First Person: 'I live entirely without money'

Mark Boyle, 30
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The Independent Online

I began my year without money at the end of November 2008, and planned to finish it on Buy Nothing Day, on 28 November 2009. But I've continued doing it – I just had my second Christmas without money.

It's been a fantastic experience; it's taught me a lot about myself. I've never been happier or fitter, so I didn't see any reason to go back to using money.

I live in a caravan on a farm near Bath, with a wood-burning stove, fuelled by old veg boxes and wood coppiced from the farm. I use a compost toilet, and for power for my laptop I have solar panels. They were the one thing I had to buy – I got the caravan on the Freecycle website.

I've never said we should all stop using money, but that we should use it to develop a more sustainable future. I don't need things like my laptop for my survival, but I've chosen to communicate with the public about what I'm doing, through e-mails and interviews, to help spread the word.

At the beginning of the year I was just counting the days. Everything took so much longer. Instead of getting a bus or driving a car, I'd cycle 28 kilometres each way to Bristol. Once you get back you're really tired, and then there's so much else to do. Instead of chucking your clothes in a washing machine, you've got to first make your soap, then hand wash your clothes, then dry them, which can take a while in winter. Everything takes longer – even down to brushing your teeth. I make my own toothpaste: you can grow your own fennel seeds and grind them up and mix them with cuttlefish bones, which you can find on the shores of the UK. The cuttlefish acts as an abrasive, and the fennel seeds give you freshness.

Once I got into a routine, though, I really enjoyed it. The responses I've got have been almost 100 per cent positive. Some people are considering doing a similar thing themselves; others just take a small part of it and apply it to their own life. Obviously there have been critics, but I use that criticism to refine what I'm doing. It is a polarising thing – we are brought up that we should pursue money at all costs. But people can make up their own minds.

Before this I studied business economics and then worked as a manager for organic food companies. I had a bit of knowledge about growing food when I started but I definitely wasn't an expert. I also forage for food, work in exchange for food and collect waste food, although that's only about 5 per cent of my diet. I try to get waste food before it reaches the bin. I'd encourage people to talk to their local businesses; if you approach a small café or restaurant, they don't actually want to chuck out good food.

What did I miss in my year without money? Traffic jams, utility bills... No, I did miss being able to go for a few pints with my mates or a meal with my parents. But it hasn't been painful, we just do different things.

I set up the Freeconomy website [where members share skills and tools for free] two years ago. It's grown pretty rapidly, with 15,000 members worldwide. I think it's so popular because of the economic crisis. Some people want to save money, some want to help the environment.

In the medium-term, I am going to keep going without money. My long-term plan is to set up a self-sufficient community. There may be legal issues in doing that without money. I compare it to a slave buying himself out of slavery: I may need to make a one-off payment to buy land in order to have a money-free community.

The main surprise of the experience is how easy it's become. After about two months, living without money became very normal. It's actually quite easy.