Need some fresh inspiration for boosting your savings? Don’t dismiss how the barter economy can help you!
So, you’ve set your eyes on the savings target ahead and are watching every cent. It’s a tough slog and that dream can feel distant, plus, saver fatigue can set in, which will make you think that there aren’t any other ways for you to put extra dollars aside. It’s times like these you need to put on your thinking cap and look for alternative saving options to take a step onto the property ladder. Have you considered the barter economy?
What is the barter economy?
Essentially, the barter economy just refers to skipping the cash transaction and exchanging goods or services for other goods or services. It has its roots way back in early history, but that’s not to say it can’t be useful to us today – especially if you’re saving for a deposit and are looking for smart ways to boost your budget. With a bit of research and learning to master the carefully crafted question, you could see some big wins from tapping into the barter economy.
How the barter economy can help you save
Just ask Katie, a Uni student, wannabe homeowner and yoga devotee who found it hard to balance her wants and needs with her limited budget. “I found myself in the common situation of being unable to pay for what had become an expensive hobby,” says Katie. “With classes ranging anywhere between $18 and $25 per session, I couldn’t afford the monthly membership on my meagre income, so I had to get resourceful.”
Enter, the barter economy: “A friend had seen a poster on our local yoga studio’s notice board advertising free classes in exchange for studio cleaning. I approached the studio manager who had an opening, and I began the very next week.”
But what was the balance of work to reward? “I had to dust, sweep and vacuum the studio, for two hours a week in return for practising at the studio anytime I liked,” says Katie. “I loved that I was able to do yoga when I wanted – it really meant a lot to me. Plus, the cash I’d previously spent on yoga classes went straight towards my deposit.”
That’s the key with the barter economy, because you’re not earning as such, you just need to redirect what you’d usually spend into your savings account to earn interest. So not only do you get the cash in your account, but also, if you find the right arrangement for you, you can enjoy some of the things you may not have been able to on a strict “saver” budget. “For me, the fact that I could do something I loved while adding to my bank balance was the big win,” says Katie. “I didn’t have to sacrifice my lifestyle to reach my savings goal.”
What are other versions of the barter economy?
But say yoga isn’t your thing – don’t despair! Designer, Andre, was able to cash in (so to speak) on the barter economy after spotting a poster at his local live music venue. “Going to gigs is something I could never give up, so I jumped at the chance to change up the usual exchange,” says Andre. The venue was on the hunt for a promotions crew – anyone keen on handing out flyers, working on social media content or designing posters in return for free tickets. For Andre, this meant his usual twice or so weekly ticket expenditure could go back into savings.
Liana, also a designer, was able to take advantage of contra in the form of weekly groceries. “After I was engaged by my local grocer for design work, I realised that it would be mutually beneficial to be paid in goods rather than in cash. It made sense for both of us and I was so happy to pump up my savings as a result.” Skills for food exchanges are not uncommon – “I’ve also joined Facebook groups in my area that advertise swaps,” says Katie. “Often you’ll see someone offering their skills in exchange for fresh garden produce.”
A quick internet search for barter economies in your area could also turn up a wealth of options to get you started.
How do you find opportunities to make the barter economy work for you?
Don’t be afraid to ask the question! “It’s all about making a good first impression,” says Katie. “Approach someone with a clear and positive intention, ensuring you explain exactly how they’ll benefit or what they can expect in return.”
But, because you’re operating in a slightly alternative system, it’s ok to ask a few more questions and be sceptical if you’re not quite sure of the ins and outs of the exchange. You want to be sure that your trade is fair and you will stand in good stead once the deal is done or if you plan to continue the arrangement over the course of months or more.