Is Mooching Off Society Wrong?

by Kevin on January 25, 2010

Earlier this month I read a fascinating article from the Guardian (a paper in the UK). The article detailed the story of a woman who decided to live without money.

That’s right. Without money and without a job.

How can you live without money? How is that possible? It boggles the mind… until you read the article and discover some of the ingenious tactics you can use in this mindset.

How to Live Without Money

How did she do this? She connected with a group of individuals with a similar mindset. They live and network together in small clusters wherever is convenient.

So how do you live without money?

Simple. Live off of the castoffs of society.

  • They go to bakeries that can’t sell day old bread and get it — for free. (And find similar deals at other restaurants.)
  • They find free items on Craigslist and sell them for profit. This money allows them to have basic cell phone service (which helps maintain connection with the network).
  • They get free or discounted items when homeowners go through upgrades and leave items at the curb.
  • They live in abandoned properties as squatters. Eviction law provides them with a certain amount of time to live in the building for free.

Should Society Judge Moochers?

The whole idea blows my mind.

…and I think it is genius!

There are items that will go to the junkyards and landfills. Old but still edible food, discarded clothing, and lightly used home goods. These items would be wasted and left to rot outside big cities. Instead they are put to good use.

Living in a “Gray Area”

The only issue I have with this lifestyle is living in abandoned properties and forcing landlords to evict. I can see how this isn’t necessarily hurting anyone assuming the squatters don’t damage the buildings. But it’s living in the gray area of the law.

It’s like knowing you shouldn’t be something, but because the law technically allows it for a time then you go ahead and do it to your own benefit.

The Risk of Living a No-Money Lifestyle

This seems all well and good until you consider some critical factors: health insurance and safety.

I have no idea how you would solve the health insurance problem. What happens when you’re rummaging through some discards, you slip, and you break your wrist? You will need medical attention and won’t have insurance or any money.

I suppose there are programs to pay for things like this for individuals without insurance… but is it fair to use these programs on individuals that willingly lived without insurance?

The article mentions that it took some time to meet and network with a group of individuals that she trusted. But you’re all just squatting together — can you ever really trust anyone? Who says the woman that helped you carry that bed frame into the abandoned property won’t turn back around and stab you in the back — literally?

* * *

This is definitely not a lifestyle for me. But I can see how it would be very attractive and, well, cheap.

What do you think? Should we judge the moochers of society or embrace them?


Kyle January 25, 2010 at 6:19 am

There is actually a whole subculture of society that call themselves Freegans. They practice basically what you have outlined here, they dumpster dive for food, live in abandoned homes, find free stuff, and forage for edible plants in urban and suburban area. There is a lot of debate about both the health aspects and the fact that they really are kind of mooching.

If you want to dig through the garbage and eat left over food that is your deal. It is a good way to reduce waste. The thing I noticed the most when researching Freegans is that a lot of people don’t “have” to live this way. They could benefit from using their practices to help people who have no money or food to begin with. I wrote a similar piece on the practice called “Freeganism – Extreme Frugality or Extremely Crazy?”

Kevin January 26, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Yea, no thanks to digging through the garbage for me… although the day old bread makes a lot of sense.

Neil Hampshire June 30, 2010 at 7:00 pm

You can even get free starbucks coffee refills without buying any coffee at all. First go to one starbucks and ask for a double cuped venti hot water. 2) Use a registered starbucks card by adding 5.01 to the card. Move the five dollars to be transfered to the second card. Get a receipt and refund the five dollars and you have a registered card for 1 cent. Now the card is activated, you get a bit of coffee put into it by getting some left over coffee or asking a barista for a sample. Swish the coffee up and down your venti coffee and go to the next starbucks and ask for a refill.
Your cup is double cupped because you will need to use the bottom cup for your refills when the cup wears out. When this happens, you need to ask for a hot water from again a different starbucks. You will keep a bit of coffee at the end of the day to use as a swishy to put into your new cup the next day. Free Coffee for life from Starbucks, and all the people around you think you are a spendaholic on all those coffees when in reality, you spent less than the guy who brews his home at home drinking maxwell house.

