Barter, swap, or trade

Whatever you like to call it, I’m big on this form of commerce.

In fact, after I wrote two posts about our recent Nonconsumer Vacation, I was surprised that I had left out a successful trade I made when I wanted a piece of homemade cherry pie and they were all out of it. I noticed that some of the hikers at a nearby table had ordered an entire pie, and there were two pieces left as they sat around talking. When I went over to say hello and inquire whether I could have a piece, they were happy to give it to me, but I insisted that we would give them a bottle of imported beer in exchange. The place had only had Budweiser left for the past two days, so I knew that these calorie-starved, energetic young men would appreciate a bottle of Bass Ale. And they did.

Incidents like this have become such a commonplace part of our Compact-y lifestyle, that it didn’t even register as something to mention. But whether you call it barter, swap, or just plain trading, it can not only save you money, it can introduce you to your neighbors or even strangers, and many other things besides.

You all know about my annual clothing swap. But I also swap clothes and accessories with friends year-round, especially when I know an item would be perfect for a particular person.

I also participate in a monthly produce swap.

Recently I have swapped editing services for website services.

And the other day my neighbor brought me a beautiful and fragrant mint plant, and even planted it in one of my pots while I was at work. For that, he will receive freshly baked bread or cookies.

My husband and his friend trade their time for projects that require an extra hand, whether it’s a creative project like a short film or video, or a maintenance or remodeling project around the house.

With my favorite neighbor, I have traded bread for chocolate, fresh herbs for just-out-of-the-oven cookies, dinner leftovers for extra produce, and watering the yard for rides to the airport.

I’m on the lookout for fresh local eggs, for which I will gladly pay. But I’d be thrilled if the urban farmers were willing to trade for baked goods. Fresh eggs in Northeast L.A.? Anyone?

Do you use the barter system? What types of items do you trade, and with whom? Have you ever hosted a clothing swap, or any other kind of swap? Please share in the Comments section.


  1. says

    Great post Angela!

    My two coworkers and I do seasonal clothing swaps at work, and for the winter one, we host it in January and exchange unwanted holiday gifts. People donated and took all kinds of things at the last one: coffee/tea, chocolate, perfume, a wallet, men’s shirts, etc. I really recommend it for frugal fun in January when everyone’s holiday bills are arriving!

    We also have an ongoing book swap and small freecycle shelf in our office kitchen. Great to pass on DVDs, cds, and other small items.

    • Angela says

      Catherine, You are definitely one of my swap inspirations. I love that you do it at work, and that’s a great idea to do it in January.

      Thanks for your input.

  2. Marie-Josée says

    I would love to initiate a clothing and accessory swap at work, but I’m still too shy to suggest it to co-workers. I work in a legal firm and there is a competitive vibe to the place. I’m not sure how this suggestion would be precieved. My husband and I will get involved in home exchanges shortly. As for swapping and bartering in general, I’m ill at ease doing it. We donate a lot though, and I am getting better at this. For example, I asked my mother-in-law if she had an old clothes iron laying around (she did!), before going out and replacing the new, but crappy one I bought at Walmart for $7. My name is on a waiting list for a community garden just behind my home and I am thinking of asking my neighbors to sign-up for a plot. I would garden my plot and theirs and share the produce with them, as they have already mentioned not having the time to care for a garden. Wish I weren’t so shy! Thanks for sharing your pie story.

    • Angela says

      Marie-Josee, I encourage you to talk to your neighbors. If someone came to me offering to garden my plot in exchange for sharing produce, I would take them up on the idea on the spot. I love the community garden idea, by the way.

      As far as work, I would try the neighbors and garden idea first. I do think in corporate situations, there can be a stigma against this kind of thing, as sometimes there is a competitive and or status-oriented vibe. So your instincts might be right about that one, and it might not be the best place to mention a swap. Maybe you could start a swap with a few friends or family members, and if it works out, everyone could bring someone the next time.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  3. savingfortravel says

    Hi Angela

    What a great post!
    My husband (Mr Sft) trades his IT support with neighbours and friends. Last Sunday we had to cut down a tree and our neighbour lent us all his tools and gave instructions. He also used his chain saw to cut down the final trunk. He has a problem on his computer so Mr Sft will pop round to help him.

    Lucky eh!

    I love trading and will look to do more of it.

    Sft x

    • Angela says

      Thanks SFT- I’m so glad you liked the post!

      IT support is a great service to be able to trade. My husband often helps our older neighbor with basic computer issues, and he waters our lawn while we’re away.

      And yes, tools are a perfect thing to barter because no one needs to own all the large tools. One per neighborhood or friend group is sufficient for items like table saws, etc.

      Thanks so much for commenting.

  4. says

    When we moved to Florida, we handled 99% of the move ourselves. But we needed to find someone to help us with 2-3 large pieces.

    In exchange for helping us, we gave him several large pieces of furniture from the furnised villa we were buying that we didn’t need ~ 2 headboards, a couple of dressers, a mattress and box spring, an extra refrigerator, etc.

    He was thrilled because he could sell what we gave him for far more than we would have paid him.
    We were thrilled because it didn’t cost us a dime.

    And I loved your trade for the cherry pie!!! 😉

    • Angela says

      Nancy, what a fabulous exchange for both of you! I love it! Thanks for sharing that story. A perfect win/win.

      And thanks as always for commenting.

  5. Laurie says

    I would trim my neighbor’s dogs toenails in exchange for a bottle of wine. I was happy to do it for free as I love dogs, but my neighbors were so pleased to have the task done they wanted to share their wine.

    At a former workplace we had a “take it or leave it” box for items we no longer needed. We had a time limit for how long stuff would remain in the box and then take it to a charity, recycle it, etc.

    • Angela says

      I would trim a dog’s nails for wine, too! That’s our kind of trade. :)

      My husband is often the neighborhood “fix it” man because there are a lot of older single people in the neighborhood. The woman next door would always give us a bottle of wine when he helped her out with some small house or car emergency. He would have done it for nothing, but we appreciated the wine.

      We have a sort of “take it or leave it” table at work too. Recently I grabbed a box of Tazo tea and a beautiful napkin. It doesn’t matter to me that it was a single, because we have a lot of cloth napkins in a similar color range.

      Thanks for commenting.

  6. Cynthia Sage says

    I always enjoy reading your blog and this was no exception. Though I don’t do a lot of bartering, I did make one beneficial arrangement with a neighbor this summer. I used to have a garden, but due to my work schedule and travel, gave it up a few years ago. I do have chickens however, my husband doesn’t mind helping out with them, but is not a gardener,. This summer I asked a neighbor, an excellent gardener, if she would like to trade fresh produce for fresh eggs, a win – win situation. We don’t assign a dollar value, just trade excess when we have it. I most certainly would make a deal with you if I lived in LA.

  7. says

    Hi Angela, I was going to mention house swapping using but then I read an older post where you mention you have used homelink. I like the ideas you share in your posts. I’m far away so I can’t offer to trade anything, but baked goods are a precious item to me :)

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