"Free money" I used to call it. I always used card, never cash - signing away numbers that I could never see like gas. And I needed lots of things. I was totally desensitized by the reality of what I was spending and didn't worry about when I would pay it back, because I would eventually - when I earned more money...
I suppose I was a 'holic' - shopaholic, alcoholic, fill-every-minute-in-my-diary-a-holic. Not dependent on alcohol, more a social drinker by default since I normally met friends for 'a drink'. And I was out every night (bar Monday) for dinner or drinks. I would buy something I liked nearly every day, from make-up to jewellery to shoes. I had all the store cards, two credit cards, student loans and of course, the forever expanding overdraft.
When I left the corporate sector, I applied for jobs in charities but they wanted experience (transferable skills weren't recognised at the time). So I had to find temporary and contract work to build up my experience. I worked in the public sector and in various sized charities. I earned a little. I had to change my life. I had to stop spending. I had to start saying no to things.
This saying no, led to more time finding alternative free things to do and more time for reading. I studied. I started volunteering. I bought a bike. TfL gave me free bike maps and I discovered London like a mole on wheels with shades on. I thought London was laid out like the tube map until then, blind. I cooked at home. I knew when to go to what markets to get the cheap food. I sneaked a hip flask in my bag on nights out to bars and pubs. I became more creative and resourceful. It was a fun challenge. To survive, whilst still living and enjoying London.
The past three years in South America, I've lived alternative ways to the norm. From WWOOFing to Couchsurfing to living & working on yachts. I've worked in exchange for food and a bed rather than money. And when I have needed money to travel to my next destination, I have worked for cash. Doing whatever I could, sometimes making and selling cake. It's been a hand-to-mouth existence and I have learnt so much. I only buy what I need now, not what I want. I rarely drink alcohol and feel so much better for it. I have learnt that every moment you live, you will never get back. And I would prefer to spend that time on things I am passionate about, even if that means I don't get paid. I found I felt something extremely satisfying living without money. A return to reality, to a natural state. That I need very little to survive. Just a little warmth, a little food and water, some sunshine and to be able to create, build or share some idea or thing. And you don't need money for those. It's a mindset, but it's also the society you live in. Coming back to the UK has thrown me back into the system. I have to work for money because the bartering system isn't our modern society. Although it was and it could be...if we made it.
Money schmoney I say...isn't it love that makes the world go round anyway??
“Who, being loved, is poor?” —Oscar Wilde