Monday, June 4, 2012

How to Barter

Part of the way we meet our needs and wants is with barter. Because my husband doesn't work for pay, he has more time to barter than I do. In fact, with the exception of cold winter months, my husband works hard every day for barter, for the experience of learning a task, or just for free because he's a kind man.

Even though he does most of the barter work, we both use barter to meet many of our needs. Here are a few things we do, have done, or plan to do in the future using barter instead of dollars:

  •  When we moved here, my husband did not know how to build or repair much of anything. However, because he has offered his services to others who are building their house in the area he has gained many valuable skills and many free, hot meals on the job site! He is also developing handy man skills that he can use should our family need more money. Since we plan to build our own natural house and business within the next couple of years, these new skills will very shortly save us tens of thousands of dollars!
  • Although we were able to heat our home last winter partially for free, for this next winter my husband has struck a deal with some local elderly residents to get free heating wood for us all winter long. The deal is that he will help these residents harvest the wood on their property. My husband will help get enough for them and will also cut and deliver (using their truck) enough wood for us in exchange for his work.
  • This summer I am considering taking unpaid work with a woman to exchange child care for cooking lessons. This woman is the best cook I know and she is in need of about 10 hours of childcare each week, so I will watch her child and she will teach me to be a better cook. Of course, I will then share her recipes with you! 
  • One of our kids gets drum lessons in exchange for us allowing his drum teacher to park a vehicle at our house. This saves his teacher the money and hassle of having to pay to park his car elsewhere.
  • Our other kid gets piano lessons in exchange for work my husband does.
  •  We often do work in exchange for food from someone's garden, homecooked meals, or other supplies.
  • My husband has worked for families in exchange for them coming to help us when we need a task done.  
  • As a family we try to volunteer for others when the opportunity presents itself. We've found that these gifts of time often come back to us in one way or another. 

 If our barter arrangements are too specific, here are a few barter ideas that anyone can do!

  • Swap childcare with another family.
  • Teach someone a skill in exchange for having them teach you a skill.
  • Watch your neighbor's pets or house sit for them in exchange for returning the favor next time you are on vacation.
    Photo Credit: La Grande Farmers' Market
  •  Run errands for your neighbors in exchange for gas money or car maintenance. This can pay for your own trips to get things as well. (This is one we also do.)
  • Trade homemade items or homegrown foods with your neighbors.

Barter work can be difficult because so many people are pressed for time. We've found the abundance of time to be the biggest benefit of living a simple life. Working with others in our community for barter creates good feelings and has helped us to teach our children about kindness and responsibility.

Do you barter? Do you volunteer? Do you see value in exchanging goods without using money?

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