The Art of the Trade

by Maggie Wells on 16 May 2008 6 comments
Photo: Keith Song

Things are getting worse not better—my work has been scaled back, our bills have not been scaled back and there’s little sense in being angry at the budget when not enough money was made to execute it properly in the first place. So how are we going to make the home repairs for summer? Tune up the car to go visit grandma? Get swimming lessons for the kids? Acquire the dehydrator for the raw foods diet?

Perhaps, rural living is helping---we know most of the neighbors and they know my husband has a valuable part-time skill---he’s a computer handyman---and that in a pinch when you need some quick little blurb written or kids need tutoring, I’m your woman. And that’s all we’ve needed to get by this spring.

We have a new queen size bed that retails for $2000 but we are on computer repair installment with an extended family in trade. We get a bed, and they get top priority for computer servicing. Our local mechanic suggested we ‘horse trade’ services. So, we pay for parts, but not labor and in turn, his computer problems are solved without the big bill. I’m tutoring a kid for a woman who will carpool with my husband to save on gas.

While this does mean we are taking in less cash for both my sideline and my husbands, we are seeing more clients and are banking on them telling their friends. My husband has never advertised his business but he always has a few consistent jobs to do every week. Taking in more trades means getting to know more people in the community. In turn, we let people know what we are looking for and they spread the word.

Case in point is my new Excalibur Food Dryer that I priced at $179.00. I didn’t have the money but my husband helped the owner learn how to sell his stuff on eBay and in exchange we got the dryer for free. We didn’t know this guy, but the family that we traded the bed on knew we what we were looking for and hooked up the connection for us.

Sometimes trades don’t work. Don’t just take a trade because the people are offering you something. If it isn’t something you use or need, don’t trade. Those are the clients that should just get charged your regular standard amount for your service. We’ve gotten caught in this one a few times. I’ve got extra Tupperware I don’t use because of this. And one year I had movies I never got around to watching. Make it worth it! I think we’ve been blessed by being a diversified household. Someone always needs one of the three or four skills we have. If you do this as a family, it really works.

My greatest trade is a rent free cottage in the woods in which to write in peace. It’s kind of a karma trade. Two years ago my husband offered this couple our garage and DSL for their business as they were moving across country. Now, I’ve secured the vacant cottage and cabin they left behind unrented. I’m watering their orchard and mowing the lawn in exchange as well. Summer retreat is looking nice!

Truly a fine way to meet the neighbors and to get that community spirit flowing. What karmic trades are happening in your neck of the woods?

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Guest's picture
Guest

Not to rain on you parade, but barter is income. It's supposed to be reported on your taxes.

Maggie Wells's picture

Wasn't about not reporting income, it was about getting things in trade.

Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Guest's picture
asrai

My father ran his own business up until last month and he did much trading for work. He got a leather couch and chair on the cheap a few years ago. About 15 years ago he got a trampoline for my brother and I (and ALL our friends). And many other things I'm sure.

Fred Lee's picture

I'm thinking that barter is the wave of the future as we spiral into Armageddon. With oil prices skyrocketing and the price of food going through the roof, rural self-sufficiency seems the most practical solution, not just for living but for the planet. Growing and raising your own food and trading for goods and service is looking mighty green, not to mention a good way to connect with your neighbors.

Guest's picture
Guest

My group of friends set up a summer camp "cooperative." Each of us will lend our skills and time to keep our kids entertained a couple of days each week this summer. Camp costs major $$ I don't have and I can't keep my kids entertained in the summer as much as I'd like. Consequently, they get more screen time than I would normally allow.

I don't know if the camp will work yet because I've never done it, but I look forward to playing with my friends and their kids. I also hope that I won't feel guilty working while their bodies and brains whither on non-camp days.

The best part, this process has made me evaluate my skills and I didn't know it, but I got it GOING ON!

Maggie Wells's picture

That's an awesome idea! I hope it all goes well for you this morning. Check back in with us!

Margaret Garcia-Couoh