Woman Hasn’t Used Money in 15 Years

Heidemarie Schwermer, a 69-year-old woman from Germany, gave up using money 15 years ago and says she’s been much happier ever since.

Heidemarie’s incredible story began 22 years ago, when she, a middle-aged secondary school teacher emerging from a difficult marriage, took her two children and moved to the city of Dortmund, in Germany’s Ruhr area. One of the first things she noticed was the large number of homeless people, and this shocked her so much that she decided to actually do something about it. She had always believed the homeless didn’t need actual money to be accepted back into society, only a chance to empower themselves by making themselves useful, so she opened a Tauschring (swap shop), called “Gib und Nimm” (Give and Take).

Her small venture was a place where anyone could trade stuff and skills for other things and skills they needed, without a single coin or banknote changing hands. Old clothes could be traded in return for kitchen appliances, and car service rendered in return for plumbing services, and so on. The idea didn’t really attract many of Dortmund’s homeless, because, as some of them told her to her face, they didn’t feel an educated middle-class woman could relate to their situation. Instead, her small shop was assaulted by many of the city’s unemployed and retired folk eager to trade their skills and old stuff for something they needed. Heidemarie Schwermer’s Tauschring eventually became somewhat of a phenomenon in Dortmund and even prompted its creator to ask herself some questions about the life she was living.

She started to realize she was living with a lot of stuff she didn’t really need and initially decided not to buy anything else without giving something away. Then she realized how unhappy she was with her work and made the connection between this feeling and the physical symptoms (backache and constant illness) she was feeling, so she decided to take up other jobs. She began washing dishes for 10 Deutchmarks an hour, and despite many were telling her things like “You went to university, you studied to do this?”, she felt good about herself, and didn’t feel like she should be valued more because of her studies than someone working in a kitchen. By 1995, the Tauschring had changed her life so much that she was spending virtually nothing, as everything she needed seemed to find its way into her life.

So in 1996. she took the biggest decision of her life: to live without money. Her children had moved out so she sold the apartment in Dortmund and decided to live nomadically, trading things and services for everything she needed. It was supposed to be a 12-month experiment, but found herself loving it so much that she just couldn’t give it up. 15 years later, she still lives according to the principles of Gib und Nimm, doing various chores for accommodation in the houses of various members of the Tauschring, and loving every minute of it. Schwermer has written two books about her experience of living without money and asked her publisher to give the money to charity so it can make many people happy instead of just one. She’s just happy being healthier and better off than ever before.

All of her belongings fit into a single-back suitcase and a rucksack, she has emergency savings of €200 and any other money she comes across, she gives away. Heidemarie doesn’t even have health insurance as she didn’t want to be accused of stealing from the state, and says she relies on the power of self-healing whenever she gets a little sick.

Sources: Times Online, Austrian Times

Photos via Living without Money


Feedback (41 Comments)

  • Jahangir Posted on July 10, 2011

    Well that’s very good she has spent 15 years without using money but the fact is that money is very important in life.

    This “give and take” system was used in early days of human history, but now the thing that is used is called “Money” and you must use it to survive.

  • Jaakko Posted on July 14, 2011

    What didnt u understand ? She’s been livin and surviving for 15years without this thing called “money”, and is healthier and happier than ever before. So how can u say that u MUST use it to survive ?

  • rev j c a Posted on July 14, 2011

    you MUST use money to survive says the sage, jahangir. it is a direct order. it is a belief. no, a fact, says the sage. like the fact that my true religion is the only true religion. yeah, it’s a fact like that one.

    the article’s great story. good for her. its this quality of ingenuity & adaptability that we as a species could use a lot more of.


  • Terri Posted on July 15, 2011

    It’s obvious society’s money system is broken…and we will see much more of this fact in the months to come. The old bartering system has come back to life, as has self-sustainability. I think this is an awesome story, and I’d love to live this way. It’s definitely food for thought.

  • And Posted on July 16, 2011

    Clearly ‘you must have it to survive’ is not true, did you read the article?

  • nAIA Posted on July 17, 2011


  • don Posted on July 17, 2011


  • Bob Posted on July 19, 2011

    Google Mark Boyle, the English journalist who decided to live without money for a year and found out it was so fabulous that he decided to keep doing it.

