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No Money? No Problem—BegBarterSteal

River Laker unloads a friend’s truck for a Slurpee and a copy of Outside magazine.

The thought of truly reaching the very bottom of the proverbial piggy bank –running completely out of money / cash reserves – sends most into a deep-diving tailspin. But perhaps that situation shouldn’t elicit such fear.

Current economic conditions and high unemployment prompted two Roanokers, River Laker, and Ron McCorkle, to try an experiment assuming that very thing –no available funds. They are calling it “BegBarterSteal: New Adventures in the Old Economy.”

In a recent interview on “Our Blue Ridge” (WSLS 10), Laker explained, “The idea is to survive for 30 days without the use of any cash whatsoever;” no debit or credit cards allowed either. He added that they “hope to show people you don’t need cash as much as you think—everyone has skills” they can use.

The “skills” can be anything from lawn-mowing or painting, to recording video, as Laker is doing—whatever puts food on the table. The two set the start date as May 4 and they report that the experiment is going well so far. McCorkle admits to being a bit shell-shocked for the first couple of days as almost every daily habit had to be reevaluated.

McCorkle is taking the experiment a bit further, going without electricity and water services as well. He says, “I am [making] an effort to see if I can live sustainably in a small city lot.” That has required getting even more creative; he solicited help from friends in building a rain collection system and is attempting to barter for some now much-needed solar panels.

The two have set up a Facebook page called BegBarterSteal, which includes daily updates, video, and offers another way for them to communicate their needs to friends and anyone who is interested. Others are encouraged to join in the experiment. The Facebook call to arms: “The challenge is to adapt as needed.”  The resultant creative solutions are both amusing and enlightening. It appears that there are such things as “solar ovens,” and a video reveals that Laker and a friend even gave a trusty old standby a try: dumpster diving.

While McCorkle is applying more stringent standards to his take on the experiment, Laker is trying to “maintain a similar lifestyle” to his pre-experiment one. That includes eating lunch at Alexander’s and getting a fix from ChocolatePaper. He explains that he “approached those places” with a plan to barter his skill of producing video for them, so he is making short films in exchange for their goods. Both were “very eager to do it,” according to Laker.

While it may have been a bit rough at the start, both Laker and McCorkle are embracing their new way of life.

A  May 10 post on Facebook by McCorkle reads: “It’s amazing how quickly I adapted to not having electricity and water. And the trades I’ve made have been great! … I have been able to simply rearrange the way I do things and now I am forging new, simpler and more satisfying new ones. A simple life is definitely a good life for me.”

Laker’s Facebook post sounds as if there is a new spring in his step. He relates: “New Adventures in the Old Economy” is growing on me! Living life without a wallet in my pocket, the increased amount of time the experiment necessitates being with others, the food I’m enjoying and the variety of activities the experiment requires me to undertake, are winning me over.”

Laker goes on to speculate that as with his “Car Less Brit” experiment (foregoing the use of a car) perhaps he will continue with BegBarterSteal after the 30 days is up; given his lively penchant for the innovative and  unusual, it would be safe to bet that he will.

For more info go to BegBarterSteal group on Facebook.

By Cheryl Hodges
[email protected]

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