Personal Finance

How to Live on $0 a Day: Move Into a Cave Like This Guy

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(Photograph by Mark Heithoff). The August issue of Details magazine profiles Daniel Suelo, a college graduate (University of Colorado, Anthropology) who lives in a cave near Moab, UT.

On his website, Living Without Money, Suelo writes, "I've been living without a cent to my name since the autumn of 2000 (with a month's exception during my first year). I don't use or accept money or conscious barter, and I don't take food stamps or other government dole."

The 48-year-old Suelo has no credit cards, no mortgage, no bills whatsoever. He survives mainly by scavenging the streets and dumpsters for food and clothing. He also forages for wild edible plants and "ants, grubs, termites, lizards, and roadkill," which he fries on a stove made from a cookie tin.

After graduating from college, Suelo worked for the Peace Corps in Ecuador and a women's shelter in Moab. He lived in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand and joined the ascetic sadhus in India. Eventually, he became "enchanted" with the idea of living as "a vagabond in America, a bum, and make an art of it" and moved back to the United States. Shortly after that, he stopped using money.

While I wouldn't want to live like Suelo (and I know that my wife and kids wouldn't go for it), I do think his outlook is refreshing and worth thinking about. His FAQ is especially interesting ("What happens if you get sick or injured?" "What do you do if you find money?" "What about relationships? Don't you get lonely?"). You can also read Suelo's blog, which he updates whenever he hikes an hour to the public library to use the Internet-connected computer there. Here's a short documentary about Suelo here.

(Photograph by Mark Heithoff).

Mark Frauenfelder – Editor-in-chief of MAKE magazine and the founder of the popular Boing Boing weblog, Mark was an editor at Wired from 1993-1998 and is the founding editor of Wired Online.

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  • federik


  • Brian

    Very interesting article. I found Suelo’s FAQ very interesting also. But I can’t help thinking that the very monetary system and capitalism he condemns are essentially what enables his to exist without money.
    Sure he get part of what he needs from nature, but the majority comes from “our” waste, another thing he condemns.
    “What is contemptible and inexcusable is the waste, and what is both contemptible and ridiculous is locking up your waste (called anal retention) to keep hungry people from eating, and having the gall to act self-righteous in the process.”
    This one quote sums it up for me, if he were living truly independent of the system he is so critical of I would be more apt to entertain his ideas. But without this “pretend world” and it’s ample waste, Suelo would not have the leisure to ponder on his “real world”.

  • Victor Nunnally

    The best way to be homeless is to join a gym so you can work out and shower…then go about your day as free as you would like to be…or be an artist an sell an art piece once in a while…just make enough to buy fresh fruit, water and veggies and the ability to wash your clothes. open a brokerage account and all that money you would put into interest rates and mortgages goes into a strong stock portfolio. Then, when you are done being homeless take your gains and go buy yourself a sweet cabin on a couple of acres.

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