Money can quickly lose its value in the event of a catastrophic event. In 1998 in Quebec and Ottawa, an ice storm crippled the power grid in those two provinces, forcing people to learn to live without electricity for several weeks. Credit cards and other forms of electronic commerce simply ceased to function.
In such a situation, bartering can replace cash and credit cards. Bartering is the simple act of exchanging one thing for something else. But it’s rarely simple.
Bartering begins when you need something you don’t have. The key is to find someone who has it and who is willing to trade for something you have and that they want. It could be goods, or it could be services or a unique skill.
Stockpile items that will have value if the manufacturing infrastructure breaks down. Items to think about include:
- Precious metals (gold, silver, coins with silver content).
- OTC medicines and supplies.
- Prescription meds and supplies.
- Vegetable and fruit seeds.
- Equipment and supplies for food preservation, from canning to salt.
- Sewing and knitting supplies.
- Water purification equipment and supplies.
- Personal hygiene items, from soap to tampons.
- Nails, screws and other building supply basics
As you can see from the above list, these are items that are difficult to produce or create on your own. All can be bought in stores or online.
But there’s a certain skill set you can learn that will allow you to produce items of value for barter. They include:
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Smoked fish and game.
- Fresh fish and game.
- Baked bread and other baked goods.
- Knitted items.
- Honey, maple syrup and molasses.
- Herbs and herbal remedies.
- Rustic furniture.
- Basic tools, from brooms to rope.
You also can barter your own skills. Someone who has the tools and the expertise to perform timber-frame construction easily could barter their labor for goods and services. The same is true for someone who is an expert at herbal remedies or who can construct and build cabins or furniture from rustic resources. You even could barter your help and assistance with simple labor for fundamental tasks. The critical thing is to have the ability to anticipate what others may need when times are tough.
To a large degree any barter transaction is a negotiation, much like at a flea market. That gets to a fundamental rule of barter. Only bring a small portion of what you have of any item, and don’t advertise the fact that you have more of anything. In a barter economy, you might encounter desperate people who will take desperate measures to get what they need.
Let’s look at the basics of bartering …
The 5 Steps of Bartering
1. What you want versus what you have. Try to assess the current value of what you need from a barter standpoint and assess what you can offer in exchange.
2. Identify potential trading partners. This might be neighbors or individuals at a barter market. Sometimes networking can help by simply getting the word out to your friends and neighbors that you are looking for a certain item or set of items. There’s also the remote possibility that the Internet may still be functioning, to some degree. After all, it was fundamentally designed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to survive total thermo-nuclear war.
3. Negotiate. Sometimes a barter exchange is a mixed bag of items. If someone has something of particular value like an ax, and you don’t have a comparable tool to exchange, you could combine items for trade such as nails, seeds, a gallon of vinegar and an assortment of first-aid supplies you can spare. You also could offer services in exchange for the item.
4. Agree on a time and place to make the exchange. If you’re at a barter market, you may have these items with you. Otherwise, you need to determine a place to meet and complete the transaction. Make sure you inspect the item or items before agreeing to the final exchange. Refunds are rare and failing to live up to the bargain is not a good idea on either side of the transaction.
5. Build your barter network. If you are satisfied with the transaction, you have the opportunity to build a relationship with this trading partner. Chances are you will be able to continue to make exchanges in the future and it’s always best to do it with someone you trust and have come to know.
There are online websites and various locations already established for the barter of goods and services. You may not need to barter for something right now, but it’s good practice. It’s particularly valuable at some of the barter markets that have popped up. This recreates the environment that you will encounter in a pure, barter economy. It also will give you a chance to see what people offer or create so you have new ideas as you expand your barter inventory and hone your barter experience.
What advice would you add about bartering? Share your thoughts in the section below: