Grandmother happily lives without money

The 69-year-old German grandmother of three is the subject of the documentary Living Without Money, directed by Line Halvorson.

Back in 1996, Schwermer decided to try to live without money for a year as an experiment. She had experienced deep deprivations as a child fleeing from Russian forces during World War II – and her family ended up in Germany without a cent. The experience gave her great compassion for the homeless community in her town.

She opened up a swap shop two years before going money-free, where people could trade services and goods. Its success gave her the final push to quit her job, give away all her possessions except what could fit in a suitcase and backpack, and move out of her rented home. She was frustrated by the greedy consumer society that continued to grow around her, and this was her way of removing herself from the problem.

At first her friends and family were shocked by her decision, but they now appreciate her nomadic lifestyle.

Schwermer notes that, “Living without money gave me gave me quality of life, inner wealth, and freedom. I am never short of food, clothing or friends and I have so much less stress in my life these days. I am not ruled by money, or bills, or greed. I am even healthier. I’ve hardly seen a doctor in 15 years and I’m as fit as a fiddle. I don’t even worry about the future any more. I just live in the moment and enjoy every second.”

Her days consist of trading cleaning, gardening, and even therapy sessions for food and places to sleep.

She has written three books about her experiences. The first – The Star Money Experiment – was quite successful and she passed the money she made to people on the street. For her following books, she waived the advances and requested the publisher give her royalties to charity.

“Heidemarie’s unique story made me want to create a film that challenges the viewer into questioning their own relationship to money and possessions. The film does not teach you how to live without money, but is a portrait of a woman who has made a very courageous and inspiring choice,” the film’s director Line Halvorsen told Yahoo.

Have you ever considered living more frugally? There are countless ways to live with less. Ideas like Schwermer’s swap store have went global on the internet with websites like Freecycle and Craigslist‘s free section allowing people to freely give and receive items they need.


If you’re looking to travel for less, try CouchSurfing, a community website where people all over the world offer up their homes to travelers for free. You can also try WWOOF, a network of organizations around the world that allow people to volunteer for food and accommodations. Apartment swapping is also a growing trend internationally.

For more information on living for less, check out our Frugal Living section.

Watch the trailer for Living Without Money below: