The barter economy, or exchanging goods and/or services without exchanging currency, is on the rise. According to the International Reciprocal Trade Association—an organization created to promote “just and equitable standards” in modern bartering—over $12 billion was attributed to the U.S. barter market in 2012, and that number is expected to continue to rise.
Strictly speaking, bartering is defined as a one-to-one exchange of goods or services (i.e. I give you my homemade kombucha in exchange for you changing the oil in my car), but there are other types of sharing or swapping that fit into this new money-free barter economy as well.
But first, let’s talk about about why bartering is a good idea.
Why the Barter Economy?
- Meets Basic Needs - Recent events in Greece have shown one reason for bartering--people don’t have much money to buy things, so they must barter in order to get the goods and services they need. In the U.S., when many lost jobs as a result of the recession, they turned to bartering as well.
- Builds Community - Bartering can strengthen communities and connections by encouraging neighbors to build their networks and to rely on one another.
- More Environmentally-friendly - While not always the case, bartering can be an eco-friendly opportunity to keep goods out of the landfill.
- Offers Alternatives - There are some goods and services not valued by the mainstream economy, but are still valued by individuals who need them. Things like helping older folks with grocery shopping, or homework help for kids, or teaching someone a craft or trade aren’t necessarily services you can make money from, but people still need help with those things.
- Promotes Unique Skills - Bartering can help you take advantage of your skills and share them with people who need them. For example, I learned about the food canning process as a result of a barter exchange.
Three Easy Ways to Get Started with the Barter Economy
- Bartering Clubs - Whether online or in your neighborhood, bartering clubs are a great resource. You can use Craigslist, Meetup, and other social media tools to find local clubs. Tradeaway and SwapRight are just a couple of the online sites you will find. Community gardens and food cooperatives are another form of food bartering clubs.
- Time Banks - Time banks aren’t necessarily considered traditional bartering, but they are part of the barter economy. The way it works is you list the services you have to offer (babysitting, car detailing, website creation, etc). For each hour of work you provide for others member, you earn a “time dollar,” which is redeemable for any service someone else has listed on the site. Learn more and find one near you at timebanks.org.
- Join a Specialty Club - Specialty bartering clubs exist for all sorts of things. Examples include: the community Babysitting Exchange, vacation home swaps like HomeExchange, and clothing swaps at Swap Style.
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