Some of my poor, free-living housemates (also known as Ratty Rat Rat).
About a year ago the media experienced a brief obsession with freeganism. Word got out about all the ways you could avoid blowing your hard-earned cash on life’s little necessities, and all of a sudden it became trendy to live for free. Everywhere you looked there was were hipsters, crusties and alternative dads rooting through trash with these looks on their faces that said “Fuck you, corporate swine! We’re boycotting the economic system.” (All the good it did—not a month later and most of London’s supermarket bins had been locked up. Another point for team hippie.)
However, whether you’re fighting for a cause, are going through your arty phase, or you’re just lacking in the dough, living for free isn’t as easy as it looks. You’ve got to be willing to get up off your broke-ass and do some dirty work if you want to be a true freegan. Here’s a guide on how to get started.
Eating out of supermarket bins is a great way to get your food for free. This doesn’t mean eating garbage. That’s sick and gross and for tramps. The best way to go about a food scavenging adventure is to find out where your local supermarkets keep their bins, and what time they dispose of their out-of-date food. Although you’ll sometimes have to root through some nastiness to get to the good stuff, and even some of the good stuff will have broken egg goo all over it, you’ll be amazed at how much perfectly edible food supermarkets throw away. Obviously with bin food everything is a judgment call. If it’s winter and cold outside things can stay fresh in a dumpster for a good twenty-four hours. If it’s a boiling summer afternoon maybe leave the prawn cocktail out.
Living in a squat is the best way to live for next to nothing. However, despite what some people may think, squatting isn’t all about having a dreaded mullet and throwing amazing parties where that guy from Gogol Bordello randomly shows up and starts DJing. It’s seriously hard work. First of all there’s the risk of being caught breaking in. (This is illegal and you will be arrested. Bummer.) Then there’s the maintenance. Normally when you move into a derelict building there is a lot of work that needs to be done—getting the electricity on, securing the property, boarding up any broken windows, making sure the ceiling isn’t about the fall through and kill you and all of your squat buddies, etc. There’s also the fact that for many squats it’s difficult to get the gas on, so winter is fucking cold and you have to spend November through to March huddling desperately in front of on of those shitty space-heaters (or, in my case, fucking strangers for warmth).
Once you’ve gotten past all of this, though, squatting is the fucking bomb. Uh… duh! It’s free and you can have amazing parties where that guy from Gogol Bordello randomly shows up and starts DJing.
Charity shops are the coolest. Where else can you buy a decorative taxidermy squirrel and a shitty 80’s boardgame that you’ll probably never play for under a fiver? However, if we’re talking FREE, the best way to get your clothes and such is to raid the donation bags people leave outside charity shops at night. Some people say it’s wrong to do this because technically it’s stealing from the poor, but I’m all like, “Umm… hello! I am the poor.”
You’ll feel weird and like everyone is staring at you at first, but after you find your first traditional African headdress and set pf pink novelty earmuffs all of your inhibitions will go flying out the window. Not everything you find will be a gem, but be creative with your newfound clothing. Create your own style: tramp-chick, church-bizarre, or my personal favorite, slobulous. (By the way you can’t take that one. I already called it.) Charity shop bins are also good for finding things like toasters, microwaves, and sometimes even TVs. This is because most of them aren’t licensed to sell electronics, so they end up having to throw all that stuff out.
The trick that’s worked the most times for me is definitely the ‘Oh no, someone’s just stolen my wallet and it had all of my money in it and I really need to get on the train to get home for my grandmother’s funeral’ gag. This works best if you are a hot girl with big tits, but I’ve seen it work for all types. Waterworks will get you everywhere.
For some reason it seems like everywhere you look nowadays there’s either a sofa, a mattress, or some other piece of hideous furniture that would look fabulous in your living room just sitting there on the side of the road. If you keep your eyes open, all of this abandoned junk can be yours for the small price of lugging it home. The one thing to be careful about here, however, is bed bugs. I learnt this the hard way after my squatmate Simon brought home an infested armchair. Those little fuckers are the worst. They can live for nearly twelve months without food and can travel up to 40ft to feed. Gross. We had to get our house fumigated.
Now this is a tricky one. Stealing, though it’s obviously a good way of getting stuff for free, is dangerous. One stealing goldmine is the newly invented self-service checkout. Man, whoever thought that one up is a fucking genius—right up there with the dudes who invented reality TV and plus-sized lingerie. I remember the first time I came across a self service checkout. I totally got than tingling feeling between my legs that I normally only get when I’m thinking about Louis Theroux. But to be honest, don’t take steeling advice from me. I’ve been arrested for shoplifting twice.
The Universe Will Provide:
Crazy? Maybe. But my friend Matthew Stone told me it was true, and I always trust people who keep lots of crystals and weird looking sticks in their bedroom. Either way, it’s always worth asking the universe when you’re in desperate need of something. Sometimes the universe will give to you in ways that you didn’t expect, but when you’re dirt poor, it’s important to always keep an open mind. It’s like that tramp said on that episode of The Simpsons once: “Who needs money when we have feathers?”