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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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