Do You Barter? -- Tell Us and Enter to win $10!

By Linsey Knerl on 30 June 2009 47 comments
Photo: Eddy Van 3000

It’s time for our weekly trivia question: Do you Barter? Have you ever traded services or goods without cash? What has been your experience?

Our own Philip Brewer mentioned bartering, among other options, in his recent "Opting out of the Money Economy".  In fact, it is very likely that many of use will use barter sometime in our lifetime.  Whether you do a straight trade with someone you know, or choose to use an official Barter currency (like trade credits, points, etc.) it's becoming more and more the "cool" thing to do.  RecessionWire even gives you some basic tips in their Barter 101 tutorial, if you've no idea where to begin.

So, what do you think?  Is bartering something you've tried and been successful at?  Are you new to the game, or have you been doing it for years?  What would you recommend to others just getting into the barter game?  Your comment could win you a $10 prize!

 Those of you who aren’t familiar with the “drill,” read below for full details:

Win a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate

We're doing two giveaways -- one $10 Amazon gift certificate for a random comment, and another one for a random tweet.

How to Enter:

  1. Post your answer in the comments below, or
  2. Tweet your answer.  Include "@wisebread" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

At the end of the drawing, we'll update this post to include (and link to) all of your helpful responses.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Wednesday, July 1st at 11:59pm CST. Winners will be announced July 2nd on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter both drawings -- once by leaving a comment and once by tweeting.
  • Only tweets with "@wisebread" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)

 Good luck!

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Guest's picture

I'm a massage therapist - a great service to barter. I've gotten haircuts, photography for website, room painting & handyman work, gym membership, search engine optimization, etc. in return for my work.

You can read my rather lengthy post about my experiences here:

Guest's picture

love to work the barter when i can.

recently traded some graphic design work for a much needed repair to my car.

everyone walked away happy.

Guest's picture

I'll tell you if you raise the prize money to 15 dollars...

Guest's picture
Aaron Griffin

Tell you for $10? I'll tell you for $20. How 'bout that?

Linsey Knerl's picture

Maybe Hanna and Aaron should hold their comments for when I ask about haggling.  LOL

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

My fruit stand guys give me semi-old bananas and when I make banana bread I give them several loaves. :) Works out well.

Guest's picture

I've traded almost obsolete electronics for baked goods recently. A friend upgraded to Blue-ray and gave me his old upconverting DVD player. I, in turn, traded my old DVD player for a batch of homemade cookies.
Not long after that I upgraded my digital camera. I traded my old one to a young college girl for a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies and a loaf of homemade wheat bread (wheat home ground) that her mom makes. I think she felt that her price the price was too low, which it possibly was. I suggested that she could make up whatever difference she felt by offering free babysitting for a single mom in our church.

Unfortunately, I'm now out of old electronics and almost out of cookies. :(

I've also traded physics tutoring for lawn care...which I think my student farmed out to his younger siblings for a couple of bags of candy.

Guest's picture
Patti Henwood

I was recently trying to book a hotel room to accommodate our family of 6 using 'points'. Booking online would not allow me to choose a room large enough so I called the hotel directly. The front desk manager advised me to call the corporate customer service number to request an upgrade certificate. Upon calling, I was told that they no longer issued upgrade certificates but that I should call the hotel directly and "BARTER" with them to see if they would just go ahead and upgrade me. I NEVER expected the b-word to be used by such a large and well know hotel chain. They were great though! I called the hotel again was able to get an upgrade without using additional points! It was the best thing ever! In fact we called and did the same thing 3 weeks later. LOVED THOSE GUYS!

Guest's picture

Mainly plants and root cuttings, and cookies, and artwork. I'm a big fan of the barter process. Benefits both parties, without having a pesky middle-man money to get between the exchange. I understand hte necessity of credit/cash for larger or distant-trade commerce, but local 2-party bartering is much more efficient when the services/goods can be shared and have unequal "commercial costs" unrelated to the personal value placed on them.

Guest's picture
Karen M

Our babysitting co-op is the greatest. About 20 families with young kids participate. We all know each other well, the kids think they're just having playdates, and it's easy to get a sitter on a Saturday night.

We earn/spend points, so we don't have to do direct sitting swaps.

Guest's picture

My husband is a mechanic and he does work for trade as often as possible. He's gotten tattooed that way and there is an electrician out there who owes us. It's a great win-win situation. In talking to our tattoo artist, I've heard of some really great deals. One of our artists actually traded the outline of a sleeve (worth about $600) for a 1950's pickup!

