In the times of a struggling economy where debt and unemployment continues to mount on shoulders everywhere, it becomes more about holding on to what you have than necessarily on generating income. Survival of the fittest becomes survival of the solvent. In an effort to part with as little cash as possible, an idea that is older than money is back – bartering. We have all bartered at one time or another; remember being at school when John would do your science homework in exchange for you doing his algebra?
Rural communities have been onto the benefits of bartering for hundreds of years, swapping manpower in return for fresh produce and dairy. The cultural environment of a farming society offers a valid example of how we can use our own physical abilities – or sweat equity – to easily translate to a way to meet our needs with the mutual assistance of our peers. There is a clear lesson to be learned there.
Let’s look around at our own personal environment. Sitting in suburbia, I can literally see an accountant that exchanges his services by filing the annual tax return of his gardener. The exchange is for weekly yard maintenance throughout the season. A teacher friend of mine exchanges tutoring of her hairdresser’s son for salon services. No cash changes hands yet all reasonable necessities are met. With proper understanding and communication amongst our friends, acquaintances and family members, it is one of those rare situations that can continually be a win-win for all involved.
While bartering does not increase the sales tax/VAT revenues in our communities, it certainly keeps our cash in our pockets. Where eBay is a method in which to sell items in a cash transaction, websites such as Craigslist.com and U-Exchange.com, where the last 12 to 18 months have shown a sharp increase in trading activity, they offer an opportunity for consumers to trade goods and services in a mutually-agreed upon swap. While a middleman might not always be necessary, such mediators can be a tremendous help in connecting the parties and finding out whom out there has what you need or needs what you have.
That being said, in this economic climate where many of us have come to appreciate the benefit to brewing our own pot of coffee again, we need to take a moment to analyze what opportunities for bartering might be available right under our own noses. Take a moment to consider the professions of your friends as well as their lifestyles and you are likely to find an opportunity in your own backyard. If a green-thumbed friend had been paying a company to maintain their swimming pool and you have the knowledge to do so, consider exchanging pool maintenance for their gardening expertise to keep your beds weeded and healthy. Your friend who has a career in IT, might be able to save you a few bucks by de-virusing your computer. In turn, take a moment to analyze what you have to offer: could that computer literate friend use some babysitting services or does he usually pay to board a pet when he travels that you can offer to care for during his next trip?
Lastly, don’t lose sight that time is often money. Sometimes the exchange of a service with someone who is simply better at it than you are and is able to complete the task quicker will save you time that you can apply to actually making money. The time that it would take your friend to properly paint a room in your house could literally save you hours…and perhaps at the cost of sharing your automotive oil-changing skills.
As we look for that silver lining in the gloomy financial clouds all around us, consider realizing that the answer to completing our daily checklist might not always require dollar signs.
This lovely guest post was written by my fab sister, Carrie, who lives in Long Island, NY.