A few years ago, we had the “adventure” of being without a fridge for over a month. When the old fridge quit working, in order to pay cash for a replacement we squeezed our budget and put other financial plans on hold while we saved up to purchase a new one.

It took us about six weeks to save enough to purchase a no frills model and I was really proud of us for being disciplined. We made do, we did without. I considered it a victory for frugality.

However, in our pride, Christopher and I didn’t tell anyone and kept our fridge problem to ourselves, quietly taking care of things and making do while we saved up. Later, after the purchase, a friend found out and exclaimed, “why didn’t you tell me? We had an extra fridge we just got rid of, we could have given it to you.”

Whoops. The time we went without was character building, to say the least, but it was an unnecessary hardship that could have been quickly remedied if our pride hadn’t prevented us from putting the word out we had a need.

Now, Christopher and I wouldn’t have felt comfortable just taking the fridge without exchanging it for something, of course. I’m confident we could have worked out a deal with our friend.

Which brings me to the point I want to make today: the often overlooked practice of bartering and swapping and why it’s a valid practice more should consider.

Sure, most folks who think of simple living think of DIY, purchasing second hand, or even going without. Bartering is an option that, in my experience, isn’t the first thought when we need or want something. But I’m here to make the case that it should be.

Bartering is frugal, it’s a win-win for both parties when done fairly, and it’s a simple way to get needs met and wants fulfilled.

For instance, our printer recently quit on us and, as a homeschooling family, it put me in a little bit of a panic. Enter our friends who had an old printer which wasn’t compatible with their new computer AND their need for a toddler bed, which we just happened to have sitting in our garage after our youngest outgrew hers. They got a bed, we got a printer and everyone ended up happy.

But a barter doesn’t just have to be item for item. For the last three Christmases I have used my knitting skills to make presents for my husband’s aunt that she has given away to others. She tells me what she’s looking for and then I knit the projects for her. To “pay” me for my time and effort, she babysits our kids one night during the holiday season. She gets hand knit items to give to loved ones and I get a night out with my husband, plus a good excuse to make time for a hobby I love.

Other recent barters, trades, or swaps that have been successful for us:

  • We exchanged outgrown girls’ winter clothes in good condition with my beekeeper brother for beeswax and honey.
  • My homesteading sister brought us homemade applesauce for our freezer in exchange for our empty wine bottles (she home brews) and our old busted printer (for her sons’ garage tinkering lab).
  • Our old car was traded to a relative in exchange for some work on our house that we didn’t have the skills to do ourselves.
  • We garden sat and took care of a neighbor’s chickens and ducks while they were on vacation and in exchange we got some chicken meat for our freezer and all the fresh veggies and eggs we could carry.
  • My husband and I do jigsaw puzzles and so does my dad and once a year or so we trade him our old puzzles for his old ones and everyone ends up with new to them puzzles.
  • When we first moved and didn’t have a mower of our own, we bartered yard work in exchange for the use of a elderly neighbor’s lawnmower – we used his mower to mow his yard and ours. We worked out a similar deal with the snow blower in the wintertime.

I’ve also heard of curriculum swaps, book swaps, Halloween costume swaps, maternity clothes swaps, and of course I do love a good holiday cookie swap.

The next time you find yourself with a need or a want, don’t be afraid to speak up. Someone may have something that might be the solution to your problem and you could have a skill or item that is of value to them.  If everyone is in agreement about the fairness of the trade and the timeline it needs to be completed by, both sides can get what they want or need and no money need exchange hands.

That sounds like a good deal to me.