How practical is it? Gorges Smythe in a comment on yesterday’s blog mentioned he knew someone who only dealt in cash and didn’t use banks. It’s a hassle, but it can be done.
In fact, I’ve known a few people who lived that way. They were tradesmen like carpenters and plumbers. They got away with it by working off the books. Back in the 90s there were a lot of illegal Irish working the trades in the Boston area. When the economy back in Ireland improved a lot of them went back home. Right now I’ve got no idea what the current situation is.
Those guys had a lot of problems. It’s tough to do even simple things like rent an apartment or own a car. There are work arounds, but a lot of them are illegal. Of course, the reason those individuals were working off the books in the first place is that they were here illegally.
Fifteen or twenty years ago I’d run into self employed people living in campgrounds. A lot of them were doing arts and crafts that they’d sell. One guy even had a complete woodworking shop in a trailer he towed behind his RV.
In recent years I’ve met very few people living that way. It’s harder to live strictly in a cash economy. Even people who sell arts and crafts these days take credit and debit cards. Simple plug and play devices connect right to cell phones and most vendors have them.
These days it’s more likely that people generate income using the Internet. Even rather small payments from things like YouTube and blogs make a big difference when you are living out of your van. Many people are like me and have a pension deposited in an account. I’ve also met people who were traveling using income from rental property. One guy’s income came from undeveloped property he rented out to hunters
While I often take out a good bit of cash to handle day to day expenses, I need to be part of the electronic banking system. I suppose I could get by strictly using cash, but I’d have to take a big pile of it with me before hitting the road for months on end. That has risks of its own.
For example, a lot of people on sailboats hide bundles of cash in hidden areas of their boat. That’s great for emergencies. Personally, I never got around to doing that, keeping cash in my wallet. Well guess what? I lost my wallet when my sailboat broke up on a reef and sank. I lost my cash, debit, and credit cards. Fortunately, my lovely wife and I carry one credit card that the other does not carry. That way when they have to be canceled we still have one to live on The year of the shipwreck we got home on my lovely wife’s card.
Normally I keep a card for emergencies, like the time the van needed extensive brake work before we could drive it home.
While it’s possible to live without a bank account, credit and debit cards, it’s tough. It’s one thing if you stay close to home. If you want or have to travel, it’s three times harder to do.
Americans have slowly been getting away from a cash economy. However, there are plenty of places in the world where most things are handled using cash. That often comes as a shock to travelers.
Of course, we are all just one grid collapse from a cash and barter economy.