How to Barter: An Alternative Way to Pay Bills
6 second take: You don’t need cold, hard cash to ink a deal. Follow these tips to make bartering a win-win.
When I was 9 years old, something extraordinary happened to me. One night, I was sitting at the table eating dinner with my parents and the doorbell rang. I kept eating, expecting my dad to answer the door.
When you are 9 years old, live in the South, and come from a traditional conservative family, you don’t even think about getting up because Daddy answers the door if he is home. You know, the whole “children should be seen and not heard” thing.
But Daddy told me to answer the door. Mom and Dad exchanged a smile. I panicked a little, but did what I was told.
When I answered the door, there were two guys standing on our front porch with a piano. A PIANO! I had been hoping for more than a year for a piano and lessons. But I knew we didn’t have the money for something so extravagant.
Daddy explained that the last electrical job he had completed, he had negotiated with his customers for their piano. They really didn’t need it anymore, and were happy to have their bill reduced in exchange.
This was my introduction to bartering.
Bartering is a great way to exchange goods or services in order to benefit the parties involved. Trying to barter certainly isn’t for everyone. Still, I have found that many people are open to it if you are willing to ask. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering if a bartering arrangement might work.
Be on the Lookout for Possibilities
When my daughter turned 3, I really wanted her to take dance lessons. We went for a few months, and she loved it. But it was a strain on our budget. Then my son wanted to take tap as well. We just couldn’t swing the additional cost.
I noticed one day that the lobby was messy and hadn’t been vacuumed in a while. The studio owner told me that she had let the cleaning company go because they weren’t doing a good job and were costing her a fortune every month. Of course, it occurred to me right then that this was a potential bartering opportunity that would be a huge help to both of us.
She needed a clean studio, and I wanted additional lessons for my kids that I couldn’t afford.
Later that day I wrote out a plan, called her, and presented the idea to her when we met … and she agreed! I cleaned the small studio every week in exchange for multiple dance classes for my kids. We were both so happy with the arrangement that we continued until she moved the studio to a new location and my kids transitioned to other activities.
The Barter Has to be a Good Deal for Everyone
When my children were a little older, I opened a piano studio in my home. And yes, I was still using the beautiful piano my daddy got for me when I was 9.
It was a great way to earn extra money as a young mom. We had some family friends who wanted their children to have piano lessons. The husband had just left his full-time job in order to open a photography studio, and cash flow was an issue for them while he was getting started.
His wife approached me with the idea. We would barter piano lessons in exchange for pictures, and I was keenly interested. I loved having professional pictures of my children, but didn’t get to do it often because of the expense.
We were both offering services highly valued by the other party. I taught their children piano for several years. In return I have the most amazing set of professionally bound photo albums that I enjoy looking at to this day.
We were both happy because we both got something we really wanted. This is a key part of being successful when you barter.
Agree to Trade Evenly and Honestly
Just this last year I had another opportunity to barter with a business that was a huge blessing to both of us. In August, I was approached by a man with a successful catering business that needed help with managing his online presence. A friend had mentioned that I worked with small businesses in this capacity, and he wanted to hire me.
Of course, as a small business he was concerned about keeping costs down, but he knew he needed to take the plunge and have someone help him.
Luckily for us both, my son was getting married six months from the time he contacted me. I suggested that we barter, and he jumped at the chance. He paid me my full prices and I paid him his.
After a six-month contract I was able to host more than 60 of our closest friends and family at a lovely rehearsal dinner. I was also able to use my credit to have a bridal brunch and family breakfast over the course of the wedding week.
It was lovely, and both of us are thrilled with how everything turned out. He knows that his clients are getting the information they need, reviews are being responded to on The Knot and Wedding Wire, and his social media engagement is through the roof.
I was just as thrilled with the delicious food and extravagant menu I was able to provide because of the bartering arrangement.
Bartering isn’t for everyone, but if you have a little courage to put yourself out there, look for opportunities, and find a way to make it a deal everyone highly values, it’s a sure-fire way to trade for the things you want in life!