Happy “Free Money Day!”

So something funny happened yesterday as I was doing a little work. I was in search of a Flickr photo relating to kids and money for an upcoming Rockstar Finance post, and amidst my scanning I see this pic featured above of these signs promoting “Free Money Day.”

Initially I just kept going and tried not getting sucked into the black hole that is the internet, but eventually I succumbed to curiosity and typed in FreeMoneyDay.org to see what would happen.

And get this. Free Money Day is literally TODAY! September 15th. What are the odds?? I took it as a sign that I should bump my original post I wrote for y’all and instead talk about this random movement I’m 99.99% sure you’ve never heard of before, but are now pretty interested in learning more about :) And how funny is it that it was literally a sign that got me to think it’s a sign? Haha…

Here’s what Free Money Day is in a nutshell:

A social experiment to see what happens when we share money with complete strangers.

And here’s their official synopsis: “Free Money Day is a global invitation for people to explore, in a liberating and fun way, what it might be like if our relationship to money was a little different. On September 15th, worldwide, people will hand out their own money to complete strangers, two coins or notes at a time, asking the recipients to pass one of these coins or notes on to someone else. It’s an opportunity to start fresh conversations about money, sharing, and anything else that might come up.”

free money day logo

I like that last line the best – “It’s an opportunity to start fresh conversations about money.” We all know how hard it is for people to open up and be “real” about their money (we talk about sex more than we do our finances!) so it would be great to see more convos going on about money and how to better manage it and nix debt, etc. I don’t know how many people really open up by randomly handing them money, but hey – better to at least give it a shot than nothing at all, right? I’m halfway tempted to whip out my box of $2.00 bills in the name of financial education too ;)

Here’s another clip from their FAQs page I thought was pretty spot on as well:

“…the pursuit of ever more money as an end in itself (including spending beyond our means) can be a trap that robs us in other areas of our lives, making it more difficult, not easier, for large numbers of us to access the things we need for a high quality of living. We want to question how it is that so many of us end up working too many hours, in too much debt, and how this adversely affects our lives… Always believing that we never have enough, and that we are afraid of running out of it.”

If you can never appreciate the money you have – even if it’s not enough for your perfect situation – you can fall prey to always being in a state of chasing more and never be fully content. It’s probably better than the opposite problem of always being in debt and 1 paycheck away from $hitville, but still – it’s all about balance in our lives. As much as we’d all love to become millionaires at some point :)

I also like that they highlighted that “research consistently suggests that, beyond a certain point, having more money does not increase an individual’s wellbeing.” Very similar to that $75,000 study Princeton made famous the other year on how that’s the ideal salary for happiness too.

I agree with a lot of it more or less (we all have our peak income where the ratio of happiness to money doesn’t scale to the same degree after a certain point) but of course if you’re shooting for goals like financial freedom and early retirement, it definitely helps to front load those earnings earlier to kick start that happiness factor to a whole other level later. Where you don’t even have to think about money at all! Though of course with E.R. a lot of it has to do with your everyday expenses than just your income – so you really have to attack it on both sides…

At any rate, if giving away money to random strangers results in talks like these, I think we all need to get out there today and be Chatty Cathys :)  Even just talking to ONE person more purposely could make a pretty big impact.You affect the future finances of one person, and it has the potential to ripple through everyone else in their lives too: their family, their friends, colleagues, girlfriends, boyfriends, pets, etc etc… You never know how powerful small acts of kindness can be.

Reminds me of that starfish story actually:

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…

“I made a difference for that one.”

Anyways, that’s the gist of Free Money Day which you’re now experiencing today… I may not have a snazzy sign like those two whippersnappers up top, but I’ve got a fun blog to help spread the good word to y’all, so let’s see what interesting discussions now come from this :) Sorry you won’t be getting any free coins or dollars from me today, but hey – it’s not about the money, right?

PS: If you’re wondering why they picked September 15th as “the day,” it was because that was the same day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy six years ago in 2008 (can you believe it’s already been that long???). It also happens to be International Day of Democracy too, so… Happy International Free Money Democracy Day!

[Photo cred: freemoneyday]

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  1. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank September 15, 2014 at 5:18 AM

    Happy Free Money Day to all! It’s really new that someone would share money to total stranger. By watching the video, I can see the spirit of giving in Sydney. I wish I were there to experience this event.

