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Australian Couple Experience Life with Almost No Money for a Year

In this day and age, living without money sounds almost impossible, but that’s exactly what this Australian couple has been doing for almost a year. It’s been anything but easy, but they’ve somehow made it work.

Rachel Newby, 24, and Liam Culbertson, 26, have come up with innovative ways of making it through the year without any cash. They built themselves a new home on a friend’s plot in West Gippsland, a rural region in Victoria. The house is made entirely out of scrap timber and recycled materials. They grow their own food, and at times, don’t hesitate to dive into dumpsters for leftovers. They also help out local farmers in exchange for fresh produce and yarn.

“We enjoy the feeling of being able to choose what we do regardless of money,” said Rachel. “We don’t have to worry about rent or plane tickets or food or fancy clothes. Effectively, all of our time is free time because we get to decide how we spend it.”

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Photo: Simon Schluter/The Optimist

Rachel and Liam moved into the house in January, but this isn’t the first time they’re experiencing living off the land. While Rachel spent two years previously on an organic farm in Canada, Liam has traveled to the Arctic. They’ve both always tried to use local produce and be as eco-friendly as possible.

But in spite of all their experience, they claim that this last year has been quite difficult. The soil on their patch of land is rather infertile, so they’ve been struggling to grow crops. The climate is pretty harsh as well, so their makeshift residence isn’t holding out too well. The thrifty home – a 2.5 square meter structure – is really only good for privacy. They shower under cold rainwater collected on the roof, and share toilets with the rest of the community. And because they have no appliances, they wash their clothes in the sink.

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Photo: That’s Life! Magazine

Even though they don’t have jobs, Rachel and Liam don’t have a lot of leisure time to waste. They spend most of the day working for local farmers – planting vegetables and picking berries, just so they can earn their next meal. They have five ducks that provide them with fresh eggs, but when supplies go low, they have to go sift through dumpsters for discarded vegetables, fruit, and bread.

Despite the couple’s best efforts,  their experiment hasn’t remained totally cash free – Liam needed dental work earlier this year, which cost the couple $300, and Rachel also had to spring for a new bike so she could ride into town. But those were pretty much their biggest expenses for the year.

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Photo: That’s Life! Magazine

With only a few months left of their cashless year, the couple hasn’t decided if they’re going to return to civilization or not. It’s not easy, but they might just continue to live off the grid. They seem quite happy with their lifestyle despite the hardships, and they get along really well with their neighbors too. “Older folks seem to love the idea of us doing what they used to do as kids, or in some cases, as young hippies,” Rachel told That’s Life! Magazine, adding that she and Liam might just burn out from all the work, but they’re enjoying themselves for now.

Rachel and Liam are not the only ones to voluntarily shun money in order to improve their lives. Rafael Fellmer and his family have been living a money-free life for years, only spending cash when they have absolutely no alternative, and Heidemarie Schwermer hasn’t spent a dime in almost 20 years, relying instead on a trade of things and skills. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly not impossible.