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When Cash is No Longer King: Bartering Tips and Hints

Updated on July 7, 2014

There’s little doubt the economy is wreaking havoc on budgets and people are finding ways to trim a little “fat” wherever they can find it.

When I found myself unable to fit yoga classes into my budget, I decided to talk to the owner of Be Well Now. I’ve been attending classes, getting massages and using their space for meditation ever since they opened for business five years ago, so I know the owners well. I also knew they wished for a receptionist to help take appointments.

“It’s unnerving to hear the phone ringing while we’re giving a massage,” Theresa, one of the owners, told me.

One day I approached her with a proposition: In exchange for yoga classes, I would work their desk for them, taking phone calls and making appointments. We worked out an arrangement whereby I work four hours one afternoon a week for them in return for unlimited yoga classes.

Because of other obligations, for me unlimited turns out to be two classes a week and some meditation time but that works for me. And on more than one occasion they’ve told me how grateful they are to have me there to help at the desk.

Can bartering work for you?

Whether you are making a deal with someone you know or with someone through one of the many bartering sites online such as Trade A Favor, PaperBackSwap, and Barter Bucks. Here are some tips that will help you navigate the trade.

1. Make a list of people you know – neighbors, friends, coworkers, family members – who might be willing to trade with you. Or join a time bank. For every hour of service you provide another member, you earn a ‘time dollar” you can redeem for services from someone else.

2. Make a list of what you could sell, skills you could teach someone or services you can provide. Make a list of the services or items you want in return.

3. Be specific so there is no question what you have and what you want. Don’t just say you’ll trade babysitting services for a cake. Tell them you can baby-sit 5 hours a week for 2 weeks in return for a 3-layer decorated cake for a special birthday.

Done deal
Done deal | Source

4. Determine the terms of the deal. To make sure the trade is fair for everyone involved, figure out the cost of tangible objects or services by researching prices online. Negotiate when the service or item will be delivered and how payment will be made. If something has to be shipped, make sure costs are factored into the deal.

5. Get it in writing! If it’s something relatively simple such as trading babysitting hours for cleaning services, an email should do. But if you are negotiating a large project or one that may take some time to complete such as a painting a house, then get the details in writing.

6. Pay the taxman. Most simple noncommercial bartering generally falls in the realm of the “underground economy” and is under the IRS radar. But if you are a business bartering with another business, any income gained is taxable and needs to be reported. And you can deduct costs you incurred performing the work that was bartered.

Bartering isn’t for everyone but it can be fun and a creative way to save money.


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