09 Feb

Bartering for groceries

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As I’ve mentioned in past, food is one of my favorite things to barter for.  I truly believe that food that I’ve bartered for tastes better than food that I paid cash for.  To that end, I’ve had some successes in trading for food lately that I wanted to share.

All over the country for the last decade that has been a resurgence of slow food.  Food that is grown locally, raised organically and sold at a premium to foodies that can’t get enough of it.  The barter benefit is that much of this food is raised on small entrepreneurial farms that have sprung up in every state.  The farmers and ranchers are usually big on idealism and short on cash which makes them great people to talk to about barter.

I’ve had a lot of success working through Craigslist and my existing barter and business network in finding local farms to trade with.  This has included folks that raise chickens, beef, turkey, pigs and even meat rabbits. I’ve also had success trading for eggs, bread and veggies.  Last season I even traded with local fisherman for fresh crab.  Bottom line:  There are a lot of potential food trades available if you invest the time to track down barter partners.

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30 Dec

Time Banks

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For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, a time bank is a form of barter organization where members “bank” credit by doing hours of work for other members and can then purchase other member’s time with those credits.  Although I haven’t been directly involved with a time banking organization, my wife has performed some trading this way that has worked out really well.  My wife is a nail technician and she often does the nails of a local massage therapist.  As you may guess, getting a massage is much more expensive than having your nails done so it would be very lopsided to barter at cash value.  Instead they roughly trade their time.  A massage takes about twice as long as nails so my wife gives her massage therapist two gift certificates for each massage she receives.

There is also a life philosophy that is lived out through time banks.  At it’s most basic level, trading time values everyone’s time equally.  Although I would be the first to acknowledge that all people (and their time) have great value and that no one person is any more important or valuable than anyone else, it’s difficult to live that out in the marketplace.  For example, I have a hard time justifying a brain surgeon and a landscaper trading hours.  It’s not that I don’t value a landscaper or his skills.  The truth of the matter is that the surgeon had to invest a lot more time and money into his profession than the landscaper and his skill set is much more scarce in the marketplace.

Bottom line is that I like the concept of a time bank, but I think it works best for folks that are earning and spending hours of approximately the same value in the cash marketplace.  It can still work when the values are uneven, but in those cases the member with higher cash rates will need to look at the time bank as his own personal social justice program the same way one might look at pro-bono work.

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26 Sep

A “sharing economy”

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You may have heard earlier this month of “Free Money Day” (freemoneyday.org). The organizers of this event were promoting a day where people world-wide were encouraged to give away money to complete strangers to promote something called a “sharing economy.”  Although not directly related to barter, I’ve run into the concept of a “sharing economy” multiple times in my life and think it’s very interesting.  The concept is to give away products/services with no expectation of receiving anything in return.  For example, participants of Burning Man are encouraged to provide products/services to each other free of charge during the event.  Not only is cash strongly discouraged, but barter is as well.**   Before you dismiss this as a Utopian hippy-dippy idea, there are some practical applications of this approach in the real world.

In my life I participate in a sharing economy with people that I have the closest relationships with.  For example, I will often do things for (or give things to) friends or family without expectation of reciprocation.  I also partner in business with a consultant where we often do things for each other in business with little expectation of receiving something in return.  There is something interesting going on here physiologically because it’s easier for me to give freely to people who are close to me that I feel will not take advantage of me.  This really doesn’t add up because if you are truly giving without expectation of return then it’s impossible for anyone to take advantage of you.

I think also it’s important to differentiate between a true sharing economy and a loose barter arrangement.  It is very common for people to barter with each other without tracking the details of who did what for whom.  Because there is a general expectation that everything needs to “come out in the wash” in those situations, it really doesn’t qualify as giving w/o expectation of return.

You can learn more about the sharing economy in that most-dependable-of-all-resources, wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharing_economy

** I’ve been told the only things that are allowed to be sold at Burning Man are ice and coffee (the necessities of life there).

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