The Art of the Better Barter

Bartering and trade are really another version of SFN, Something for Nothing. You have something you don’t want, need or can spare, and you can trade it for another something for essentially nothing. This is a goldmine strategy for frugal folks.


Bartering as a skill, is based on several things. Newness, negotiation and networking. You need to be creative about what and how you can barter. A lot of frugal folks barter their skills for items or other skills they want or need. There are also plenty of websites where you can barter, swap and trade away. I like Lista because it is free and there are lots of categories to choose from. Facebook, of course, is the motherlode of bartering and trade options but I treat it as I do Craigslist, using extreme caution. I once had a hankering for a David Rowland original chair for use in my office. If you don’t know what that is, it is only the most incredibly well-designed chair ever. As I searched Craigslist and other sites, two options came up within my budget. One seller was happy to meet up in a very public place, the other insisted I come to his very remote residence and even said I should not bring anyone else, he didn’t like extra visitors. Can anyone say red flag? I would have to have been crazy to pursue the latter and didn’t. Instead, my daughter lived nearby the other seller, met him in a very public parking lot for me and made the buy but only after she flipped the chair over to make sure Rowland’s signature was on the bottom. Rowland was such an amazing craftsman and designer, he made sure his chairs carried his signature. I love, love, love my David Rowland chair, it is truly a masterpiece of industrial design. Finding and buying it wasn’t a barter per say but the rules still apply, when it comes to websites like Facebook and Craigslist, just use common sense is all I am saying. And, according to Scoot Your Butt Over a Little Bit, Please Desi’s mom, many police stations now routinely offer citizens a safe meeting place by delegating parking spots right outside of the police station. Could anything be more appropriate? This is the perfect spot to meet a stranger and if you ask me, where most divorcing or divorced couples should pick up and drop off their kids. There isn’t a divorced parent, myself included, who doesn’t wish we’d had that option back in the day.

Networking. My preferred strategy for bartering is to create and expand a network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances that I trust. I once swapped an old exercise bike that was gathering dust in my garage for a star gazing telescope with a former colleague. My hairdresser and I routinely swap produce. Right before the last appointment I had scheduled, she texted me, “What do you have?” I knew that text meant that one or more of her fruit trees must be producing excess fruit. I had a bag full of limes and traded them for peaches that I promptly turned into peach pie and muffins. My herb garden is one of my go-to options for bartering summer time produce. If someone has excess zucchini (these people always seem to find me) I can always offer up bunches of otherwise pricy herbs as a trade if I have no produce of my own to swap. I’ve never been turned down, by the way. When our now 85 pound pit bull puppy out grew things like her playpen and carrier, I traded the nearly new equipment for items I needed but didn’t want to pay for. herbs-1140763_1920.jpg

Negotiations. Everything, they say, is negotiable. I ‘ve traded my professional skills for items or skills I needed. I have written press releases, created marketing materials and generated social media content in exchange for landscaping, home maintenance and repair and even discounts on large buys. When I bought an AC system, turned out my heating unit also needed replacing as it was really, really old. This represented a major expense costing me thousands of dollars. I worked with the vendor who installed everything and received a considerable discount for creating some marketing materials for his company. He had used contractors for creating marketing materials before but thought their pricing expensive, especially for a family owned business. I’m fast, accurate and creative and it took me very little time to write up exactly what he needed. The result was a great discount on my new system. A win-win. Oh, and because I offered him cash and did this during the down season, I received an even steeper discount. Cha-ching. manager-2031908_1920.jpg

Newness. Look at your stuff with a fresh eye, as things were brand new. Anything that has been languishing in your garage, gathering dust, consider bartering it for items or services you need. If you have a garden or fruit trees and don’t have time to process the excess produce, consider bartering your crops for things you need. Put out the word at work, church, among your friends and neighbors. This is also part of networking of course but it is also about looking at what you have as new. I know a group of women who really do get together twice a year for a clothes swap. I’ve yet to find anyone with my particular fashion style but I would be open to a clothes swap if I did. Book swaps are common, check with your local library and book clubs.







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