Three hundred and twenty-eight

Living with debt

I work on the weekends and the beginning of the week, so today is my hump day.  And it was a looong day today.  Working brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings is draining, and the only reward used to be the cash I ended up with at the end of the shift.  I was speaking to some coworkers the other day, saying how hard it is to keep working this month, but never getting to spend any of the money.  One of them mentioned that the same thing is happening to them because of debt they have to pay off.

Trying to pay off debt is so difficult because you are earning money, but you don’t get to keep it or spend it.  Especially in the service industry where you have your earnings in your hand, and yet it will (or should) go straight into the bank to pay off something you spent money on in your past.

Debt can come from over-spending, putting something you need (or sometimes think you need) on credit.  It can come from negative circumstances like paying for funeral costs for a death in the family, or losing your job and living off credit until you can find another.  It can also come from paying for education to invest in your future.  Whatever the circumstances are debt is a difficult thing to get out of and overwhelming at times.

We’ve seen with the crisis in the States how many people lost everything because they were spending outside of their means (and the corrupt financial institutions encouraged them to do so).  Unfortunately we live in a credit society where instead of saving to buy something like our grandparents did, we buy now and pay later (not everyone does this, but a large majority do).  Making educated financial decisions should be taught in school from a young age so people don’t end up in a huge amount of debt (unforeseen negative circumstance excluded) or end up being pressured into buying something before they really think about it.

The feeling of being hungry and wanting to buy food, having cash in your hand, but knowing you can’t spend it is pretty discouraging and depressing.  If anyone has any ways they’ve coped with their debt or gotten out of debt, let’s here them.  I’m sure there are tons of people out there who’d love practical advice about this.


Three hundred and twenty-seven

Ways to live and eat for free

I know poverty is a devastating thing.  But what if we looked at the positive ways to sustain a healthy lifestyle without spending a lot of money?  Most of us have to pay rent and own a phone and pay bills.  So perhaps a completely free life (like the freegans) isn’t in the cards.  But here are some simple things you could do that are free (or very low cost) to keep yourself nourished mentally and physically.


Grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Trade a service you can perform for food like gardening or cleaning or any other skill you have and can help others with.

Food banks.

No Frills (and some other grocery stores) has some really great ‘dollar deals’ at times.  Combine those with coupons you find online (see my month of extreme couponing) and you can get things for free.


Clothing swap – if you’re looking for new clothes, organize a clothing swap with your friends.  You all bring the clothes that don’t fit you or you don’t wear and exchange them with your friends’ hand-me-downs.

Get things for free at places like or craigslist.  Or services for free at The Freeconomy Community.

Walking up and down the streets of Toronto (or the alleys in Vancouver, or I’m sure other places in other cities).  Many people leave out lightly used things (like furniture) they don’t want anymore.  This is more in the summer and spring than winter, but it does happen now too.  Most of the chairs in our apartment were found on the street.  Avoid things that could have bedbugs, though.  They  are not fun to get rid of!



Bike (get and fix the bike from one of the websites listed above)

Hitchhike (ok, this one might be a little unsafe…)


The Library – borrow books for free instead of buying them.  Or swap books with a friend.

PWYC theatre – many theatre companies have Pay-What-You-Can days.  You have to get there early and wait in line, but if you can only afford $1, you can give them $1 to see a play or musical.  Look up their websites for more details.

Art galleries usually have a free evening, like Wednesday nights at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

Skating – Toronto has free outdoor skating, or Tim Horton’s offers free skating days across Canada (look at the their website here for more details)

Things I’ve mentioned before: a walk in the park, playing cards, chatting with friends.


Some extreme ways to live freely from Mark Boyle on The Ecologist here (like humanure and dumpster diving).

Three hundred and twenty-five

“Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can”
– John Lennon

Choosing to live in poverty/without money

I’ve written about how poverty can be devastating.  How it plays a toll on physical health, mental well being and social networks.  But there are those people who choose to live in poverty.  Whether it be for environmental, political, religious or personal reasons, the following people choose the absence of money as a way of life.

