Start A Conversation About Money By Giving It Away To Strangers

You’re never supposed to talk about money or politics, but try giving some money away and something interesting will happen.

It’s rare in life that someone gives you money and expects nothing in return. But that’s the sort of transaction encouraged on Free Money Day, which takes place on Monday, September 15th.

It’s simple. You take a few coins or notes from your pocket–whatever you have–walk up to the nearest stranger, and let them have it. You tell them it’s free and encourage them to give 50% to someone else, so the chain goes on (That the person keeps half makes it actually free money, as opposed to fake free money.)

“It’s a liberating experience for a lot of people because you’re sharing something we’ve really come to idolize,” says Donnie Maclurcan, who started the event a few years ago. “We share cars, drills, and houses but giving money is normally philanthropic. This is a random act of kindness that poses questions about our economy, why we’re so attached to money, and how individualistic we’ve become.”

The date isn’t randomly selected. September 15, 2008, was the day Lehman Brothers collapsed on Wall Street, almost bringing down the financial system. Free Money Day is both a capitalist protest and a social experiment designed to get people talking about the meaning (or meaninglessness) or money. In the past, donations have ranged from a few pesos in Latin America to thousands of dollars in the U.S. One person gave away a plot of land in South East Asia worth $30,000.

“It doesn’t matter if you share a million dollars or one dollar, you get the same chemical reaction in people,” Maclurcan says. “It’s more about the underlying message, which is asking why we’re so attached to money.” Some have cried on seeing such generosity; many have been suspicious that the act of kindness is really a scam.

This year, Free Money events are planned in Japan, Australia, Netherlands, Greece, the U.S., and elsewhere. If you give cash away, or receive it, you can map it here.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Co.Exist. He edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague and Brussels.

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