Bartering is an excellent way to save on everything from home repairs to babysitting to legal advice! What's great about it is that you probably already have something someone else wants: stuff collecting dust in your basement or a skill that someone else can't do, won't do, or hates to do!

Recently, I was able to swap organizing a home for a new website. I'm not a professional organizer, and I wouldn't want to do it every day, but I enjoy the occasional purging of a closet or re-working of a kitchen to make it more efficient. I was able to take my talent and trade it for something I really wanted! It was a win-win situation, with little out-of-pocket expense.

To put this idea into practice, first figure out what you have to barter. Old stuff, new stuff, homemade stuff, or any skill or hobby in which you have some ability can be a potential exchange. Your imagination and finding someone who wants what you have are the only limits when it comes to bartering. Start a list of all of the things and services you have to offer and another list of all of the things or services you want, and then get going!

While bartering is an easy way to save money on virtually anything, here are a few guidelines to help you get started and make certain your trades are mutually beneficial and problem-free:

Market Yourself

Spread the word that you have products or services for barter. Tell people you know, post it on facebook, tweet it, send a text, put up flyers, use online services like Craigslist, or join a bartering club or group. There are hundreds of bartering sites online. Here are a few of the most popular:

Ask for What you Want

If you see a great opportunity for a barter, ask for it! I never would have thought that my organization skills would get me a website from a talented web designer, but it did! It happened only because she approached me and asked if I would be interested. If you have an idea that is favorable to both of you, then go for it! The worst that can happen is they say no and you move on to someone else.

Check Them Out

I choose to barter with people that I know personally or someone I know through someone else, with a good recommendation. Whether you choose to barter in person or online, be sure to ask for references or look into the person you are working with before you make a trade.

Put it in Writing

You don't need a contract to barter, but it is always a good idea to put the exchange on paper with as many details as possible. Ensuring that each party knows what the other expects is key to a successful barter. It is also a good idea to keep records of your barters for tax purposes, references, and examples of past successful barters. When writing a barter agreement, here are some good questions to ask:

  • How, when, and where will the trade take place?
  • Will time be exchanged hour-for-hour or in another way?
  • How will out-of-pocket expenses be handled?
  • How will we handle "credit" if one person puts in much more time than the other?
  • What is the approximate dollar value of the item/service being exchanged?
  • What is the time frame or "due date" for the service to be completed?

Pay Your Taxes

Bartering can be considered taxable income. Keep records of all of your barters, look into your tax responsibilities before you barter, and report any taxable income accordingly. You can find out more about taxes on bartering here: Tax Responsibilities of Bartering Participants

This has been a guest post by Kelly from Kalamazoo, MI
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