Over the past year thousands of merchants have begun accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment, with the likes of Dell, Expedia, and even Virgin Galactic jumping aboard the bitcoin bandwagon. Despite this, the idea of actually living by spending nothing but bitcoin still seems to be a long way off.
In an effort to push forward bitcoin adoption in their local area, two London-based startup founders decided to set themselves the challenge of living exclusively on bitcoin for the entire month of November.
Ed Moyse, co-founder of the bitcoin wallet app Wyre, told IBTimes UK that remarkably, it wasn't too hard to survive. "I think it's been sufficiently challenging but doable. It's been successful enough for us not to starve, which is pretty good. We've got five merchants on Wyre now, which is great, and that's in addition to the other bitcoin merchants in London."
Together with fellow Wyre co-founder Harry Huang, Moyse survived on a diet of cafe-bought sandwiches, cookies, Thai food, and soup from the various merchants that accept bitcoin in and around the so-called 'Silicon Roundabout' of Old Street.
Bitcoin volatility and hungry Sundays
One of the biggest challenges the pair faced was travel, with no newsagents that they approached willing to accept bitcoin as payment for travel card top-ups. They also found that the cafes that they frequented were closed on Sundays, meaning they were forced into undertaking involuntary fasts.
"We've been forced to live the 'Fast Diet' a couple of days, which is where you pretty much don't eat for one day a week," Moyse said. "Most of the merchants are closed on Sundays so we've had to go a couple of days... a bit hungry."
These fasts were counter-balanced by days when the value of bitcoin surged significantly. Halfway through the month bitcoin's price spiked by around $100 per bitcoin, pushing the pair's net wealth up by £150.
"That was brilliant actually," Moyse said. "With our new-found wealth we ended up treating ourselves to two helpings of Thai food that day."
Previous attempts have been made to live on bitcoin for short periods of time, most notably by San Francisco-based journalist Kashmir Hill, though this is the first time that it has been attempted in the UK.
Before Moyse and Huang embarked on their challenge, there were less than a dozen brick and mortar retailers accepting bitcoin in London, most of which were concentrated around the tech hub of Old Street and Shoreditch
Aleksander Nowak, co-founder of XBTerminal, believes that the US is still leading the way in terms of bitcoin adoption, though other areas around the world are catching up.
"It seems to be fairly widely distributed but certainly it's concentrated in the US more than other areas," Nowak told IBTimes UK.
"What you tend to find is that you get small ecosystems popping up, like Amsterdam has a very large bitcoin community - you get a lot of merchants popping up there. Then London's got quite a few and there's Spain and Barcelona."
"But it could all change tomorrow. For example if Tesco decided that they were going to accept bitcoin we could easily roll that out across all of their point of sale systems - then it would be possible to live on bitcoin next week in perpetuity."
Traditional currency 'not going away any time soon'
While bitcoin adoption continues to grow steadily amongst merchants, Nowak believes that we're still a long way from the average person being able to survive by spending nothing but bitcoin, especially outside the tech-centric places like Silicon Valley and Silicon Roundabout.
"I think it's going to be quite a long time because where I see bitcoin delivering most utility is in terms of connecting financial systems together and cryptocurrencies in general," Nowak said. "Fiat currency is not going away any time soon."
Moyse and Huang are more optimistic about bitcoin's ability to take the place of traditional currencies and believe that in one year's time it will no longer be such a challenge to live on bitcoin.
"Give it another year for it to smooth out a little bit and more people will know about it so they'll be more trusting as well," Huang said.
Moyse added: "I mean to live off it on Sundays as well - we only need one more merchant to accept bitcoin that [operates] on a Sunday and then we're completely sorted."