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Whether you live in the country or the city, you may be able to save money by bartering creatively. If you have a budget and are working hard to live BELOW your means, then bartering for goods could help you get there. Simply put, you can use your cash for items already in your budget and then receive/get other items or services you want or need by trading your own goods or services with others.
In order to demonstrate how this might work, I am going to share an example from my own local community. There is a local volunteer exchange network here called “Sharing Hands” that people can informally give to and then take from as they need it. One of the administrators of the program stated that the most common requests that come to this program are rides for people without cars and meal preparation for people who are ill or unable to do this for themselves.
In order to provide some security for all involved, all members of the network need to provide a recent police security check. This is provided by local police stations. There may or may not be a charge associated with this service. Because I was technically considered a volunteer, mine was free.
How contributing to this network saved me money
I own a car, and many people were making requests for rides. When I was already planning to drive to the nearest town (banking, lower-cost groceries, etc.), I could be paired with a local person who needed a drive. The network then offered me a modest amount of cash or a gas station gift card as a thank you. While people in larger cities can do an exchange like this through Lyft or Uber, these services are not commonly used in my rural area. So, in this way, I was able to help local people in need and benefit from owning my car by being able to reduce my gas expenses for my regular car trips.
Other times, I did not receive any cash or gift cards for driving people to medical appointments or court dates. However, when I was sick a while ago and was too ill to go out and buy groceries, I was able to call the network and have chicken soup and other food items dropped by my tiny home at no charge. I considered this a withdrawal from the service against my other contributions.
Want to try bartering but don’t belong to a group?
One quick way to get started is to access an existing group. On social media platforms, there are many local Buy- and-Sell groups. Many are identified by a town or city area and something like “24/7 Yard Sale” and the like. Some are even specialized to vehicles and parts, such as “Cars, Trucks, and Bikes” in our local area. I have found some identify themselves by the local phone area code, such as “416 Cars Trucks and Bikes.” Apparently, there are many regional bartering groups starting up on Telegram. You may also want to check those out.
This is a great opportunity to test the waters. I have seen many posts in groups like this where someone is looking for a trade. Hurray: bartering!
Now, let’s look at some examples of ways to save money using such informal groups.
You have a service
Say you want to save money on gas. (Don’t we all?) You could post that you’re willing to take passengers to destinations you’re already heading.
You could say you’re open to trades and see what people have to offer. Another common trade with regard to driving? Carpooling! We have many carpooling parking lots locally where people meet up and save gas by driving together.
Don’t be afraid to be creative here! I recently saw a job ad for an on-call overnight pet sitter locally. If I had a pet and needed to be out of town every once in a while, I might have called them up and applied, saying that I would trade on-call pet sitting for them in exchange for pet sitting for my dog when I needed it. Pet sitting is expensive!
You have a skill
Don’t be shy! Everyone has a skill they can barter for. You can cook? Someone quite busy might like a homemade casserole every week. You can clean? Organizing and cleaning services are always getting hits and comments on the Buy-and-Sell groups I read. You’re a writer? Some people might like a custom poem to celebrate a special event, or they might like their grandmother’s journals transcribed and edited. You could post your skill and say you’re open to trades, or you could post with a specific goal in mind, such as saving money on a plumbing job.
You have something that you want to get rid of
I see a lot of posts on the “Car, Truck, and Bike” groups where someone has a toy they want to trade. Do you have a motorcycle you’re no longer driving, but you’d love to try snowmobiling? You could post for a trade. That old car on blocks in the yard? Someone might like it for parts. What do YOU need? You could post a list of items and parts you have available and let people know what you’re looking for. You never know!
You make stuff
These days, it’s great to be a producer rather than a consumer. It gives you options. If you already make jams in the summer and fall, what if you made an extra batch? You could post this on a local Buy-and-Sell and see what people are willing to trade for.
For several years, I have traded my extra Roma tomatoes to my friend Beth in exchange for her homemade chili sauce. I can only can so much! I give quite a lot to the local food bank as well.
My bartering experience with Beth’s homemade chili sauce took a bit of coaxing. After I had first tasted her sauce, it was so delicious that I approached her right away. Would she be interested in trading my organic homegrown Romas for chili sauce? At first, she was reluctant to trade and wanted to pay me, as she did not have any experience with bartering. I assured her she could just provide me with however many jars she felt were fair. She was more than generous! Each year, I look forward to enjoying Beth’s tasty chili sauce with my scrambled eggs. I save a lot of money by trading something that I can’t use myself.
Willing to trade comments……for responses!
Bartering can be a great way to keep your cash in your pocket and still get what you need. Could you see yourself trying any of the creative bartering tips offered here? Do you have one you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.
Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!
12 thoughts on “How Creative Bartering Can Save You Money”
How the IRS says they treat barter transaction income for US citizens
There is one exception that I know of. There is a $110,000 income exemption for US citizens’ earnings outside of the US or its territories (and maybe a higher exemption in Puerto Rico).
