Business to consumer barter may include things like free merchandise for a customer who is willing to provide sales leads. Person to person barter can include almost anything you can imagine. Auction sites are a good place to find others willing to trade for things you have. Classified ads, online or in print, are another handy way of conducting barter transactions, and so are barter clubs.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers bartering a form of revenue and something that must be reported as taxable income. Under U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, businesses are expected to estimate the fair market value of their bartered goods or services. This is done by referring to past cash transactions of similar goods or services and using that historical revenue as a reportable value. When it is not possible to accurately calculate the value, most bartered goods are reported based on their carrying value.
Bartering for goods and services is a centuries-old art. Recently, the idea of trading with your neighbors and within your community has received a big boost and taken on a modern spin. Combining our often-materialistic, ownership-based society with the Internet’s ability to bring buyers, sellers, and traders together, online bartering has sparked a wealth of new sites and communities.
PaperBack Swap is exactly what it sounds like: a place to swap paperback books. Currently, more than half a billion books are available for trade on the site. Just list the books you don’t want anymore and other members will find them. When someone requests one of your books, you just mail it out and then choose any available book that you want to receive. Swapping is easy, and membership is free.
Especially prior to the Christmas holiday season, a gift and craft exchange can take the pinch out of your budget. Contact people within your network and arrange a day where people exchange homemade holiday decorations. You may not find everything you’re looking for, but you will likely find at least a few stocking stuffers – and the perfect price.
If you live in a major metropolitan area, chances are that you probably take public transportation to most of your destinations. You ditched your car long ago – eliminating parking, gas, and car insurance from your budget. But what if you need to get out of town for an hour-long meeting or pick up 25 bags of dirt from the landscaping store? Do you rent a car for the whole day even though you only need it for a few hours? Not if you have Zipcar nearby.
For $75 per year, Capital Bike Share gives members access to inexpensive bike rentals around the Washington, D.C. area. Bike stations filled with 1,100 bikes are located all over the district and nearby towns, and a single membership key grants you access to use and return any of them wherever you are. The first 30 minutes are free, and each additional half hour costs a few bucks. Members can also use the SpotCycle app for the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android device to locate the closest available bike. You can also try a limited plan, like a 30-day pass for $25.
If you don’t want to pay a membership fee but you’re looking for a free place to stay when you’re on the road anywhere in the world, CouchSurfing may be your new best friend. CouchSurfing is a non-profit organization, so they don’t charge you for using the site. They don’t allow hosts to charge travelers either. With almost 3 million members in 246 countries, chances are there is a free couch out there waiting. CouchSurfing also has an extensive safety section on the site, including references, vouching, and verification from other couchsurfers and hosts alike.
It is said that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” If we ever get to a point where a barter economy is the way goods and services are exchanged, things will come together. But those who are prepared ahead of time, those who have thought about all of this, will be in a place where they can quickly move to make decisions that will benefit themselves and their family financially.
With 8.5 million members and 5,000 groups, Freecycle is like the mother of all garage sales, with one exception: Everything is free! The site started as a grassroots organization, encouraging members to reuse products rather than send them out to the landfills. For example, I have used Freecycle many times to find new owners for pieces of my cassette and record collection, piles of magazines and books, and assorted unneeded tools.
Barter-based economies are one of the earliest, predating monetary systems and even recorded history. People can successfully use barter in many almost any field. Informally, people often participate in barter and other reciprocal systems without really ever thinking about it as such -- for example, providing web design or tech support for a farmer or baker and receiving vegetables or baked goods in return. Strictly Internet-based exchanges are common as well, for example exchanging content creation for research.
Still, Adam Smith really did seem to believe barter was real. He writes, “When the division of labour first began to take place, this power of exchanging must frequently have been very much clogged and embarrassed in its operations,” and then goes on to describe the inefficiencies of barter. And Beggs says that many textbooks sloppily seem to endorse this viewpoint. “They sort of use that fairy tale,” he explains.
Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, sought to demonstrate that markets (and economies) pre-existed the state, and hence should be free of government regulation. He argued (against conventional wisdom) that money was not the creation of governments. Markets emerged, in his view, out of the division of labour, by which individuals began to specialize in specific crafts and hence had to depend on others for subsistence goods. These goods were first exchanged by barter. Specialization depended on trade, but was hindered by the "double coincidence of wants" which barter requires, i.e., for the exchange to occur, each participant must want what the other has. To complete this hypothetical history, craftsmen would stockpile one particular good, be it salt or metal, that they thought no one would refuse. This is the origin of money according to Smith. Money, as a universally desired medium of exchange, allows each half of the transaction to be separated.
I wish I came up with this fantastic idea. SharedEarth is a free site that connects landowners with gardeners and farmers in need of space to grow crops (i.e. starting a home vegetable garden). You can find free access to land in exchange for sharing a little bit of produce with the landowner. In a time of a strong and growing local food movement and concerns about food safety, SharedEarth might just be the most important sharing site of all!