You may know Berkeley, California as home of the '60s hippie movement that advocated illicit drug use, free love, and music; Code Pink’s war on the local U.S. Marine recruiting; and occasional major foreign policy pronouncements from the city council.
Now comes some advice about how to get through the recession in ways that require little or no money. “Berkeley has always been the place for thinking outside the box,” says Olaf Egeberg, author of “Coming Home: A Crossover Bible for Christians, Muslims, Jews, and members of other religious faiths, as well as for thoroughly non-religious persons,” available free at www.changesahead.net.
Egeberg, 71, who developed much of his thinking about how to stretch his dollars during 25 years living in Berkeley, starting in 1963, has spent a lifetime living economically, largely by exchanging his carpentry skills for housing on the east and west coasts.
While the advice is short on the kind of dollar-oriented tips you ordinarily read on this blog, the softer, more philosophical approach–which boils down to people helping each other–is worth packing in your complete bag of recession survival tricks.
See what you think of these “powerful tools that a person can use to cut their need for money," in Egeberg's words:
1. Innovate – Open your mind to find and consider not-so-obvious alternative ways of getting what you need. “Free your thinking and be willing to go through some comfort boundaries,” says Egeberg.
2. Use a non-monetary exchange – Egeberg suggests bartering for goods and services. “By using a non-monetary exchange where possible (when individuals are offering what you want) money is saved so it can be used where money alone is required,” he advises.
For example, you may be able to offer personal services from babysitting to auto repair in exchange for products or services from local businesses or neighbors. However, though cash may not change hands, your good friends at the Internal Revenue Service advise that “the fair market value of the goods and services exchanged must be reported as income by both parties,” so they can—of course—be taxed. Get more details from the IRS here, here, and here.
3. Co-operate – This is the old-fashioned practice of friends helping friends. Perhaps a neighbor who’s already making a trip toward where you need to go for a job interview can give you a lift. “I used to live in a community that had a food co-op of non-perishable foods. Being in that co-op made it possible for me to have a basic but healthy diet for a little over $1 a day,” says Egeberg.
4. Be in a “group exchange” – This is a more formal form of bartering. Members of a group exchange use a directory that lists the goods and services available, along who’s offering them and contact information. The New York Times recently reported on organized foraging for ripe
fruit, often free, in the Berkeley area and beyond. “A big advantage to the group exchange program is that you don’t have to explain how a good exchange works, because everyone in the group already knows,” says Egeberg. But, again, the exchange could result in taxable income. Check the IRS here for more details.
5. Help your neighborhood organize for support – “Neighborhoods are our secret weapon against tight times. Take steps, therefore, work to have your neighborhood become a more helpful place,” says Egeberg,.
For example, when Egeberg lived in Takoma Park, Md., one neighbor hooked up the community to a small local farmer, who provided a variety of fresh, pesticide-free vegetables at an attractive price over a long summer growing season. And when muggings spiked in Tacoma Park, neighbors formed a nightly citizen crime patrol with flashlights and cell phones.
“All it takes to start things going is a conversation with enough neighbors, or a gathering in your home or elsewhere where you can discuss, with a few others, what can be done to uplevel your neighborhood to be the supportive and economical community it needs to be now.
“Even if, in the beginning, you can only give two hours a week toward getting your neighborhood up and running, that is two hours of neighborhood helpfulness that wasn’t there before. By your action everyone gains,” says Egeberg.—Jeff Blyskal