There’s a silly scene in Wayne’s World which finds Wayne and Garth lying on the hood of their car at the end of an airport runway reveling in the wake caused by planes taking off. Mike Myers says this scene was inspired by a favorite pastime of his family called No Money Fun. The idea, of course, was to come up with entertaining activities that didn’t cost a dime.
When I heard Myers tell that story, I thought, “No wonder he’s so creative. What a great thing to learn early in life.“ No Money Fun is a terrific way to activate the imagination and it comes with a built-in reward of all that free fun.
There are two ways to bring more No Money Fun into your life. You can take advantage of the free things around you such as strolling through a beautiful public garden or museum.
The other option is to use alternative currencies. No, I’m not suggesting that you take up counterfeiting. I am, however, challenging you to become as creative as possible about finding alternate routes to have and do more of what you want.
Before I go farther, I need to issue a couple of warnings. I’m not talking about becoming a certified cheapskate. In fact, you’ll notice that the very wealthy are masterful at using alternative currencies in place of cash.
Cheapskates, on the other hand, pride themselves on deprivation.
So how can you cultivate and use alternative currencies? Begin by refusing to ever, ever use lack of money as an excuse.
Start looking for options—then be dazzled by the abundance of possibilities.
* Cash in rewards. Frequent flier miles have long been a popular way to travel with free airfare.
Several credit card companies also offer reward programs that let you cash in earned points for merchandise, travel or, even, tuition. Some people rack up thousands of points by using their credit cards to pay for everything from the mortgage to gas and groceries.
* Sweat equity. This term may be a bit rigorous for the things I’m going to suggest, but essentially you trade your time and/or talent and get something wonderful in return.
Love the symphony? Be a volunteer usher and listen for free. There are plenty of participatory opportunities in the arts, sports and community events.
You can travel on sweat equity, too. Organizing and leading tours in exchange for a free trip of your own is popular.
One such example comes from my friend Tom Cook whose wife is a genealogist who does seminars every year on cruise ships. Tom said they once took a Mediterranean cruise that would have cost them $25,000 had they paid for it.
I recently read Michael Pollan’s wonderful book A Place of My Own which chronicles his adventure building a writing house for himself. Besides creating a perfect place to daydream and write, Pollan acquired new skills and confidence.
Of course, many successful businesses never would have survived if not for the willingness of the founder to invest sweat equity at the start. A DIY attitude is helpful.
* Barter. Similar to sweat equity, barter allows you to trade services and products without money being exchanged. The tricky part of this is figuring out what’s an even exchange. That’s where barter clubs come in allowing you to accumulate credits. (Do an Internet search to track down a club that suits your needs.)
A man who attended a seminar of mine in Atlanta told me that he had lived for three and a half years totally on bartering. Many people, especially new business owners, find that bartering allows them to get all sorts of things they can use without having to spend cash.
* Merchant incentives. Discounts, coupons and rebates are all designed to attract your business. Enthusiastic rebaters claim to save thousands every year. You don’t have to just depend on ads in your Sunday paper, either. Lots of special offers can be found online if you want to track them down.
Mastering No Money Fun is first and foremost an exercise in learning that there’s never just one way of accomplishing things. It’s a good for your imagination as it is for your bank account.
Got a favorite alternative currency of your own? Tell us about it.