Thursday, 15 September 2011

Free Money Day

Free Money Day
On 15th September at 1.15PM, a group of four of us gave out around $350 in coins and notes to passerbys on one of the busiest streets in Melbourne (Bourke St). Most people avoided us ("what's the catch?", "I don't need any money"). A few stopped and accepted the Free Money Day challenge: take one coin for yourself and give one to someone else. 
Why the hell did I give away my own money?
Free Money Day is a stunt. Normally Melbournians get asked for money all the time. Homeless people, buskers and street vendors are all thronging for your cash. After a while, people start to tune out the voices asking for spare change. 

I wanted to see what would happen if I turned the tables and offered people money. Would people stop? And more importantly would they stop and have a conversation?

What kind of conversations did I want to have?
I wanted to talk about the concept of "enough". Our society is geared around growth. We must always have more. We must work harder to acquire bigger TVs, faster cars, larger wardrobes. If we only get that next pay rise, then we will be happy...for a few months. And then our neighbours get an even bigger TV and we have to compete. So we work harder and harder to pay for it, only to find we have no time to enjoy the things that really matter.

What is the alternative?
Work out what you need
What really matters to you? The obvious things come up first: food, shelter, transport, clothes, electricity. What else matters? I'm not going to be prescriptive, but for most people it's relationships
Work out how you can get it by sharing instead of owning
It's usually a lot cheaper to share something than to own it. Let's take a drill for example. I'd guess that 60% of households own an electric drill. But how often do those drills get used? A few times a year? And the rest of the time they're sitting idle.

This example is why collaborative consumption is a growing movement. It amazed me to learn that 44% of economic activity is unpaid. For decades, businesses have focused on making it really easy to buy stuff. Now services like The Sharehood make it really easy to share stuff.

Do meaningful work
What would it be like if you didn't have to own stuff? Your living expenses would be a lot lower. And that would mean you could focus on doing meaningful work that perhaps pays a bit less instead of working a job you don't really enjoy just for the sake of earning a bit more.

What do you think?
How much of what we need can we get without paying for it? Is a steady state economy possible? Or is this all just a pipe dream? Did I waste my $56?

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