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Secrets of Swapping and Bartering

Updated on January 8, 2012

Barter is older than money.People have been swapping goods and services ever since a really terrific hunter had some extra meat to trade for a sharp arrowhead.

Once gold coins and paper currency came into being, barter lost its luster, but it has never completely disappeared. You've probably traded baby sitting with a neighbor or lent out your lawnmower in exchange for some equivalent favor. We tend to informally barter with family and neighbors almost automatically. In fact I think as humans we are hard-wired to barter and swap. It's in our DNA..

When my neighbor gives me quarts of tomatoes from her backyard garden in August, I return the favor by taking her a quart of the tomato soup I make from them. It's reflexive. I have some sort of need to balance the scales of give and take. So do most people.It's been bred into us

So now that times are tough and money is tight, barter is making a big comeback Trading services like babysitting, cleaning, or auto repair is a great way to not spend money and still maintain quality of life. On top of that, barter is green. It conserves resources and usually saves energy as well as money. Trading things you no longer need, like the baby's outgrown crib, or those skis you don't have time to use anymore, for something you need today, like a youth bed or a computer not only saves you money but saves the planet as well. By bartering instead of buying, you lower your carbon footprint. Now, doesn't that feel good?

And now that you can access barter opportunities on the internet , the sky is the limit. However,  there are some rules of the road and you should be careful and exercise common sense. A barter trade is a business transaction  after all and you want to make sure that you don't get burned.

Barter Makes A Comeback

Tips to Make Barter Better

Spell it Out. One of the big problems with barter is that unlike cash, the terms of the deal need to be very clearly spelled out so that both sides know exactly what they are getting and there are no mis-understandings. This is especially important if you are bartering services and not just trading your extra raincoat for a pair of boots. Goods are ipso facto easier to barter than services.

If you are selling babysitting or lawncare for $10.00 per hour it is very clear what the parameters of the deal are, but if you are trading babysitting for lawncare, things can get messy if you do 10 hours of babysitting and your barter partner mows your lawn and rakes all your leaves in 5 hours. You may feel taken advantage of, while the person on the other end of the deal may feel that five hours of lawn care is equal to ten hours of babysitting. It is important that you both have a clear understanding of what the deal is before you start. You don't need a lawyer, but it is not a bad idea for both parties to put their understanding of the deal in writing and to show it to one another. Anything that clarifies the specifics of the barter helps.

Know Who You Are Dealing With If you are dealing with old friends, neighbors, or family members, you probably know their personalities and characters well enough to proceed with the deal. However, be advised that even with friends and family, it is wise to spell out the specifics of the deal-- misunderstanding the terms of a barter can bring out old sibling rivalries and strain even the best of friendships.

Barter requires trust and is a form of friendly exchange as well as a business deal, so you really do need to give some thought to the personality and character of the person you are dealing with when you swap services, in a way that is not quite so important in a cash transaction.

The new popularity of internet sites for arranging swaps and barters has made caution more important than ever when it comes to vetting who you are doing business with

Especially, if you are dealing with a transaction that involves your children or that involves giving strangers access to your home, be sure you get references and know plenty about who you are dealing with. Mistakes here can not only be costly, they can be tragic.

That said, the internet can bre a wonderful way to expand your barter market opportunities and you can use it to find a new home for your old stuff and get some new stuff in return.Here are a few of the better known barter sites I've checked out with my mini-reviews.


Order Barter Book Here

Barter Sites To Try

Barterquest is an extensive site that concentrates on goods rather than services and seems to cover just about everything. Their tagline is Trade what you have for what you want and that can be anything from books and computers to antiques and farm equipment.

U-Exchange is a huge site that is well organized, fast loading and offers free swaps and trades on just about everything in more than 80 countries. I've linked to their FAQ page which will give you an idea of their scope and range.

Trade Away bills itself as " The World's Largest Online Barter Exchange Auction Site!
Where you can Trade, Buy or Sell Anything!"
and it seems to be true. From houses and vacation travel to pets and livestock, it's all here. says it is the place where you can " turn what you have into what you want" and it offers swaps and trades on everything from collectibles to sports events tickets. The site is easy to navigate and simple to use. Check it out.

In addition Craigs List has a whole section devoted to barter, both for individuals and small businesses. You can find your own local swap meets and barter exchanges on google or in your local paper. The bottom line is that for both goods and services, barter is a great way to stretch your budget and enhance your life. Just follow the rules and be careful.


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    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      HI LIvelonger-- nice to see you as always-- I am a sneaky hubber-- my hubs are very erratic and I am nothing but a lurker in the forums so nobody ever knows I'm there-- but I am and I just keep hubbing away and it is always nice when old friends like you stop by. Glad you liked this one

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      How come I'm only noticing this fantastic Hub now?! (OK, it's my fault, not yours...although I have the feed to thank, really) Bartering/trading is really great if you have a strong social network nearby, because there's a certain level of trust that's necessary for it to be effective for some items. But if you do, you can have a looser give-and-take relationship that does just feel good, and, I agree, it feels like that feeling is something innate in us.

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      I totally agree, Marwan and thank you for stopping by and reading and commenting

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 

      9 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Good hub Robie, very innovative. There clearly should be more bartering especially in a harsh economic would certainly be more humanistic and thoughtful

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      10 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Indeed, Paraglider--the only thing we seem to have more of these days, is people to share the planet with. Lovely to see you btw-- feels like old times on Hubpages:-)

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 

      10 years ago from Worcester, UK

      And getting more relevant by the day, as the good times seem as far round the corner as ever...

