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Save Money By Trading Goods and Services with Friends

Guest post by Amy Gabriel at Gabriel’s Good Tidings and The Quiet Little Ladybug

I have many friends who have a wide variety of skills and talents. Over the past year, I’ve been able to “trade” things with these women on many occasions. We mutually benefit from one another – I enjoy sharing my sewing skills with friends, and I am elated when a friend shares her talents with me.

For example, last fall Tonya posted a round seasonal tablecloth in our church newsletter. She no longer needed this shape, so I converted the fabric into napkins for her. In return, she made a batch of dough and posted about this trade on her blog. This provided publicity for my new sewing blog, and allowed our family to enjoy a dinner with her homemade pizza dough.

Stephanie makes beautiful cakes and offered to supply the cake for my daughter’s birthday party. In exchange, I am making her daughter a handmade blanket. I love good coffee creamer, so Esther made me a jar of homemade vanilla creamer and I sewed an Osnaburg bread bag for her.

Although mending clothing is not my favorite sewing project, I will often do it for friends. Such is the case with Sarah, who makes gorgeous jewelry. She has offered to repair some broken necklaces for me in return for mending some torn jeans.

Here are a few guidelines I follow when trading goods and services with friends:

Make sure all the terms are clear before the trade.

Talk about specifics of what you will trade, when it will be finished, and any other details before you start. Even with close friends, it’s important to know what is expected from both parties.

Recognize abilities in your friends.

Encourage those you know by saying, “I love your home décor. What can I offer you in return for helping me remodel my bedroom?” This will make your friend grin from ear to ear and she will be more than happy to find something she desires from your abilities.

Make sure you are compensated for your time and investment.

Even though you aren’t exchanging money, make sure both parties are receiving their fair share. It may help to think about what you would charge for such a good or service, and compare that to what you are being given.

Think outside the box.

Maybe you love to clean and can offer cleaning services in exchange for babysitting your children. Perhaps you love to cook and could offer a meal to a friend who could iron your husband’s shirts. Or, consider sharing flowers from your garden in return for washing and waxing your vehicle. Another idea is to share some of your stockpile with a friend who knits beautiful scarves and mittens. Even if you don’t consider your skill a true talent, it is surely valuable to someone.

Trading goods and services is a great way to “splurge” on something you may not typically have, build stronger relationships with friends, and share your gifts with others.

Amy is a wife, mother, seamstress and pediatric nurse. She blogs about her sewing projects at Gabriel’s Good Tidings and about her daughter’s verbal apraxia at The Quiet Little Ladybug.

Note from Crystal: Please note that according to the IRS, the fair market value of bartered services must be reported as income.

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  • Leah says:

    I love this! I wish there was a web directory of people willing to barter skills. If anyone knows of one, let me know!

    • Becky says:

      Many communities have local timebanks, which allow you to “earn” time by helping other, which you then redeem for services you need. It’s particularly nice for me because (1) it’s not a direct trade; (2) you don’t feel obligated as you might with a friend; (3) it makes it easier to ask for help without feeling like a charity case.

  • My friend does the most fun exchange with some of her friends. Every few months, they get together and have a “Service Swap”. Everyone comes up with a service to offer, writes it down, then puts it in an envelope. They have a white elephant exchange for all the services. You can put down any service you like to do: make a meal, clean someone’s house, do a week’s worth of ironing, mend ten pieces of clothing, give three evenings of babysitting, etc. They have so much fun and everyone enjoys fighting over the most popular services. People get more creative every time they do it. Everybody gets something they “need”, and they have lots of fun swapping at the same time.

  • Willing Cook says:

    This is so timely. A friend and I were just discussing trading guest posts on each other’s blog as well as how we can incorporate our other creative outlets in a similar fashion. We also have children in the same school, but different grades, so we swap childcare for field trips.

    We do a “date night-kid swap” with another family every month. We go one month, the other couple goes the next month, and so on. We are able to get out on the occasional date with our husband and save money on babysitters too.

    We have bartered with friends in so many different and creative ways over the years. It has been such a blessing.