I’m sure there are some “backdoor” barter transactions that take place, but people need to know what the IRS risk is … depending on what country they are a citizen of, the size of the transaction(s), and what rules apply (or don’t) in the country where such barter transactions take place.
Hi Lewis, Thank you for this reminder that we need to consider the IRS when bartering. I was not aware of that exemption: interesting! Your knowledge and comments are always appreciated!
The law was written with good intentions lawyers and plastic surgeons bartering representation for “better” presentation so to speak. Or in other words, large dollar barter.
Giving tomatoes to someone who in turn gives you potatoes isn’t likely to raise a red flag. A website/app/digital trail/paper trail might catch someone’s attention. Just as banks etc. have to know your customer, I would caution knowing with whom you have in the circle.
Hi Selena, Thanks for providing some context to the law. I think your ideas provide good context for someone who might be nervous about getting started because of concerns with the IRS. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the community.
From the IRS website,
Exceptions. Barter exchanges are not required to file Form 1099-B for:
Exchanges through a barter exchange having fewer than 100 transactions during the year,
Exempt foreign persons as defined in Regulations section 1.6045-1(g)(1), or
Exchanges involving property or services with an FMV of less than $1.00.
so, if you do less that 100 exchanges per year with a barter exchange you are exempt.
Hi Barry, Thank you for taking the time to look these details up. This is a valuable addition to the article. As a Canadian, I am no expert in what the IRS wants. I do hope that there is an exemption for less than 100 transactions per year. That seems reasonable and would allow most people to barter locally for goods and services they need without undue red tape. If anyone else has experience in this area, please feel free to post some comments. Many thanks!
I recently published a small book entitled “Prepper’s Guide to Wealth.” Here’s an excerpt from the section on barter. It has a somewhat different spin than what you customarily see.
“A barter economy necessitates haggling. No more will we amble around Walmart comparing price tags. The prices we pay for things will be subject to negotiation . . .
“Story time. I once worked in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, a state in Malaysia. Actually, Kuching is on the island of Borneo (Land of Headhunters). My wife was with me. I wanted to buy her some jewelry as a souvenir. Neither of us spoke Bahasa Melayu, the local language. A native woman, the mother of a young man I worked with in the office, offered to take us shopping. We went to a jewelry store. The jeweler was Chinese. The store faced a crowded, noisy, open-air street market. An electronic screen hung on the wall flashing, minute-by-minute, the current New York price of gold expressed in ringgit (the local currency). The atmosphere was festive.
We picked out a necklace. The native woman haggled. After five minutes the price came down. Way down. My wife said, “Wow! We’ll take it.” The jeweler smiled. “Sold.”
“The native woman was not happy when we left the shop and started down the street. She was scowling. “I wasn’t finished,” she told us. “You paid way too much.” She clearly felt we had wasted her time.
“It’s fair to conclude that having desirable barter items will be essential in the barter economy that likely awaits us. But negotiating skills, please note, will be equally important.”
I have found that even Walmart will barter with the following caveats; You have talk to someone with the authority to negotiate, like the department manager. You have to give them a good reason to negotiate, (this one is dirty, broken, missing parts or I represent a charitable cause). And you should be polite and respectful.
Hi Barry, Yes polite and respectful go a long way. I am a big believer in “you’ll never get it if you don’t ask.” Even in our local thrift shop, if you find two similar items and one has a lower price, they don’t mind at all if you bring them up and ask for the lower price. That would be good practice for beginners. I always approach this as “I’m going to try and see. Whatever the outcome, I’ll be positive and polite.” Happy bartering everyone. Get out there and give it a go!
Hi Ron, What a great comment! Thank you for your story, which is a fantastic lesson on haggling skills. My own have greatly improved over the years. I do agree that it’s best to get practicing now. I appreciate your sharing this valuable advice with the FL community! Happy Bartering!
Bartering is a long term effort, start now to develop the skills and contacts that will be necessary in the future. Always be polite and treat others with respect, even if others do not. I have found that people will give the best trade to someone they like, even if they just met a moment ago. Remember, you are developing a reputation that will follow you for years to come. Bartering can be a lot of fun but you will need to expect all kinds of people both honest and dishonest, buyer be ware. A few good places to get started are yard sales, flea markets and the like and web sites like “The Outdoor Trader”. Start small so that any “losses” are small (learning experiences). It is best to specialize somewhat so you can recognize value. (Though right now it is easy to research on the internet with your smart phone, that may not always be possible.) Finally a word about fear… you have the same eyes, ears, hands, feet, and brain as the one facing you and they have the same doubts and fears as you do, so get out there and do it!
Hi Barry, I really like your point about building a reputation. If there is a real SHTF, reputation will precede you in our lightly populated rural area. No matter what trade I make, large or small, I always try to offer a slightly better bargain that what I receive. In addition, it’s well known locally that I offer consultations in herbalism for anyone in need at no charge. Thanks for your comment. Great advice and encouragement for someone getting started!