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Short on Cash? Try Bartering

If you don't want to pay full price, negotiate and barter for what you want.

In this tight economy, bartering is making a major comeback.

Bartering Web sites and online bartering clubs are popping up on the Internet like cheapskates showing up for triple-coupon day at the supermarket. Craigslist reports that classified ads for bartered items posted on the Web site are among the fastest-growing listings since the recession started.

By swapping goods and services instead of paying for them, more and more people are getting what they need without ever opening their wallets.

What's more, bartering Web sites are evolving. Cropping up are several that specialize in specific types of items, such as used books (PaperBackSwap.com and BookMooch.com), clothing (Swapstyle.com and RehashClothes.com), and even children's things (TotsSwapShop.com).

And if you don't have any unwanted stuff to swap, why not try bartering your time? "Time banking" is increasingly popular online and in communities around the country. Time banks allow you to trade your time, whether you're an experienced computer programmer or just someone willing to wash someone else's car, for other services and goods you need. See TimeBanks.org and Favorpals.com for more information.

Bartering can be fun and save you a bundle. Here's what you need to know before you start swapping:

  • Swap online: Search under "barter" on sites for services, products, and jobs—sites like Craigslist—and you'll be surprised by all the swapping going on. Online bartering clubs, such as BarterBart.com and uSwapit.com, also facilitate trading. In many online clubs, you swap for "credits" or "trade dollars" as opposed to actual goods and services. This point system gives you the flexibility to redeem your credits when the desired merchandise or service becomes available. For example, a house painter might receive 500 trade dollars for 25 hours of his services. He then could exchange those trade dollars for a used washer and dryer offered by another club member.

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