Bartering: The Wave of the Future

Debra Frick

Well, all the economists are talking about recession and I don't really know what that big fancy word means. I do know with rising gas prices and with rising food prices that times are hard for all of us. I do know being a fan of history that bartering is something we should all think of again. Back in the olden days, people did not have a bunch of cash and what little cash they had needed to go for food and other necessities and not for luxury items. Nowadays, we live in a disposable society where we throw away good useable items everyday. Even during the Great Depression, our ancestors knew that bartering was a way to survive with little or no cash.

I have been working on this idea for a couple of months. Bartering will be the wave of the future if our economy continues on it's downhill slide. Cash is something that right now is on the short side and anyone who can should consider bartering for the things that they need. So when you do your spring cleaning, instead of pricing everything for a garage sale, why not think about bartering some of your un-wanted items instead of selling everything!

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What is Bartering? Well, call it swapping or trading or bartering, it is all the same thing. The idea is that no cash is spent on any item. It is like when we traded baseball cards, you have Mickey Mantle, and I need him so I trade you one of what I have that you need. You can trade clothes or household appliances or services or those extra zucchinis that you know will flood your garden this summer. Swap your handmade items for other handmade items and you will have a small start on Christmas without having to spend a dime of your hard-earned cash. Trade plants from your garden for other plants. Trade left over 2x4's from your last project for a basketball hoop for the kids. You just might be surprised at the deals that you can make.

The trick to bartering is knowing what you have and it's worth and knowing what you need and it's worth. Now that can take a little research but if you enter into bartering with a little knowledge, bartering can be fun. Admit it, when you get something for something you no longer need, it can be very satisfying. Check out E-bay and the Internet for going prices for your unwanted items, your local library will also have books on collectibles. Remember, you need to put a monetary value based on real value not sentimental value.

Back in the 1970's here in Colorado Springs, we use to have a program on the radio called "Swap Shop" where callers could call in and tell the DJ what they had to swap and what they would like to swap for. No selling was allowed, it was swaps only. If you had something you wanted to give away, you could list that too.

Now with Freecycle, we have the same (sort of) thing but why not start your own swap shop between you and your friends. You don't know how many times in the course of everyday conversations have I heard "I need a vacuum" or "I need some yarn" or "I need a certain book" and it was something I had just donated or given up on Freecycle.
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Now you can swap between friends and family or you could start a bartering club. To do that you could ask all your friends and family to invite their friends and their family to join. Once you get the ball rolling, you will be amazed at how many people will want to join. This could easily be accomplished by one person posting everything up for swaps in an email once a week with the email address of the person swapping it and let anyone who wants to swap contact that person. But I would have a few rules, like absolutely no selling, only swapping and no fighting. I mean spirited debate on the worth of something is good but, since this is friends, family and colleagues, you would not want friendships to end or there to be strained relationships.

Another good tip would be to maybe list a monetary value that the person sets himself so that another person would know approximately what they would need to swap to gain what the other person has. If it is right up front then there can be no arguing. Get everyone together if you can and discuss what kind of rules you want to have and what you would not want people to swap like the rules for Freecycle. Generally, they don't allow giving away of guns or drugs or other illegal things. Elect someone to do the emails and have fun with this. Give your group a silly name and be light hearted about it.

If you decide to swap services like housecleaning and babysitting, make sure that you have an upfront monetary value for your service so that swapping can be fair and equal. Swapping services can be harder than swapping real goods so you want to make sure you really know what the going price is for your service.

Really, bartering is no harder than negotiating with someone at a yard sale for a better price. You put out there the price you would like to pay and hope they will come back with an offer somewhere in between. It is the same thing with bartering. I hope this helps you to make the most of your unwanted items and that you make some great deals and most of all I wish you fun!

About The Author: Debra Frick is a mother of 5 and a grandmother to 8 grandsons and one granddaughter. She is a published author and poetress. Recycling and saving money are her passions. She also loves crocheting and cooking. She is also a pet rescue volunteer and has many pets of her own.

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March 30, 20080 found this helpful

What a great idea. My next door neighbors and I have a sort of bartering thing going. When I make a big pot of chili or soup I give them half and they shovel the snow off of my sidewalks. They work and don't have a lot of time to prepare home-cooked meals and I am getting older and shoveling is a lot harder than it used to be.

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April 2, 20080 found this helpful

Back in the olden days (50s - 70s) my neighbors and I traded houseplants and yard plants. We also got together for neighborhood potluck meals with everybody providing a dish. In the summer instead of all the little wading pools being filled we'd gather at someone's house and throw all the kids in one pool. One sturdy piece of furniture might wend it's way up one side of the street and down another. I'd love to see people doing this now. I don't like the economy being in the shape it's in but it is nice to know and depend upon your neighbors.

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January 29, 20120 found this helpful

Re: "About the Author": Just a small correction - that should be "poetess", for a female poet. I assume the "r" is just a typo.

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January 30, 20120 found this helpful

The only thing to watch when bartering is that sometimes you have to report the worth to the IRS. I did a lot of services for food bartering over the years and was astonished when a friend was pursued for undeclared income over bartering car repair work. I think what shocked me the most was that the valuation level was VERY low meaning it didn't take much to cause the barterers to be in violation if the value of the services trade wasn't declared.

Remember the babysitting and lawn cutting flaps several years ago against teens making summer money? Same thing with the adults bartering-Uncle Sam wants his cut.

I traded drywall and other 'handy-woman' services, also sewing and tailoring, for meat and garden produce, it was a great, frugal way to fill the pantry and freezer. But keeping track to stay safe from the taxman was a pain.

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