  • Gabrielle says:

    I did this last summer and it worked out really well! I needed a weekly babysitter for my toddler while my husband and I did a couple’s marriage group. But we didn’t have the money for it. So a pregnant friend came up with the perfect solution. She babysat and I would cook a freezer dinner for every time she kept our daughter. After she had her baby, I brought over four freezer dinners for her, in addition to a hot meal that I brought over, just because I love her.

  • Rhonda R. says:

    Great post. Any chance I can get the recipe from your friend that made the homemade vanilla coffee creamer?

  • Over the years I have coached hundreds of women (most of them in business) who have shared the horror stories of bartering and trading services. Although I feel the guidelines are excellent, if you are going to barter, I personally don’t believe in it for one simple reason: when you barter you block the flow of money. If you are trying to increase your income bartering blocks the natural exchange of money coming out of your wallet and back into it. If you’re not concerned with increasing your income and are looking only to share your talents and skills then Amy’s guidelines should be adhered. This will ensure it’s an even exchange. But if you are in business, I highly discourage any type of bartering. You’re better off to write each other a check than to barter.

    • My mother used to barter items from her store with our dentist for dental services. It was a wonderful blessing that enabled her to get us to a dentist. They worked out the terms of the agreement, and we had the same dentist for years, so he obviously happy to continue the arrangement.

    • Excellent points. I should have added to the article that there are times when I don’t need the friend’s talent or service and simply ask for a check. Or times when money is tight and a check is worth more than trading a service.

      Appreciate your insight and wisdom, Maureen.

      • Thanks Amy! Most of the horror stories I have heard had to do with exactly that point – people wanting to barter and the other person not wanting or needing the service. Thanks for the great post and advice for those who just want to share their special skills with others.

  • Lacey says:

    I have a few friends that make things, but we have never traded anything. I wish there was an online bartering site I would definately do it. I make diaper cakes and baby shower game, and would love to trade if possible.

    • Have you tried selling what you make on eBay or Craig’s List? Whenever I think of selling something on eBay, the same issue arises – shipping. However, since you are essentially making the same thing over and over again (and I’m guessing the size doesn’t really vary much?) then you should be able to figure out what the weight and packaging requirements would be. If you’d prefer to keep it local, have you posted a flyer on the grocery store bulletin boards?

  • Brandy says:

    I love the idea of trading services and do this quite frequently with my friends. However, I am not a fan of the idea of promoting one another on each other’s blogs. This is becoming a huge trend among many of the blogs that I follow as a way to help out friends and build blogs. Unfortunately it leaves me wondering if the items, posts, ideas, etc being promoted are something they would really be promoting if there wasn’t something being generated in return…..almost like a conflict of interest in the business sense.

  • Richelle says:

    I am so glad to see somebody blog about this! Earlier this week, our autistic son put a piece of a hard plastic wrapper he found, in the toilet. We had a Plumber come and remedy the clog. Thankfully, the plumber is a friend from church’s Husband, who is laid off at the moment. We could not afford to pay him cash, but I was able to give them diapers, toothpaste, dish soap, shampoo, conditioner, fabric softener, and a swiffer sweeper– all from my stockpile… In trade for his services. They were super happy because all of those items were things they could use (especially because he is laid off), and we were stoked because we didn’t have to shell out a bunch of cash we didn’t have.
    It was like we played blessing tag… Good stuff!

    • flutemom says:

      “it was like we played blessing tag”- i love that quote! it made me smile, just the thought of blessing someone else….

  • margaret says:

    We have bartered for years , In the 70s when our children were young and I wanted to be home with them, I baked and sewed for people who in exchange gave us firewood, vegtables,fruit, we always knew who in our neighborhood who needed and who had supplies it was a fun way to get along and fun to always have some surprizes,Our neighbor who drove cross country semi, would bring me home flour and onions what ever broke on his truck. I would cook for him and cut his hair… It was such a blessing to see god provide all our needs, He never said we wouldnt have to work for them , But our Heavenly father did promise to provide what we need.. and he always comes thru…

  • Karen says:

    Be careful, Some trading of services is considered income and is taxable.