Guest's picture

My sister and I have considered bartering our services/products but never actually done it.

We have taught piano lessons in the past and considered trading piano lessons for handyman services or yard work. We've also considered offering free pet clothing and horse costumes in exchange for a modeling/photo session with someone's dog or horse for our business product photos.

For some reason, it just doesn't feel quite as "real". Maybe that's why we've never actually tried it.

Guest's picture

haven't bartered much, but would definitely not rule it out. it seems like a great way to increase your credibility with mutually beneficial results.

one web development project I had at work was part of a trade agreement--we develop and maintain the website in return for radio advertisements

Guest's picture

Here's my #1 tip for bartering: Don't say a word. This principle has worked magically for me when buying a car, negotiating insurance, or buying anything where commission is involved.

Get the other party down as far as you can through negotiation. Then when they say they're at their lowest price, don't say another word. Just sit there. Let the room start getting very uncomfortable. Shake your head while you feign deep contemplation.

90% of the time, the other party will start to get nervous: No one wants to lose the sale and by not saying a word, you're not giving them a clue where you stand. More often than not, after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, the other party will start to fiddle with the numbers again, scratch their head and offer you one "final" offer--an offer lower than their original final offer.

It's like magic. :)

Guest's picture

I am a photographer, so for my daughter's birthday, I put an ad on craigslist looking for someone to make her birthday cake in exchange for a photo session. It worked out great, and I also took photos of her cake so she could use them to show others her work!

Guest's picture

I think some of the commenters seem to be confusing "barter" with "bargain"...

Guest's picture

My hairdresser and I have had mutual barter going on for 15 years now. She cuts my hair every 4 weeks and perms it every three months in exchange for me doing all of her families mending/sewing and alterations.

Guest's picture

I'm a lawyer, which means most people have to work a lot of hours at a job which may not be available to make up a single hour of my time. On several occasions, clients have begged me to represent them in exchange for them doing a service for me in return (landscaping work, contracting, housekeeping, etc.). Now I believe people shouldn't get skewered in court just because they're too poor to afford a lawyer, and I'm also an anti-consumer, so I'm naturally open to the idea of bartering. We'd write it up and put it in a contract (X number hours my time for X number hours their time -or- X number of dollars if they don't live up to their end of the bargain). Except for one case where somebody agreed to come tune my piano several times, every other time the person begging for barter services got what they needed from me (in every case they won), then they never fulfilled their end of the bargain by following through with the work.

Overall I've done around $7,000 worth of work for people that I never gotten paid for. The individual amounts are too small for me bother chasing down in small claims court and (since I've seen their financial statements) I know the former clients don't have any money anyways, so I've never bothered going to court for it. Still ... if you're going to barter make sure it's with somebody you know is good for it. I -wish- a barter economy would work, but the sad fact is that (unless it is a friend) there is a good reason many people don't have the money to pay outright in the first place. People with really poor money management skills tend to have shortcomings in other areas (like following through with a promise to pay).

Also be wary ... the IRS can get a little looey when you try to be an honest citizen and include barter income in your Schedule C.

Guest's picture
Aunt Sue

Thanks for mentioning the IRS. Tell me, what do you know about IRS enforcement of their rules asking for bartering to be included as income?

Guest's picture

Yes. I have bartered. I've used my computer knowledge to help a friend in exchange for babysitting service. It's a win-win for everybody involved.

Guest's picture

My 13 year old loves to babysit for our neighbor and feels guilty taking money for something she loves doing. They worked it out so that my daughter gets homemade jam and hummus in exchange for babysitting.
My daughter really wanted to take voice lessons but I told her that I wouldn't pay for them, she would have to figure out how to pay for them herself. She now gets voice lessons from a church member in exchange for weeding the teachers garden. The teacher has a bad back and weeding was hard for her, so it really works out well.

Guest's picture

Not officially, but I've always traded my cousin. I clean her pigsty of a room for her, and she (a registered accountant) does my taxes each year!

Guest's picture

I have twice tried to barter cleaning and/or child care services for a rent-free room. In my area, a room costs $300 a month or more, so this is a significant value. In neither case did this work. While the tenant got a great deal, they either did not do the work at all, required constant supervision, or did it so poorly that I had to redo it (and I'm not even picky). In one case I had to convert to a paid rent situation and in the other I had to ask him to leave. Evidently when people get significant things for free they feel it has no value.

On the other hand, we have had good luck exchanging graphic design services for use of a truck or a small amount of electrical work.

Guest's picture

but alas I have no "in-demand" skills.

