Freeconomics and Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Man

I just finished reading Mark Boyle’s book The Moneyless Man and found it hugely inspiring. Mark was an economics graduate and businessman who discovered Ghandi. Ghandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world” became the ethos by which he began to live and Mark started a Freeconmic movement, one in which members gave freely to those in need. This movement operates in over 150 countries around the world in town and city communities. The Freeconomic Movement operates on a Pay-It-Forward ethos. As he puts it in his speech (linked below) “For thousands of years we have been looking at life through a lens of “What can I take”. Imagine on a table in front of you there are different lens and we take off our old and put on a new one of “What can I give?”

“Imagine a world where we can give without expectation of receiving anything in return to someone who needs help.”

From an ecological viewpoint Mark discusses the toll consumerism has taken on the planet, the wasteful nature of it. In the UK 1/3 of all food traded through supermarkets etc is wasted, thrown out by either the stores or the consumer – much of this food imported from all around the world just to be dumped. Much of this food is grown by poorer countries who use low paid workers to produce it, the expense of getting it to our shops/homes grows with every step of the journey not only adding to the cost of the product but it takes a toll environmentally…then so much of it is dumped. The same could be said for many of our purchases which end up in landfills sooner or later.

From a humanitarian viewpoint, how much food, warm clothing, furniture etc is dumped when so many have so little and go hungry, not in only third world countries but in our own?


In late 2008 Mark made a commitment to try living one year without money. He advertised on Freecycle for something he could live in and was given an old caravan, he made a rocket stove to cook on. He found an organic farmer who was willing to let him live in a small area in return for some work. He dug a hole to use as a loo, surrounded it with a makeshift tent he could also use as a camp shower. He also was given a fire and used waste wood to heat his caravan. He used an old bike to get around or walked many miles many days. He grew his own food, foraged and went skip diving. He talks of feasts him and his friends threw for up to 1500 people on waste from supermarkets, donations from many different sources (though I expect his profile in the area possibly helped alot there) He not only survived the in the year but at the end of his time realised how much happier he was, that he was a better person for it and decided to stay. The proceeds from his book are going towards land for a Freeconomy Community to set up their own place and this will not be a closed community but an open one.

Few of us would be willing or feel able to give up money, for those who would like to he shows it’s possible. But I found him inspiring for many reasons …he puts his money (or lack of!) where his mouth is, he fosters generosity rather than greed, he raises awareness of all sorts of ecological and society issues, he is a man who has taken up the “Be the change you wish to see in the world” challenge and run with it expecting nothing in return. His Freeconomy communities run much like Freecycle, people can advertise for stuff they need whether it be a lift somewhere, a couch to sleep on, tools, food…whatever. People can trade good for services or skills or just give freely. I am seriously considering starting one up here in our town but it does need thinking about. There will always be the takers who use something like this the wrong way, there is always potential for not so nice people in society to take advantage but… there are alot of good reasons to do this too. Many years ago I belonged to a Green Dollar Community where people traded skills and items with others expecting they in turn will recive what they need from others. I became very frustrated by doing alot of work for others who weren’t prepared to do their bit in return. This is different, there is no expectation here that you will receive anything in return, only that those you give to may one day pay-it-forward. People can get together to hold book or clothing swaps, family days etc. As an introvert I find this idea a bit scary πŸ™‚ as a person who does care about the effect poverty has on people and communities I think it’s a brilliant idea. Anyway….bears some consideration.


Β To watch Mark Boyle’s talk on Ted X see hereΒ It runs for 15 minutes. Or an article he did for The Huffington Post here

The Sydney Morning Herald did an article on the rise of this in Australia while people are finding things tough and it appears to be successful and well used.


48 thoughts on “Freeconomics and Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Man

  1. Another fantastic share Wendy. I really love this idea. You are right about the problem of people not paying it forward but this system does away with that need, you just put it out there in the ether and whatever happens, happens. I guess karma happens ;). A fantastic idea and like you, I would love to start something like that here in Tasmania where we have a huge hidden population of welfare recipients (like Steve and I) who are hiding behind the word “student” and thus not being recorded on the true tally of unemployment that is the highest in Australia. Swapping, paying it forward, sharing, giving back, whatever you want to call it, generosity is good for the giver and the receiver and nothing bad ever came of sharing (unless it was cooties…or crabs… πŸ˜‰ )


    • Thank you πŸ™‚ I think it’s brilliant and even for the givers is the knowledge you are part of a community which you can ask in return for something you need at some stage. Also many are money/possession poor but time rich and could possibly do something for others just because they can or trade a chore for vegetables or whatever. How many of us donate to charities because we don’t know anyone who can use something and I don’t know about OZ but our thrift shops are not cheap for those who have no money.
      I think it fosters alot of great things….better community spirit, resourcefulness, community resilience, a kinder attitude and mutual respect, friendship for those who are lonely, greater environmental awareness…so many good things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am in total agreeance with you on this one. Thrift shops are NOT cheap. When we moved here we went hunting for cutlery and they were charging $2 for tatty old individual knives and forks when I could pay the same money for brand new! Same goes for jeans. I can get a brand new pair for the same price that they are charging at the thrift shop and don’t even get me started on the price of wool in thrift shops! I am one of those time rich money poor people and have a lot of skills that I am willing and able to donate for like in the future. I would trade all kinds of things for a permablitz or a bit of help on the property. The elderly could babysit, people could cook for other people who haven’t got the time, all kinds of community could be fostered and grown from a simple generous idea. I love it! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on theroadtoserendipity and commented:
    I really LOVE this idea that Wendy talks about here. What a fantastic way to be generous without any strings attached. Leave the frustration to karma and just get on with learning to be generous. Sounds like the best idea to me πŸ™‚


