How To Barter and Trade for Goods and Services

A newspaper illustration depicting a man engaging in barter, paying his yearly newspaper subscription to the "Podunk Weekly Bugle" with various farm produce.
A newspaper illustration depicting a man engaging in barter, paying his yearly newspaper subscription to the "Podunk Weekly Bugle" with various farm produce. | Source

Our forefathers did it and so did most of civilization at one point or another: Bartering or "trading" for goods and services.

I became familiar with "barter exchanges" as a small business owner, when my partner and I actually joined some barter exchanges throughout the years. Some worked well, others did not. Through trial and error, we learned about bartering, sometimes the hard way.

If you are thinking of bartering for goods and/or services, read on for some tips and advice of what to do and what NOT to do when bartering which other people or businesses.

Barter exchanges

In our case, my partner and I actually joined "barter exchanges", where all of our activities were regulated, followed, documented and ran under a certain set of rules and guidelines.

There are many barter exchanges out there, so when thinking about joining a barter exchange, make sure you do due diligence on finding out as much as you can about the exchange, how it works and how much the fees are to join and to remain a member (most barter exchanges also charge a percentage for each barter exchange between members, this is how they make money and stay in business)

Through the barter exchanges, we have many nice things that we have received in barter.

Some of the things we bartered for (we made signs for businesses on our end):

  1. A brand new queen size mattress and box spring (we still own this till this day - it was a VERY good set)
  2. Brand new wood sleigh bed with a headboard, foot-board and rails
  3. 2 matching nightstands
  4. Hotel rooms for my sons wedding party in Nevada
  5. Motel and hotel stays in Monterey
  6. Bed and breakfast nights in Monterey (one of our favorite places to visit)
  7. Besides lodging in Monterey, some weekends we ate entirely on barter at restaurants that were in the same barter exchange we were
  8. A fur coat
  9. Expensive designer clothing from stores in Monterey
  10. My wedding ring (well actually my anniversary ring) custom made by a local jeweler (valued at $3,700)
  11. Computer accessories (buyers beware with this though, read about this snafu barter in Barter Exchanges)
  12. Over $3,500 in new carpet in our home
  13. Massage services and spa services
  14. Italian suits for my husband - a belt and a designer label mans coat

    So as you can see, you can actually get quite a few goods through bartering, my examples being just some of the many things we have bartered for over the years.

This is the Patti Playpal doll that I traded for a Burberry coat and some nice purses.
This is the Patti Playpal doll that I traded for a Burberry coat and some nice purses. | Source

How to barter items on Craiglist and with private parties

Now that we are no longer members of an official barter exchange, we still barter but through private parties now. Although we have not been doing alot of bartering in the last few years, I plan to do more in the future because it makes financial sense for us. My partner and I have skills that others need and want (sign services, carpentry skills, writing and graphic design, among others)

For private parties that do not belong to a barter exchange, the next best place to barter is on Craigslist. If you have something that you are interested in trading with rather than selling it, you can post your barter item under the barter listing on any Craigslist site.

Make sure you also post good photos of your item as people want to see what the item truly looks like and its condition. Give as many details as you can about the item (you would be surprised the questions people will ask you)

Some people will trade you straight across with another item if they feel the value is close for both items, some people will barter with part trade and part cash, and in some instances, you many end up getting a higher valued item than what you have for trade (value is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, some things are hard to put a price on)

At the same time that you post your item, look at the barter ads of what people have to trade, and you may find something that you could trade your item for.

One of the biggest recommendations I make when dealing with Craigslist though is to be careful! There are some unscrupulous people out there that may try to scam you - so meet in public places if you can, and don't have large amounts of cash on you, ever! Take someone with you if possible or meet at a police station.

The last thing I bartered was a Patti Playpal companion doll with accessories for a Burberry trench coat and some designer purses. I did this on Craigslist and met the guy at my house in front with my family present. He wanted the doll for a photography project and I wanted to trade "up".

I only paid $5 for the doll so I feel I made a pretty good deal.

Trading labor back in the 19th century

A 19th-century example of barter:
A 19th-century example of barter: | Source

Poll on barter and trading

Have you ever bartered or traded for goods and/or services?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I am the King/Queen of bartering and trading!
  • No but I think I'll try it after reading your hub
  • It sounds too complicated for me
See results without voting

Trading for services

Another way of bartering is to trade your services for an item, or another service. Maybe you are a tile person and you need some landscape work done. It's quite possible you will find a gardener looking for some tile laid in his house and he has some free time on his hands to landscape your yard.

People are looking to barter and trade all sorts of things, not just items. Some people will ask you to buy the materials and they will provide the labor and/or part cash. There are different variations of bartering, you just have to work with the person you are bartering with and figure out what's the best way to trade for the both of you.

Another one of my recent barters was a week of art camp for my grand-daughter in exchange for writing a hub about the importance of art for children and kids. So yes, you can absolutely also use your writing skills to trade and barter for things you need or want.

In this bad economy, bartering and trading is becoming more and more common. Cash strapped individuals often own items or have services that other people need and are willing to barter for.

Besides the fact that bartering makes sound economic sense, it's also quite fun. You never know what you may end up with - or get rid of!

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Comments 2 comments

Ann810 profile image

Ann810 3 years ago from Sunny Cali

Hi Dorsi, this is a great article, bartering is a good way to pay off debt if people are willing to negotiate services for goods or vise versa. The person that owes someone can use their talents, gifts, or skills to pay off debt . Thanks, awesome.


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 3 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area Author

@Ann) Great suggestion! Thanks for coming by, reading and commenting.

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