As might be expected, folks have various comfort levels with the barter system. Some still prefer money, but some pretty amazing trades are being worked out. I'll first share with you what folks are trading, some of the problems readers experience, and then will pass on the advice of the successfully experienced. (You can read the comments in full, i.e. not dissected, at "The Lost Art of Bartering, Part 1").
Trades folks have bartered
"My husband and I, farmers for 18 years, barter and trade often with several of our neighbors. Meat for mechanical work, honey for truck borrowing....Last year we traded enough of our raw milk over several months to get two full size commercial freezers to keep meat in our farm store." Donna OShaughnessy, Midlife Farmwife
"I'm not in a position to barter other than with what I call "being neighborly". I give produce to my neighbors, they watch my dogs. They borrow our truck to haul something, I call them to help me lift heavy things that need moved." Tami, 500 Dollar Tomato
"A local sustainable farmer needs help getting potatoes in... so I help get in his potatoes and get a 50 pound sack of potatoes for my work. It's a lovely way to help one another!" Sharon, Fitzgerald's Family Farm
"We have a yard man that comes around to many homes in our area. He walks or rides a bike and uses our mower and other tools, he works hard and does what we need him to do. We give him what we feel it is worth to us...he has no set price and is grateful for the work.... We pay him money, because that's what he needs and we need work. Sherri B., Little House in Paradise
"We are currently in a trade arrangement with friends and our goat... A friend with a herd of dairy goats (keeps ours), gives us 1-2 gallons of milk per week and she gets the rest of the milk for her shareholders... " Carol J. Alexander, Everything Home with Carol
"I did it just last month in a city walmart. I found some broken fishing rods laying there, picked them up, went to customer service and asked for a manager. We decided that a dollar was good & I paid... Together the parts made one great rod :)" Peaceful, Peaceful New Start
"One memory of the past few years, was a neighbor that had a piano for sale. It was out of reach (price wise) yet would have been perfect for our musically inclined daughter. So, my husband negotiated some lawn work in exchange for it. He's also bartered his skills or other things in exchange for things we needed or wanted." Ellie, Suburban Townhouse, Country Cottage
"We're not much on dickering, but both my husband and I are self-employed with what are considered "real" businesses (a large animal veterinary clinic and fine arts/graphics design) and we have traded out in lieu of being paid cash for work." Michelle, Boulderneigh
"Bartering is such a part of my life - usually services for services.... I can sew just about anything and these skills have gotten me repairs on my house and vehicles over the years, things I can't do" Benita, Basically Benita
"I traded some chickens and a couple of dozen eggs for a second refrigerator to store my surplus eggs in, and shortly thereafter the frig went out on me and I needed to repair it. Well, the repair man said he wanted eggs as part payment for his services. He said he had just received a couple of jars of plum jam from another customer and he liked getting the home grown food instead of being paid in all money! Then, this year, I traded 55 pounds of organic Red Cloud potatoes to a neighbor who owns an earthworm business for a couple of bags of earthworm castings." Joyce P., Swamp Creek Farm
"My neighbor and I have an agreement that he will plow my driveway and I will supply him with venison, eggs, and cider in return" Jeff
"....Turns out she also has a couple of sheep, although she's very new to them, and would talk to her husband about trading the two pigs for my last terminal ewe lamb. ..... I ended up picking up three pigs" Sittin.n.Spinning, from her post "Porcine Paradise"
Problems people have: I've tried to categorize these as best I can.
Familiarity with the process & personal comfort level:
"I find it very difficult to barter, which is probably due to not being used to this. I was raised to shop in a supermarket - and because they are rarely manned by the owner, there's no way to barter anyway!" Bettina, Woolly Bits
"... on a trip ..... we meet a lovely couple and when we got talking I said that I barter back home on the farm, they thought that was amazing as they were from countries that barter was natural but since moving to Canada, had never seen it." Farmgal, Just another Day on the Farm
How to fairly assign value
"...and in exchange for the goods I make - I usually felt short-changed here, which is why I don't do it anymore..... around me (Ireland) the only place where people still barter is in bric-a-brac etc. - probably because it's fun and they don't necessarily "need" the product?" Bettina, Woolly Bits
"I think it's "easier" to deal with money. It's less personal and bartering can be VERY personal. I might look at your eggs and think omelette but you look at those egss and see the baby chicks you raised, that became the hens that laid the eggs. You see the daily waterings and feed and hawks...: Tami, 500 Dollar Tomato
"I think it all boils down to placing a value on something that means something to you. Part of making a deal is the willingness to walk away because it doesn't speak to the value you've already placed on it.... if money becomes worthless, then other things will be assigned worth, and they'll be traded instead." Paula, Weeding For Godot
"Last time we were in the big city, we passed a raggety man standing on a corner holding a cardboard sign that said, "I will work 2 hours for a meal." Maybe it was just the way it hit me, but I didn't like the barter thinking I would come up short on that one. But then, the meal I would have served him wouldn't have been pb & j on store bought bread either." Mama Pea, A Home Grown Journal
"Money is simply any common unit of account, and that is a very handy thing to have when striking deals with people.... We can negotiate with, or without, money. We can also engage in trade with, or without, money." Jeff
"... determining the amount of food stuffs was a little bit tricky. How do we price out a fair trade amount? In the end, we priced my goods at grocery store price, and his plowing at the local commercial rate. Both of us are willing price our goods at a lower rate, but having some common measure of value allowed us to come to a fair rate of exchange where we both were able to agree that neither of us was getting ripped off." JeffConcern about how it will effect relationships
"Doing things for friends is different, but in a way even more difficult, because you don't want to strain a friendship by asking for maybe too much" Bettina, Woolly Bits
"When I barter with people we're not close to, then I feel the transaction is complete and much easier. When I barter with friends, I am so worried I've short-changed them or they have the same concerns about me. It is just not easy to be done." My Houston FriendPersonalizing the transaction
"My husband likes to TRY to get a deal when we're shopping but he usually comes in with an offer so low that the seller becomes insulted. I've managed to save the deal with offers that are much more agreeable. However, normally I'm happy to pay the asking price." Renee, Forgotten Blog
"When I "negotiate" at the FM for produce, the "distributors" will deal on price, the actual farmers rarely do. It's too personal for them." Tami, 500 Dollar TomatoClosure
"We barter alittle on my little place but I find it easier at times to sell my eggs and hens/roosters because it is the end of the transaction. With my friends I have tried the bartering "my time" by helping out at their place and they will come and help out at my place. With some friends this works out but with others...their coming to my place never happens." Connie, C and C Antiques and Animals - What a Life!