  3. This is another of those wonderful world changing examples of how to live [most of the third world lives like this already] which is so inspiring! My experience has been to see that for most people raised in the western worlds expectations of material bounty fear would stop them from committing to living like this, even if they wanted to. Most don’t want to! πŸ™‚

    I have lived most of the past thirty five years doing my work for little or no financial payment, I had no expectations of reward or those I have helped ‘paying it forward’. Still I experienced frustration and sometimes hurt when coming up against the takers of society. I think that just shows I’m not truly free yet πŸ™‚

    I raised teenagers on a teaching income that was less than the dole back in the eighties and survived πŸ™‚ I figure I can survive anything! There are many advantages to living simply – it honed my creative skills for sure, developed my sense of trust in the spiritual aspects of life and has mostly surrounded me with good people.

    Now I am older and don’t have the resilience to forage for my food [I’ve never foraged for food πŸ™‚ ] or live without some comfort. I make the best of my situation in life and recognise that I am different to those who live around me. I have two fabulous daughters who contribute financially towards my living costs so that I can work with those who need help on a voluntary basis.

    Most of the time I am very content with my life, I’m an introvert too and love time alone. I’m also a lot cat and don’t like being told what to do! Sometimes though I feel lonely. There is no-one here who shares my world view, and when I read of people in communities my heart leaps – it is such a wonderful thing to live amongst like minded people – it is the greatest ‘miss’ I have in my life since leaving my alternative teaching community!

    It’s a great post and thanks for sharing with us! πŸ™‚ xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pauline πŸ™‚

      How nice that you have lovely daughters who enable you to volunteer and nice that you do volunteer! I think anyone who gave their time in order to help others would become frustrated by those in society who feel they can treat others poorly.
      Few people would want to live as this guy did (or still is as far as I know 3 years later) I certainly wouldn’t, like you I am too old for that. But the community thing of sharing and caring is something I do like the sound of and this guy is inspiring for his ethics and the work he does for others.
      I too survived hard times, many years of stressful living through the last recession but I have fond memories of being a single teenage mother being blissfully unaware by how poor I was by society’s standards and just making do…many nights sitting in the tiny kitchen with my feet on the oven door knitting for the kids from old jerseys. My kids always had food but I often did not and I remember once feeling very hungry and couldn’t spare any food from the kids, someone I had known a year earlier turned up with a grocery hamper she had won and didn’t feel she needed. How utterly gobsmacked I was at the timing, how very appreciative I was at her kindness!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is brilliant Wendy πŸ™‚ , like I said on Frans blog, we need a LETs program over here. There may be one already but I haven’t heard about it. I could cook for a non cook who is great at setting up veggie gardens for me πŸ™‚ . I’m seeing that we are going to lose a big slab of our volunteer workforce when people are no longer able to get the dole or disability allowance so maybe people like me who work week on and week off can step in?


    • I think it’s a great idea too πŸ™‚ I just read Fran’s blog and noted someone said people won’t do it. That’s a real possibility but given you and Fran are into well I reckon maybe more will be here too. There will be many who wouldn’t bother, it might be more complicated that I imagine, or not! I am going to give it a go just to see if it will work, I won’t know unless I try πŸ™‚


      • I think that’s very true Cathy. When I belonged to Green Dollar it was different, the expectation that you will be repaid by a different member but it was full of takers really. This is different in that you give no more than you can with the expectation of nothing in return.


  5. Reblogged this on A Random Harvest and commented:
    This is for those who won’t have seen it on my friends’ blogs. Giving without expectation, knowing that we will receive what we need when the time comes; what more could we want?
    I LOVE this! ~ Linne


  6. This is so awesome, Wendy! I’ve re-blogged it, too, as some of my followers may not have seen it yet. Like you and Pauline, I was a poor young Mum, but never thought I was poor. I thought I was resourceful. It was only since I moved here that I began to see myself through the eyes of others and not in a flattering way . . .

    I’ve had things come to me when needed, too, and in ways I would never have expected. We do reap what we sow, don’t we?

    As an introvert, I, too, have reservations about committing too much time to any group in person. However, I’d be willing to be part of it and offer some services to others. As a matter of fact, I just gave a way a large blue bag of some of my yarns to Mrs. Crafty. Not easy to do, but she will use then and so will Mr. Crafty, who knits a lot.

    In general, I agree with Cathy that the trick lies partly in giving without expectation. The Earth itself operates on this principle, so we know it works . . .

