When we think about saving money, most of us don?t typically think about trade or barter. After all, we’re living in an age of electronic money where all we have to do is swipe a plastic card to get what we need or want. We hardly ever think about how we can save money apart from looking for lower price deals where ever we can find them.
Trade or barter offer a way to save money without even spending money. If it sounds revolutionary, it really isn?t. Barter has been the most basic form of economic exchange since civilization began.
Money as we know it today is a relatively new concept. It?s extremely convenient and we do need it for most purchases. But every now and again a trade opportunity arises that will benefit both parties. You need a ride to the airport on Monday afternoon, and your neighbor needs a babysitter for Saturday night?by trading between you, you and your neighbor can each get what you need without spending a penny. That?s barter, and with some imagination it can work for anyone.
Using barter sites
There are many web sites where you can trade or barter, some are free, some charge to join. These can offer you the chance to have the greatest possible opportunity to barter for the widest range of merchandise and services.
One example is a site called Swap.com. The site reports that it has more than half a million members and more than 1.5 million items. You add items you want to trade, find items that you want, then contact people who have them to arrange the swap. Members are rated based on previous experience which should give you idea as to their trustworthiness.
You can also look for barter clubs in your own area, as they have formed everywhere. This will give you a chance to deal with local people who can meet face to face and also to avoid shipping charges that come with mailing over long distances.
Disclosure: I have not used barter sites and as such I cannot make any recommendations for or against any sites. My advice here however is that you begin by bartering low value items or services until you?re comfortable with the integrity of the community.
Trade stuff?everyone has things they don?t need
Since so few of us make our living dealing in tangible products, we might assume we have nothing to barter with in the way of stuff, but think again. Most of us have items lying around that house that we hardly or never use. Can some of these be used to trade?
- DVDs, videos, computer games and CDs
- Old computers and TVs
- Clothing (sometimes)
- Home grown fruits and vegetables (makes a good case to grow a garden!)
- Excess food items?canned and dry goods mostly
- Firewood if you have trees on your property that need to be cut or trimmed
- Toys that your children have outgrown
- Exercise equipment
You probably have most of these in your home, and any of it could be suitable for a barter exchange. This will give you a compelling reason to keep your stuff?even the old stuff?in top condition. You never know when an opportunity might arise to trade if for something your really want.
Trade or barter skills and services
We usually associate trade and barter with people who create products or have businesses from which they can swap products or services, but this isn?t the case. While it is true that someone with a business, especially one dealing in products that are consumer friendly, is well positioned to barter, the fact is anyone can do it. It?s just a matter of building a list of what services you have to offer.
Consider offering any of these services to trade or barter for what you need:
- House cleaning, laundry or shopping
- Yard work, such as lawn cutting and raking, gutter cleaning, etc
- Routine home repairs
- Car washing
- Computer repair or troubleshooting
- Driving someone to the airport, auto mechanic or other destination
- Babysitting (my wife and I have swapped this one with other couples MANY times)
- Specific computer software programs you?re proficient in, like Power Point?you may know these but most people don?t
- Writing, proofreading or editing
- Cleaning out garages or basements
- Laundry and ironing
- Holiday decorating
- Pet sitting or watching someone?s home whose on vacation
There are also some services you could learn or acquire that will raise your bargaining position:
- Carpet cleaning
- Popular computer software applications, like QuickBooks
- Income tax preparation (if you have the software and the other party doesn?t)
- Light hauling, if you have a pick-up truck or at least a van or large SUV
- Basic auto repair
- Pressure washing decks or driveways (you?ll need the pressure washer, but you can probably rent one in a pinch)
- House painting
- If you have your own business, list products or services you can swap with individuals or other businesses
It?s all about making your services tradable. Make up a long list of services you have to offer, and if you feel it?s a little on the short side, invest some time and a little bit of money in developing new ones. Put together a ?barter resume? that you can pull out any time a swap situation presents itself; it?ll help you remember what you have to offer and open up some ideas for the party you want to trade with. The more services you have to offer, the more you can trade and barter, and the more money you can save.
Have you ever bartered for a product or service that you needed? How did it work for you?
I belong to a barter network for my accounting business. They use “barter bucks” which is essentially credits that you earn and spend within the network. The company which runs it takes 6% processing off of each end of a deal and there is a $20 monthly cash membership fee plus a $10 barter credit fee. It isn’t the greatest, as people tend to overcharge for some things based on the fact that it’s not cash. Also, you cannot “cash out” so you need to spend all of your credits or just let them accumulate until you need something. For me t’s tough because I work from home, and don’t have much overhead that can be paid for through a barter network.
Other than that, it’s really the same as doing business with cash.
Hi Eric–that sounds a lot like those local currency set-ups. It’s probably a good way to get certain deals that you couldn’t “on the street”. Dealing direct with other barterers (is that even a word???) makes it less formal and eliminates the fees.
The processing fee is probably a necessary evil. But the problem with membership fees–for anything–is that it almost forces you to use the service, even when you may not want to. In months that you don’t use it, you’re giving back any advantage from the service.
How frequently do you use it? Is it enough to justify the fees?
To be honest, Kevin, sometimes I think it’s worth it and sometimes I don’t.
What it is, is like a franchise. The parent company, Itex Corp, splits up the county somehow and sells territories to who I would liken to franchisees. They are responsible for running the network in their areas. The guy I work with actively recruits local businesses to broaden the networks resources. He also actively works to make connections and deals between members so it’s not like we’re left to fend for ourselves all the time trying to bring in business. There is also a central marketplace where members can place online ads for their goods and services for other in different areas to find.
It’s really just like any other manner of doing business. I have met potential clients who have completely wasted my time, and there are people who have become recurring clients. The total money I make from the network is more than what I pay in fees, so the net effect is positive, but certainly not near what I was hoping to get out of it. Then again, I don’t really use it to the best of my ability as I would much rather take on cash clients since my only expenses are not payable through barter. The barter system for me is more of an “extra” source of income should something come along.
If you’re coming out ahead on it then it’s worth doing. It’ll probably never replace money for most of our transactions, but if you can save some money than it’s working.
We can’t pay taxes, house payments or utility bills with barter, so we’ll always need money for most of what we need. But I think of bartering as more of an occasional event, but one we should be ready to take advantage of when we can. The more we have to offer, the more we can do it. There usually are more opportunities close to home than we think, it’s mostly a matter of broadening our awareness and bargaining position.
One of my friends also just bought a house, I traded her four kitchen chairs (I had extras from an aunt of mine) in exchange for her two couches. Now she has a kitchen set and I have couches for my new living room! Win/win!
Hi Jenna–that makes so much sense, rather than running off to a furniture store and spending hundreds or thousands of dollars. You both get what you want and neither of you pays a cent for anything. Perfect!