Monks and Nuns

The vow of poverty made in the name of religion is one that many people know.  According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, the vow of poverty “may generally be defined as the promise made to God of a certain constant renunciation of temporal goods, in order to follow Christ… A person who has made this vow gives up the right to acquire, possess, use, or dispose of property except in accordance with the will of his superior.”  From

the vow of poverty is not related to being poor, but rather to sharing everything in common. Those who embrace the vow of poverty do not claim private ownership of any possessions. Everything they have is used for the common good of the religious Order.

When Sister Ema of the Sisters of Mercy of Americas was asked whether she liked being poor, her response was:  “I don’t consider myself poor. Actually, I have all my needs met. It’s just that I choose to live simply. I think this is a difficult concept for many people given the way our society works.”

A similar view is found in Buddhism, where the lay people are expected to pay for and provide for the Buddhist monks who have taken a vow of poverty. (More information on the University of Wyoming Religious Studies Program study on the Buddhist Life)


I wrote about freegans during my vegan month.  They are generally environmentalists who boycott capitalist economy and instead choose to “avoid using money; forage for food; recycle, compost and repair broken goods instead of throw them away, or share, give away, or trade goods in free markets and online (places like the free section on craigslist and; hitchhike, trainhop, walk, skate or bike as transportation; look for rent-free housing – become squatters who occupy and rehabilitate abandoned buildings; grow community gardens, or forage for food in city parks or in the wild; reduce their need to by employed, instead “caring for our families, volunteering in our communities, and joining activist groups to fight the practices of the corporations who would otherwise be bossing us around at work.” (”  More info from my post here.

Mark Boyle, a well-known freegan and the founder of The Freeconomy Community, writes on The Guardian Green Living Blog here and here about why he has chosen to live a life without money and what he has learned from it.  A quote from Boyle: “The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that we’re completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the stuff we buy. The tool that has enabled this separation is money.  If we grew our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it as we do today. If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn’t throw them out the moment we changed the interior decor. If we had to clean our own drinking water, we probably wouldn’t contaminate it.”

This German Grandma

Sixty-nine-year-old grandmother of three Heidemarie Schwermer has lived sixteen years without money.  She is the subject of a documentary, entitled Living Without Money (trailer below), by director Line Halvorsen.  In 1996 Schwermer decided to live without money as an experiment.  She gave away all of her possessions except what she could fit in a suitcase and backpack, and has been living nomadically ever since.  “Living without money gave me quality of life, inner wealth, and freedom.”  She trades gardening and cleaning for places to sleep and food to eat. “Money distracts us from what is important.”  (more information on Yahoo here)

Three hundred and twenty-four

Other income

Have you ever seen that television show Til Debt Do Us Part?  I’ve watched a few episodes when I’ve been flicking through channels at my parents’ house.  A financial expert helps a married couple deal with their money problems.  From what I’ve seen, the financial expert always advises that the couple find some way to gain additional income to help themselves out.

I wrote yesterday about a couple ways to make extra money when you need it.  There’s getting an extra job or panhandling.  And of course getting a sugar daddy.  But there are less extremes ways to earn some extra cash.  You can sell old stuff, for example sports equipment to Play It Again Sports, or have a garage sale.  If you’re crafty, you can make trinkets to sell at craft sales.  You can also return bottles to The Beer Store to get the bottle deposit back.

A bunch of us are going to my friend’s house for dinner on Saturday night.  We are all bringing something to add to the meal and I said I’d bring a salad.  On $4 a day, it is hard to find enough money to feed myself and have enough leftover to pay for the large salad to bring.  But I also know that, from my research, a lot of the depression that comes from poverty comes from social exclusion.  The worst thing you can do is sit at home and avoid your friends and family.  As Suzanne said in her comment the other day, when you don’t have money, you both appreciate and need to spend time with your support system to get through it.  You can find joy in just a simple walk in the park with them, or playing cards, or just talking.

I know my friends would understand if I say I can’t bring anything, but I want to contribute.  I wouldn’t want to show up empty handed and therefore might not have gone.  I needed to make some extra money to afford the salad so I could go.