    Thanks for this, Wendy; I might never have heard of him otherwise. I’ll be looking for the book in our library. Love and Light to you. ~ Linne


    • Hi Linne πŸ™‚ I started the group yesterday for our town and already have 25 members which is pretty neat. I did have reservations but the idea just stuck in my head so I thought I may as well just “feel and fear and do it anyway” πŸ™‚

      I think you would love the book, right down your alley. If you can’t get it at the library I will send you mine.

      I think we do reap what we sow and Freeconomics is based around that, giving freely to those who need and things you need will be provided in return. I had this conversation with Fran once, we don’t often have the money to buy stuff we need outright but if we decide we need something it invariably comes to us in weird and wonderful ways πŸ™‚


  7. I felt much smaller after reading this and after reading all the comments too. I could give so much more. In saying that, I also feel far more hopeful than I have in a long time and also a little scared, like stepping out into a new frontier. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing this Wendy and I too have reblogged. πŸ™‚


  8. Thank you Wendy for great work!!! This was an inspiration, I wanted to share + help get the word out. You are such an inspiration all the time!:-) “Spot On” with this one!


  9. I loved these quotes from his article:

    “Ironically, I have found the past two years to be the most fulfilling of my life. I’ve more friends in my community than ever, I haven’t been ill since I began, and I’ve never felt fitter. I’ve found that friendship, not money, is real security. Most western poverty is psychological. Real independence is interdependence.”

    “However, if we devolved decision-making and focused on local communities, then why not?”
    ain’t that the truth! and if we started thinking of others a bit more than ourselves….

    “The change in life path came one evening on the yacht whilst philosophizing with a friend over a glass of Merlot” ‘
    tee hee..great change always happens over a glass of Melot in my book!.

    This was a great post + just the kick in the butt I needed to get motivated all over again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • He is very witty, very articulate, very very authentic. And very inspiring. I am glad you enjoy this Robbie. A young guy I know gave me the book last week and I read it all Saturday, just couldn’t put it down. I did some research on him and found his talk on Zed, sold.


  10. Hi Wendy, I read this post when you first published it, waited to comment until I had time to watch the video then let time slip away from me. What an inspiration Boyle is but I have to say I can’t picture myself living like he does. When I think about living without money the first thing that comes to mind are gifts for holidays. While I do purchase some used items and fix them up to give I still spend a few dollars on them. I’ve gotten my kids used to this but to spend no money for gifts seems almost impossible.

    I’ve thought about starting up a group in my area, there is one that started that offers their time to help with anything you need but I see some of the members taking advantage and don’t want the hassle of that kind of thing. I guess a policy similar to Freecycle where you are asked to offer something before asking would help to eliminate the ones who don’t want to reciprocate, what do you think?


    • I find him very inspiring Lois but like you could not imagine choosing to live as he did. What I do like though is that he shows how one could if the need be…there are so many out there really struggling or living rough on the streets wondering where their next meal will come from – this guy shows a different way of life that would enable individuals and communities to help themselves and one another. Not perfect but better than some are experiencing. In his first book it also showed the changes in him as a person over that period and I can imagine it as being very good for the soul, he lost his ego and found a better man in himself. He is clearly though a very sociable person and where I may be socially aware I am aware I am not terribly sociable by choice πŸ™‚ I would fail miserably in the area of building community from which to share and draw on πŸ™‚
      I have started an internet group here but quite honestly just as much as an experiment to see how it would go (because I am interested in behaviours) as a desire to see people wanting to help others. 40 people joined straight away but very little has happened since then and I have to think most are people waiting to see what is offered rather than actual “givers” in the community. There will always be freeloaders out there waiting to take advantage, it would be naive to think there wouldn’t be – how you get around that I don’t know. I did wonder if I had the mental energy to bother but after sitting back for a month to see very little happening I am now thinking I need to take responsibility and try and make it happen a little better πŸ™‚ I do know there are genuine people in need there and that’s the reality of life for some.
      Boyle makes you realise the waste that goes on in society and how this can be turned around to help those who need it. I read an article over the weekend that supermarkets, bakeries etc in NZ are becoming more consciously aware of this and developing a zero-waste policy and giving stuff away to those who need it rather than bin it – that’s a great thing!


      • I don’t know what the answer is to building a community. I tried to get something started based on a system used by Trash Backwards but nothing happened. Part of the problem for me is that I live in a town of rather well-to-do and those who need the help are in the cities surrounding us. I’m just in the wrong place.

        It’s good to see more stores getting a conscience and caring about food waste. We have one store in the next city that tossed out all it’s meat, produce and bakery items every day, but they do it at a predetermined time and have charities and such that come to pick it up. I stop and shop there when I am in the city just to support them in what they are doing.

        I’m probably going to pick up a book or two by Boyle, you have me hooked.


  11. Sounds like a fascinating book!

    We’ve experienced a lot of the sharing mentality in the boating/live aboard community. If someone has something extra, and somebody needs it, they happily share it. (Having almost zero storage space may or may not contribute to this!).


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