    1. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 8:27 AM

      Yeah, some pretty cool (and famous) people shown/quoted in that video too. Stephen Fry and one of the co-authors of Your Money or Your Life! Seems to have made it pretty far in some areas.

      1. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank September 17, 2014 at 4:52 AM

        Yea. I saw Stephen Fry in the video. Hope that there would be more Happy Free Money Day than usual.

  2. MMD September 15, 2014 at 5:45 AM

    Great find. I have never heard of this movement. Coincidentally today is the day I decided to announce that I’m willing to take on one client as their personal money coach. I guess that counts somewhat towards Free Money day, right?

    1. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 8:14 AM

      There you go!

  3. Kirsten September 15, 2014 at 6:45 AM

    Totally cool concept. I have a candy jar at work (incentive for folks to stop by my desk, at which point I can harass them for being late on their tasks) – wonder what would happen if I replaced it with coins?

    1. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 8:15 AM

      Haha… I don’t know but now I totally want to find out :) DO IT!!!

      DOOO ITTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. superbien September 15, 2014 at 9:22 AM

      Coins instead of candy… Cool idea. You might offend people, or delight them, depending on presentation. If you put a note and presented it as a blessing for laundry or parking, that would be cool. Especially if they were quarters.

      CSB (cool story bro) about quarters, and about giving money, I knew my boyfriend was a keeper when I was frustrated, driving downtown, looking for a parking space and then tried to find quarters for the old-fashioned meter (who uses hard money anymore??). He met up with me, saw I was disgruntled, and went back to his car for a full roll of quarters and casually gave it to me to keep in my car, even though it would require him to go back to a bank (who goes to brick and mortar banks anymore??) so he would have quarters, himself. *Melt*

    3. superbien September 15, 2014 at 9:28 AM

      I have to say, I hear that story a lot, mostly in sermons… and I’m very skeptical. I can’t find any evidence that starfish are so evolutionarily inept that they commit suicide en masse, twice every single day. There wouldn’t be any starfish left, right?

      That said, as a side note (I know this is still not really the point of this post, but Google hath led me astray), apparently starfish *are* dying by the millions, across 20 species, from a mystery plague or from Fukushima radiation or some other tbd cause. It’s worried that starfish will go extinct, and then have ripple effects down the food chain.

      1. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        Yikes! Who knew we’d be learning all about starfish today? :)

    4. Jay @ ThinkingWealthy September 15, 2014 at 5:05 PM

      You candy people are tricky. I avoid you at all costs! Nothing is free!


  4. Mr. Frugalwoods September 15, 2014 at 7:35 AM

    The less secretive our culture is about money the better. It bothers me to no end how talking money is taboo! It’s not healthy, and the lack of information can really hurt people.

    If “Free Money” is a way to get that conversation started, then good on them!

  5. Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog September 15, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    I love the idea that they are promoting the idea of sharing for economic reasons. This is similar to the benefits of bartering! I’m an economic nerd, so I love it. lol

    1. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      Haha… Anytime I see/read “economy” I usually just let it go right over my head. So you’re a better man than I ;)

  6. Natalie @ Financegirl September 15, 2014 at 8:35 AM

    Wow, this is so interesting. I think someone needs to do a social experiment about what the long term effects of living like this would be. I love the capitalist country we live in, but it’s interesting to think about what life would be like with a completely differently view (and relationship to) money. Great find, J!

  7. Michelle September 15, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    What an awesome idea! Society is spending way too much time on trying to earn more instead of learning to live with what we have. We’ve used it as a means to justify our current debt loads…something akin to “if I earn more, I can spend more”. Completely flawed logic that I’ve fallen prey to as well. Earning more should mean using it wisely and giving.

  8. John @ Frugal Rules September 15, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    Very cool J! It’s sort of fitting it’s done on the anniversary of Lehman’s bankruptcy filing as well. I remember talking to investors the day that happened and many of them could’ve benefitted from something like this. :) At any rate, I think I know what I’ll be doing when I go out today. :)

  9. Brian @ Debt Discipline September 15, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Seems the movement has a twitter account too. I’ve never heard of it, but like it!

    1. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 1:02 PM

      Yup! I think they’re using the hashtag #freemoneyday too today.

