The Gift Economy Challenge by Brice Royer

1) Take the '30 day gift economy' challenge: From financial capital to social capital. 

This is a great exercise for anyone, but it's especially useful for business owners and it's very therapeutic and a big "stress-relief". You'll feel very liberated and free afterwards. Make a list of the 3 things you purchase often. It could be food, shampoo, a gym membership, or even rent. The goal is to transition those purchases away from the market economy to a gift economy, which means your social circle of family and friends. Transitioning to a gift economy will reduce your stress by improving your physical and mental health, it will end that nagging "passion vs profits" conflict at work, and most importantly, it will strengthen your relationships with your family and friends and the environment. Staying in the market economy leads to increased stress and status competition, physical and mental illness, it can isolate you from your family and friends, and it leads disconnection from other people and our planet. 

2) Start with 10%. Instead of more profits, reduce your purchases by 10%.

Some people live without or very little money using off-grid sustainable housing and grow their own food, but you don't need to go that extreme. Reducing your spending is good for business; "a penny saved, is a penny earned", as the adage goes. But stopping money is like stopping a drug or smoking addiction. It's hard to quit cold-turkey because most of us don't know how to live without money. We're programmed to make money and accumulate it. So it takes time and effort. Start slow. Instead of making 10% more money this year, transition your purchases by 10%. See how that feels and the happiness you find. Start with your recurring purchases. The momentum will keep you going. 

3) Even better: Start with shampoo.

After you have your list of 3 items you want to transition from the market to a gift economy, pick an item and answer the following questions: 1) Do I really need it?  2) If yes, is there a moneyless or less costly sustainable alternative? And finally, the most important question: 3) Before I'm tempted to use an impersonal online service like Google, Amazon or Craigslist to get this from total strangers, can I ask my family and friends if they have this, or know the person who produces it? … It seems like common sense to first ask people we know, but we've been trained to be consumers so habits die hard.

For example, let's take shampoo. Is it really needed? I was surprised that some people don't shampoo their hair. Many advocates of the "no shampoo" experiment find their hair is healthier without the harmful chemicals in shampoo. 

If you still wish to use shampoo, could you find a healthier sustainable or moneyless alternative? Some people re-use tea bags, use honey or make their own herbal shampoo using homemade ingredients they would normally throw away. 

If you don't want to make your own, then could you ask your family or friends if they know someone who makes shampoo? You may have someone in your social circle who knows a shampoo maker. Once you know who this person is, find out what they need or offer your professional services as a gift. You may not have to give anything but I think it's always best to give first, especially if this is someone in your social circle because paying it forward will benefit your mutual friends. They say if you take care of others, they'll take care of you. I agree. You'll feel happier too. I haven't bought shampoo in years and decided to make my own. I sometimes joke that economic revolution started with not buying shampoo. 

4) Transition your biggest purchases. Housing, transportation and food.

Instead of eating at a restaurant, can you cook? If you don't want to cook, do you have a friend who is a chef? Instead of buying parsley, can you learn to grow it at home? Instead of stressing yourself finding a job or increasing profits in your company, do you know a local farmer willing to share his surplus that you could support and volunteer with your professional skills or gifts? That's the whole idea. To build relationships and take care of your family and friends. I didn't know where my food came from until I got to know two farmers who are now my friends!

What about rent? Instead of paying more rent to a stranger, can you move in with family (or your chosen family) and support them? Instead of struggling to a pay a mortgage alone with your nuclear family, could you talk to your extended family and discuss co-ownership? How about trying a community co-op? If you're a business owner and have a commercial lease, would you really pay a such a high lease if you were the son or daughter of the landlord? Probably not. It would be either free or at a reduced price for you, but not at market price. Why? Because you're not a stranger. You are family, or a close friend. We take care of people we love, and we share the surplus to those in need. They depend on you as much as you depend on them. Some of us may not even have talked to our family because we can't stand them. That's another problem. Conflict is inevitable among families (and married couples), but it's the ways families choose to resolve conflict that makes a huge difference. With harmonious family and relationships, more options are possible. Of course, this is easier said than done. It takes effort.  It's the same thing with transportation; there are ride-sharing websites, but it's always best to start with your family and friends. But slowly, you'll find fun and creative ways to reduce your needs for more money. Whats good for our planet is often good for your wallet. 

5) Before you sell it on Craigslist, consider giving to your family and friends.

What did your family or friends recently purchased that you could have given or shared? Maybe you have a skill and professional expertise that they drove miles to purchase from a stranger? A surplus of food from your garden that they bought from a supermarket? Or maybe they bought a new camera, the same one you haven't used for some time that you didn't mind sharing? Send your friends or family an email and say; "Hey, I heard you're looking for a camera. I have one that I'm not using so you're welcome to borrow it if you want."  or "Hey, I heard you need an accountant. Let's meet and discuss your needs. Here's what I can do for you." If you invite them for dinner and offer them your gifts, you will build a stronger community, reduce waste, and start a gift economy.  Try doing that once a week.

6) You'll slowly be richer.

Reducing your need for money doesn't mean eating out of a garbage dump and living in misery and poverty. You can still enjoy your life and have your basic needs met, and you'll be surprised at how little you actually need. It just means finding a moneyless alternative and going back to the core of things. 

From this fun and liberating exercise and 30 day challenge, you'll feel yourself feeling happier, you'll get to know your family and friends more intimately, you'll use less money, learn new things, and save the environment by not participating in the market economy. 

The irony is this is bad for the economy. Love, since it's a gift, is the worse thing you can do for the economy. But it's great for your health and relationships.