MoneyWise Live


The Fine Art of Bartering

January 17, 2019

It’s older than money but works just as well.  It’s not beads or bars of gold and it’s certainly not bitcoin. It’s an ancient practice that buys goods and services with no medium of exchange. It’s the fine art of bartering. We all have skills and unneeded items that others value. Have you ever thought about trading yours— or bartering— for things you need? Financial planner and teacher Rob West has some pointers for doing it right. 

Bartering is a very natural way to exchange goods and services and like you pointed out at the top it predates currency. We’ve all probably been in a position to do it at one time or another — make a trade of some kind without using money. What we’re talking about today is becoming more intentional about it - bartering to make sure we get the best value for whatever it is we’re trading.

The Internet has greatly facilitated bartering. It’s now possible to make barter deals without leaving home. And there are two ways to do that. First through barter “exchanges,” where items are assigned points. You can “sell” items or services for points and then redeem them for things you want. Lots of businesses make use of these. “B to B bartering, you might call it.”
Then there are simple one-on-one barter transactions. A lot of that is done on websites like Craigslist.  

Here are some pointers:

  • Note up front - the IRS puts the same value on bartering as they would if you used money.
  • Set the terms up front to avoid misunderstandings. 
  • The first thing you do is determine the monetary value of your item or service compared to what the other person is offering.
  • First, determine what you think is the fair range of value for your item or service— and start negotiating at the high end. You can always go down— you can’t go back up. 
  • Make sure both parties understand exactly what is being traded.
  • Unless your bartering partner is someone you know very well. Otherwise, it’s better to have the agreement put down in writing.
  • Be careful bartering for services that require licensing or other certification. 
  • If you’re bartering for legal services— make sure the person is actually a lawyer. The same holds for medical services. 
  • Finally, remember to be fair and honest with everyone you deal with—because you are a witness for Christ.   

Next, Rob and Steve answer these questions at 800-525-7000 or via email at Questions@MoneyWiseLive.org:

  • Several listeners call in to relate their own personal barter stories.
  • If you were quoted an 11% interest rate for a used car even though your credit score is in the high 7s, what are you options?
  • If your 25 year old single daughter is wondering about life insurance, what should you tell her?
  • If you've owned your house many years and are now receiving calls and mail to sell that house, what can you do to stop that?
  • If you'd like to increase your credit score, should you consider getting a regular credit card or a secured credit card?
  • When you're on a limited income, how do you start a budget?
  • If you're 24 and starting school soon, have $5,000 in savings and a $12,000 car loan, should you start investing already?
  • If they both pay the same interest rate, is a fixed annuity better than a CD?

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