Despite the advances we have made in today's society, when times get tough people often look back to the old tried-and-true methods of coping with problems. Case in point: bartering.
With many people strapped for cash, bartering is making a big comback. Bartering has been around since before there was such a thing as money. During the Great Depression, people often exchanged the performance of work for food, hence the age-old sign "Will Work for Food" held up by the down-and-out, or those who want you to think they are down-and-out.
What is bartering? Basically, you exchange something you have for something that you want. Money doesn't change hands. Most forms of barter involved exchanging one personal service, such as babysitting services, for another, such as mowing a lawn. People also barter personal possessions for something else they want, such as trading clothing for a toaster oven. You get the idea.
Bartering is nothing new in the business world, either. Radio stations often barter free ads in exchange for something they need, such as office supplies, furniture or even a company vehicle. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia had to barter with other countries to get the goods it needed because its currency couldn't be converted to dollars or pounds or yen. It traded something it had, such as vodka (which could be resold for cash) for something it needed, such as grain or electronic items.
With credit in short supply and money tight, many people are turning to the Internet to help them facilitate their trades. Sites such as Craigs List and u-exchange.com feature long lists of proposed trades. A recent browse through a Craig's List turned up a photo studio willing to shoot wedding for free in exchange for cleaning services, re-roofing services for the installation of an in-ground pool and someone willing to trade a bunk bed for a TV set. With bartering, the possibilities are endless, and best of all it doesn't cost you anything other than your time or an item you don't need or want anymore.
Ready to barter? A few tips to keep in mind:
1. Don't be greedy. Only barter for the things you need. Conversely, don't give away anything that you really want to keep. That will really sour a trade.
2. Keep good records. Be sure to note your trades. Yes, these can be taxed by the IRS, especially if you trade for something of significant value.
3. Reach an agreement and stick to it. Be very specific about what you are trading and work out the details ahead of time either by phone or email before actually carrying out the trade. Remember, the trade should be beneficial to everybody. The items you are trading with each other don't necessarily have to be of equal value, but both parties should be happy with their trade.
Bartering can be very basic. Are you good at baking cakes? You might swap your expertise and bake a wedding cake for someone in exchange for vegetables grown in their garden. This summer, I plan to swap organic herbs grown in my garden in exchange for other items I don't grow in my garden.
Everybody has a skill or an unwanted item they can trade, and that means they have something of value. Now all you have to do is put it to use.
Good luck, and happy bartering!
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