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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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    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

      I had never heard of it before now. I watched the video but will have to look at it again. Seems like an interesting idea though. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

    • MaxLucas profile image

      MaxLucas 5 years ago

      How do you feel about commodity coinage?

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks giuliopozzebon. I agree that the state of the economy worldwide is such that people are having to resort to more bartering and exchanging favors. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Barbergirl28. I think it's a good idea to keep your skills up by doing an occasional haircut. It sounds like you do have a good track record on bartering. As long as it works for both parties then any arrangement should do.

      @ neeleshkulkarni - Cute! I think some people do that anyway, LOL

    • neeleshkulkarni profile image

      neeleshkulkarni 5 years ago from new delhi

      i was wondering if bartering hub comments was included.lolllll.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I am no good at bartering but I have to say ... I have a pretty good skill for bartering. Since I know how to cute hair, I often times give a lot of "free" haircuts. But, since I am not working anywhere, it does help me to keep my skills and occasionally I do get free babysitting. On another note, I did barter piano lessons for my daughter. However, it doesn't involve hair - I just walk her dogs for her a couple times a week when she won't be home early enough! Bartering can be good but as you said - make sure there is an agreed "payment" so one of the other people don't feel like they aren't getting their dues! Well done!

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Gail, I actually am now bartering yoga classes as partial payment for a yoga newsletter I do for the center. But regardless, bartering is still a good thing to do as the economy slowly (ever so slowly) recovers.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Great ideas, especially in today's tough economy.

      My husband barters with neighbors and friends and it's always a win win situation. For instance, he takes care of our neighbors' dog sometimes while they're away and they take in our mail when we're away.

      Loved your suggestion of bartering for the yoga classes.

      Voted up across the board except for funny.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for reading poetvix. Glad you found them useful.

    • poetvix profile image

      poetvix 6 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

      Wow, I live in a bubble. I had no idea there were barter sites on the net. How cool. Thanks for the really useful information!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      We have bartered for ages which kept so many of us out of the poorhouse. It also promotes reciprocity - give and take works. But you are so right - we have to be specific now. How often do you read about someone who did a project in exchange for something - and got nothing in return.

      Thanks for this reminder. Cash has made us so totally dependent. Whew!

      Rated up!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Danette, your bartering tips are very useful. I did not even consider point #6. Thanks for sharing. I rated it UP.

      Glad to see you got the rss feed ok. Talk with you later.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      thanks Kephrira, I hope you are able to use some of them. Thanks for reading my hub.

    • kephrira profile image

      kephrira 6 years ago from Birmingham

      good tips, thanks

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Bartering is a great way to save money especially if you have a skill others need. I've only bartered for yoga classes so far but am compiling a list in my head of other trades. Thanks for sharing.

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      Great ideas. I think that most people today do not think about bartering as an option but it is a great way to serve both party's needs. Great up, voted up a useful. I'm also going to share this.