Bartering – What, Where, and How

It seems I always have excess of something…except money. So, an easy way to get rid of my excess and get more of the things I’m lacking is to barter. Or trade. Or swap. Whatever you want to call it, it’s not difficult once you know a few tricks.

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Bartering - What, where, and how to trade | The King's Table

What to Trade

Everyone has something to offer, so think outside the box about what you can trade. Almost any item (physical or digital) or service can be traded, as long as you legally have the rights to it. Obviously, don’t trade something that isn’t yours. Here are some examples to get you started:

Job-type services like carpentry, proofreading, photo shoots, consultations, computer maintenance, etc.

Chores like lawn mowing, baby sitting, washing the dogs, garden or farm tasks, cleaning, and running errands

Food or household products, like extras from couponing, gardening, farming, cooking, or baking. You can also trade food preservation, such as giving homegrown apples to someone if they’ll make you a couple of jars of apple butter.

Handmade crafts or artwork. It can be something elaborate like handmade furniture to something small like greeting cards.

Used items in good condition that you no longer need

“Outside the box” stuff – On the barter site Simbi, some people trade for opinions, advice, feedback, or simply someone to vent to.

Where to Trade

Opportunities to trade are everywhere as long as you’re willing to ask. For those uncomfortable with asking, start with the online sites and groups specifically geared toward bartering. If you don’t mind asking, try any of these:

Your own family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. Ask around for what you need or post a request on social media. Even if they don’t have it, they may point you to someone who does.

Facebook barter and swap groups – local or national

Special interest groups and clubs — Check local publications for announcements from local clubs. Otherwise, Facebook and are good places to find groups.

Craiglist — Unless someone says “no trades” in their descriptions, it can’t hurt to ask if they’d consider bartering.

Online trade sites like Simbi, U-Exchange, Tradeaway, Paperpack Swap, and TimeBanks

Etsy, if you have a store on it. There are Etsy groups for trading between artists and crafters.

Yard sales – Common household products are great trading items, since most people need food and toilet paper. Offer to trade homegrown produce, extras that you’ve gotten from couponing, or a gift card that you were given but won’t use.

Festivals or markets where you’re a vendor — Many vendors are up for trading with each other toward the end of the festival. Tell other vendors you’re up for trading if they want to check out your booth.

Community swaps – I’ve been to plant swaps and a homestead swap in my area. Some towns have swaps for food, handmade crafts, toys, and clothing. I’ve even heard of women’s accessory swaps and tool swaps. If you can’t find one, considering inviting your friends and hosting your own.

Tips for Better Trading

Be specific. If someone asks what you can trade, don’t respond with “I don’t know. I have lots of stuff. What are you looking for?” People either can’t think of what they need on the spur of the moment, or they have a list of hundreds of things they could use – most of which you probably won’t have. Before offering to trade, know the kinds of things you want and what you have to offer.

Make sure both parties walk away happy. Know the value of what you’re trading (what you’re offering and what you’re receiving) so that neither feels cheated at the end. If someone seems hesitant to trade, don’t push it. You can also offer a partial trade, where you pay for part of the item and trade for the rest.

Agree on the details. If it’s maintenance work, is the cost of parts included? Are revisions included if it’s a service like web design, graphic design, or proofreading?

Set a time frame. Both parts of the trade must be completed by a specific date instead of “someday.” If it’s an ongoing trade, agree to a certain length of time and then review the terms, to see if both parties want to continue trading.

Write down the agreement, so both parties have a copy. It prevents disputes if someone remembers the trade terms incorrectly.

How It’s Worked for Me

Just for inspiration, here’s a sample of some of the trades I’ve completed:

Watercolor painting for a handmade purse (Etsy)
Homegrown green beans for a fig tree (Craiglist)
Maintenance work for a gift card (from a friend)
Dried garden peas for handmade soap (local homestead swap)
Dried beans for bell pepper plants (yard sale)
Daylilies for aloe vera plants (local plant swap)

Note: If you barter regularly or involve your business in it, the IRS wants its cut. Keep records of your trades, and consult an accountant or tax preparer before filing.

Have you done any trading or bartering? Is it something you would do again?


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