How to barter for what you need and save money – The Beauty of Bartering

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For many families, cash is tight. But that doesn’t mean you have to forgo getting products or services that you need. One easy way to get without spending is to barter. Trade what you’ve got for what you need, and everyone’s happy, with no money ever changing hands.

Bartering has been around forever, and enjoyed popularity during the Great Depression, when families who didn’t have cash would pay with things like eggs from the chickens they kept in their backyards. But bartering is back on trend, in part because of the difficult economic times we find ourselves living in.

In her book “Money Secrets of the Amish”, author Lorilee Craker writes that the Amish are known for their amazing ability to save money. After interviewing many Amish people, she found that one of their “money secrets” was that they made a habit of saving cash by bartering – trading quilts for buggy parts or whatever. But even if you’re not Amish, you can learn from these plain folk who have more money in the bank than the average American.

Here’s how to start bartering (and thus saving cash):

Assess what you’ve already got: do you have stuff that is sitting around unused, but is still good? For example, maybe you have a bike, but you never ride it. You would, but you’re too busy learning to play tennis. Could you barter your bike for something you want, like a tennis racquet? Or tennis lessons? In her book, journalist Craker describes an Amish couple who traded home-made rag rugs for a cow – which probably isn’t something most of us would be able to do (or even want to). But the principles of bartering apply to anyone.

“Whereas in the Depression people struck deals in tools, chickens, and milk – essential provisions and supplies – now traders will offer personal training sessions for scuba gear or a Pilates lesson for a borrowed trailer hitch,” she writes. (p. 200)

Assess your skills:

Even if you don’t have stuff to trade, you might have abilities to bring to the table. What skills do you possess? Do you know how to paint a room? Sew a dress? Organize a home office? Write down skills you have that have value.

“The question is, what am I good at, and what could I trade for something of equal value? What are you good at, and what could you negotiate for something of worth?” Craker writes.

Find someone who needs what you’ve got: this is where bartering websites are helpful. Craker points out that from 2009 to 2010, bartering postings on increased 100 percent. Her book also lists several bartering websites:

Let people know what you have to offer: Post what you are offering on one of the bartering websites out there, and you may be able to strike a trade with strangers. But one of the benefits of bartering, Craker asserts, is that it builds community. When done properly (without trying to take advantage), bartering can be a way to build friendships with neighbors. So don’t be afraid to talk to neighbors and co-workers about bartering. One way to do that is a swap party.

Your own private swap meet: A great way to get things going with bartering is to host a swap party in your home. Whether you gather to trade kids’ clothing, books, craft supplies or whatever, you can cleanout your clutter and find some new treasures, for free. Everyone simply brings things they don’t want, and can pick through the items others have brought, to find things they need or want. The side benefit is that, like the Amish, you are building connection and community while getting things you need.

In summary, bartering is a way to keep your cash in your pocket but still indulge in getting things you need or want. It’s also a way of making new friends – and you can’t put a price on that.


  1. Joel Moore says:

    I love this post, nice work.Thanks a lot.

  2. You did a great job writing this, it’s very helpful for me.

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