When and how did you start to realize that your life has been controlled by money and that it doesn’t buy you happiness?

When I got my degree, I didn’t want to find a job. I saw my seniors find work and slowly had their souls sucked out of them. I didn’t want to be a corporate slave, stuck in the rat race. I first worked for a non-profit. I was going to live my life in service to the church. Then I met my girlfriend.

As I planner to get married, I realised I needed money to provide for my family. 

When I fell sick for an illness that my insurance did not cover, I realised I needed money to pay for healthcare. 

When I couldn’t work for a few months because of the illness, I realised how quickly my money ran out to pay for living expenses. 

When my wife wanted to further her studies, I realised we needed money to pay her school fees. 

When I realised how important money was to living in the modern world, I decided to become a financial planner and teach other people how to manage their money better. 

Even though I did have a plan for my finances, I wasn’t happy. I was always worried about not having money. 

Even though I was earning more than I used to, I was always worried that I would not have enough money. 

I spoke to other successful people, and I found I was not alone. Even if someone was earning 10x as much as me, they were still plagued by money worries. 

It was then I learned that earning more money would not take away the worries. But I still had no answer how to not to be controlled by money. 

Then 3 months ago, I met a freegan in Singapore. He shared that he spends just $100 (US$70) a month, and has everything he wants. 

**How? **I wanted to know. 

I was a financial planner. I knew my clients’ spending habits on detail. I knew it’s not possible to live on $100 a month in Singapore. 

So I challenged him. I asked him how he spends his money. 

He told me that the $100 is spent on conservancy (property and estate maintenance) fees, utilities, mobile and internet subscription. 

“What about food?” I asked. 

“Oh, I get my food from my neighbours. They give me all their leftover food that they cannot finish,” he said. 

He went on to tell me that he used to go to the market and ask butchers and vegetable sellers for their unsold stock at the end of the day, and he would get them for free. But now his neighbours give him so much food that he doesn’t need to collect more. 

“What about healthcare and medical insurance?” I asked. 

He’s got a pool of savings that is invested in a low-risk instrument. The returns pay for these. 


“I’m retired, so I don’t need to travel far,” he said. He is age 45, by the way. 


He gets them from the trash. Apparently Singaporeans throw away so much clothing that he can wear one a day and throw away without ever having to do laundry. 

I believe him. I’ve personally experienced it. 


“I don’t like to travel,” he said. 


He’s got 2,000 DVDs found in the trash that he watches on the DVD player he found in the trash. His flatscreen TV is also recovered from the trash. 


He gets everything for free and the only uses for his money are services. 

I spent more time talking and learning from him before I tested out what he said. 

Simply put, I did these 3 things he advised:

1. Ask your neighbours to give you their leftover food. 

2. Go to grocery stores and supermarkets and help yourself from their trash. 

3. Walk around your neighbourhood and look in and around the trash bins. 

My biggest realization from testing these was that the stuff that others throw away are in much better condition than the stuff I own. 

So I upgraded. 

Because I still work to pay my mortgage, I can’t reduce my expenses to $100 a month yet. But I got it down to about $250 a month excluding mortgage and investments. This is covered by the income I make from selling stuff I find and don’t want to keep. 

Then one day, about a month ago, I realised that money no longer controls my life, and that I no longer worry about having not enough money. 

This is an answer I wrote for Quora.

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