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Well, howdy duchess-- glad you liked the hub and thanks for your comment. I love the comment thread too and have been swapping and bartering for years

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      11 years ago

      Great Hub robie. I like the idea, and I especially like Elena's take on it - give an take between the generations. The comment thread here is pretty cool.

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Yeah-- they been talking about taxing barter for years, but the prolly won't -- too hard to get a handle on.

      Good to see you ST We both have to spend a little more time on hubpages-- I miss your wonderful writing and witty observations.

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      11 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Awesome Hub, Robie, as always. I've missed you here, but then, I've been missing, too!

      I haven't kept up on "barter in the news" for a long time. But not too many years ago, as I recall, the IRS developed an interest in the monetary value of bartering, and there was some talk (or threat) of tracking down online bartering, and bartering among businesses, in order to impose taxes. Wonder what you know of that?

      I love what you said about giving back, reflexively, soup for tomatoes. That's the root of barter, and it doesn't even need a handshake.

      Thumbs up!

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Thanks for mentioning that Disturbia-- small business barter is definitely becoming more and more popular and there are a number of websites devoted to it-- perhaps that is worth another hub

    • Disturbia profile image


      11 years ago

      My husband barters his services with other small business owners all the time. It works out great for everyone. Very good hub.

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hi Elena-- and I so totally agree with you. Like I say, I think the concept of barter is hardwired into us-- we traded goods and services long before money even existed and we still do and I dig the concept too. The internet has just enlarged all the possibilities as it always does :-)

      2patricias-- how nice to see you and thanks for reading and commenting. I think small towns lend themselves to barter schemes and I really like the idea

    • 2patricias profile image


      11 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Interesting Hub, thanks.

      Here in the UK some (usually small) towns have local barter schemes.

    • Elena. profile image


      11 years ago from Madrid

      Howdo, robie! Another great advantage to bartering is feeling useful and like you have/can do something others need, and which can get you something that you need in return. For example, a grandmother that will learn basics of email to keep in touch with family from a youngster and then iron his shirts, or some such. I just dig the concept :-)

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Glad you like it-- thanks for reading and commenting:-)

    • francisjdurz profile image


      11 years ago

      great hub

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hi Dolores-- that is a true story. I remember when it happened. It was a kid who on his personal home page started with a paper clip and traded up to a house-- it was amazing and all documented on his website-- maybe he did write a book eventually. I remember seeing him interviewed on TV.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Bartering just sounds like fun. My son told me a story about some guy, maybe he wrote a book, I don't know, anyway - the guy decided to play a bartering game called trading up. He started out with a paper clip and ended up with a house. This is supposed to be true.

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      A good point, London Girl-- I used to say that I never appreciated the friendship of women as much as when I had small children-- we were all focussed on the same thing, trading baby sitting, outgrown clothes, and information on everything from pediatricians to birthday party activities. It made for some very major bonding experiences I must say

    • LondonGirl profile image


      11 years ago from London

      Fantastic hub! It's a great way of making friends with neighbours, too.

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Thanks Earl-- me too, and sometimes when I've tried it it hasn't worked out well-- but sometimes it is really great

    • Earl S. Wynn profile image

      Earl S. Wynn 

      11 years ago from California

      Very cool! I've always been self-conscious about bartering, but in today's economy, it's definitely a good skill to have!

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hi Jama and Steph and thanks for your observations-- yes barter is tax free, although at a certain point if you do enough of it, I think you have to declare it-- and yes Steph-- isn't green great LOL?

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      11 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Green is my favorite color. Saving it - both from an environmental perspective and leaving a bit more in my wallet feels really great! Superb hub! :)

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      11 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Wow, you're baaaaaack! That said, another advantage to bartering is that it's income- and sales tax free, meaning no pesky forms to fill out at the end of the year. One less tree to be replaced.

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hi Zsuzsy. When it works barter is great on so many levels, but when it doesn't it is just awful, which is why I think yu have to really spell out the terms of the deal first so nobody feels cheated.

      Thanks for the warm welcome-- I've missed hubpages-- been busy with blogs and have become a veritable twitter-holic. It's nice to see you too and I love your new avatar.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      11 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Robie, how are you? Haven't seen hide now hair of you in a while.

      What an awesome hub, I love to barter. I used to do a lot of it in my Tailor shop when I knew that people were in problems. After a while it became common knowledge. Most often then not it turned out to beneficial to both parties.

      Thanks for sharing those sites. I'm off now to check them out and play some.

      Once again a great hub, hope you're well.

      kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hi VS-- nice to see you too:-) I think ( or at least hope) the times of rampant consumerism are over and that being so-- swapping and bartering are going to become more and more common and the online option used more and more often.

      Hope you find a swap for your stuff

    • VioletSun profile image


      11 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Hi, Robie: This is superb article!Had not heard of the sites that you shared; will pass it on to my s/o as we have stuff leftover from a business that we couldn't sell in Ebay and is taking space in our office.

      Good to have you back in Hubpages!

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Glad you liked it KS and thanks for the visit

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Good blog and such a lot of information here. I have never tried bartering, either, but this makes me think I will!

    • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roberta Kyle 

      11 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hello Melody and Ralph and thanks for reading-- glad you like the hub. I'm thinking that in these tough times, barter is more and more the way to go.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      11 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Well done. Good ideas.

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 

      11 years ago from Philippines

      Great info. Have never tried online swapping yet.


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