Although barter is the oldest form of transaction in the world, we are always amazed at how often people are startled by the idea of using barter in their everyday lives. Our culture is so cash-focused that for all but an inventive few, most of us have forgotten this age-old system of exchange that much of the developing world still employs. However, as you’ll see in the following pages, barter is very much alive and well in the twenty-first century. Plenty of people—plumbers, secretaries, writers, hairstylists, moms, stockbrokers, and so on—trade their skills for goods and services they need or simply want. And for those who use barter, the results are dramatic. They save money, create new relationships, powerpoint course, stabilize family finances, pay off and avoid debt, acquire luxuries, and improve the overall well-being of their families, just by being creative thinkers.

Barter is especially helpful if your circumstances have temporarily diminished your cash flow. People who have been laid off, had their hours cut, or are just getting into the workforce should absolutely consider barter as a way to offset cash expenses and help with obtaining products and services they need while they job hunt or wait for their company’s finances to improve. When you barter your time and talents, you also relieve the stress from financial hardships and provide income that can lift your spirits so you can keep going. The products and services you barter can also help you stay out of debt as you reconfigure your life. It also shows you another way of managing the world and that your worth isn’t connected to just a paycheck. Barter could, in fact, solve your money problems, and at the very least, it can certainly help.

Beyond finances, we are excited about barter’s potential—really, your potential—to change your world into a more engaged, involved, and caring place. Just like the old-fashioned barn raising where all the neighbors came to help one farmer erect his barn, barter helps you build a better, bigger sense of community, where new friends help each other solve problems. In some ways, we’re talking about a more compassionate, concerned world where everyone recognizes that “we’re in this together.” It’s also using technology such as Internet barter sites to expand your face-to-face interactions with your community, your circle of friends, and your repertoire of problem-solving skills and solutions.

When you embrace bartering, you bring a host of benefits into your life that you hadn’t considered before. The A-number-one benefit you reap from barter is saving cash. If you can barter your services for something you would normally pay for, you have clearly freed your cash for something that you can’t get through barter.

Trading can save you time. If you’re like us, you would rather go shopping for gifts for men than have to clean house. So bartering for housecleaning is a mighty fine way to avoid doing a chore you dislike and free up your time to do something you do like, perhaps by keeping the books for your housecleaning company or babysitting for the owner’s children. Doesn’t spending more time doing what you love to do rather than trudging through something you hate to do sound like a far more appealing way to live your life?

If you’re concerned about the environment, barter is a great way to recycle. Instead of dumping your stuff into the trash stream, barter it to keep it out of our growing landfills and productive for someone who really needs it. Another pleasantly unexpected benefit to barter is how it strengthens friendships and builds your sense of community in ways you wouldn’t have anticipated.