  10. Jon @ Money Smart Guides September 15, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    Interesting! I am part of a charity and during their annual gala event they have workshops to help people be the best they can be and to spread love around the community. We get into groups and find ways to be a good influence on the local area. Some people chose to help out at a homeless shelter while others showed support to local fire fighters and police men.

    My group went to the mall to hand out money and buy kids free rides at the indoor kids area. First, mall security tried to stop us, claiming we were soliciting, which we weren’t. After they allowed us to continue on though, the most interesting thing happened – most people refused the money and free rides for their kids. It was as if we were insulting them that they couldn’t afford to buy a ride for their kids. Eventually a handful of people did take up our offer – including one kid who ran me dry of $5 worth of quarters! But the majority of people weren’t interested.

    1. superbien September 15, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      Yeah, if I didn’t think you were trying to groom my kids, I would find it insulting, unless it was presented in a certain way. “You look poor” or “you must be poor if you shop at this mall” is where my brain would go. I think that’s why the random acts of kindness thing works best when anonymous or random somehow – paying the toll of the car behind you (if the toll taker will let you) etc.

    2. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      Oh man, people just never believe there are nice people out there! Oddly enough I was trying to give away some carnival tickets yesterday when my kid didn’t want to ride any of the rides anymore (I bought too many!) and the looks on the faces of those I offered pretty much told me the same thing – “What do you want, weirdo?” Haha… Fortunately I found a kid and he was more than pleased to receive them :) Guess he’s not jaded yet…

    3. Donnie Maclurcan September 15, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      Hi Jon,

      Thanks so much for your insights. We’ve found similar attitudes exist with people responding to the ‘free money’ concept, when they are first offered a few notes or coins from a stranger. However, when we suggest people might like to pass half on to someone else, it seems to totally change the dynamic, as if the recipient has been given ‘permission’ to receive, because they are also able to give as a result. I think this speaks to the underdeveloped aspects of ‘receiving’ that seem pervasive in Western cultures, perhaps, ironically, spurred on by constant marketing that associates a ‘me-first’ attitude with increased wellbeing (i.e., promoting an unhealthy form of receiving that shuts us down to healthier forms of receiving, when they are encountered)!

      Free Money Day Organiser

      1. Dee @ Color Me Frugal September 16, 2014 at 7:18 AM

        My guess would be that people turned down the free rides because they assumed that there was a catch or it was some kind of trick. Kind of like how folks who advertise/sell timeshares invite prospective buyers to have an opportunity to get something for free- after they endure 90 minutes of expertly crafted sales speed first!

        1. J. Money September 16, 2014 at 3:06 PM

          HAH! Probably! And I should know as I was once a timeshare salesman! What a crazy job that one was…

  11. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life September 15, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    While I concede that people talk more than they talk money, I think they talk about both in equally superficial rather than substantive ways. It’s all about the show of the sex or the money, rather than really exploring the challenges, issues, and things we need to be talking about- safe/conscious sex, safe money management, conscious spending.

    1. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      True. Budgets are the new condoms.

      (Oooh I’m totally trademarking that…)

  12. Myles Money September 15, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    It certainly is an interesting idea and I think a lot of people would be looking around for hidden cameras if you approached them on the street and handed them money. Personally, I would like to see it encouraging them to be more generous (a bit like Pay It Forward) so instead of keeping one of the notes, they gave both away and then gave some money of their own too… hopefully to someone who NEEDS it rather than just to random strangers.

    1. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      I bet some people end up doing that…Especially if you’re only getting like a quarter or $1.00 bill. It would be much more fun handing out more money than less while paying it forward :)

  13. Shannon @ Financially Blonde September 15, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    I love this day!! I woke up thinking it was just my mom’s birthday, but now it has turned into so much more. I also love that they chose an awful date in history, at least for many people’s finances, and are choosing to turn it into a positive. I encourage any effort that supports money chats. Glad that you were on Flickr when you were, otherwise, posting this on September 17th just wouldn’t have felt the same.

    1. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      Well happy free money birthday to your mom! Perhaps you should hand some money out in her honor today :)

    2. Donnie Maclurcan September 15, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      Thanks for your support Shanon!