Guest's picture

When the local barter currency is pegged to the Time Standard of Money (how many dollars/hour child labor), Hours earned locally can be intertraded with other timebanks globally! In 1999, I paid for 39/40 nights in Europe with an IOU for a night back in Canada worth 5 Hours.
U.N. Millennium Declaration UNILETS Resolution C6 to governments is for a time-based currency to restructure the global financial architecture.
See my banking systems engineering analysis at

Guest's picture

When the local barter currency is pegged to the Time Standard of Money (how many dollars/hour child labor), Hours earned locally can be intertraded with other timebanks globally! In 1999, I paid for 39/40 nights in Europe with an IOU for a night back in Canada worth 5 Hours.
U.N. Millennium Declaration UNILETS Resolution C6 to governments is for a time-based currency to restructure the global financial architecture.
See my banking systems engineering analysis at

Guest's picture
Aunt Sue

Sorry to throw cold water on this wonderful discussion, however, please read the following from the IRS:

Topic 420 - Bartering Income

"Bartering occurs when you exchange goods or services without exchanging money. An example of bartering is a plumber doing repair work for a dentist in exchange for dental services. The fair market value of goods and services received in exchange for goods or services you provide must be included in income in the year received.

Generally, you report this income on Form 1040, Schedule C (PDF), Profit or Loss from Business. If you failed to report this income, correct your return by filing a Form 1040X. Refer to Topic 308 for Amended Return information.

A barter exchange or barter club is any person or organization with members or clients that contract with each other (or with the barter exchange) to jointly trade or barter property or services. The term does not include arrangements that provide solely for the informal exchange of similar services on a noncommercial basis.

The Internet has provided a medium for new growth in the bartering exchange industry. This growth prompts the following reminder: Barter exchanges are required to file Form 1099-B for all transactions unless certain exceptions are met. Refer to Barter Exchanges for additional information on this subject. If you are in a business or trade, you may be able to deduct certain costs you incurred to perform the work that was bartered. If you exchanged property or services through a barter exchange, you should receive a Form 1099-B (PDF), Proceeds From Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions. The IRS also will receive the same information.

Please refer to our Bartering page for more information on bartering income and bartering exchanges.

If you receive income from bartering, you may be required to make estimated tax payments. Refer to Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, for additional information."

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: April 20, 2009

Linsey, is it really wise to encourage folks to engage in illegal activities by posting this topic?

Guest's picture

I haven't really had the opportunity. We do have a fairly neighborly community that generally offers up time and resources when they have extra.

Guest's picture

I don't usually barter at home in the States. But having lived for four months in Egypt, bartering is a way of life. If you're good, you can even barter in grocery stores with set prices! In terms of shops and cafes, you're a sucker if you don't.

My trick to bartering is always to look outraged (not that difficult, considering what Egyptians cite as their "price"!) and walk away quickly. Don't look sad or upset at the price. Bartering is a psychological-sociological thing. Keep your game face on!

Guest's picture

I regularly barter with someone I work with: he brings me fresh home-grown tomatoes and basil (or whatever else he has in the garden...squash, zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli) and in exchange I make him home-made foods with a portion of the produce he brings me...I love home-grown tomatoes, and I get to keep the bulk of the produce, and he gets some good food. That's a pretty good deal!

Guest's picture

I am more inclined to think of "bartering" as exchanging favors- I help babysit for a friend, they help me another time down the road.

Guest's picture

I barter my reading tutor services for lawn work, manicures, pedicures, handiman tasks and car repair. We usually do a straight hour for hour swap too.


Guest's picture

Bartering works for me in a lot of different ways: I am saving money, recycle my old stuff and it's fun! I am bartering with and experienced good book trades, one service exchange and I recently swapped a nice new video game. if you haven't tried bartering yet, do it!

Guest's picture

I am a long time barterer before bartering became fashionable like these days.
One point, I even had an idea to start online bartering company but didn't have technology nor $$$. One day I stumbled upon website who built exactely how I visioned to built. uber of all sites. I am a huge fan and active user of barterquest. It's a bartering facebook. It gets better and better every time I log in. Site is Free!

Guest's picture

It is so wonderful to see barter so much in the news and in vogue these days. I'm an old hand in the barter business. Coming from London, UK, I was bottle fed on bartering and now am fortunate enough to be very highly involved with organized bartering via the well-known MBE-bartering system devised in the late 1990s by Merchants Barter Exchange ( for Just Such a Time as we are currently experiencing.