  • Michelle Posted on July 19, 2011

    Fiat money is slavery that we agree to and sign up for. Of course people are harsh on her because she lives the truth of the fact that all humans should be free and not have to pay money to live on the planet which you were BORN on. We should all say no to piles of China garbage that eats up our undercompensated time, which we trade, years that we give away for a handful of not even money anymore. Digitized data entered into a computer. That is illusory.

  • Robert47 Posted on July 19, 2011

    Currency or gold and silver coin is just a simplified form of barder. back in the old days when people had hand craft skills they could trade in exchange for something they needed and that worked out ok, that is if you didn’t need something in a short time period and no one could trade you the thing you needed for what you had to offer at the exact time you needed it!
    Far was this lady living out of a suitcase and trading her skills for room, board, food, clothing or what ever. There have been folks doing that for years. I would be more impressed if this lady was living out in the wilderness totally self sufficient, hunting, fishing, building her own home with her own hands. There are and have been people that have done so.
    Any way you cut it, you will either trade skills and services for something you need or you will trade currency or gold and silver coin but the fact remains ALL those forms are a act of trading something for something in return!

    Personally I don’t care to live out of a suitcase. I am personally off the electric grid, manufacture my own auto fuel for in state travel, remodeled my own home myself, grow my own garden which means 95% of what I eat i grow. I hunt, fish can tan a animal hide to make clothing and I have several other skills I have built up over the last 25 years that I can use to create several streams of earning power. I have and am doing so

    I guess if you live out of a suit case you are still pretty much dependent on the system as is because if no one has use of your skills to trade for what you need, you’re screwed!

  • Kelley Posted on July 19, 2011

    She is able to do what she does BECAUSE everyone else is using money. Like the ticket for travel. Or the gas in the car. The window she looked out of and the floor she stood on was paid for by money. Without it, there is no window and no floor.

  • Kirkop Posted on July 19, 2011

    money is slavery

  • m Posted on July 19, 2011

    this is where we are headed

  • Public Posted on July 19, 2011

    It is time for Zeitgeist Moving Forward.

  • Athornagar Posted on July 20, 2011

    Kelley, LOL!!! You think that money makes windows and floors?

  • David Posted on July 21, 2011

    No, Kellie: money didn’t make the windows and the floors – someone made them. If this someone weas paid with money, made for free, received goods in exchange, etc., it’s another story, the one that is at stake here.

  • morgan Posted on July 25, 2011

    This story is inspiring. I believe that money is evil, it destroys lives. What if everybody did things to make things for others to use, and shared every single thing that was a possesion. Where would we be then. How many deaths will be decreased because of no more money, how many robberies? She did this by choice, makeing this story worth reading even more. Every body should try living this way, just imagine. Money doesn’t make things, just makes people want to. Think about it.

  • Ahmad James Posted on August 4, 2011

    Give and Take is just another form of trade, its the most basic and earliest method used by people. Money simply holds that ‘trade value’ for longer. Before it was actual value-based materials like Gold and Silver and so modern money is based on Gold/Silver (or was…?). So you can let go of paper money, but you can’t let go of trade. A dish washer will put their effort in for money to buy food, in her case it may be for food.

    Money is a medium, not inherently evil, it is what we do with it that matters.

  • Darren Posted on August 8, 2011

    Apparently the belief that barter was widespread before money is widespread but unproven – More evidence that it is used as a replacement by communities used to trade and money when there are disruptions.

    This excerpt from a recent book is interesting


  • Hippynz Posted on August 14, 2011

    Good story, but she would have to use some money or have others use money on her behalf. Service station would not give her gas without money same for public transport, and much more.

  • Daniel Posted on August 21, 2011

    Jahangir needs to stop thinking inside the box. The use of money is a system of barter, and a poor one at that. The money doesn’t reach the people that need it the most, so we need to transcend that archaic system – and set people free.

    This woman is free, and knows it herself. “None are more hopelessly enslaved, than those who falsely believe themselves to be free.”

    Watch the Zeitgeist documentaries, if you’d like to live without money, but still have some doubt about the benefits of a NEW system.


  • Bruce Posted on December 12, 2011

    Its not living with or without money that matters as much as having the courage to live without fear of scarcity. When we have enough faith or trust in the universe or spirit or ourselves to live in the moment following our guidance without attachment, we will have amazing experiences and shine like this woman shines.

  • Bill Z Posted on January 8, 2012

    When the finance manipulators have finally screwed up the money system for their own profits, I hope there are more like this lady who can establish barter systems.

  • jan Posted on February 21, 2012

    Did money make window and floor?