As the economy has worsened, there has been more talk of bartering. Bartering always grows in popularity in tough times, and there’s no doubt bartering will have a role in a post-collapse situation.
Bartering isn’t complex; it simply represents trading of goods and services where there is no common medium, such as money. You barter when you want or need something that someone else has. A lot of survivalists think that bartering is bad, because you should prepare to have everything you need and thus never be in a situation where you need to barter.
Well, that’s simply nonsense. No single family, let alone an individual, can possibly prepare themselves for an indefinite period of survival and anticipate every need, let alone wants. By all means you should prepare as well as possible, but pretending that you’re fully prepared is even worse, because then you’re turning a blind eye to opportunities that will arise that you can capitalize on for the benefit of yourself and your loved ones.
Food and shelter are the most basic necessities, and thus they are at the top of any preparedness list. It also means that in an emergency, these will be the items most in demand, and therefore, the best items to barter with in terms of getting an advantageous exchange.
Bartering shelter is a risky proposition. Let’s say you have lots of room and someone else needs it, but unless you know that person well and can gauge how they will act in a crisis, AND unless they have something that you want or need, bartering for shelter can be an extremely difficult proposition.
Bartering for food, on the other hand, is easy. Everyone needs it, and not everyone will have it. Just look at the crises around the world, be they man-made or natural. Getting food to survivors is always a top priority. It will be no different when the collapse happens here, and because so many Americans are woefully unprepared, there is going to be substantial demand. (Keep in mind how far most of us are from food sources and you can begin to imagine how severe the food crisis will be.)
Perhaps you have done a great job of stockpiling food and you have an excess, and you come across a family that is going without. It would be great to simply be charitable and give them food, and perhaps that’s what the situation will warrant, but in survival situations you have to be extremely careful with charity. What happens when the food runs out? If the family has something to exchange-even their labor-then you should seek to find a just exchange of goods and services. (For example, an individual might benefit from having the combined work force that a strong young family can add to a retreat location or safe house, or even just in the garden).
Of course, if you have a survival garden, livestock or another replenishable source of food that exceeds your personal needs, then you’re in a great situation because you have an unending supply of tradeable goods that will be in demand. However, be discreet with this because anyone who is perceived as having surplus in a time of need could be a target for theft or worse.
On a related note, some Christian thinkers have taught that storing excess while others suffer is immoral. The idea of having years worth of food stored away in your garage while children and the elderly are starving at the front door does present a challenge. On the other hand, I’m reminded of the instruction Joseph received to prepare Egypt for the coming famine by storing up the bounty from the seven years of plenty. Remember that in Genesis people (including Joseph’s family), came from all over to buy the grain that Egypt had so prudently stored up. I think we can conclude that there is nothing wrong with preparing for a coming disaster and even trading for goods with those that are in need. When it comes to charity, each person must decide what he is capable of doing.
Of course, you can trade all sorts of things. Many of your emergency supplies will be in demand, be those books, tools, communications equipment, medical gear, tools and basic supplies. Most of us are probably not making preparations to store things specifically with barter in mind, and very few of us will likely have enough of these items to last indefinitely anyway. However, I do know people who are now adding to their core survival stockpiles with luxury items, such as alcohol and tobacco, because of their barter value.
Finally, don’t overlook the skills you have or could acquire as a source of bartering. The wonderful thing about bartering a skill is that once you have traded it for something else, you still have it! On the other hand, you can’t store up your skills like you can a commodity. If you have a skill that will be useful in a survival or post-collapse situation, then give some consideration to how you might be able to employ that to help others and receive in exchange something you want or need. If you don’t have a skill, perhaps you should work on developing one or more that will be valuable. If you’ve been working at a desk, pushing paper around all your life, now might be a good time to develop a hobby or interest that could prove valuable later on.
Of course, those with medical, agricultural, mechanical, carpentry and construction skills will be in great demand. It will serve you well to develop some skills in these areas, and possibly another area. For example, I recently visited a third world country where they are making permanent water filter systems out of locally available materials, principally rock, gravel and sand. These water filters can take the nastiest water from a creek or river and turn it into potable water, using materials found virtually anywhere in the world. When the city water stops flowing, knowing how to produce drinkable water will be an extremely valuable skill.