Long before money was invented, people used the barter system to get what they wanted. Folks would exchange the goods they had and the services they could perform for other goods and services they needed.
In today’s society, with our advanced technology, bartering has made a huge comeback through technology. People can use the internet and social media to trade their things.
But what about homestead bartering? What good is it? Why do people want to barter in the first place? It may sound like some old-fashioned idea, but bartering is as much a part of homesteading as gardening or raising animals.
How to Get Started Bartering
Bartering isn’t really a “lost art”… we actually do it every day. Have you ever heard your parents, grandparents, or even your great-grandparents talk about “trading” with a store? It’s the same thing. Anytime you give someone money for goods or services, you’ve “traded” or “bartered” with them. But instead of swapping goods or services for goods or services, you’re giving them the money you were given to perform a task.
If you ever do any flea markets, swap meets, or farmers market stands, be sure to talk with your customers. If you don’t set-up a booth, but you still go to them, be sure to talk to the people at the booths that have things you’re interested in buying. Ask them if they’d take a barter. Be prepared to tell them what you can do for them, or what you have to offer. They may be willing to do an even trade, or do a partial trade with additional money (on either side of the trade).
Keep in mind there are many places on the internet where you can offer what you have in exchange for other goods and services. Craigslist is probably the most widely used, but there are even Facebook Groups and Yahoo Groups where bartering is not only allowed, it is encouraged. With some of those resources, you can actually browse through what people already have to find something you need before making an offer.
(Side Note: I would highly recommend using a lot of caution when bartering online. Be sure you’re setting up barters with people that actually live in your area so that you can see their items first-hand before you give them what you have. Don’t let yourself get ripped-off!)
Why Should You Learn to Barter?
If you’re deep in the homesteader lifestyle, your finances are likely very tight. You may not have a lot of cash to spare, and that’s reason enough to barter. Some homesteaders actually live in urban areas that are very small and don’t have enough room to grow everything they would like to grow, so they may share with their neighbors who grow something they don’t. It’s the perfect trade-off. You have tons of peppers, I have tons of tomatoes, let’s trade, and we can both make pico de gallo!
There are more benefits to bartering than just the actual exchange of goods and services, though. You’re also building community. It’s always nice to get out and get to know your neighbors and the people in your community. You’re also generating possible future customers. Once someone knows what you have to offer, they may come back to you over and over again, even if they have to pay you for what you have instead of bartering. It’s a great way to network and find out what is in high demand. You may be able to provide the high demand items – if not now, maybe in the future!
Something for you preppers to keep in mind, too — if SHTF ever does go down, chances are money won’t be worth anything more than fire starting material. Having the skill to successfully negotiate a trade between you and someone else will give you a distinct advantage over people who aren’t really keen on bartering. If you can sell yourself, you can sell your stuff in a barter.
What Stuff Should You Barter?
Well, what do you have that other people might want? What does someone you know have that you want? If you grow an excessive amount of produce, or you have animals that you shear for wool for yarn, or you have a particular set of skills, you can almost certainly find someone that will need what you have. Find someone that does something you can or has something you don’t and make the offer. What’s the worst they can say? “No.”
A few years ago, my lawn tractor was out of commission. No matter how many times I tried to fix it, it just wouldn’t stay running. I was reduced to pushing our huge plot. One day, I was out in the back garden and my neighbor happen to come over. We talked a bit, and he saw my massive harvest of cherry tomatoes. I offered him a handful, and we ate while we talked. He commented several times on how good those little cherry tomatoes were. By the end of our conversation, I noticed it was getting close to time to mow the lawn again. My neighbor offered to let me use his mower any time I wanted if I would supply him with some cherry tomatoes each time.
Tips for Successful Bartering
Be upfront with the people with whom you are bartering. Let them know exactly what you have for trade and exactly what you are expecting from them. You might even want to get it in writing (like a bartering bill of sale, so to speak). Make sure you’re being as fair as you can. If nothing else, give them a little more than they expect. Some people may tell you that once you’ve done that, those people will always expect more from you in the future. I say those people are wrong. I’ve done that with many people before and never once has anybody been upset that they didn’t get “more than they wanted” every time. Make them feel special about it when you do, though. “Hey, I added a little extra as a way to say thank you for working with me this time.”