Bartering Online or Offline
It's Fun, Frugal, and Green
[Editor update 06-14-15: Some site references and links in the original article (from 2011) are no longer valid. This article has been updated to note and/or remove these sites]
Bartering has so many benefits. It's a good way to live well without spending money, it is a way to meet new people, it keeps items out of the landfills, and it is a win-win situation for all involved. While it can be an integral part of frugal shopping or simple living, it can also just be an efficient and satisfying way to exchange something you don’t need for something you do need or want. In some cases, it may be the only way to get an item you want. You might have traded baseball cards or Barbie doll clothes when you were in grade school - that was bartering. It’s that easy and fun.
Bartering has many forms. You can trade services - can you clean houses, paint, bake, wrap presents, repair a car, babysit? You can trade items - maybe you can get a beautiful headboard for your bed in exchange for that dusty treadmill. Think about the things you enjoy doing and do well enough that you’d be comfortable doing it for “pay.” Do not try to rate them yourself. Often the things you do that seem really easy and fun are just the things that someone else would be very glad to have someone else do. Even if they are able to do the particular service, they may be relieved to have free time instead.
Now make a list of all the items in your house and garage that you don’t use, but someone else might be thrilled to have. (Don't forget that all that stuff in storage, too!) Be aware that some things may need to be repaired or cleaned before a good barter can take effect, especially an online barter. However, if you are bartering locally and the item can be inspected before barter trading, then be up front and honest about any needed repairs or cleaning and if the party is still interested, great! Expect that items that are in excellent repair and condition will command a higher barter value, especially for online bartering.
Once you have a list of things or services to barter with, try some of the online barter sites or local bartering groups. Craigslist.org is a good place to list things to trade locally or to find local barter groups. In your ad, list what you have to trade and state what you’d like to trade for.
Walletpop.com has a good bartering article:
(Article: Bartering’s Big Comeback) http://www.walletpop.com/economizer/how-to-barter [update 06-14-15: walletpop.com no longer a valid site] and recommends these bartering sites:
U-exchange.com (listing of items to swap and items wanted - USA and other countries)
HomeExchange.com (home swap for travelers)
swapstyle.com (swap, sell, and buy women's clothing)
swapthing.com [no longer valid]
BarterBucks.com [no longer valid]
BarterBee.com [no longer valid]
Other bartering websites (Note: I have not had direct experience with these sites, please investigate before using):
Swaptree.com (also takes items to sell on consignment)
bizx.com (for businesses)
tradelist.us (seems more for finding deals)
tribarter.com [no longer valid]
natecorporatebarter.com [no longer valid]
BarterBart.com [no longer valid] Barterfest.net [no longer valid]
Not bartering sites, but a good way to find and give items:
If you are interested in starting your own bartering club, BarterNews.com has an excellent and detailed article: barternews.com/barterclubs.htm
Bartering websites can give you more possibilities than a simple exchange with another person. With the bartering websites, you may have the ability to trade your item to one person and receive your exchange from another. This is usually done by a point or “bartering dollar” system. Do your research before you sign up with a bartering website. Some sites are free and some sites have large membership fees. Before you pay $300-500.00 to join a bartering site, be sure that you have enough items or services to trade to make it worth the fee and also take a look through the site’s inventory to be sure that the types of items offered are exactly the types you are looking for. It would also be wise to Google the site to see if there are any forums with comments or complaints about the site. For your first barter trading experiences, I'd recommend exchanging your lower value items and using free sites or clubs. Then as you gain confidence and experience and are a little more "street wise", you can consider the barter sites that charge fees or membership dues.
Bartering is nothing new. It’s probably the oldest form of exchange or trade. Your ancestors probably traded feathers or furs for a bushel of nuts or fruits. If you are uncertain or nervous with your first barters, see if you can find a friend who is experienced at bartering and ask if they will step you through your first trade.
And most of all have fun and celebrate your new fat dollars!
Here is a poem called Barter that I found as I was researching this article. It isn't quite about bartering goods, but it captures an essence that I would like to have flowing through The Fat Dollar site, so I thought to share it with you. I hope that it feels as powerfully beautiful to you as it does to me:
by Sara Teasdale
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
(Sara Teasdale was a lyrical poet in the early 1900's)
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THE COMPLETE TIGHTWAD GAZETTE by Amy Dacyczyn
....This is one of my favorite books.
Although a little quirky sometimes, and sometimes a little extreme, this book has many great ideas for spending less on low priority stuff so you'll have more money to spend on high priority stuff (like college, or a house!) The author, Amy Dacyczyn lived her dream of having a large farm house and many happy kids all while working from home and learning how to be creative and frugal. Amy's background in graphic design makes her approach to saving money simply delightful. The best part for me was the wonderful tone of family love that weaves throughout the book. Very creative and fun book and VERY THICK! You will definitely get your money's worth in simple living tips and money saving tips with this book.
The Fat Dollar Ideas
In the Kitchen - grocery shopping, cooking, planning ... get some Fat Dollar Ideas
Vitamins and Fruit Juice - save $63.87 a year and 20,440 calories
In the Home - tips and ideas to save money in your home
Make Your Own Shampoo and Rinse - Herbal or Plain
Manage Your Money - Tips for managing your Fat Dollars
Bartering Online or Offline - To fatten up your dollars
Books to help you save money and regain control of your Fat Dollars