'Tis the Season

I returned from a week on the island to find that Vancouver was suddenly deep in the throes of Christmas season. Twinkly lights, advertising, schlocky music in the supermarket, gaggles of teenagers getting on the bus laden with shopping bags from the Gap. Buy Nothing Day came and went with nary a blip on the radar.

Needless to say, the whole scene horrifies me. I usually make my Christmas gifts anyway, and for the last several years Christmas has been a much scaled down event for my family, so I'm not feeling any particular pressure to run to the malls and participate in the "joy" of the season.

This year is a bit different as not taking part in the consumer frenzy of Christmas is less of a choice and more of a necessity. I am living on a severely curtailed income these days. It doesn't feel like a terrible deprivation, and I am very glad to be as resourceful in terms of skills as I am. I love going to the thrift store in search of a pair of shoes and scoring a barely worn pair of Fluevogs for $4. I love making my own bread, and thrive on beans and rice (and the delicious variations thereof). I need to find a way to get some physio, though, and will probably be needing some dental work done in the New Year.

I draw great inspiration from my friend Wendy Tremayne, who, in 2001-2002, lived with no money for a whole year. She not only managed to cover necessities, but found all the services and health care she needed as well. Guided by the gift economy philosophy she discovered at Burning Man, she did not just receive, but shared her abundant abilities as they were needed. A gift economy is different from barter, where a trade is made one for one.The energy of a gift needs to be kept moving, and is not a simple transaction between two people, but is part of a chain of community and culture.

Wendy says that her money-free year was the richest and most fulfilling of her life. She made connections and friends that continue to this day. Her need for clothes during that year led her to found Swap-O-Rama-Rama, which has created an international community of people who don't just swap clothes, but share skills and discover the true joy of making.

And so, a month ahead of New Year's Eve, I am making a resolution to enter 2009 with a heart open to the riches and abundance of creative living. Naive and idealistic, perhaps, but comes with a feeling of lightness and freedom that money can't buy.


  1. You and me both, Heather. I've been on the frugile path for awhile now and still need to tighten the purse. There's a great sense of economic independence and creativity involved in scaling back, you're right... and I feel much better doing it with choice involved vs. force. I'm sure this next year will see the fall of alot of divas... we'll be elbowing them away from us and our finds at St Vincents! LOL

  2. Anonymous3:57 PM

    Next year, very clearly, is going to be a very difficult financial year for a lot of people. There will probably more people like you who begin to wonder what the point of a money economy is, if it doesn't provide basic services for everybody.

    You know, just last week I was reading an article by a woman who, along with her partner, decided to live on as little money as possible over a year. They decided to just buy essentials and stop all gift giving (like during Christmas). She said it was extremely hard and they were sometimes bored at first because they did not go to any of the latest movies or see plays or concerts. But she also said that she cleared up her credit card debt fast and instead of gift giving for birthdays and Christmas and other events, they became more involved in services and volunteering. They developed stronger ties with people in their community and by the end of the year they felt like they learned a lot about what was truly valuable and what was not.

  3. Many good wishes to you on what seems to be the beginning of a new period. Your posts never fail to evoke reflexion and even if I haven't been reading you very regularly of late, it's good to come back here and check out how things are with you.
    Yes there is a feeling of impending chaos, and hanging on to the gentle spinning motion of your wheel is surely the sanest thing to do.

  4. well, i am about to do the same. i can't say NO money, but i have quit my job and my husband has taken eraly retirement and we did this because we want to live a bit before we die. i think we will struggle but i am trusting in the future with all my heart (and thread and needle). good luck to you.

  5. Interesting Times...There's a local School for Dentistry here where work is done for greatly reduced rates by dental students, I intend to make appointments there rather than with my wonderful (but market rate ) dentist in the coming years. Perhaps there is something similar in your area, or, if you have friends in San Francisco, maybe it's time for a visit...I'd say one feels less helpless when one can cut these expenditures. I also found a car part for 1/3 the price the garage that was going to do the repair was able to find it it...on the internet...so that's another potential place to save.

  6. fluevogs for $4? *faint*


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