The Barter System

There is nothing quite like economic uncertainty to inspire people to look into alternative options for acquiring the things they need. As the economy declined did you find yourself with reduced hours, a new job with lower pay, or out of a job all together?  Do you want to return to a simpler way of life?

It is in these times that the Barter system is stepping back into the spotlight. An ever-growing number of people are recognizing the functionality of this method of exchange.

What is Barter?

Bartering is trading goods and services without the exchange of money. Ancient society centered on the barter system. Most people’s wealth was simply the things that they grew, raised, made or inherited.

During a time when increasingly more people are finding themselves short on money, it is natural to turn to a system in which individuals have the flexibility to not be wholly reliant on cash to obtain the goods and services they need on a daily basis. It seems it is becoming more evident that we have put all of our eggs in one basket in terms of our monetary system.

What does barter even look like? Well the possibilities are endless. For some people it is simply trading a few extra things they have lying around the house. Others need services, such as some book work, or web design. So they offer something they have available, for example some wild Salmon they caught. And some people are even swapping large items, like their homes. Each barter interaction is going to look different for those involved.

Bartering Options

As the popularity of barter grows, people are creating additional resources for people to find this open exchange with each other. So how do you go about finding others that are interested in trading with you?

The internet is of course one of the most extensive resources for people to explore. If you do a search for barter websites you will come back with numerous results, these are a few of my favorites. One of the best known websites that has a barter section on it is My favorite part of this page is that there are individual sites for each city center and area across the US. This makes it a valuable resource to return to often so that you can see what is available locally. Craigslist is laid out in a very straight forward manner, and it is easy to create a new post.

My second favorite site is Freecycle was created out of the desire to reduce the amount of still useable items being thrown away. It is a platform for individuals to find homes for objects that they no longer want, but someone else might be able to find a use for. I really like their format, because when you do a posting you start it with either WANTED:, OFFER:, TAKEN:, or RECEIVED:. In this way you know pretty quickly what items are still available, and what others are looking for. When you arrive at the front page for your area on freecycle that shows you the group info, scroll to the bottom of that page until you see “Visit the ______ group and see the posts”.

A site that is new to me is You can either search for a specific item, and all items matching all over the country/world will come up. You can also search for a specific city, and all listings in that area will come up. I like the format, it clearly shows you if the person is looking for an item, or has an item available. It also tells you if the item is free or if they want money for it.

For people looking to trade large ticket items in their lives, there are sites such as and on which people can swap their homes, real estate or vehicles.

One of the most popular barter gatherings here in the Northwest is the Okanogan Family Faire. This is a gathering held once a year in north-eastern Washington state. People come from all over to experience this unique and exciting event. Just about anything that you can imagine is available for trade at the Faire. An instant community forms as soon as people start filling in the camping spaces. There is nothing quite like a gathering of this kind to re-introduce people to the feeling of belonging to a community again.

Another great method of bartering is simply to find like-minded people in your area. But how do you find them? First of all, the sites listed above may connect you with some people. You can also go to a website like and start a group in your area. Local farmers markets are also a great place to get to know others that are drawn to living a more simple lifestyle. The more you explore different avenues of connecting, you will find that you run into more and more like-minded people.

How is barter regenerative?

Keeping useful items out of the dump. When someone no longer wants or needs an item, instead of simply throwing it in the trash they can find someone who could use it, or trade something else for it. In this way we can reduce needless waste from our lives.

Utilize your skills. What better way to gain some services that you need than to offer your own. What are you good at? You would be surprised at how many people might be interested in what you can do in trade for what they are skilled at.

Trade excess produce/products. Did you plant a little too much kale or zucchini this year?  What on earth are you going to do with it? Some people might have something in excess of their own that they would be willing to trade with you, others who are not as fortunate to have their own garden may be willing to trade you other items or services for garden fresh food!

Create Community. One of the most regenerative things that we could do in our lives is to bring community back into our lives. With community we nourish ourselves and the world around us. When we connect with other human beings we can’t help but develop our humanity. This is a great way to come together, swapping items.


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