Recently my sister said on Facebook “I want to live in a world where money doesn’t mean a thing.” Some of her friends said “me too!”, others “dream on!”
Well, such world does exist. Not far from Nimbin, New South Wales, we met a lovely, down-to-earth couple living on their permaculture farm, without money. They said they do use some, but try to limit it as much as possible, and it has a very positive impact on their lives.
That’s pretty advanced though. It’s a long way and not everybody would be comfortable with getting to this stage. But what most of us don’t realize is that you can stay being who you are, stay cool, while getting to be less tied to your wallet. And I guarantee it’ll make you happy! Here’s a few tips on what to start with.
1. Think twice before you buy
When about to buy something, just stop for a moment. Think. Why are you buying it? Close your eyes and find the reason. Is it because you’ll feel good having it? Is it because it looks attractive? Is it because you’re expected to have it? If any of the above is true, imagine you don’t buy it. Would it make your life any worse?
2. Buy what you actually need
It’s often the most expensive items that make us spend larger sums on things we won’t use.
We are taught to believe that things designed for professionals are good for us. Or computers with faster processors will bring us better experience. And because of these false principles we spend heaps of money on things or features we don’t need. More than that, they are often much less practical to us than the models we would actually find the most useful.
For instance, we buy cameras for $1200, which are heavy and bulky, have short battery life, and we still only use the auto mode. Then we go to the cinema on Tuesday instead of Friday to save $5. Imagine having a camera for $500, that would fulfil all our photographic needs, look nice and be really handy. For the money we save, we could go to the movies every day for weeks!
But yeah, there’s one disadvantage – you don’t get to boost your ego by buying the flashy, expensive item. But hey, you just tricked out all the people who want you to buy stuff you don’t need, isn’t that satisfactory?
3. Do research
Setting off for our travel, I needed a computer to stay in touch with friends, contact people and organisations, sort photos, watch a movie from time to time and write this blog. I needed it to have features like light weight, long battery life etc.
Now, I could have gone to an electronics store without any preparation (never do it!) where the ‘advisors’ would try to sell me the worst piece of shit just because someone had ordered too much.
Even armed with the knowledge what sort of computer I want, this would be hard as Australian stores only sell very cheap or really expensive products, tricking the customers into a false feeling that there’s no products that are both inexpensive and of high quality.
Instead, I did some online research and for only $500 (four times cheaper than suggested models in Australian stores) I got a computer that brilliantly fulfils all my requirements and is made by a brand recognised for their quality.
So, next time you’re about to buy something, no matter if it’s a book to learn a new language, a photo camera or a motorcycle, do your research (read online or ask friends who know more on the topic) and go to the shop (or online store) armed with the knowledge of which specific item you want to buy.
4. Buy second-hand
There’s nothing more exciting that buying second-hand stuff that’s really cheap, in great condition and not only practical, but unique and pretty cool.
Some people buy second-hand clothes, some have all their furniture and other house equipment bought (or found) second-hand, some even build houses from 2nd hand materials.
And you know what? Seeing them and their stuff, you’d never even guess.
5. Cut down on ads
Aldous Huxley, in his 1932 book “Brave New World”, described a future world where human beings have been reduced to producers-consumers, created artificially in hatcheries and conditioned to forget love and passion but consume as much as possible. In this world sports are invented in ways that it requires buying a lot of expensive equipment to play them and certain recorded slogans are repeated to children thousands of times until they become part of their subconsciousness.
Sounds familiar? In the contemporary world we buy more and more elaborate products that make spending free time a significant expense, and hundreds if not thousands of times a week we hear, watch and read advertisements that are repeated so often that they become part of our subconsciousness…
One of the slogans I was conditioned with is from a Polish ’90s advertisement – “Ace. Więcej znaczy od chlorowych wybielaczy” (“Ace. Means more than chlorine-based bleaches”). Back then I didn’t even know what a bleach was, but I still do remember this slogan very well. And if I do go shopping for a bleach, probably my subconsciousness will tell me not to choose a chlorine-based one even though I have no actual knowledge whether it would be a good choice.
Remember, there’s an army of professional psychologists working on manipulating your mind so you’d buy more and choose their products over the competition’s. They’re not a part of an evil plan to destroy the world, they simply also have been watching ads since before they can remember and they just wanna earn money to buy stuff.
But let’s not get ourselves tricked by them, cutting down on ads is actually really easy and really changes the quality of your life. Begin with these:
- Avoid TV. Television has an incredible amount of advertisements and other sorts of brainwashing. I can’t possibly imagine how people got used to watching films interrupted with ads lasting 1/3 of the movie length! If someone told me 15 years ago TV would end up being like this, I wouldn’t believe it.
- Install an AdBlock – it will not only cut the ads (including all these annoying pop-ups I don’t even remember anymore) out of the websites you read, but even from youtube and facebook! Here are to links ad blocks for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and even Internet Explorer (the installation is very easy and fast, so best do it now, before continuing reading this article, it’ll just take a minute)
- Use free services instead of the ones full of ads (like SoundCloud instead of the commercial Spotify)
One of Huxley’s slogans from “Brave New World” was “Ending is better than mending”, followed by “The more stitches, the less riches”. It seems as if we had the same slogans repeated to us thousands times in the real world, as these days no-one really repairs things that got broken or wears clothes with patches. I mean, why not? What’s so bad about using what we have until it really breaks down, instead of buying more and more and complaining that we don’t have money to spend a nice day out with our loved ones?