My brother and I had a huge stack of bottles (wine, beer and liquor) that had accumulated over the past six months or so.  I lugged all of the bottles down two big flights of stairs in the rain (six trips), drove them to The Beer Store, then carried them inside, sorted them and got the money for the return.  It took about an hour from start to finish.  But I ended up with $21.60!  Plenty of extra money to pay for the salad.

How good deeds go wrong…

A little flashback to Good Deed month.  I talked a lot last month about how people don’t accept good deeds, or in the extreme, react angrily or violently towards them.  I started my day today with proof of this.

I live in a large house with six apartments in it.  Last night I got home from work at 2am and the recycling hadn’t been taken to the curb.  I know it is one of the people in the house’s job is to take the garbage out every week.  It was late though and they hadn’t been taken out, so I thought I’d be nice and put them to the curb.  This morning there was a three page note, written in thick black marker, covering the main door to our house.  The note said basically in capital letters “WHOEVER TOOK THE BINS OUT DO NOT.  DO NOT TAKE THE GARBAGE OUT.  THIS IS MY JOB.  DO NOT TOUCH THE GARBAGE. IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THIS, CALL ME  etc etc”  for three pages!

I was absolutely shocked.  I was trying to do something nice on a cold winter’s day and instead I get a nasty THREE PAGE letter telling me not to help.  I’m a little confused as to why she cares that much.  She doesn’t know it’s me, and I was going to call her and  try to make her feel bad by being super sweet, but it’s not worth my time.  I guess I won’t be taking out the recycling anymore.  That’s what I get for doing a good deed – a bad way to start my day.

Three hundred and twenty-three

Here’s a topic completely unlike anything I’ve talked about so far.  People have lots of ways of gaining extra money, from the common of picking up extra jobs, to the extreme of panhandling.  How about living off of someone else’s money?  Many families have one person work and the other stay home with the children.  Many relationships have one person make more than the other.  But what if you are seeking out this relationship of one person with a lot of money paying for the other person without?  Especially when the person with money is usually older and the person without is young and beautiful?

Sugar Daddies

Ok, I know.  I’m not suggesting that people go out and get a sugar daddy as a cure for poverty.  But it’s definitely something that exists.  There are websites where you can find sugar daddies (or sugar mamas).  There are wealthy people out there who will exchange their money for the company of a usually younger, more attractive person.

Here’s a good description of what the sugar daddy/sugar baby relationship is, from

“Sugar Daddy – rich and successful. No time for games? Looking to support and pamper women who will treat you like a king? Interested in a discrete and mutually beneficial relationship? Doctors, Lawyers, Busy professionals, Benefactors.Time to be a Sugar Daddy!

Sugar Baby – attractive and young. Struggling in the early part of your career? Seeking a generous benefactor to mentor and take care of you – perhaps financially? Want finer things in life and good living? Beautiful, Intelligent and Classy Women and Models. You will make the perfect Sugar Baby! “

A friend of a friend recently made a comedic (and disturbing) video about her journey to L.A. to meet up with a sugar daddy she met online (on Craigslist).  It’s pretty funny, although the man is scary and the situation even more so:

Here are a few sugar daddy websites: (I wrote about this at the end of this post during date month, and here’s a fascinating interview on Anderson Cooper)

It’s definitely not a way I’d like to “earn” money.  But to each their own.  If they are both consenting, why not?  Although from the video above (and the Anderson Cooper interviews, especially listening to the men who pay for the women), I feel like there would be a lot of power issues going on.  If someone is controlling your money, what else are they controlling?  And how much of yourself do you have to give up to be in a relationship like this?  I’m sure there are good, well-meaning, financially well-off men out there who use these sites.  But how do you know you won’t end up with someone like the man on the video?

I do however have a boyfriend who pays for things for me sometimes when I don’t have the money, just as I pay for things when he doesn’t have the money.  Sometimes he’s the sugar daddy, sometimes I’m the sugar mama.  And lots of relationships do have one person make more money than the other and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Is the “sugar daddy” phenomenon just an extension of this?