Also, free food at various Sikh Temples called Langar is served. The food quality is that of middle class as it is not made to serve the poor but rather the average working person attending, thus the quality of food is home cooked quality of the average home.
Also, no need for doing the dishes after.

thisisbeth January 25, 2010 at 9:30 am

I wondered about the health care, too, until I remembered UK has universal healthcare, or whatever it’s called. The girl in the article is taken care of.

Megan January 25, 2010 at 9:36 am

I have heard of the Freegan movement, too, and I’m not entirely on board with the idea. I’ve heard of grocery stores and restaurants completely damaging otherwise edible food (for example, food that expired that day), as it could be a liability to them to leave food in the dumpster for the freegans to find. Can’t you just see THAT lawsuit? “I rummaged through Whole Foods’ dumpster and ate a loaf of bread in it. Then, I got sick!”

Some of the freegan movement I think is actually pretty good – they can take clothes, furniture, and other items that otherwise would be sent to the landfill. If the only thing “wrong” with a television set or computer is that it’s outdated, why not let someone else pick it up and use it?

Ron January 25, 2010 at 10:16 am

There’s no need for health insurance. Break your wrist and simply go to the emergency room. Happens all the time here in the US because no one is refused emergency care at any hospital by law.

As far as mooching being wrong, I’d have to say yes. There are three types of people in society:
Producers – those who create jobs and wealth. They pay taxes. They produce things that other people need.
Takers – those who find ways to take from the producers — includes bureaucrats.
Moochers – those who benefit because someone else worked at some point.

If someone can’t work, it’s one thing. If they won’t work (and want someone else to do it for them), that’s another thing entirely … and it’s wrong in my book.

Where will we end up as a society when the number of moochers and takers exceeds the number of producers? We’re fast approaching that critical mass.

Golfing Girl January 26, 2010 at 9:31 pm

I’m on board with dumpster diving (not my cup of tea), but when it comes to trespassing to live in abandoned properties, or anything else illegal, I am strongly opposed.
But I think these people could be doing more to contribute to society other than keeping the landfills a little less full.

Personal Finance Student January 27, 2010 at 6:18 am

Nice post. Thoughtful one. I’ll let others read it!

Good Luck!

Mrs. Money January 29, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Moochers suck. lol

I do think that dumpster diving is interesting, as well as garbage picking! You can find some good things from the garbage.

finance February 3, 2010 at 1:32 am

Thanks but these will be useful if you’re desperately having no money at all start from a scratch living. But a day old bread makes a lot of sense. LOL as long as it’s not health hazard.

finance February 3, 2010 at 10:39 pm

It’s just good when you really have nothing. Moochers not good but if you don’t choice i guess these make sense

Mike February 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm

A broken wrist would be the least of my worries when going through someone’s trash. I would be fearful of disease or sickness.

J. Lynne February 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Some people put a lot of effort to get out of “working”. Can you imagine how much work it must take day in and day out to live that lifestyle? Constantly looking for free food in nasty places, constantly searching for free clothes and free household goods, having to haul her possessions every few weeks to a new location, having to “watch her back” all of the time. She never knows where her next meal is coming from.

My uncle was sort of a con man, always trying to “work the system” rather than work for an honest week’s pay. My mother always said that he wouldn’t need to put half the effort into an actual job and he’d have a better lifestyle. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wondered about the psychology behind such a thing — as a programmer, I live by the motto that shortcuts and code plagerism are your best friends; lazy programmers are the best programmers because they will go way out of their way to find the simplest, reusable method to do something especially if it will cure tedium and monotony. 😛 I would die of boredom if I had to spend day after day dragging myself from dumpster to dumpster searching for old food and abandoned possessions.

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