      We hope your Mom has a lovely birthday :-)

      Donnie and the team

      1. J. Money September 16, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        Thanks for stopping by the blog and commenting, Donnie! Really glad I stumbled across your movement. Pretty interesting stuff.

  14. Even Steven September 15, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    While I like the concept behind this, I’m a little apprehensive to participate. I have the opportunity to give so many people, that I see every day asking for money on the streets. I have a I don’t trust you mentality in these situations, so I am the pessimist in this scenario. But they are right they are most likely the people who need this conversation the most.

  15. EL September 15, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Where I work I might get dirty stares if I gave some free money. I work near a richer town, and Im certain most folks will not want to talk, they’ll just take it and run, if they even have time to stop. But pretty cool experiment to do if I worked in NYC.

    1. J. Money September 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

      I know – we’re always in a rush these days to get to places too and barely stop long enough to look someone in the eye and say hello. I remember once I did that to a pretty girl on the streets of NYC and she literally stopped and gave me a hug. I was like “Woah! What was that for?” And she said “it was the first time anyone said hi to me since moving here.” Ca-ching!

      (Side note: I ended up taking her out to lunch later, and she wasn’t nearly as excited with me :))

  16. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel September 15, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    Pretty sweet! Too bad I never keep cash on me. I’ll have to keep that in mind next year!

  17. Kristin @ Brokepedia September 15, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    I really like this idea for the same reason I like those money challenges. It seems to lead to more open and meaningful discussions about money–not how much you have, but why you have it. Neat find, J. And what a coincidence!

  18. Aldo @ milliondollarninja September 15, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    This idea is pretty cool and I like that it will get us to talk about money. Happy Free Money Day to all!

  19. Jay @ ThinkingWealthy September 15, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    Nobody has given me free money today. I did get free lunch though!

    1. J. Money September 16, 2014 at 3:08 PM

      Did you talk about money at your lunch? :)

  20. Prudence Debtfree September 15, 2014 at 5:25 PM

    “Even just talking to ONE person more purposely could make a pretty big impact.” I have found that to be so true! I have engaged more in financial conversations – usually by opening up about my debts, and it’s had an impact I wouldn’t have guessed. For instance, last year, a colleague decided not to buy a dog just yet because I told her about the vet bills for our dog’s surgery. And last week, a colleague sat me down and made a real point to let me know that he and his wife are saving up to do their renovations at home. They’re not going to whip out the credit card. They’re going to wait. He said it felt so good to be doing it that way. I was so happy for him : ) So if we could break the taboo on discussions about money, a lot of good would result.

    1. J. Money September 16, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      Hooray! How beautiful!

  21. Melanie @ My Alternate Life September 16, 2014 at 2:03 AM

    Fascinating! I dig anything done in the public in the name of discourse and dialogue. I wish I would have seen someone. I like that they picked this day with its important significance. Thanks for enlightening us — what a serendipitous thing.

  22. The Phroogal Jason September 16, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    Hadn’t heard about this movement but very interesting indeed. That’s been a focal point of growing my startup making it easier for people to talk about money openly.

  23. Tennille September 16, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    That is an interesting concept. I wonder how many people actually fallow through with it though. I can see why they chose that date, it is very symbolic. The bottom fell out of the economy less than a month before my husband and I were married, so it is a yearly reminder around that time for me when the Second Great Depression hit.

    1. J. Money September 16, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      I’m sure not everyone follows through but it’s still worth the effort and chance :) Similar to giving to the homeless and not being 100% sure they’ll use it for what you want/think they should use it for.

  24. Debt and the Girl September 16, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    What a lovely post. Its always good to hear of new things in the inter webs. Thanks for the info.

  25. sam September 19, 2014 at 6:28 PM

    Wow, free money day?! That is rather interesting, I think that free money day should happen more than once a year. Giving away money to random people in the streets I think would bring a lot of joy not just to the receivers but the givers as well. This is really a good initiative and i hope that one day it will be known to the world and people will really be excited about giving and not receiving. It could start a ripple effect. Knowing that someone went out of their way to give away money is really a conversation starter and it would probably help our greedy world to learn humanity and to think of others in life.

    1. J. Money September 24, 2014 at 1:50 PM

      It should be done every day – you’re right :) We’re always so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that any nice (small) gestures stand out pretty big!