If you’re struggling to keep your head above water financially, bartering may be a way for you to receive needed goods or services. In 2009, Craiglist reported that barter listings on the site had increased by 80 percent over the previous year.
It’s almost the end of the garden season, unfortunately, so trading the neighbors your abundance of zucchini for their endless supply of corn will have to wait until next summer. Ask yourself: What skills or talents do I have to barter with?
A couple who were interviewed in the Atlantic Monthly, Shawn and Deanna, cleared underbrush and small trees from a plot of land owned by a dentist. In exchange, the dentist used his skills to fix their son’s teeth.
In the story, Shawn also mentioned trading computer work, something he’s good at, with a mechanic who could fix a faulty sensor on his truck—something he’s not good at.
Your ability to barter is limited only by your imagination. When you look up the topic on Wikipedia, the illustration is an 1874 Harper’s Weekly cartoon showing a man offering chickens in exchange for his yearly newspaper subscription.
Like any marketplace transaction, you do have to watch out for scams. Obviously a level of trust exists between you and people you know, such as your yoga teacher or dentist, people at your church or your neighbors. But what about bartering over the Internet, with strangers?
That’s what Barter Exchanges are: They involve transactions between you and a third party. A barter exchange operates as a broker and bank in which each participating member has an account that is debited when purchases are made, and credited when sales are made. Using a barter exchange might reduce concern over possibly unequal exchanges, but there is a membership fee.
To investigate third-party bartering opportunities, it is a good idea to:
- Start with Trust by checking out the company on www.bbb.og and other trusted sites
- See if the company belongs to any barter trade associations
- Google the names of the principals to see if they’ve had any legal trouble
- Check with the Federal Trade Commission and your state Attorney General’s office for red flags
- Watch out for self-generated company hype including bogus “news” releases, infomercials disguised as impartial radio “talk shows” and phony testimonials.
If I barter, do I have to pay taxes?
While the BBB is not a legal entity and can’t give tax advice, a good option is to check it out with the IRS. Click on “bartering,” third topic from the top, here.