How do you get what you need and want if you have little or no money to buy? I assume you have some sort of skills, something you know how to do and can do it pretty well… there must be something you can do, maybe it’s a job you do or have done in the past (or present), maybe it’s a hobby you enjoy, maybe it’s a talent you have, whatever it is, you can offer that skill in trade for something you need or want.
This is called “Bartering”, it’s an age old method of trade rather than using money, it just cuts out the middleman, you simply trade your skills with someone who needs what you can do for something they have, whether it’s a skill they posses, or an item, or even cold hard cash.
For me, I am able to do things that not everyone knows how to do or wants to do. I used to be a licensed cosmetologist, which is a fancy way of saying I know how to cut hair. I actually don’t enjoy cutting hair, which is why I don’t do it professionally anymore, I did it for 10 years, I paid off the student loan I got to go to school to do hair, the only reason I stayed in it the last few years is I was offered a management position in a department store salon and thought it would be interesting. It was interesting, until I developed another interest, computers.
But that skill is something that not everyone knows how to do, honestly I kept it a secret for quite a few years after moving to our off grid home. Little by little though, the news got out, I still keep it on the downlow, but people still ask me to cut their hair and I usually agree. I don’t do the ultra modern cuts, mostly just men’s haircuts and traditional haircuts for women, and no chemical processes, no color, no perms… just haircuts.
One of my neighbors (and good friends) get haircuts about once a month, they have chickens, lots of chickens, which means they have eggs, lots of eggs, so I get eggs from them and they get haircuts from me. We do other things for each other as well, he sharpened my work knife for me a few days ago, yes that is something I could do, but I asked him to do it for me while I was cutting his wife’s hair.
A few days ago, while cutting another friend’s hair, yet another neighbor and friend stopped by, I ended up giving him a haircut in return for some metal sheets to use for the roof on a carport that PB is building for me. That wasn’t planned, it just happened. In this process, I am very careful about sanitation, I keep a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol in my kit, everything gets sprayed and sanitized between “customers”, it doesn’t matter if I’m working in a salon, or in my front yard, I must use common sense, I must protect myself and my friends by keeping things sanitary.
Another “skill” I posses is I am pretty good at fixing computers. I am no computer expert, but I know enough and have the patience to be able fix problems, be it hardware or software, I’ve been able to fix what has been put in front of me to date. Again, I’m trading out services for either things I can’t do or for things I don’t have.
Did you know that there is even an IRS section for bartering? I know that because I used to “work” at a country store in the center of our neighborhood, I didn’t earn a paycheck, but rather I was paid in barter, I earned an hourly “wage” that was traded for goods at the store, food, snacks, medicine, fuel… I had worked consistently before that and knew I would probably work a regular job after that, I didn’t want the IRS to wonder why I had dropped out of the system, so when I found the section for bartering, I put in my “wages” there, I never had to pay tax on any of it, there just wasn’t that much financially involved, but it kept me in the system and off their radar.
If you are just trading on a small scale, then obviously you don’t need to let the government know about it.
Another way we barter is for our water. We get our water from our next door neighbor’s well, in exchange we look after his house while he’s out of town. We also do upkeep and cleaning on his house, small maintenance, the normal things that need looking after on a regular basis. It works out well for both of us.
Think about what your skills are, even something you don’t think of as significant, it can be a lifesaver if you find yourself in need of something and don’t have the means to pay for it. It’s best to have your network in place first though, you don’t want to have to go out and find someone in need of your skills right when you are needing something yourself. Word of mouth works wonders here, having your skills out there ahead of time means it will be easier and quicker to get what you need when the time comes.
So, what are your skills? Do you barter now? Let me know in the comments below!
Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site
Leave a Reply