February 26th, 2008
Part 1: Items 1 – 5
As Janice Joplin sang to us all those many years ago, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. That doesn’t have to be a sentence to despair. It can also be a defiant gesture to the powers that be, and the license we need to live joyfully, peaceably and responsibly on our planetary home. After that kind of commitment, any money that does come in can pad our own safety nets and perhaps even inspire others to tread lightly on the earth.
With millions of Americans losing their jobs and their homes in this recession – and hardly any available cheap rentals or backup jobs to take up the slack – there will be a lot of people out there trying hard to survive.
The adage that it takes money to make money doesn’t mean much to people who have none to spare, but it also takes (some) money to live on little-to-no money if you want to do it well. Mostly it requires nothing more than a different way of approaching life, and a willingness to choose the less-traveled road. Or, in some cases, choosing the road…
1. Decide What You Want From Life
Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief… scientist, artist, writer, woodworker, mechanic. Most choices of career outside the big business and financial sectors can be pursued without great expense once you’re out of school. Sit down and make the list. Then once you’ve got it, arrange it into priorities top to bottom. Any lower items that conflict with the top items can be crossed off. Then decide what your time investments are to be. With that well-honed list you can then begin a Plan – 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20. Things don’t usually go according to plan, but if you’ve got a plan you’re already several steps ahead of life’s fast balls.
If what you want from life is love and happiness, seconded by rewarding work, take heart! The best things in life really can be free. On this decision, bear in mind that no matter who you are, the greater your range of skills, the more you can do for yourself, and the more satisfaction you can gain. Diversify, diversify, diversify!
2. Put Those Goals To Work in Your Life
A young person just starting out, a thirty-something adventurer, or an older couple whose kids are on their own can trade their skills and talents directly for basic living expenses – shelter and food the primaries among those necessities. While at the same time “seeing the world” and doing some good.
There are many missions, NGO projects and other affiliated concerns who are always in need of warm bodies to do the work they’re dedicated to providing. All over the world, and all over the US of A. You’ll never get rich vaccinating children or passing out food or building schools, digging wells, teaching, installing energy systems, etc. in the Third World. Heck, many such jobs pay nothing at all. But you’ll usually get a place to sleep, food to eat and experiences enough to fill storytelling voids forever!
3. No-Cost Housing for the Tread-Lightly
If you’re single (or double with no children), handy and responsible, pack lightly for your Earth-journey, and don’t feel a need for deep roots, consider becoming a professional caretaker. Breaking into this lifestyle takes some work (earning trust and reputation), but once you’ve got a few favorable references you might be surprised by the possibilities.
Many real estate management firms are well paid to care for rich people’s “extra” homes – places they may spend a week or less a year occupying, some who are overseas and may not get home for years! Having someone who leaves small footprints but who can keep everything in good repair while protecting the place against the damages inevitable in abandonment is a good deal for them. Some will even pay you to live there!
4. Travel For Free
If you aren’t a machinist or have a skill you can trade a merchant shipping company for fare, there are other ways to travel for free. If you’ve an excellent driving record and some references you can deliver cars almost anywhere in the country, while someone else pays for the gas and motels along the way! There are air couriers who will pay your round trip to Europe or Asia just for carrying and delivering a parcel or packet of papers – but in the post-9/11 world you’d better be bondable. If you are fluent in another language, you can often do a little local translation work (make some signs in English or the other way around) for a hotel or menu for a restaurant in exchange for food and lodging once you’re there.
If you do have nautical skills, consider moving yachts around for absentee owners. It’s a nice way to travel, and if you’re reliable and prompt, you’ll get to see quite a bit of the country and world!
5. Consider Becoming an “Expatriate”
There are many countries that welcome however few American dollars you can bring in and/or skills you can offer, where those same dollars will go a whole lot farther than they do here in the States. Many of them also have universal health care, which is something to think about if you’re really trying to live on practically nothing.
Do your homework well before you jump on the bandwagon, there are always trade-offs. If you’ve a grubstake saved (or inherited), you’ll want to make the best choices. And don’t overlook the visa requirements, which may have you coming back to the US every 90 days or so.
Stay tuned for part 2, where we’ll look at more alternative ways of making your life work without much money.