How to Barter

Home & Family, Living Green
on March 29, 2012

Bartering is the exchange of goods and services for other goods and services. It's been around since before the first dollar was ever printed and will no-doubt be around for many more years. It requires no money, and these tips will help you get started.

Understand basic economics. The same business principles apply in bartering that apply in the most complex economies. The underlying principle of all business transactions is the law of supply and demand. If you possess a skill or an item that very few in your area have, you will be more successful at bartering, especially if your skill is in high demand.

Use bartering websites. The Internet has become the world's greatest networking tool. Bartering relies on networking. Use it. The Learning Channel Online provides a list of the best bartering websites for those wishing to trade labor or goods instead of money. Sites include craigslist, UExchange, Trashbank and the Internet Barter Exchange.

Use other networking means. Word of mouth is as old as bartering. The next oldest mode of networking is posting items on community, school and church bulletin boards. Some people still look in the newspaper want ads. Let others know you are willing to work or trade for what you need.

Be specific. Be specific in what you have to offer and specific in what it is you want. Don't advertise yourself as an electrician, for example, when all you're willing to do is install ceiling fans. Don't ask for an interior designer when you only want a floor put in. Before any work is done or any goods exchanged, be specific on what each party is responsible for. You may even want to draw up a contract.

Find out what your service is worth. Investigate online sites to determine what comparable offers cost. You can also call local businesses to find out what they charge.

Analyze the value of the trade. This goes back to basic economics. If what you have to offer is worth four times what you want in return, you're not getting a fair deal. If this doesn't matter to you, then make the trade anyhow. It's OK to help someone who's struggling without just giving it to them.

Think outside the cashbox. Common examples of bartering include the following:

  • Exchange home-grown fruits and vegetables for lawn maintenance or others' home-grown fruits and vegetables.
  • If you live on a farm, exchange items such as milk and eggs for routine maintenance.
  • If you rent, offer to do maintenance or home repairs in exchange for rent reduction.
  • Book exchanges help you renew your reading interests. When your kids tire of their toys, exchange them for some other kid's toys.
  • Swap skills. Teach your neighbor's kid how to play piano and have your neighbor replace your bathroom fixtures. It's a win-win.

There are infinite ways to barter, so what are you waiting for?