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Phoenix Forward

7 ways bartering can save you money

Trade your stuff and save cash

The reality TV show “Barter Kings” and Kyle MacDonald’s best-selling book “One Red Paperclip” demonstrate how savvy barterers make a living trading increasingly exotic items. While professional bartering isn’t for everyone, trading can get you what you want or need in today’s tight economy.

“Students should consider barter as an option because every dollar saved can then go to their education or reducing debt,” says Chris Conway, a personal finance expert and member of the University of Phoenix repayment management team. Cars, homes, professional services and more can be successfully traded, she says. Here are seven tips on how to make bartering work for you:


Get a chore buddy.

Is there one chore in particular that you hate? Consider swapping tasks with a friend. For example, you might do housecleaning in exchange for a few hours of child care, or have one person drop off a group of kids at activities while another picks them up.


Have a “swap party.”

Tired of the same old stuff in your closet? Instead of spending money to replace it, have a swap party. Invite friends and family over, and have them bring their unwanted clothes, shoes and other items. Then trade with one another while socializing. Do the same with toys, books and housewares.


Trade up.

Find everyday items in your home that you might be willing to part with, and then try to trade them “up” for more valuable or unusual items.

Start by swapping with friends and family. Then place classified ads or use community bulletin boards to find new trading partners. After several transactions, you may have items that are more valuable than the ones you started with. MacDonald began with office supplies and eventually ended up with a house.


Leverage your skills.

If you have a special skill, consider using it to obtain other goods and services in lieu of cash. “I go to a massage therapist and an acupuncturist,” Conway notes. “They've both talked about how they trade their services for other things, like manicures and clothes.”

Even if you’re not a professional service provider, you might have skills people are willing to trade for — like crafts, home repairs or tutoring.


Use bartering sites.

Many Internet sites facilitate trades locally and nationally. The Freecycle Network™ is widely used, while the Craigslist® online community has a dedicated barter section. Other sites include the BarterQuest® exchange and The Barter Company.


Take your items to swap meets.

If you have a lot of stuff you want to get rid of, consider swap meets and flea markets, especially to trade up. Many vendors are open to barter, and these venues also offer the possibility of selling your wares. Another option is the eBay® virtual swap meet, which has worldwide reach.


Don’t forget taxes.

It’s a great feeling to get a good deal, but keep in mind that barter transactions are taxable. The IRS Bartering Tax Center provides information on how to report trades on your tax return.

The Freecycle Network is a trademark of The Freecycle Network in various countries.
Craigslist is a registered trademark of Craigslist Inc.
BarterQuest is a registered trademark of JPM Global Inc.
EBay is a registered trademark of eBay Inc. in the U.S. and internationally.

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