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.

6 Responses to “Using Alternative Currencies”

  1. kerstin

    I think there are a lot of options how to save money and avoid money transfer… As you mentioned, I also believe that bartering is a good way to do so. A few weeks ago I came across a Website,
    As you say it is difficult to find a trading partner, who has goods to barter for, that are equal to your product. But on this Website it is possible to use additional points in the trading process, so it is much easier to make a good deal. It is also possible to match your goods or services with offers from others. I have real fun, when bartering 🙂 so, just try!

  2. Penny

    I am an artist. I often trade my art for things I need. For example, the local coffee shop is a good place to make contacts for my husband’s work. When I was unable to work due to surgeries I traded some of my art with the local coffee shop for coffee and lunches for my husband.

  3. Sally Evans

    Great article. I agree. there are tons of ways to do the things you want and not have money be the only deciding factor.

    One example is a home exchange, where you can trade homes to visit a new or favorite domestic or international destination.

    A friend of mine was able to trade house and pet sitting for a month for a couple traveling to Europe while she and her husband checked out Fort Collins as a possible place to move.

    As you know, my sister and I will be releasing an ebook very soon that has over 100 creative money saving tips so this subject is near and dear to my heart!

  4. KingofthePaupers

    Barbara: “Got a favorite alternative currency of your own? Tell us about it.”
    Jct: I was doing a European lecture tour in 1999 on LETS community currencies and in France I found they had made a radical departure in system engineering. Rather than have a central database where everyone could see everyone else’s account to deter non-repaying users, the JEU ( Jardin d’Echanges Universel) took everyone’s account and put it into a paper bank-book where I signed yours and you signed mine when we made a deal and I could see your record of transactions and you could see mine. I figured we could each handle our own timebank account and have the benefit of account transparency by taking that account page and posting it on the net for all to see! is my personal rudimentary though functional timebank account page. Of course, it would be more impressive among a list of goods and services from the Brantford area but good enough nevertheless.

  5. Tom J. Kennedy

    “The concept of shopping within our own loyal networks of ‘locavores’ – people who make a conscious decision to shop locally instead of shopping with the giant transnational corporations is gaining widesparead support. So, instead of waiting for any group or committee to launch a usuryfree community currency, I have taken the initiative to launch my own, personal, usuryfree wampum called “Kennedy Hours.”

    I prefer to refer to “Kennedy Hours” as my personal, usuryfree wampum to avoid any hassles from the so-called “authorities” from any and all levels of government. The words “money” and/or “currency” seem to rattle the bureaucrats who are intent on serving and protecting the usurers – the banking cartel that has been ruling the world for centuries.

    I also prefer the model of a time-based, usuryfree personal wampum, as it can be traded locally, nationally and/or internationally – since one hour of time has a value of 60 minutes everywhere on planet earth. It is my humble observation that we can trade time without paying exchange fees to any orthodox, financial institution.

    I have deemed my hour of basic, unskilled labour to be equivalent in value to $13.00 (Canadian Funds). I happen to like the number “13” and therefore, it is my choice to use “13” to value my one hour of basic, unskilled labour. This is more than the minimum wage BUT not greedy or excessive. Other private traders might choose to value their one hour of time at $12.00 (Canadian Funds) – simply because the number “12” is more easily divided and/or multiplied. Either value works and trades can be negotiated even if the hour values are different.” (snip)

    Read the complete article at this website:

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