Western society, especially in the US has taught us for too long to rely on the almighty dollar. In recent years many of us have learned it isn’t as almighty as we, as a country, had once believed it to be.
Communities of swappers, barterers, and work-traders have cropped up all over the US. Sites like Craigslist, Freecycle, Timebanks, “really, really, free markets” and the like have also become incredibly popular.
With all of these opportunities for buying, selling, trading, and bartering, you would think that US citizens would have become wiser to how to barter, trade, and negotiate for goods within their community but we just aren’t there yet as a culture.
These are skills that can be handy for anyone, not just homesteaders, and you can begin learning them now, even if you don’t have a homestead yet. So, listen up!
Bartering is the art of trading one commodity for another. This can be an item, a skill, knowledge, or labor. Negotiating is reaching an agreement on the price of an item through compromise and agreement (which may or may not involve bartering).
“These are skills that can be handy for anyone, not just homesteaders…”
One of the lovely things about bartering is that you can take something that is of not much worth or value to you and trade it to someone who does need or want it for something that is of greater worth to you. Everybody wins!
Another beautiful thing about it is that you usually already own the item, so it costs you nothing and saves you money that you could otherwise spend on buying more goats (or chickens, or feed, or fencing, etc.).
Many folks undervalue what they own or undervalue what they have to offer. Remember that this isn’t about what you need or want but what others might need or want. Here are some quick tips for how to decide what is worth bartering:
- Do you have anything that you would sell if you were to have a yard sale this weekend?
- What skills do you have that you could trade to others? This can be skills you have learned anytime in your life, including employment.
- What knowledge do you have to teach others? Can you offer this to someone in trade?
- What chores do you do well or enjoy?
Make a list of the assets you discovered above and, if they are items, take pictures and store them online so you access them if you come across something you’d like to barter for unexpectedly.
You’ll soon learn that Jessie loves lists.
Now, start lists of things for your homestead. We split those things up like this:
- Things we NEED very soon.
- Things we would LIKE to have in the future.
- Things that we WISH we could have one day.
Obviously, things in category one are priorities for us and we’re going to search for those first. Still, if we come across things in category two or three and we are lucky enough to have what they want too, we will go ahead and trade with them if the commodity is not a hot ticket item (like a car or RV).
Four years ago, when we were not doing well financially, we were having a tough time with bills. It came to a point where we were living off the pantry foods we’d stocked up, mostly beans, grains, and canned foods. We had no fresh vegetables, dairy or meats at all for a long time.
That’s when we decided to help ourselves out. Craig bartered with a neighbor that was moving out. He helped them move in exchange for some free furniture and housewares that they were planning to give away. Some of which we sold and some we bartered for a share in a weekly food box program.
We stocked up on ground turkey, eggs, and dairy using the cash. Then we took the remaining furniture and bartered for fresh fruit from a neighbor’s tree, fresh vegetables from a neighbor’s garden, and a spindle from another neighbor. We then sold the spindle for $200 and all the peaches we could pick.
We ate a lot of peaches that summer and we were able to freeze a bunch as well. Which led Jessie to recall that she knew a lot about wild edibles as well and that she might be able to use this knowledge to barter for other useful things. We took a group out on a hike in September and taught them to make acorn pancakes with wild blackberry sauce (from very wilted blackberries). This led us to even more barters and connections.
That entire summer we didn’t have to buy a single vegetable or fruit and the bartered items we received were sold on local lists to pay for other food items we needed so that we could pay our bills with our meager earnings, which is just one of the many things that led us down the road to becoming homesteaders.artering it isn’t just who you know or what you know but how many people you are willing to reach out to. It is really all about networking. The more people you talk to the better.
“That entire summer we didn’t have to buy a single vegetable or fruit…”
Bartering it isn’t just about who you know or what you know but how many people you are willing to reach out to and what knowledge or skills you are willing to share with them. It is really all about networking. The more people you talk to the better.
Talk to your neighbors, your friends, your family, the grocer, the mailman, your high school band teacher. Talk to whomever you know about what you are doing and then talk some more. Be engaged in what they are doing and share interests.
Yes, it takes effort in an age where so many of us hide behind our phones and computers but your life will be so much more enriched by the amazing people you meet and you will learn so much more about people that you thought you knew already. Brace yourself for a major increase in your community, you’ll need it when you begin homesteading anyway, so all the better.
We can not even begin to tell you how many friends we have made through bartering, selling, and negotiating with folks we didn’t even know at first. Many people we met through Craigslist are now good friends who we continue to partner with again and again. Some have even become trusted farm sitters for us and we have done similar things for them in exchange.
Brace yourself for a major increase in your community, you’ll need it when you begin homesteading anyway, so all the better. Have fun, save money, and free up some space, all while making some new friends along the way.