Accessing a Growing and Vibrant
We want to tell you how to get almost anything you can imagine and not pay a dime for it. We’re talking about old-time horse-trading… creative deal-making… in a word, bartering.
Bartering is an essential skill for weathering a disruption to the economy, society, or to essential services when cash (or access to it) may be hard to get and you want to carefully conserve what cash you do have on hand.
And like any other survival skill, it’s best to learn it during normal times, so it’s second nature during a crisis. Knowing how to barter – and what to barter with – can go a long way toward getting you through any unforeseen tight spots.
The World’s Oldest Currency
That Uncle Sam Hates
Before money, people traded things. If we had something you wanted, and you had something we valued, we might both feel richer if we swapped. A dozen eggs from your farm for a loaf of bread from my oven. Deal!
The advent of currency made the direct exchange of goods and services unnecessary, but even in our modern culture, a thriving barter economy exists.
And, if the you-know-what hits the fan – even for just a couple of weeks – you may get to see first hand how well bartering can work. After all, if you find yourself without something you need for comfort or survival, you might be able to get a hold of it by making a savvy trade or two.
Items to Stock for Bartering
In a widespread economic disruption – or even just a temporary, local breakdown – you’ll be better prepared if you have a few barter items on hand.
Consider stocking up on the following:
Coffee and tea – people love their morning beverages and will place a high trade value on such comfort items.
Hygiene supplies – everything from toothbrushes to bar soap to lip balm can be useful for barter.
Disposable lighters – These are cheap to buy, but can be very useful for trading purposes in a survival situation.
First aid supplies – aspirin, Neosporin, bandages… they’re all good. Just be sure you keep enough on hand for you and your family.
Make-your-own-cigarette kits at local smoke shops can be quite useful for trade and barter, even if you don’t smoke.
Hard candy – sure to be of interest when much of the population is living on subsistence rations.
Note that most of the items we’ve mentioned are small – several units will fit in a single pocket. Any item that has high utility and comes in small packages is a potential barter item.
Another item is so essential that, even though it’s bulky, can be well worth storing for barter. We’re talking about water – cheap to store in times of plenty, absolutely priceless in any shortage. If you have spare storage space that’s not prone to freezing, consider putting away a few hundred extra gallons in addition to your family’s own needs.
Bartering for services can be even smarter and save you a lot of money.
If you can create a webpage but can’t unplug a stopped-up drain, you have the perfect barter opportunity with your neighborhood plumber. If you like to tend flower beds but hate to mow the lawn, make a deal with the fellow down the street who has a riding mower. Bartering with your neighbors is a great skill to develop now so you’ll have friends you can call on or fall back on in tough times.
Tips for Successful Bartering
Becoming a successful barterer takes some time and practice. You’ll find you make the best trades when you stick to some tried-and-true guidelines.
First, make sure you’re really specific in any barter ad about what you hope to find and what you have to offer. By being detailed, you’ll cut down on the tire-kickers and attract more serious traders.
Second, keep the value of the trade in mind. Your goal is to get something that you want more than what you’re giving away. You don’t want to fleece someone, or even worse, get fleeced yourself. So, know the value of what you’re offering, and figure out a normal market value range for the product you want to receive.
Finally, if you’re not using a website that provides an escrow account and trade credits, be very aware as you set up your trade. Watch for red flags like odd contact information or last-minute changes to the deal. Remember to protect your personal information. Don’t invite strange people to your home. If you’re bartering with a large, hard-to-move item, and you have to invite someone to your home, ask a friend or family member to join you for the exchange.
Overall, just be smart and trust your instincts.
Saves Time and Money
You can start practicing your bartering skills today by getting involved in one of the many, online bartering communities. Some of these sites provide a bulletin board where you can post what you have to trade and what you’re looking for in return. Others work like a brokering service. They help you find what you need and help others find you who may be interested in what you have.
It pays to do a little research to find the site that fits you best, but these are three that we like:
This popular free-to-post website has an entire section dedicated to bartering. You can post what you have that you’re willing to part with and what you’re looking for in exchange. We like Craigslist because it’s free, and it’s local. However thieves find Craigslist convenient, too, so exercise due caution.
As always, a deal that’s too good to be true is a red flag. Plan to make your exchange in a conspicuous public place, so you don’t have to give away too much of your personal information and you avoid the hassle of shipping. Don’t advertise anything on Craigslist that a thief might want to steal, such as jewelry and fine watches. Also bear in mind that law-enforcement agencies cruise sites like Craigslist, so sure to keep all dealing above board and within the law.
This site is a step above Craigslist when it comes to bartering. It’s dedicated to bartering only. In most cases, it costs you nothing to post a trade, accept an offer, and actually make the exchange. You’ll be able to connect to a broader cross-section of traders on a site like this one, and that means more possibilities regarding what trades you can set up.
The Barter Company:
This is a barter exchange site. It requires a membership fee to participate in the bartering process. It has perks, though. The staff works to help match you with likely bartering partners, and they have a deep and broad network of other bartering sites, so you could end up with a lot of demand for your stuff and a lot of access to other stuff. The fees are hefty, but if you’re looking to barter as part of your business, this is a good one to check out.
Another advantage of barter is that cashless transactions are generally private transactions. While we don’t ever advise breaking the law, barter is often used as a way to avoid paying lawful taxes. We mention this so you don’t inadvertently get caught up in in a tax trap.
Bartering can help you stretch your dollars so that you and your family can enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle. And, becoming a savvy barterer now might turn out to be a life-saving skill later.