As bitcoin’s price soars, I’m having fun and staying poor

Why I’m not mad that I spent all of my bitcoin on food, rent and tennis lessons


VagabonDStudio/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks


For a very long time, I got my salary in bitcoin. 

This wasn’t necessarily my choice: I definitely wasn’t a bitcoin maxi out to prove to the world that bitcoin was the best kind of money. I was just a crypto journalist working for smaller publications and companies that didn’t have any other way to easily pay me.

With bitcoin nearing its all-time-high again this week — which varies from $64,000 to $69,000, depending on who you ask (or even $79,000 apparently, if you account for inflation) — you might believe that I’m a millionaire, soon to quit my job and live off my BTC spoils just as soon as Coinbase unfreezes long enough for me to sell. 

I was never a bitcoin investor, putting extra money into the crypto market as an investment. And so I was never a bitcoin HODLer — I was a bitcoin user, just like people use dollars, euros, pesos to live their lives.

Whenever bitcoin goes up, you often see sob stories on the internet about people who regret spending tens or even thousands of bitcoin on a single item. But my story isn’t one of those. Like Laszlo Hanyecz, who famously spent 10,000 BTC on two pizzas, I have no regrets with the way that I spent all of my bitcoin.

I understand that this perspective is not the usual one. But as you can see from this column, I’m not your usual crypto enthusiast. I love writing and I love watching weird things unfold, which makes covering crypto a great field for me — but I have no real passion for investing in crypto beyond what I need to know to write about it.

And as a young journalist, fresh out of grad school and inadvertently ending up writing for a crypto trade publication, getting paid in bitcoin was a much better intro to crypto as a journalist than buying a cryptocurrency on an exchange would have been. In fact, I should thank bitcoin for giving me firsthand insight into an industry that has given me a career, not be upset because I didn’t make enough money off of its price volatility.

My bitcoin salary gave me the best opportunity to involve myself in this new, complex space that I was expected to quickly understand. I spent my first few months experimenting with different exchanges, toying with crypto debit and credit cards, seeing if anyone I knew would accept bitcoin so I didn’t have to deal with currency changes (My landlord? No. My tennis coach? Yes.)

I spent my bitcoin while living life the way that I wanted to, so there’s no room for regret. I remember converting bitcoin to dollars to take a much-needed, warm vacation to Vietnam in the middle of winter. I remember the first time I used a P2P exchange for the large purchase of my dream car, an electric yellow, 20-year-old Volkswagen Beetle. I remember when my bitcoin-priced tennis lessons paid off and my instructor and I won a novice tennis competition. I wouldn’t trade those memories just to have some bitcoin now.

Read more from our opinion section: I’m a crypto journalist, just please don’t tell anyone

My bitcoin salary did make me realize just how hard it is to live off of crypto, but then again, just how much easier it is to live off of crypto, too. My taxes were a nightmare, but traveling and changing BTC to the local currency was a dream. Getting paid a few hours earlier or later could annoyingly change my paycheck, but waiting to sell sometimes gave me some freebie coffee money. 

Getting paid in bitcoin definitely made me a bit more of a bitcoin = cash proponent than I otherwise would have been. But getting paid in bitcoin was never an entirely effortless existence. 

Even once I figured out how to keep on top of the basic payments in my life, I couldn’t escape the extreme scrutiny I now received from every exchange that I used. I would get “audited” every few months, with the exchange demanding to know where my bitcoin came from. My employer, I would always reply, who pays me from their own account on the very same exchange. It was somehow never enough, and my funds were constantly put on hold. I’ll also note that the loss of many P2P platforms like LocalBitcoins would also mean that living off of bitcoin now (and traveling the world a lot, as I did back then) has become much more difficult.

All of this is to say that while I appreciated the ease that a bitcoin salary gave me (and will always be the first to espouse the benefits of using crypto as cash), I’m not devastated that this time in my life is over. 

And while I definitely — maybe — could have been a millionaire if I’d held on to my bitcoin salary way back when — could I have even survived if I had refused to treat my bitcoin paychecks like cold, hard cash? I would rather have eaten dinner in my apartment than starved on the street with the faint hope that my paycheck would be worth millions someday. 

Or another way to think about it is — didn’t the Bitcoin community benefit from people like me, using bitcoin as a new form of payment in the way that Satoshi had originally intended?

You’re welcome, ecosystem.

I don’t care much about tech, I don’t care a whole lot about finance, either. I care about writing stories and watching weird things unfold. And that’s why I’ve ended up in crypto.

But because I’m missing that passion for what crypto and blockchain are all about — finance, tech, privacy, yadda yadda — I’m going to write instead about what I am actually interested in. Everything about crypto that has very little to do with crypto.

That’s what this column will be about. All the tangential stories that come out of the blockchain and crypto space, what I think about them, and how I navigate it all as a skeptical former Russian literature major.

It’s precisely my perch as an outsider that lets me do what I do: Opine on all sides of any crypto issue, no strings attached, no skin in the game.

If you want to talk crypto with me, let’s go off topic.

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