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Recession Beating Barter

It's as old as time itself and its regaining popularity. It's bartering - the trading of goods instead of the exchange of money.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

It’s as old as time itself and its regaining popularity now that more people are finding it harder to make ends met. It’s barter – the trading of goods instead of the exchange of money.

There are lots of ways one can benefit from barter and it’s more common than one may think. The manager of a local radio station explained it like this. He said that if he wanted furniture, he would simply approach a local furniture company and swap furniture for advertising time on his radio station. That way he gets the furniture he is after, and a new advertiser. And even better, it costs him nothing.

“But I don’t have radio services to sell”, we hear you cry. It’s the principle that matters. You may have something else to trade: spare vegetables from your garden, fruit from that back yard paradise, handyman skills, or you may be a whiz on the computer and have some spare time to tutor others.

Here are some thoughts about bartering:

•         Set up a neighbourhood barter exchange. Every neighbourhood has a handyman with all the gear to deal with those little household repairs. Exchange produce from your garden for his services. Swap magazines and books.  Exchange babysitting services for help with the painting the roof. Trim your elderly neighbour’s trees in exchange for homemade preserves. Going fishing? Offer some of your catch in exchange for having your pets and house minded while you’re away.

•         Set up trading tables in someone’s garage. One oily ragger has suggested having three 2-5-10 price tables. Every item brought in would be “valued” at $2, $5 or $10, and could be exchanged for something else on that table. This makes it easy to trade things like books, CDs, kids clothing, toys, and so on. There are endless possibilities.

•         A reader said they were able to gain maximum dollar value for some second-hand sports equipment gathering dust. Rather than sell it at a give-away price, they traded it for a kauri dining table, reconditioned the table, then sold it ‘on-behalf’ through a retail outlet. It does not really matter whether you really need the goods you exchange. Just sell them on an online trading site.

•         Another reader said they were able to collect a bad debt in goods, which they then sold. They said it was a good way to go because the debt got settled without acrimony and without having to pay lawyers, and everyone got what they wanted. It was win-win.

•         Another reader who runs a small home based business has joined a barter exchange. Members of the exchange buy and sell products and services to each other using their “trade” dollars. He said there are thousands of members throughout New Zealand (and overseas) and it is a good way of gaining value out of their end-of-run products. “Basically, we use it to covert surplus stock into trade dollars, and then use those trade dollars to buy the things we would otherwise pay for in cash – we even bought a car with our trade dollars.”  He said in return for a trading fee the exchange tracks all of the transactions and allows an overdraft facility at no interest. 

More and more people are turning to barter to preserve cash or exchange goods they don’t have the money to buy. That reminds us of another oily rag motto: “anything’s possible”!

* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at . The book is available from bookstores and online at