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Don't have cash? Try the barter system instead!

Woman using computer

Whatever happened to the barter system? Oh, I know: It was replaced thousands of years ago by money. Well, we don't always have money to spend, but we often have something to trade. In college, I cut hair. No one gave me money for it. Someone would cook me a meal, or treat me to a movie, or type a paper for me. I still have the shears that a friend bought me after a couple of free haircuts. It was a great way to stretch my dollars and it makes me think about ways to barter now. Some time ago, I looked for some barter sites on the Internet, but all I found were sites that said they were about barter, but just had people selling things. Craigslist has a barter section and there's some pretty interesting stuff on there, but there's also the creepy factor (like the guy who wants to rub your feet for ... well, nothing).

Some newer sites have cropped up, and the one that I plan to try is, a website that allows you to swap your used books, CDs, DVDs and video games. Membership is free, and members list the items that they are trading and the items they want, and Swaptree's two- and three-way trade searches find the items that you can receive for the items that you want to trade. Members can swap a DVD for a book, a video game for a CD, a book for a video game, etc. It's definitely a great way to reuse and recycle.

You just pay for postage (first class or media mail). You also have the handy option of printing out mailing labels from the site. They address it, calculate the postage and add delivery confirmation. If you choose to print out their labels, Swaptree charges you $1.00 per month for as many labels as you need. If you don't use any that month, there is no charge. Read the FAQs carefully. Everything you need to know is there, about item condition, shipping, etc. -- not on the too-brief "getting started" tutorial.

They have a ton of stuff on their site, but when I did some searches for things I was looking for, no one had listed them yet. I did see that quite a few people wanted some of the books that I had read but didn't like enough to keep. When I started browsing, I saw that I could get pretty interesting stuff for them.

It will be great for my kids. I'm going to encourage them to pull out all the books, CDs and DVDs they are willing to let go of and have my 10-year-old shop around and see what they can all get in exchange. I think they'll love it!

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28 comments so far | Post a comment now
lilly March 22, 2010, 1:31 PM

Yes, bartering is probably the best way to save money and keeping costs low. I can recommend a good Website, where you can barter for a lot of different stuff, and also services. It’s: I barter there myself and it’s not only a fact of saving money but also a lot of fun, because you get to know people who have similar interests etc. This website offers to join special clubs, which makes it even more fun!

Anonymous March 23, 2010, 8:20 AM

Hi Michele, you really make my tuesday day
I’m searching for swapping sites too without success, I think this is a wonderful way to save and also share with others! Great Post.

Mike Mercier March 23, 2010, 1:18 PM

I believe in trading too. I have been doing it for 32 years and brought $250,000 in new sales to businesses in Michigan and Ohio. These are people who cut hair, do other services, sell goods and advertising. We use a credit card system and you can sell to people you don’t wish to buy from and buy from people you don’t sell to. The best place to find a good community is go to the International Recriprocal Trade Association:

Steven March 31, 2010, 12:15 PM

Hi Michele,
I agree with your article as well. Bartering is definitely a great way to obtain items especially in this economy. I work for a young startup company called that allows direct communication between a buyer and seller. We don’t restrict what goes on between two parties. I’d love for you to check out our website and share your thoughts and give any feedback if possible either via blog or personally e-mailing me.

I would greatly appreciate it!

Thank You.

Katya April 1, 2010, 3:18 PM

Hi Michele,
Have you heard about You can use it trade for pretty much anything.
And it’s so easy to trade because you buy and sell stuff for “Dibits” instead of cash or one-to-one trades.

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