Guide to Bartering


Bartering is an ancient practice of exchanging goods and services without using money. It’s a system that has seen a resurgence, particularly in times of economic uncertainty or in situations where currency isn’t readily available. Whether you’re preparing for a potential emergency, looking to save money, or simply interested in the concept of bartering, this guide will help you understand the basics and offer practical tips on how to get started.

The propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals. – Adam Smith

All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter. – Edmund Burke

Bartering Resources

However, currency wasn’t always in circulation in the way we know it now. Before there were all these banks, notes, coins, and numbers on a screen, people used to get by with a barter system. This was mainly an exchange system that meant you gave something you had in return for something you wanted.

It might surprise you that the barter system still exists in the modern world, at least to a certain extent. Let’s go into the definition of bartering in some detail, then see how we can also benefit from this system today:

Definition of Bartering


Bartering was once one of the most essential tools of the ancient eras. Without a lot of real money, many people had to trade in order to get the essentials of life. For instance, they might trade a cow for seven chickens, or a table for a couple of new cooking pots.

This may seem easy, but in reality, it is one of the hardest things to do. First, you have to find someone who actually wants what you have, and then you have to come to a complete agreement on the trade. This can be tough, especially for people who live in smaller communities.

Still, there are several advantages to bartering in the current era as well. You can get rid of things you don’t want, but are still too good to throw away. At the same time, you get to benefit from your belongings by exchanging them for something that you want without any additional cost.

Understanding Bartering

Bartering involves a direct trade of goods and services between parties. Unlike monetary transactions, bartering requires a mutual need or desire for the items being exchanged. This system can be highly beneficial in scenarios where money is scarce or when you have surplus resources that others might need.

Benefits of Bartering

  • Economic Savings: Save money by exchanging goods or services you already have for those you need.
  • Resource Utilization: Make use of surplus items that might otherwise go to waste.
  • Community Building: Strengthen community ties by engaging in direct exchanges with neighbors and local businesses.
  • Skill Exchange: Share and gain skills without the need for monetary transactions.

Types of Resources for Bartering

To effectively barter, it’s essential to understand the types of resources that are commonly exchanged. Here’s a list of resources that are often bartered:

Tangible Goods


  1. Food and Water: Non-perishable food items, bottled water, and canned goods are always in demand.
  2. Clothing and Footwear: Gently used clothes, shoes, and accessories.
  3. Tools and Equipment: Hand tools, gardening tools, and small machinery.
  4. Household Items: Furniture, kitchenware, and home decor.
  5. Medical Supplies: First aid kits, over-the-counter medications, and personal protective equipment.
  6. Personal Care Items: Soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, and other hygiene products.
  7. Books and Educational Materials: Books, educational toys, and learning resources.
  8. Electronics and Gadgets: Phones, tablets, and small electronic devices.
  9. Fuel and Firewood: Gasoline, propane, and firewood for heating and cooking.
  10. Seeds and Plants: Vegetable seeds, flowering plants, and gardening supplies.



  1. Repair Services: Plumbing, electrical, and mechanical repairs.
  2. Childcare: Babysitting and childcare services.
  3. Tutoring: Academic tutoring and skill training.
  4. Health and Wellness: Massage therapy, fitness training, and alternative medicine.
  5. Transportation: Carpooling, ride-sharing, and delivery services.
  6. Pet Care: Pet sitting, grooming, and veterinary services.
  7. Home Maintenance: Cleaning, lawn care, and home improvement.
  8. Technology Services: IT support, web design, and digital marketing.
  9. Creative Services: Graphic design, photography, and content creation.
  10. Event Planning: Catering, decoration, and entertainment services.

Tips for Successful Bartering

  • Be Honest: Always be upfront about the condition of your items or the specifics of your service.
  • Communicate Clearly: Ensure all parties understand the terms of the trade.
  • Be Flexible: Be willing to negotiate and find mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Prioritize Safety: Meet in safe, public places when exchanging goods, or arrange secure delivery methods.
  • Keep Records: Maintain a record of your trades to manage your resources and track successful exchanges.

Food Swaps

A certain type of modern barter system is known as a ‘food swap’. These are quite common in several areas of the United States and perhaps even in other countries. The book ‘Food Swap: Specialty Recipes for Bartering, Sharing & Giving’ is a good way to get acquainted with this practice and see how it can work for us. It’s available at the following link:

This book by Emily Paster has some cooking recipes, but is also a how-to guide that will help us make artisanal items for exchanging at food swaps. These items include a salted caramel sauce, lemon curd, green tomato salsa, cultured butter, etc.

You’ll also learn how to package your items for a creative, personalized effect.  The author also touches upon how we can set up a food swap in our own locality, thus creating an enjoyable and useful experience for the whole community. Paster is a co-founder of the famous Chicago Food Swap herself, so we know she’s talking from experience.

Interesting Bartering Facts:

Interesting Bartering Facts

If we want to start learning about bartering as a modern system, we should delve into its history as well. This is why we’ve provided a few interesting facts about bartering that are sure to interest a would-be trader:

  • Bartering was first historically recorded in Egypt well over 4,500 years ago
  • Even barter systems might have has a sort of currency, something that was universally recognized as being valuable.
  • People have used many different things as money through history. Some examples include salt, grain, cocoa beans, cows, shark’s teeth, and precious stones. Cowry shells were once used on almost every continent for their value as ornamentation. There are still a few places where such shells could be used for buying something if you have enough of them.
  • In the Catalonia region of Spain, there is a growing number of bartering and exchange markets. These barter markets do not use money. Participants bring things they do not need and exchange them for the unwanted goods of another participant. Sometimes multiple parties will get involved to make a deal work.
  • Money didn’t mean an end of bartering, but it did mean that the earlier system was now less about necessities and more a matter of getting something we desired
  • Bartering became quite common during the Great Depression, when luxury items were hard to come by.


While the barter system might not be the most conventional way of shopping, we’ve all performed such exchanges at some point. Children spa their toys, baseball cards, and even services from time to time.

The flexibility and versatility of bartering make it suitable for exchanges between adults as well. This way, everyone saves money and still get to enjoy something new. Even homes are exchanged, thus cutting down on traveling costs. If you look closely, you might even be bartering in some area without realizing it.

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