Lessons From My Father: Bartering skills

Posted on Jun 27th, 2018 | Budgeting, Home life, Money Management

When I was young, I often accompanied my father to work on air conditioning units. He specialized in all things HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Sometimes I found that the customers wouldn’t pay him. Once I asked why, and he explained that they simply repaid him with goods or services of their own. Never once has anyone in my family paid for a car repair because of deals like this that he has in place. Growing up I enjoyed the spoils of bartering in ways you couldn’t imagine. We got baked goods as we pleased, and I ate like a king. When I left home to face the outside world, I took these lessons of bartering with me.

Figure out what you got.
Before you begin, you should understand what skill you have to barter. One of the most marketable skills in a barter economy is mechanical skills. Think about whatever capabilities you have and make a list. Make sure people need it. The skills I usually try to barter include content writing for websites, article and essay editing, English language tutoring, Mandarin to English translation, and HVAC work that I do with my father (I’m not yet skilled enough to do it myself). Once you know what you have to offer, you can use these skills to pay for things when you need them.

Know your worth.
Place a dollar value on what you’re bartering. Research the value of a good or service you plan to exchange. It’s important to take into account your experience and knowledge. I do translation for an auto parts company where my friend works. Once I needed new tires for my car. When the factory sent me a new document from China to translate, I calculated the value of my work and deemed it to be roughly the value of three new tires. When I asked for a full set of four tires instead of a check, the manager agreed. It probably saved us both money.

Understand that what you can barter is endless.
Cash may still run the economy, but anything can be bartered. And it’s coming back in a big way because it can be mutually beneficial at times when people and businesses are financially strapped. I know two friends that live together. One works at an airline and the other at a finance company. The one that works at an airline uses buddy passes to pay for part of his rent. It’s a win-win for both. My father recently fixed the heating unit in a restaurant. The boss paid him in gift certificates to the restaurant that roughly tripled the dollar amount he should have received. Even things that don’t cost much can be bartered. Be creative and think outside the box. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be trading dog grooms for oil changes. The possibilities are endless.

Look everywhere.
Friends, neighbors, classmates, family, and strangers are all possible partners. I personally like to keep my exchanges to friends and family but have used online marketplaces to trade various goods and services. One of my favorite swaps to do online is language exchange. That’s one of the ways I learned Chinese and is currently how I am learning Vietnamese. Think about what you need and where you can find it. If you can find it within your local social network, go with that. If you can’t, the wild and large world of the internet awaits. Dive in!

A word about online bartering.
Currently, several legitimate bartering places exist online. Obviously Craigslist is one of these, but one I really like is U-Exchange, a site where you can exchange services with other local people. BarterQuest.com and Swap.com are two I enjoy using if I need a particular good and want to pay with something I don’t need anymore. Recently, I was able to get Microsoft Office Software in exchange for an old marketing textbook on Barter Quest. A good way to know you have a solid deal on these sites is to look at pictures of the products being offered and talk with the person offering them first. See what other people on the site are saying about that member and spend some time looking at that person’s profile. Also, ask questions to verify that a particular person can actually offer the goods or services being promoted. If possible, sign a bartering contract as well.

Photo by Irina Slutsky via cc. Image was cropped.