In this new global economy (mainly the collapse of it- and I believe for many around the world this collapse isn’t ‘new’ to them) something profound is taking shape that gives people like me the opportunity to continue to participate in acquiring wealth and obtaining the services I need in exchange for what I can offer. Remember Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? “THIS is Barter-town!”
The fear of ‘not having’ doesn’t need to be oppressive and immobilizing. It can cause a loss of momentum but it can also lead to more creative innovations around the world and in our communities. There are many who are starting organizations that give to others (check out Give Anonymously) through contributions people have made. Kiva is another organization that I am profoundly impressed with. Along with a sense of despair there is simultaneously a growing sense of hope and taking dominion over our new reality.
For a few years now I’ve pondered the issue of bartering as a system for finding resources or supplies that I need (our family has been ‘un-wealthy’ for quite some time-haha). For example when I need a babysitter for a few hours I often don’t have the $20 or so to give to a high school student (or even a university student) but I feel that they have done me a huge service and their time is worth something. So I usually offer to bake them a few loaves of fresh, artisan bread and give some homemade jam. This can retail around the $15-$20 mark. It’s something I’m good at and something that most people would love to receive. My husband offers help with people’s computer issues and he usually does it for free but I know he could trade someone for his services.
Bartering is catching on as more people feel the pinch on their wallets and I’m convinced that it’s a sustainable way to circulate wealth, create a sense of community and strengthen relationships. Hand shakes are coming back as a form of contract (taking someone at their word) and people in neighborhoods are beginning to share common goods like lawn mowers or snow blowers to cut down on buying more than everyone needs.
I recently had a conversation with a friend in India over Facebook because she wrote how frustrating it was that money was needed to get a lot of things done. She was referring to buying property and while there are still things that only money can buy I threw out the challenge to her to look at wealth as ‘resources’ and not paper money. Money use to be cows, chickens and land, not paper and coins! Mainly one needs to barter services in exchange for other services and you need to start small. We should also ‘pay’ someone the proper amount for what they have given to us. Two hours of their services=two hours of your services. My friend in India has really impressed and inspired me in that it was only a few days ago that I mentioned it and already she is trying out her bartering feet, so to speak. She is going to try trading a girl her admin services in exchange for mentoring the young girl. I love it! It’s something both of them want and need. Win/win!
For those experiencing more of a financial crunch and even those working for a ‘non paying’ organization (my family worked in a non-profit, Christian organization for years and always felt we needed more money) bartering has HUGE benefits! I’m learning about the art of bartering myself but I think there are a few tips:
1. Start small and just…. start! Try something. If you need towels throw out an update on Facebook (or church) saying, “Need kitchen towels and will trade something for them. What do you need?” Also, look around for things you have that are nice but you could easily give away. Make someone an offer.
2. Enjoy the process (don’t get too discouraged if your efforts aren’t met). At some point they will be. There is a real opportunity for this to create more community and relationship so keep it in perspective, it’s not just you who’s getting something you want.
3. Be fair with what you offer. Bartering can be borrowing as well. Borrow someone’s boat for the weekend in exchange for cleaning their house (unless it’s a total dump, then run…. don’t walk…. run far, far away from them and never borrow their boat!)
4. Think about what you can do even if you’re one of those Eeyore types that thinks you ‘can’t do anything’. Can you type fast? Cut hair? Sew? Bake? Fix cars? Work on computers? Clean? Garden? Write? Organize? Do you brew your own? Roast your own? Love to watch children? I know a friend who is trading a portion of her rent in exchange for watching a family’s baby during the day.
5. Barter ‘things’ as well as ‘services’. “I’ll trade someone a working hair straightener for my old 80’s hair crimper”
6. Be fearlessly generous!
Do you have any tips on bartering? Leave a comment.
Enjoy life in the new economy.