When Poland was still a communist country, getting basic commodities like a washing machine or vacuum cleaner was really hard (toasters and coffee makers were luxury items), so when anything got broken, you had to fix it yourself. And guess what? It’s usually really easy! Most people in the West for some strange reasons think mending equipment (or even clothes) is a really hard job for true brainiacs. That’s bullshit. Open the manual, ask WikiHow or a friend and if you’re able to read the thing, in many cases it means that you’re intelligent enough to fix it.
7. Avoid supermarkets
Maybe there is a food market or an exciting flea-market in your area? Or one of those charming old-style shops? Why not going there, browsing, talking to people, supporting small businesses and taking part in the city life, instead of getting all your senses exhausted in the malls that attack your eyes, ears, nose and who knows what else, just to sell you more stuff?
8. Buy healthier
Next time you’re going food-shopping, do your research by reading the labels and spend some of the money you saved on other stuff, by buying food that’s less processed. You’ll not only feel better, eat less due to lack of the appetite-boosting chemicals, but if you make it a habit – you’ll probably save money on doctors.
9. Check out the projects around you
There’s so many interesting projects we often have no idea about! From cool clothes-swap markets, through events where they’ll teach you how to fix your bike (and you’ll watch a good film or see a gig), to places like Lentils – a restaurant where you get delicious food and instead of paying you can volunteer in an amazing atmosphere!
By participating or just visiting the projects you’ll not only save some money, you’ll also get to know a lot of open, friendly people who will introduce you to a whole new lifestyle!
Where I come from a lot of people cycle just because petrol prices are too high. And then they discover what a great thing it is! By cycling you’re not only saving money, you’re also making your body feel much better, you improve your mood and bring yourself a lot of satisfaction from getting more fit. And if you live far from your work or school, just get a road bike. In Melbourne, after some practice, I was often making 20 or even over 30 kms per day and feeling just great!
11. Travel cheaply
Don’t buy boring tours that will just make you paying heaps for watching stuff from a vehicle while listening to some boring guy. Instead, go there on your own and fully experience the place!
Check out these links to learn more:
Wikivoyage – a worldwide guide written by volunteers, much better than Lonely Planet
Hitchwiki – an ultimate guide to hitch-hiking
Helpx – volunteering exchange – travel for a little work on exciting projects
12. Be yourself
Ever caught yourself on spending money on things you don’t really like, just because you think your friends would like you more if you didn’t? Like going to clubs you don’t really enjoy (or you do, but just because you haven’t yet been to those you’d truly like), buying music you don’t like too much or other silly things like that? C’mon, each of us did stuff like that at least when we were teenagers. Well, don’t make these mistakes any more! And, if you still have doubts, remember – you’ll only find real, awesome friends if you’re being yourself. Spend your money on what you like instead of on what you think others would like you to have.
13. Remember about free alternatives
Loosing time on listening to ads on Spotify? Feeling troubled because you have to spend heaps of money on Microsoft Word? Needing a good graphic program but CorelDraw is too expensive? C’mon, silly, there’s great alternatives with the same ease, functionality and maybe even exciting new stuff to discover, and it’s all free!
Use SoundCloud (or perhaps a good online radio?) instead of Spotify, write using Open Office, draw using Gimp and install Ubuntu or other free, user-friendly Linux instead of Microsoft Windows, Mac OS or even Android. Easy, nice and absolutely free.
While internet and IT are fields loaded with free to use tools designed voluntarily by people who want to share their knowledge and skills, the ‘real’ world is also full of free alternatives. While you probably don’t need to build open-source factories (they do exist!), you can start with checking your local skill share group on Facebook, which will lead you to…
My friend Nikki said recently “Why do we always teach our children to own, what’s so great about being greedy? Why not teaching them to share?”
Exactly, since when is having better than sharing? From my experiences, travelling around the World and living amongst different cultures, people who share are the happiest and the ones that focus on having sink into all sorts of tensions, hardships and suffering. Sharing brings people together, lets them give and receive and that seems to be what is really important to us.
There’s one mistake people who attempt to share often make though. They put too much pressure on getting back what they shared. Be careful, this kind of sharing doesn’t make you much happier. You might say you don’t believe in magic, but if you really give generously, sooner or later you’ll get it all back in all sorts of ways, believe me.
So, instead of making yourself feel better by spending money or giving it to untrusty charities (the whole 20th century idea of charities usually create much more negative effects than positive ones, but it’s a topic for another article), share stuff with your neighbours, share time with your friends, share your time by volunteering for a good, local cause and just start a new, better life.
15. drop the tension
Exactly. Don’t reject all you just read as extremist bullshit, don’t get excited about it all being a holly truth you must dedicate your whole life to straight away. Just get inspired by these ideas, try to investigate more, just start. Don’t wait, start now. Step by step. In some time you’ll see how your life’s changing. It’s all a process and we must let it go…