Back to the Basics of Bartering

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Our current economic system has socialised us to exchange a form of money – whether cash or credit – to receive goods and services. Unfortunately, whenever we run short of this precious monetary commodity, we’re unable to obtain the things that we need or want.

In these times when finding extra cash is definitely challenging, we have to become creative if we want to maintain our standard of living. There really is no shortage of the items that we need in the marketplace; the problem lies with our inadequate supply of money to pay for them. What if there was another way to get products and services without having to spend money?

In olden times before a system of monetary exchange evolved, people were able to acquire the things they needed to survive, by exchanging an item they already had with other people’s goods. So a chicken farmer could supply eggs in return for milk from a farmer who raised cows. Bartering occurs when two parties swap goods or services without any monetary payment being received.

Is it possible to go back to the basics of the bartering process in these modern times? Definitely! While we will never fully replace the need for money, bartering in different forms can help us to spend less and still achieve our desired lifestyle.

Here are some ways we can implement bartering to our benefit:

Trading Your Skills

Many of us have talents and skills that are in demand; but most of us have never figured out how to market our abilities to profit from them. Bartering can help us to trade our talents and receive the benefit of someone else’s skills in return. The idea is to exchange services or products that would normally have similar monetary value; and it works best when it costs only a little time and effort.

I have successfully used this bartering process to obtain various services, as in these tough times, many people need financial coaching, although they may not have the money to pay for it. Fortunately, a lot of things I need – catering, personal care, proposal writing – can be exchanged for my advice. Here’s how a typical barter would work: if a money-coaching session costs $3,000JMD, then I would exchange my advice for a salon treatment of similar value.

There are countless ways that you can use this principle. If you’re a math teacher, you could offer to tutor your gardener’s child in exchange for landscaping services. If you’re a tailor, you could sew clothes for your barber in exchange for haircuts for your family. If you have a marketable skill, write down all the services you would like to have, and simply ask around until you find someone who is willing to barter for what you have to offer. What do you have to lose?

Everyday Bartering

Even if you don’t have a particular talent or skill that can be traded, you can use your imagination to find things to barter. Remember that everyone has requirements that may be difficult to meet due to money shortages. To be successful at bartering, you have to be perceptive of people’s needs and be willing to do tasks that can make their lives more comfortable or convenient.

Here are a few ideas where ‘one hand can scratch another’s back’:

. You need gas for your car, your friend needs transportation – Your friend can buy enough petrol for the week in exchange for your driving services;

. You need a break from your kids, your friend needs to use the internet – Your friend can supply babysitting services on the weekend in return for access to your computer on weekdays;

. You are tired of cooking on Sundays, so are all your friends – You can arrange dinner parties where the preparation and location of the meal is rotated among friends every week.

For everyday bartering to be successful, each person must have a very clear concept of what is required by the other party, and must be dependable and timely in carrying out the agreed tasks.

Bartering Online

Although the bartering concept is not very popular in Jamaica, it is a growing phenomenon elsewhere in the world. There are several websites such as Swapthing.com or Craigslist.com that facilitate the easier exchange of millions of products and services. People are actively exchanging objects such as cars, clothing, jewellery, books, toys, and even real estate; and jobs such as catering, photography, personal training and graphic design.

It wouldn’t be difficult to bring bartering big-time to Jamaica. An enterprising entrepreneur could start a bartering club that would allow persons to list their available products or services and state what they would like to receive in exchange. The service could be provided both online and in magazine format. Think of all the Jamaicans who could potentially be enjoying the benefits of bartering in today’s economy!

Copyright © 2009 Cherryl Hanson Simpson

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