It’s a fact of life: Just when you’re caught up on bills and wham! Something comes along and takes the wind out of your sails. A flat tire, a broken dishwasher, a broken heater — in the dead of winter — all guaranteed to set you back.
With the advent of the Internet and web sites like Facebook, Craigslist and Tradeaway, your already struggling budget might not suffer as much as you think. Why? One word: Bartering. According to Google, bartering is the action or system of exchanging goods or services without using money.
When you think of bartering, what comes to mind? Perhaps the old days when people would offer handmade crafts in exchange for bread or fish. Or maybe a community corkboard with fliers offering tutoring services, or free rides for other help. But just like one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, there’s likely someone wanting exactly what you have, and vice versa. And with social media and barter sites for trading your stuff, you probably won’t need to find a local mercantile down by the docks to do it!
Bartering on Social Media
Sites like Craigslist make this type of trading easy. Simply go to the site and search for the word “barter.” (If you use the word “trade” you’ll bring up every car dealer on Craigslist willing to take a “trade-in.” Using the word “barter” filters out all those unwanted vehicle ads.) Or, if you don’t want to search the whole site, Craigslist does offer a “barter” tab under their “for sale” section. Searching the whole site, however, will bring up listings outside the “for sale” section. A quick search of a local site revealed that everything from cars to catfish could be traded on Craigslist.
If it’s a repair you’re after, Craigslist can help you there, too. Many repairmen are willing to trade their skills in exchange for something you might have on hand — like that old guitar in your garage, or maybe your own skills as a laborer.
Looking for someone to help you with marketing, web site development or advertising? Try using the “gigs” section on Craigslist. Office professionals frequently post help wanted ads on-line; sometimes these professionals are willing to exchange their services for a few hours of your time. It’s a win-win.
Need inspiration? Watch Craigslist Joe, a documentary where a guy lives off the generosity of others and trades his services and the few things he has for free travel, food, and a warm place to sleep.
Facebook makes things even easier. Whole pages are dedicated to trading items. Start by entering your city’s name, then add the word “trade” or ‘barter” behind it. If that doesn’t work, use your own wall to advertise your “need.” You’d be surprised at the quality items people are willing to off-load for pennies on the dollar, sometimes even for free. If none of your friends respond to your request, start your own barter page. Odds are you aren’t the only one in your town looking to save a penny or two.
Trading on Barter Sites
It’s a social media world. If you can’t find what you’re looking for within your own city, expand your search. Web sites like Tradeaway help people to connect on a state-wide or even national level. You can search by state or by user name. Everything from books to horseback riding lessons are offered on the site.
Bartering has been around for years, and it’s not just for those who are short on cash. Sites like IMS Barter are aimed at white collar workers. They offer a list of 16,000 professionals willing to trade. Doctors, lawyers, radio stations — you never know who might be offering their services.
If you’re looking for something specific, like a used cell phone or a used book, use Google to search for a site dedicated to exchanging that item. Books, for example, can be traded for free on Paperback Swap or BookMooch.
As always, be careful out there. Never purchase an item over the Internet; It’s always better to deal face to face. Sometimes using a public location such as a gas station or a coffee house is a safer way of making a deal. Plug in any electrical appliances and play any CDs or DVDs you might be acquiring before handing over the money.
Go on — don’t be shy. Tell your community what you need. You never know who might be willing to help.
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Pamela is the author of thirty-eight romance novels with more coming out every year. She’s best known for her NASCAR romance novels, but writes non-fiction, too. Pamela’s a regular columnist for the American Quarter Horse “Journal” and writes for SuperMoney.com where she shares her personal finance tips on how to thrive in this economy.