How to get what you want without paying a dime

When I hear the term “bartering” I often think of the days when you would go into town with your prized cow and trade it for a pig, a goat and a few chickens. After all, bartering is one of the oldest forms of commerce.

Well, bartering is making a comeback. Because so many people in this economy are strapped for cash, trading goods and services for other goods and services is gaining ground as an alternative to spending money. And thanks to the internet, bartering has become easier than ever.

Websites that offer a platform for trading goods and services are growing at a quick rate – Swap.com boasts nearly 4 million members. Another growing site is Barterquest.com, which also features big ticket items, such as real estate, boats, and cars. You can also check out the barter section of craigslist.org, which is updated daily.

Maybe you’ve recently had a baby or a wedding and have found yourself with a lot of things you no longer need that other people could benefit from. Or perhaps you have a skill, but you’re just not sure how to market it. Bartering is a great way to experience the gains from trade you heard about in Economics 101.

In order to be successful, it’s important to continually look for valuable opportunities to put your skills to work. For example, during a recent visit to the hair salon, my stylist and I were talking about his website. I gave him a few simple tips for ways he could improve the site, starting with removing the pictures of scantily clad women holding machine guns (I kid you not). I realized that because he’s a guy, he doesn’t have a clue what women want to see when they’re shopping around online for a hairdresser – but I do.

So after a brief discussion we worked out a deal: I would re-design his website and he would do my hair for free – cut, style, highlights – anything I wanted. It has turned out to be a great deal given the fact that those are all things I need to have done anyway. Plus, with this deal I could enhance my resume and build my web skills. Win-win!

Odds are you have skills that are more valuable than you may realize. So if you’re in a tight financial spot, think outside the box. You may not have a prized cow, but once you discover your valuable skill you can milk it for all it’s worth!

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

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