Barter makes great sense all round in good economic times and bad. We never stopped doing it in Europe, and it's great to be so involved here in the US. It's so refreshing to be involved with a business that is helping so many small/ medium companies survive this recession right now using such an old technique.

Like I guess they say, "the old things have been proven to work!"

Thanks for the topic!

Guest's picture

I don't barter. Bartering only works if both parties have something the other one wants. If party A wants something from party B, but is offering something party B doesn't want, then either the entire deal breaks down, or else party B takes the offer in hopes of trading or selling the unwanted item to someone else. Now, in situations where it works, it's win-win, because both people get rid of something they don't want, and get something they see as equal value in return, and both go away happy. But I prefer dealing in cash, because it's a universal denomination. If I sell you my old DVD player for $30, I know exactly what I can get with $30. If I trade it to you for some movies or something that I actually want, then well and good. But if I swap for some video games for a system I don't own, or something I don't really want, I don't know what I can get for them down the road. My only other option is to walk away, which doesn't solve my surplus DVD player problem.

Guest's picture

As for bartering for services, I've seen this in action and I was never impressed with the results. My dad was a mason, so he knew a lot of people in various electrical and construction fields, and a lot of times he'd trade services for their personal projects for a service from them in return. Mom called it the "good ole' boy" system. The problem with trading favors is that studies have shown that over time, a person who gives a favor attaches more value to it, and the person who received a favor attaches less value to it. So the more time that goes by without receiving the returned favor or service, the less likely you are to get it, or at least get it without the other person feeling put upon. The couch you help your friend carry up three flights of stairs gets lighter in his memory with each passing day, and doesn't seem as difficult as the job he promised to do for you in return. But the $50 you paid him to do the job remains $50. Inevitably with my dad, his friends would eventually do the job, and Dad would get a deal, but it would often be weeks after the fact, and might not be done with as much care as it would be if they were getting paid in cash.

Guest's picture

My husband and I moved back to the States this summer. In the last-minute flurry, he found himself overwhelmed with packing twenty minutes before the taxi was to arrive and sweep him away with the remainder of our belongings. Some guy happened to be hanging around who had come to buy one of our old beat-up cell phones but had decided against it. In a stroke of genius, my husband said, if you can help me package up this stuff with this cardboard and tape, you can have the phone. The guy agreed, and my husband was free to run off and finish up other tasks. He made his flight just fine, thanks to a quick-thinking barter!

Guest's picture
martha in mobile

Yes, I barter, but only with friends, so it is more of a "mutual gifting" arrangement. I knit for my hair stylist, she cuts my hair; I maintain the web site for my massage therapist, she give me massages. I give my pet sitter eggs from my chickens, she watches my pets when I am gone. Shockingly, I report this on my taxes (as well as paying state income tax on internet sales). I'm just silly that way.

Guest's picture

My best barter "deal" was trading a 12 year old Ford Explorer with 170,000 miles on it for a new set of gutters on my house. The labor and materials for the gutters would have cost more than the Explorer was worth.

Guest's picture

I love bartering; I trade freebies (from couponing) for free baby-sitting!

Guest's picture

I regularly trade web hosting, design, and development for goods and services. My minimum charge is a case of beer, full meal, or full service (oil changes, hair cuts, pet sitting, free hardware) per hour. About half of my consulting income is by trade, which usually pays better than cash ... nor because of taxes (I claim all my invoices), but because we usually trade at coast.

This week's work will yield a few sushi dinners, a week of professional pet sitting, and a new iPhone.

Guest's picture

My husband traded an old Cushman Truckster for an older Mercedes 300 Diesel car. I love my new ride!

Guest's picture

I'm curious who managed to win this, mainly because I cross-linked this blog to a friend who was debating with me that barter was dead, and I was seeking to show even popular websites still may encourage bartering of minor goods and services.
Hopefully the IRS didn't shut the post down over !40. :)

At the end of the drawing [July 2nd], we'll update this post to include (and link to) all of your helpful responses.

Guest's picture

i do not barter but would not pass it up if i had an opportunity

Guest's picture

I raise chickens so I have lots of eggs to give away. My neighbor would like a steady supply each week and so I am bartering with her for loaves of her scrumptious home baked bread for a dozen eggs each week.

Guest's picture
Jessica W

Last year when I put up the kids' haloween costumes, I knew my kids wouldn't fit them this year, but November 4th, they have no value. Today, I'm taking them to the children's consignment store to trade for two pairs of kids black "church shoes" the store will sell the costumes in a heartbeat, and my kids are scheduled for their Xmas photos next week, so we're needing winter "church shoes" ASAP. It's a total win-win.