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All or nothing: One man spends a year without spending a cent

Imagine a year of self-imposed exile from consumer society. Mark Boyle has done it — and he says it's not so bad to live without money. <br />

Imagine a year of self-imposed exile from consumer society. Life with no money. Mark Boyle has been living in a trailer, volunteering on an organic farm, using cuttlefish bone and fennel seeds as toothpaste and blogging on his solar powered laptop. And he sounds just fine.

"I planned everything carefully so its not like it came as a shock. I began my life without money on Buy Nothing Day and I have no intention of returning to my consumer self. I’m going to use the money from a forthcoming book deal to buy a piece a land where I will set up a Free Community, a place where people can live without money, grow their own food and use up waste food... That’s all part of a long term plan.”

Boyle studied economics (a skill he doesn’t regret) in university and went on to work for several ethical businesses before realizing that in order to make a difference, he would need to fully understand what it is he was trying to change.

“I needed to reconnect with the things I consumed in order to see their repercussions," Boyle said. "The jolt came three years ago — I was sitting with a friend, discussing world issues. You can campaign all you want but are you solving something?"

His solution? Moving into a trailer (on an organic farm he was volunteering on), cancelling all contracts (his cell phone is incoming calls only), brushing his teeth with cuttlefish bone and fennel seeds (“You can smell my breath from a mile,” he says), and using a solar-powered laptop to blog on his website, justfortheloveofit, which he funded by selling his house boat.

“I got a lot of criticism for the laptop, but it was a no-win situation. It’s ironic but I couldn’t communicate without it,” he said.

Living a life without cash does takes its toll — a typical day involves foraging for nettle leaves to make tea, cooking on a rock stove and 45-minute workouts using a cinder block.

“The hardest thing is the impact on my social life, as not having money isn’t great for female partners or friends. It’s not like I can go for a pint in the pub (Boyle has had a total of three over the past 11 months) or the cinema," he said. "My biggest challenge was getting myself from Bristol to Ireland to spend last Christmas with my family. I hitchhiked for two days and arrived on Christmas Eve.”

His year without cash officially ends on Nov. 28, but Boyle has no intention of stopping here. Establishing the Free Community and developing his website, which gives tips on how to live a more sustainable life with less money, are top priorities.

“My experience has reinforced my belief that I could do it," he said. "The consumer is the most powerful person on the planet right now. You should only buy products you really need and are happy with. I don’t miss buying; it doesn’t appeal to me anymore.”

 
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