

However, if your neighbours aren’t in the habit of offering stuff for free in this way, there are other ways to source them. Freecycle and Freegle are useful organisations to sign up to, where people in your area offer items for nothing.

The idea is to save them from landfill whilst doing someone else a favour. You can even put in special requests. When my daughter moved into a new flat, she requested a small freezer and was duly offered one in excellent condition.

There are also local Facebook groups where people offer things for free. Be careful, though, as some traders mark items as free when they aren’t, just to draw you in.

Skip diving

I am frequently horrified at the things I hear about being thrown in skips. It’s so wasteful! I am not a big skip-diver, although I always take a peek and once found several boxes of brand-new plates and bowls outside a restaurant that was being renovated. 

If you do the same, you are likely to find all sorts of treasures but do ask permission before taking anything.


Popping up recently in some areas are ‘libraries of things’. The idea is that rather than buy tools, equipment and household items that you use rarely, you can borrow them instead. This saves money and waste. 

Some libraries of things are free, using items donated by the local community. Others make a small charge, such as this one, which started in London but has since spread to other areas. 

More and more communities are looking at how to start a library of things, so try and internet search to see if you have one in your area.

Free food prevents food waste

There are a number of initiatives that allow you to help yourself to free food that would otherwise go in the bin. Olio is probably the best-known, but community larders and community fridges are popping up all over the country.

There are multiple issues with food waste, both moral and environmental, so if you can prevent it whilst saving yourself money, all the better.

Free books

Obviously, your library is the most obvious resource to read books for free. However, you can also pick them up and share your own by joining BookCrossing, which aims to connect people with books.

The idea is that you offer books you have read to others on the network and post them out. You can track their journey and share your thoughts. It’s more than just a library – BookCrossing is an experience. 

You can also find book-sharing points in many towns and cities. I have one on my morning dog walk and often take a book or leave one of mine for someone else to enjoy.

LETs schemes

LETS schemes are “Local Exchange Trading Systems … local community-based mutual aid networks in which people exchange all kinds of goods and services with one another, without the need for money”.

The idea is that you can earn credit by doing tasks for others and then spend your credits requesting an exchange of time or skills from other members.

LETS schemes exist nationally, although some areas are a bit sparse and patchy.  If you like this concept, you can find your nearest scheme here. The more people join, the more successful they will become.

Most of us won’t be able to go to the extremes Mark Boyle did and live entirely free of money, but we could probably make do with less. I hope these ideas are useful to enable you to live well, whatever your income.

Photo Credits: Pexels

Shoestring Jane

Mouthy Blogger

Shoestring Jane is a full-time self-employed mum of three daughters. Her frugal partner in crime is handyman extraordinaire, Mr Shoestring. They are constantly on the look out for ways to save and make extra money. Read more on her blog, Shoestring Cottage.

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