"...at a merchant, give $ and you are done. I've tried to be clear about what is a gift and what is barter, but I feel I start sounding too business with friends. It is weird and I don't like it. I prefer to be done when completing a transaction" My Houston Friend
Tips and Advice for making a successful deal
"I believe TRUST is the key reason some folks are afraid to barter, always feelful they might be cheated." Donna OShaughnessy, Midlife Farmwife
"I have heard many that are upset over the barter tax, but from what I understand, that it is proposed because large corporations actually have services where business trade for goods and services and are flying under the tax radar. There are several of these companies that have approached my Husbands company. They can broker large deals for companies that will otherwise be untaxed. It was never meant to be for us individuals trading milk for eggs or a barn cleaning for bread. So no need to worry...yet." Jane, Hardwork Homestead
"I guess my point is that if we are left alone we will all figure out what something is worth to us and sometimes we will use money and other times it will be a pure form of barter. What ever we do use, the importand thing is both sides get what they need." Sherri B., Little House in Paradise
"We did draw up a contract and are flexible with each other because we are friends and fellow homesteaders." Carol J. Alexander, Everything Home with Carol
"... some people are uncomfortable stating their position before, during, or after a negotiation, and that can be a problem. For instance, if they don't state their expectations clearly, somebody may feel cheated afterwards. Communication is really important." barter411
"...both parties should walk away satisfied" Benita, Basically Benita
"I can think of two parties that we barter with and I think I'm safe in saying that both we and they think we're getting the better deal!" Mama Pea, A Home Grown JournalAnd lastly, some bartering tips from Theresa (Camp Runamuck), via e-mail:
"I love bartering and have spent years doing it on both ends. I use to do antique shows in New England with fine linens. Anyway, I have a few rules I live by when bartering. The first is, remember that this could be someone's livelihood and always be polite. I always ask if someone has a bit of room in their price and then give my offer. They may come back with a counter, take it or say they just don't have enough to barter on the price. I've found the best deals are those in which each party walks away feeling they got a fair price. I don't like to beat people down and I don't like those that tried to beat me down. Many items under $5, I don't barter at all unless it's books or I want multiples.
"If they have a higher ticket item I want, I'll save my bartering capitol for those. And if something is a steal, take it at asking price or be honest. I found a set of pearls, good pearls, thrown in with costume jewelry at an estate sale. Simply put, I could not and would not buy them for the $6.00 and pointed out to the family that the clasp was gold and the pearls real and they would be better served by pulling it and having it appraised or selling it at jewelry place that buys estate pieces.
"Lastly go prepared. If you are looking for furniture or find a large treasure, don't ask someone to hold it while you check measurements etc. Know your needs, real or imagined. If you go to a true auction, which I have done many times, set your limit on each lot or piece you are interested in, avoid a bidding war at all costs if you can. Many times it's dealers but once in a while it may be a young couple starting out and I try to defer to them if I can. I mean I've been there. Of course if you are in love with something, then go for it. Go as high as you need to and end when you either get it, or can walk away and not feel regret. Some of my most loved items are ones I paid a lot more than I wanted but because I love them so much I have never ever regretted the purchase and most I would have gladly paid more for.
"Mostly have fun!"Interested in more on the subject? Candace (The Weekend Homesteader), mentioned that there are some great barters on The Waltons TV show. A good excuse to watch TV!
And here are a few articles and websites of interest on the subject:
How to Barter at The Greenest Dollar
Let's Make a Deal at Weeding for Godot
Haggle: Strange Ways to Save Money - haggle how-to at Saving Advice
Master Bartering: Strange Ways to Save Money at Saving Advice
Can I Borrow Your Tools Mate? No Worries... For a Fee - Herald Sun AU
Is Bartering Better? - Better Business Bureau
'Trade You Snickers For Smarties': The Economics of Halloween Candy at The Salt
The Center for a New American Dream
mmmule.com - for travelers