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Free Swap: How to Work the Barter System

Updated on May 11, 2015

Trading services

Swapping babysitting services for a manicure.
Swapping babysitting services for a manicure. | Source

If you ever watched movies where street vendors hawked their wares to gullible tourists the idea of bartering, or ‘haggling’ for what you want to buy may turn you off. However, in this current economy, with the cost of prices sky rocketing, any savings or price reduction is considered a blessing. It helps to know what your own feeling of self worth is because that plays an intricate part in the process of both bartering and negotiating.

Bartering is an exchange of goods or services (which you have) for something that you want or need from another. It has been practiced for thousands of years across many cultures. In bartering, the engaged parties do not exchange money.

Negotiating is a term that applies to a communication style in which the goal of each person is to get something that they each want. It is a creative, dynamic dialogue that uses compromise as part of its end bargaining strategy. In the end, hopefully each party will walk away satisfied with the results.

The ability to apply both bartering and negotiation tactics in your life is important because many sales people are willing to work with someone bartering, and you will miss out on this opportunity if you don’t ask. My philosophy is, “all they can do is say no…but, I won’t know unless I try”. Self-esteem plays a role in both bartering and negotiating because there is a sense, consciously or not, that one deserves what they get.

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Bartering Tips

Tip #1-know what your bottom line is and be prepared to walk away from the negotiation if it is not met.

Anyone who has shopped for a car or new home knows how this principal works. It would be unusual to walk into the bargaining room prepared to pay top dollar for either of these. It is expected, just as it would be in front of a street vendor, to offer a lower price than what the seller is asking. This opens up the ‘bid’ for a counter offer, and it goes back and forth until a final price is settled on.

Tip #2-Swapping services meet both of your needs while saving you money.

Consider all areas of your life in which you have a talent or service, or the time, to swap what it is that you have for something another person has and is willing to exchange these services without payment. One creative person I knew who needed extensive dental work was able to offer monthly massages to pay off her debt.

Tip#3-be sure both parties are clear about the terms of the exchange. It may not be equal in the sense of cost, but each person should feel they are getting a fair shake and not being taken advantage of by the other. This is where the importance of self-esteem takes place.

As a young mother, I joined a co-op nursery school for my oldest daughter to attend at a reduced rate. In fact, a co-op is exactly what it sounds like-all parties offer their time and service helping in the school in exchange for a reduced tuition. Had it been an unfair barter, I would have been giving much more of my time than what would equal out in payment.

Tips from the Barter Kings

Bartering Ideas

Here are some ideas for bartering services:

1. Hair cuts in exchange for transportation if someone does not drive.

2. Babysitting services in exchange for some free meals.

3. Housecleaning in exchange for mechanical work on a car.

4. Photography services for another service: babysitting, tax filing, sewing, etc.

There are many, many innovative ways to barter for services. As for negotiation, it behooves the buyer to do a comparison check before purchasing a large item and have those figures ready to report as leverage in a transaction. Negotiations can be tricky, psychologically, so be sure and solid in yourself or you may walk away feeling you got a raw deal.

Good luck with all of your bartering and negotiation strategies. It is a useful tool to know how to handle the heat and assert yourself in any negotiation of life.


Barter dog sitting/walking service for lawn care.
Barter dog sitting/walking service for lawn care. | Source

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