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Sometimes, a buggy just won’t cut it, which is where bartering comes in for Andy the Amish boat cover maker.
“I can’t move the boats around with a handcart, so I’ll trade boat covers with a guy who has a truck and can help me move boats.”
When Abel and Martha have enough unwearable clothes gathered, they tear them into strips and weave them into charming, color-drenched rugs. They either sell them at Abel’s uncle’s farm stand, or they trade them for something else. “One time, we traded fifty or sixty rugs for a heifer.”
The Amish love to swap goods for goods, or goods for services, or services for services. “If we can barter, we do,” said Bishop Jake. The Amish have a long history of living outside a cash economy, and they love bartering, a social behavior left over from the 1880’s to the Great Depression.
We can take a page from the Amish and hold on to our cash, trading and swapping things we already have or skills we possess to get what we want. The idea has strikingly modern applications for almost everybody. In the Depression, people struck deals in tools, chickens and milk—essential provisions and supplies. Now traders will offer personal trading sessions for scuba gear or a Pilates lesson for a borrowed trailer hitch (the latter happened to me).
Here are ten swap stories from modern barterers. Maybe they will trigger a flash of inspiration for you to cut your own win-win trade:
• Rachel: “I have bartered piano lessons for a concrete driveway.”
• Romie: “We tuned the piano of a friend with a beach house in exchange for renting their beach house for a weekend.”
• Cynthia: “We traded our 1979 El Camino for house repairs.”
• Lucy: “On our local Facebook buy/sell/swap, I’ll swap my plants and jams for whatever I want to buy, such as baby toys, other plants and even furniture.”
• Stephanie: “I spent an afternoon with a friend going through baby clothes, helping her declutter and also sorting things for a yard sale or for donation. That same individual came to my house and helped me organize my master closet. We both spent about 3-4 hours helping each other get organized.”
• Laura: “I have swapped violin lessons for babysitting.”
• Jennifer. My friend is a massage therapist who traded massage for a share of meat and eggs from our CSA farm. I offer bartering for my doula services, but have not had anyone take me up on it yet.”
• Ingrid: “I exchanged interior design services for a haircut/highlight with my hairstylist. I also exchanged design services for graphic design. My great grandparents had a country store during the Depression. They took barters (including a beautiful platinum diamond wedding band) to help people get food. I love the barter system!”
• Amanda: “I just was asked today by our favorite farmers market vendor if I would trade writing their website “about” page for some of their handmade soaps and creams, which the girls and I love!”
And here’s one of the most urbane barters I have ever heard of, from Amy who is married to a Blue Man from the Blue Man Performing Group in Chicago:
• “We barter tickets to Blue Man for car repairs, restaurant meals, other theater tickets (obviously), Chicago Cubs passes, back stage passes to concerts, art exhibits, etc.”
Not married to a Blue Man? Me either, but I am inspired with how Amy is leveraging this super Amish skill in downtown Chicago!
And I’m thrilled to say that my dream barter, inspired by the bartering chapter in “Money Secrets of the Amish,” is finally coming true: This August my family and I are going to stay rent free at a beautiful condo on Lake Michigan (it sleeps 13), in exchange for my helping the condo owner shape, edit and self-publish her memoir.
What goods, services, or skills could you offer in trade to get what you want? Like the Amish, you could learn to barter like a pro. Ella, an Amish midwife who traded her midwife services for a handmade appliqued Amish (naturally) quilt, is definitely a pro. “On my end, absolutely it was a good deal,” she said. “And on her end it worked well too. We both got exactly what we wanted from the deal.”
Lorilee Craker is the author of fourteen books, including Money Secrets of the Amish, for which she was nominated for a 2012 Audie Award for best audio book, personal development (Jane Fonda won in her category!); Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me, a memoir braiding her and her daughter’s adoption with Anne’s story, and the New York Times bestseller Through the Storm with Lynne Spears. She lives in a 1924 house in Michigan with her husband, three children, a dog, two cats and a neurotic little hedgehog named Spike. She blogs about books, teenagers, Gilbert Blythe, books, TV recaps, and well, more books at www.Lorileecraker.com, posts about all of the above on Facebook, and loves to take dreamy photos of books, succulents (she’s a little bit obsessed), and teacups at her Instagram account @thebooksellersdaughter.