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.
- Learn the ropes: If you're not comfortable with cyber-swapping, old-fashioned face-to-face swap meets are great places to catch the bartering bug. Find a swap meet near you at ListingFleaMarket.com. Since admission to most swap meets is inexpensive or even free, going to them also makes for an affordable and entertaining family outing.
- Barterers beware: Check merchandise carefully, and confirm services in writing before agreeing to a swap. If you're dissatisfied, recourse could be difficult or even impossible.
- Don't come up empty-handed: Turn over merchandise after you have received the agreed-upon services, or swap goods or services simultaneously.
- Be aware of taxes: The IRS generally requires barter transactions to be treated in the same way as cash exchanges for income tax purposes. The agency is becoming more interested in monitoring bartering transactions, particularly business-to-business exchanges and online bartering clubs. Exchanges of goods and services between individuals are subject to the same tax provisions, but it's clear that many such transactions go unreported. Consult IRS Publication 525, and a qualified tax professional, to better understand the tax consequences of your specific bartering activities.
Now let's make a deal!
Jeff Yeager is the author of the book, "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches." His Web site is www.UltimateCheapskate.com.