For the past several years, I have chosen to live a life of voluntary poverty. I have several reasons for choosing this lifestyle. Firstly, I do it for the sake of simplicity, and to improve my own quality of life by focusing on necessities rather than the things I might simply want. Secondly, I do it to better sympathize with those who live in forced poverty and to experience the meaning of the words: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” I do it also in protest of this culture of rampant consumerism, of the idea that wealth and materialism can bring happiness, and of the fact that need and hunger persist in the presence of abundance and waste. Lastly, I do it in protest of taxes used to fund militarism, imperialism, and war. More information can be found about living below taxable income levels as a form of war tax resistance here: http://nwtrcc.org/practical5.php
Over the years, I have developed a few tactics for staying poor. I found a part-time, close to minimum wage job working at the local public library. (I’ve enjoyed working for a non-profit organization that provides free services to the community.) Living in a house or apartment with a number of other house mates also helps to reduce the cost-of-living. Trying to buy things second-hand as often as possible is also helpful, and if you must buy something new, try to buy the product that will last as long as possible. Most of the things that I possess were offered to me by friends and family when they were looking to get rid of them. And of course, libraries are an excellent resource because they allow you to borrow things, saving you from the burden of owning them. After I began working at the library, I immediately ceased paying for books, CDs, and movies. Many libraries also offer other free resources to their patrons, such as tickets to sporting events and dress rehearsals to plays and operas.
Another way to save money is to participate in work exchanges. This past season I volunteered regularly on an organic farm and was allowed my pick of the produce that didn’t sell at the Farmers’ Market. This saved me money on buying groceries and supplied me with fresh, local, organic produce. And, if you have the space for it, you can start your own garden at home in your yard, or you can begin a container garden on a balcony or porch (Urban Agriculture). Another option is to go WWOOFing. “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” is a network providing information on farms that offer food and shelter in exchange for work.