In ages past, bartering was not only an acceptable way to conduct business in the community, but the only way to conduct the business necessary to sustain a household.
The modern culture shuns bartering for goods or services. Credit is king in a world filled with unnecessary goods and a culture that pushes the use of services that are purely for convenience, not because of necessity. Those who propose to barter are often mislabeled as a miser, a cheapskate or a penny pincher.
But for those who are looking to escape the consumer-driven culture and focus on living a more self-sufficient lifestyle, the art of bartering can help lessen the financial burden. Bartering is, by definition, the process of exchanging a good or service for a different good or service. Relying less on cash, or on credit, to maintain any portion of a homestead is possible with careful and considerate bartering. With practice, successfully bartering to provide for the needs of the homestead may become an integral part of a well-devised financial plan.
Historic Overview of Bartering and Currency
The concept of bartering is evident in many ancient cultures. Trading goods in exchange for different goods within the local area and across borders was routine in ancient times. It was not until roughly 600 B.C. that the first currency was minted for use.
Currency hastened the consumer process, allowing a greater number of goods to trade hands quickly. As currencies were developed around the globe, the demand for a currency-based financial system overpowered the natural social practice of bartering within and around the community.
Modern Day Bartering
Many modern day homesteaders are using their bartering skills to meet a wide variety of needs. From building materials, livestock and seeds, to skilled labor, any task or any good can be used as part of a successful bartering agreement. Though their stories are not in the headlines, many people have pulled back from the consumer culture and fully funded a portion of their annual budget by instead bartering.
If no currency is exchanged, how does a person determine if it is helping his or her bottom line? The value of bartering can be measured in time, as it relates to imparting knowledge, or measured by the exertion necessary in physical labor. Or, it can be measured by the amount of currency saved by bartering instead of paying outright for the good or service.
The most common item used for bartering is foodstuffs, both livestock and produce. In a world where naturally raised meat and poultry, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables are in increasingly high demand, the potential for bartering is greater. Even unexpected needs can be met through bartering. For example, I’m aware of a local holistic practitioner who has been known to accept organically raised poultry in exchange for medical care from careful and conscientious households.
In another case, a family was able to add an outbuilding and repair an additional building by being willing to exchange labor for receiving reclaimed building materials. In addition to this, meeting the wants of those in the community can also be easily accomplished through skillful bartering.
So, what do you do first? Perhaps there is a local general store, a diner or a pub where locals gather and agreements can be struck, but in most areas, this is no longer the case. Farmers markets, health food stores and the like are good places to start looking for potential connections. Come prepared with an idea of the goods or services that you could offer, but keep an open mind. Part of the art of bartering is learning the strengths and weaknesses of the community. Being prepared to fill a need in the community will provide ample opportunities to strike beneficial agreements.
Many members of the online community are also turning to bartering to fill the wants and needs in their lives; however, most are not utilizing the barter system as a way to promote financial independence. Caution is, of course, very necessary in negotiating any agreement online; nevertheless, there are avenues for securing legitimate agreements that benefit both parties. Practice good security measures to ensure everyone feels comfortable throughout the entire process.
Another aspect of the art of bartering is the building of relationships. Whether in person, or online, a relationship built with trust earned from satisfactorily fulfilled agreements promotes the overall wellbeing of society, as well as promoting financial stability for the individuals involved.
Add value to the community while lessening the financial burden of the homestead by practicing the art of bartering.
Do you barter? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below: