Where I live in rural Michigan, bartering is very common. I make deals with neighbors and friends all the time to get what I need without parting with any cash. This helps me reduce my spending and save more money. The key to bartering is that the exchange has to be mutually beneficial. Both parties should walk away feeling satisfied with the deal. Here are some examples of trades I’ve made with people in my community and tips to help you get started with bartering.
Recently my retired neighbor was looking for someone to tutor her teenage grandson in English. Since I’m a freelance writer, I was confident I could help him raise his grade. In exchange for helping him out, he offered to assist me with some chores around the house like weeding my flower bed.
Another long-standing agreement I have with a neighbor is for snowblowing. He comes and plows my driveway during the winter and I watch his dog whenever he goes out of town.
Bartering isn’t just for services. During garden season people in my town trade canned goods and produce that they have too much of. Last year I traded some extra peach pie filling I canned for zucchini from a friend’s garden. A few days ago my neighbor was canning some lilac syrup from her bushes and needed lemons, but didn’t feel like going into town to buy some. I had extra lemons on hand and traded them for a can of the finished product.
Bartering helps ensure that none of my food or garden produce goes to waste before I can use it. Plus I’ve gotten some pretty tasty treats by sharing food with my neighbors. But if you don’t have garden produce to exchange, you can also trade clothes, crafts, electronics, toys, or any other material goods for the items and services you need.
Bartering Is All About Relationships
Although the bartering I do with my neighbors may seem transactional, it doesn’t feel that way in practice. That’s because bartering is all about relationships and based on a genuine desire to help other people out. There are plenty of times I’ve shared produce with a neighbor or assisted them with a task expecting nothing in return. But usually they’ll offer something as a way of saying thank you, whether it’s help with a chore on my to-do list or a homemade pie.
If you want to barter to save money but don’t know where to begin, start by building relationships with people in your community. You probably won’t have much luck if you go into a random store and try to cut a deal. But if you offer a fair trade to a friend you already have rapport with, you’ll get much further in my experience.
Some people also trade online on bartering exchange websites like BarterQuest. I prefer to trade with folks in my community. But if you don’t have any luck bartering locally, you can try trading with people online instead. Just be careful when trading with strangers and make sure you watch out for scams.
How Do You Come Up With a Fair Trade?
If you’re new to bartering, it can be hard to figure out what would make a fair trade. It can help to think about the monetary value of the goods and services you’re exchanging.
The lemons I gave my neighbor only cost me around $3. The lilac syrup she gave me in exchange would’ve probably cost at least $7 from a specialty grocery store. So at first glance it looks like I got the better deal. But my neighbor saved gas and didn’t have to inconvenience herself by running to the store in the middle of canning. So we were both happy with the trade, which is what’s important.
When you trade services, it can also be helpful to think about the time commitment involved in each task. It might not be the best idea to trade 8 hours of lawn work for a 20-minute haircut, for example, unless the stylist works at a high-end salon. The monetary value or time commitment of the items you’re bartering probably won’t match up exactly every time. But as long as no one feels like they’re getting the short end of the stick, you’re going about bartering the right way.
Have you ever bartered for goods and services you needed or wanted? How much money did you save by trading? Let me know in the comments section below!
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Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.