Saving money by Barter: Is the art of bartering gone?

There are countless articles on ways to save money or spend less money, and how to do that using coupons or other tactics. But what about the artful skill of bartering? Exchanging your services in return for a colleague’s services. Would you be offended if someone offered to barter with you? Or would you be open to it? Is bartering considered cheap? Or smart?

Bartering Today

Bartering is as old as mankind. Whether it was trading berries for an article of clothing, or dance lessons for a haircut, there is no time limit on the convenience of bartering. TO be a successful barter, you need to find a specific value that you can provide to another person, and then find a value that they can provide to you.

For example, on the WE TV show “Downsized,” a show about a family trying to get out of debt, a son in the family needed extensive dental work that the family could not afford.  The father, a home contractor, offered to do some house renovations for the dentist in exchange for the dental work. This was a great example of bartering. Unfortunately, the dentist didn’t take the bait.

Is it embarrassing to barter?

These days, people looking to barter can turn to Craigslist to find someone who can exchange services. A friend of mine really needed a haircut. She went on Craigslist and found a hair stylist who was willing to barter her hair services in exchange for personal training. My friend was not a personal trainer but was a dance instructor. She emailed the girl, and she agreed to cut my friend’s hair in exchange for dance lessons.

Had she not thought of bartering, she would have been out money every time she went to get a haircut.

While there seems to be some stigma attached to the act of bartering—it implies that you’re hard on money, or that you can’t afford the services yourself—I don’t think most people would be offended if they were approached with a barter situation especially if it’s for a service they really need.

Even if you’re not a tradesman, you can still find services to offer, such as:

  • Babysitting
  • Gardening
  • House cleaning
  • Running errands
  • Doing someone’s taxes
  • Cutting the grass
  • Pet sitting

Tips for Bartering Successfully

There are a few tips for a successful barter negotiation:

Offer a service of equal value. Nobody wants to get duped. And offering to do someone’s taxes in exchange for babysitting for three weeks isn’t exactly an equal barter. When approaching someone about a barter situation, it’s important that the values are equal, whether it be a monetary value or time value. Babysitting for a Saturday night may be equal to doing taxes, depending on how extensive your taxes are.

Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Perhaps you’re in dire need of someone’s service, for example, car repairs. In this case, if they don’t take your original offer of equal value, then up the ante. Offer more of your services in exchange for their services. Or perhaps create a bundle offer, that includes some money, but not the entire cost and also includes your services.

Know your audience. If you’re on a message board on Craigslist for bartering services, then you probably know that people are open to bartering. However, if you’re approaching someone you may not know very well, then don’t take it personally if they turn you down.

Now go on and barter successfully!