Bartering is just like trading lunch at school

Bartering Your Way to Savings

by Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L

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When you were in school and weren't happy with the lunch that Mom packed, you traded your peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple for your friend's tuna fish sandwich and banana. How clever you felt, discovering the concept of trading goods. But historians report that way back in about 9000 B.C., people were trading cattle for other goods. This practice became known as bartering. It wasn't until about 1000 B.C. that metal coins came into existence, followed by paper currency in the 800s A.D; using money in exchange for goods and services is just another form of bartering.

The recent tough economy has given people today the opportunity to become more creative in stretching their dollar. Consequently, bartering is making a comeback. Bartering groups are springing up in neighborhoods around the country and numerous online bartering networks are just a click away.

Bartering goods is a great way to acquire the things you want.

While reorganizing at home, you might find some things no longer needed that might be enjoyed by others. Books and textbooks, compact discs, videos, and DVDs often find their way to some back corner on a shelf, gathering dust from lack of use. Give them a new home in exchange for some of a friend's former favorites. Swap toys, games and puzzles that are no longer used. You might even expand this bartering idea to clothing accessories, such as scarves, purses and costume jewelry, and for home furnishings, such as throw pillows, curtains and other decorative items. You'll get exciting new things any time of year!

Perhaps you and your friends can get organized the next time you need to buy some of the same goods. First, do some planning as a group. Then, buy larger-than-you-need quantities and do some trading. You can easily do this with purchasing school supplies like pens, pencils and notebook paper each semester, and for grocery shopping. Go ahead and buy that toilet paper 12-roll pack at the superstore or that mega-sized box of laundry detergent and swap with your friends. There may even be some items you want from the home improvement or hardware store that are cheaper if bought in larger quantities, such as garden rock, potting soil, or seeds. Check with friends first and then buy big.

Time shares are popular for vacation lodging spots. Why not take this same concept and do some time sharing with neighbors and friends for some of the tools you have at home but don't use often. A few devices that could be time-shared might include lawn mowers, outdoor blowers, wet-dry vacuums, weed cutters, ladders, hedge trimmers, chain saws, and even some of the smaller tools, such as power saws for carpentry projects. Be sure to set some initial guidelines on safe use, maintenance, and storage.

Bartering your services stretches dollars.

There are many services that families currently hire that can easily be swapped with a friend. Capable, trustworthy babysitters are difficult to find and can be expensive. Why not organize a babysitting club with friends; select a weekend night when you watch children from several families overnight at your home in exchange for several weekend nights when they watch your children. The kids will have fun developing friendships with the other children. Transporting children and carpooling can be shared in the same way.

Indoor and outdoor repairs and especially yardwork can become overwhelming at times. Organize work parties or swaps where groups of people gather at a home and accomplish a specific task, such as scraping, priming and painting the exterior of the garage or laying sod. The work will have a party-like feel to it and will get finished with a sense of fun and community.

Everyone possesses at least a few special skills that can be used to bargain with friends in exchange for things you need. Perhaps you can teach piano, singing, or other music lessons. Or maybe you are computer savvy, a good writer or have above-average bookkeeping skills. Possibly you are good at haircutting. All of these are valuable abilities that others can benefit from via a swap. You just need to network with people to organize a bartering community.

If you have a small pick-up truck, you may be the envy of the neighborhood when others occasionally need to haul something that won't fit into their car or minivan. Offer your services to transport items such as that long piece of lumber from the lumber yard in exchange for something you need or want. You'll be amazed at how many people will want to barter with you!

Theme parties can be especially fun for adults or children. Plan a bartering party to exchange toys, books, or CDs. You can ask people to wrap them to add an element of surprise. Or organize a bartering exchange in your area. Bartering is economical, fun, and a wonderful way to enhance a sense of community into your family.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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