A little give and take never hurt anyone

2011-03-19 14:17

Friends of mine recently travelled to Europe for an extended holiday that spanned three cities: Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona.

It was a leisurely affair, stopping for a week or so in each city. Usually, for a trip of this nature, hotel accommodation would eat up a large part of the budget and would require months of saving, but my friends didn’t spend a cent on hotel bills.

Instead, they delved into the world of barter exchanges and swapped their home in Cape Town for a proportionate time in a different home, in each city.

A typical kneejerk reaction for most South Africans would be concerns over trust and security, but this kind of exchange is a growing trend in a post-recession world. For my friends, it turned out to be not only a wonderful experience, but a worthwhile exchange.

Bartering is not new. It is the earliest form of a structured economy and has been around for thousands of years.

The recent recession, however, has pushed this basic form of exchange back into the spotlight and, with the technological tools now available to us, has propelled a somewhat “quaint recession fad” into a mainstream trend that has many people pondering the viability of a cashless society.

However, unless we have an apocalyptic financial meltdown that destroys all global markets, I doubt that we will be seeing a cashless society in the near future.

But the growing evidence of successful barter exchange programmes popping up around the world can’t be ignored.

Bartering in the 21st century is an alternate and very effective way of getting goods and services (usually by cutting out a middle man) and diverting your hard-earned cash to other areas, like debt reduction.

Look at it as a new and alternative way of money management.

There will always be a need to earn money to pay the bills, but that is where the nuance of modern-day bartering comes into play.

Know that there is a time to earn money and a time to barter for goods or services that will enrich you.

Money and enrichment should never be confused. Remember that when bartering, tangible services or goods are probably most sought after.

Things such as carpentry, artisanal skills, home-grown produce and personal knowledge exchange (like teaching computer skills) are all good examples of bartering collateral.

Also, ensure that when you are trading skills, you are trading equal values.

For example, if you are a bookkeeper offering services worth R2 000, don’t try to barter for goods worth R10 000.

Keep it fair and equitable, and everyone will benefit.

Remember that we live in an age of social networks, so bartering can lead to other things.

You might not only save money, but also build a network with other professionals, learn a new skill, help a community or even travel to that far-flung destination you thought you would never visit.

» Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. Visit www.fluxtrends.com 

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