How and When to Barter

posted by Andrea | 08/16/2011

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If you’ve been following along here at Simple Organized Living for any amount of time, you know that I LOVE to get a great deal!

And even though I’ve gotten my fair share of great deals and freebies over the year, there are some items and services that are nearly impossible to find at a discounted rate — unless you’re willing to barter.

I’m a huge fan of bartering!

I think it all started back when I was in college and realized that there were lots of college students who didn’t like to clean their dorms for the semi-annual “inspections”! I would offer to clean people’s dorm rooms for cash or to trade for something I wanted.

Then, after I started my organizing business, the bartering opportunities kept on coming. So many people  were MORE than willing to barter for my organizing services {surprise, surprise!!} I’ve gotten free furniture, free photography sessions, free clothing, free electronics, free home decor, and much more. And even though I’m not always willing to barter, I will always entertain their offer!

What to Barter For:

If you run your own business, you can probably relate to my bartering experiences; however, even if you don’t run your own business, there are still plenty of opportunities to save a bunch of money by bartering.

  • Want a cheap date night? Barter babysitting time with a friend — you take her kids one Friday night, she takes yours the next Friday.
  • Do you enjoy cleaning? Barter your cleaning services for a friend who doesn’t like to clean but then she can help you with yard work, creative memories, or whatever else you decide on.
  • Need a new item of clothing… or a whole new wardrobe? Find a few friends who are a similar size and barter/trade clothes with each other for a week, a month, or indefinitely. {what a great way to do some purging and organizing too!}
  • Are you getting ready for a big home renovation? Consider finding family, friends, and contractors who might be interested in bartering their services for something you could offer them in return.
  • Looking for inexpensive private lessons for your child? Find a teacher who is willing to barter for some or all of the cost.

The possibilities are endless!

How to Barter:

I think the key to successful bartering is to figure out what you want, find someone who has that skill or that item, and then see if there is something you have that they want/need.

Then when you find someone you’d like to barter with, simply present your offer — making sure to highlight how they would benefit from the deal, and clearly stating that they are free to decline the offer as well.

It’s important that both parties involved receive relatively equal benefits otherwise one party might start to resent the barter and/or you for wanting to barter with them. It’s also important that they don’t feel pressured into agreeing to your offer {this is often a problem with close friends and family}.

If the other party is interested, I often like to get the agreement in writing — even if it’s just an email or facebook message — so both people are 100% clear on the terms of the barter {yes, I’ve learned my lesson the hard way a few times!}

When to Barter:

There are definitely times that are much more appropriate to barter than others. For example, I’m currently bartering with a friend who wants to utilize my organizing services for her craft area, and in return, she is making me a bunch of adorable baby cocoons, baby hats, nursing jewelry, etc.

She’s thrilled to have a more organized craft space and I can’t wait to use the one-of-a kind items she’s making for me — it’s a win-win situation! {you can see her handy-work here}

However, I get TONS of really ridiculous offers and requests to barter for my organizing services or for my website advertising — and if it’s not mutually beneficial for me, I’ll probably try to renegotiate or simply decline the offer.

If there’s something you want to barter for, stop and think:

  • how will the other person benefit from this deal?
  • is it an equal “trade”?
  • is there any way I could make this a better deal for the other person?
  • could  this barter negatively affect our relationship?

I usually try to think through those questions before I offer a bartering proposition because even though I love to get a good deal, I also don’t want to come across as a “cheapskate” who is only looking to get something for nothing without providing any value in return.

A Few More Things to Think About::

Bartering doesn’t always mean “free”. You can barter for 20% off a specific service, partial payment, or any other arrangement you come up with.

If the arrangement is going to be long-term, it’s often wise to set an evaluation point after a month to make sure both parties are still benefiting.

If you plan to barter with a friend, make sure you have some sort of “opt-out” plan where either party can drop out if they don’t like the arrangement anymore.

Don’t let yourself be pressured into an arrangement and don’t try to pressure others either. I alluded to this before, but one of the main reasons people don’t want to barter is because they think it’s a high-pressure situation. But it doesn’t have to be!!! I’ve found that the least pressurized way to barter is simply by sending a casual email stating your proposition and asking if they might be interested. An email gives the other person a chance to think about your offer and respond without the pressure of you standing right there waiting!

Do YOU Barter?

Have you had any successful {or unsuccessful} attempts at bartering?

What did you barter for? And where you happy with the results?

Do you have any other tips for bartering??

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6 comments

  1. Sara @ Happy Brown House

    08/16/2011

    Oh, sounds like a win-win for you and your friend. Wishing you were closer, I’d totally barter some monogramming for some organizing help! I’m trying to figure out how to fit everyone in our little house (we’re adopting AND pregnant, which will put us to 3 kids. I stay home and will homeschool next year, plus my hubby works from home!) I feel like we’re busting at the seams!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Sara, wish we were closer — then WE could barter!!

    [Reply]

  2. Lisa

    07/19/2012

    I sell bras and I used to be amazed at what people would barter for to get great fitting bras! I’ve swapped product for services such as house cleaning, massages (for me and the hubby), professional photography, cosmetics…you name it!

    [Reply]

  3. Jen

    07/19/2012

    I barter, but it’s generally with friends or acquaintances. I write resumes professionally, so I did a resume and bio for a friend and he helped me set up a nicer website. I also did resumes and cover letters for a friend who is a tax professional, and she did my taxes in return.

    [Reply]

  4. Noelle McCann

    07/19/2012

    One of my favorite things about having a music program is that I have the ablility to barter! It was something that I never planned on doing, but it has worked out so well on many occasions over the years. Many families in West Michigan don’t have extra money in the budget for a Kindermusik class, especially if mom is staying home with the kids. But there is so much talent around here! I’ve traded for photography services, salon services, child care and lots of other things that MY family doesn’t always have room in the budget for. I LOVE it!

    [Reply]

  5. Buffi Crouch

    07/20/2012

    My daughter loves theatre and has a beautiful voice. In order to really enjoy musical theatre, you must be able to dance or at least follow choreography. We cannot afford dance lessons. The choreographer of the last show my daughter performed in this summer, saw how wonderfully my daughter interacted with the young children of the director and made her an offer. My daughter bartered her ability to work with children to help with “crowd control” in the younger ballet classes in exchange for lessons herself. She is only 11, but is learning early.

    [Reply]