    • This is true – the IRS says the fair market value of bartered services must be reported as income, and you’d owe income taxes on it:,,id=188095,00.html
      The only reason bartering makes more economic sense than using cash is that you aren’t paying taxes on it…

      • Kay says:

        Agreed. I was very surprised to learn this in my tax class at law school. Crystal, I think this important enough information that you should add a note to the article reminding folks that taxes are still owed on bartered services.

        • Crystal says:

          Yes, I should have thought to add that from the get-go as it’s something we’ve dealt with ourselves when doing taxes. Thanks for pointing out my oversight!

  • Kadee says:

    My neighbor is a hair stylist, and she approached us to barter services after her husband died. We take care of her lawn during the growing season, and she takes care of my hair – cut and color year round. I couldn’t afford to get my hair colored before, and I am loving my new look 🙂

  • I have recently started trading. Last week we got enough fresh corn from some people to freeze 50 quarts! In exchange for that corn, I baked them some fresh bread! Here’s my post about freezing corn if you’re curious.

    I also talked to a friend recently who keeps bees. I need honey to bake my bread, and she loves my bread so I asked if she’d trade bread for honey! Deal, she said! I can’t wait to try fresh honey for the first time.

    People used to trade all the time. I think it’s a great thing to do. 🙂

  • Autumn says:

    My Bf works for a Barter Exchange co. WTA. Just in the past 3-4 months they signed up 110 + businesses. This economy defintely makes barter so much more appealing but I’ve always loved barter. In the barter exchange co. you do not have to do a straight one on one trade you can for example go have your car repaired and the points(dollars) get subtracted off your member card they provide you with and then gets added to say the mechanics and he can just bank them and barter with anyone on the member list in case you do not have a service he/she can use. I love it!! Plus they are given a free points in the beginning to go buy services-goods to start them out. I love FREE.

  • Charlene says:

    I don’t have a website or blog, but I would love to have the reipe for the homemade vanilla creamer. My email is Thank you.

  • I barter for eggs. I trade weeds from my yard and vegetables (such as swiss chard) that have gone to seed, carrot tops, and kitchen scraps for eggs with a friend. It isn’t every week, and it depends on if her hens are laying enough (it gets so hot here that they stop laying in the summer), but I trade whenever I can.

  • JRFrugalMom says:

    This is a great post, I think trading is a great way to save money, and I think it is a great way to circumvent money changing hands between friends, which can be a bit of a hassle no matter what.

    My husband just bought back a bunch of “free” avocados today, as there is an avocado tree on a property he manages. He always makes sure to make an arrangement with the person living there, so that we get lots of avocados every August.

    I just posted a photo of my free avocados.

  • Marianne says:

    I teach a handful of piano students and one of them (an adult) asked if she could exchange every two lessons for an evening of babysitting instead of paying me. It’s working out great and my husband and I are enjoying having some additional date time together.

  • Jenny says:

    Like a few other people mentioned, I love swapping baby sitting services! My friend and I switch off watching each others’ kids every Tuesday night. It works out great and our kids love the extra playdate! We only live about 10 minutes from each other and we limit the date to 2 hours, so its never a big time commitment. Between the 2 of us we have 5 kids aged 3 and under.. so that little break a couple times a month is definitely welcome! 🙂

  • My husband is an electrician so he trades his skills with people of different trades. Sure makes home improvement cheap!

    • Ashley says:

      I am a dental hygienist and my neighbor is a plumber. We have traded services too. He and his family get dental cleaning (no insurance) and I get my shower fixed. It is awesome!!!

  • Dielle says:

    Love this! Right now I’m trading sewing quilts for my children’s summer piano lessons.

  • Diana says:

    My artist friend offered to paint a beautiful train mural on my son’s bedroom wall in exchange for my hygiene stockpile. We calculated how much she would have charged (by hourly rate and cost of supplies) and then I counted out that number of hygiene items by $1 a piece or $2 for razors. We were both happy!

  • Spendwisemom says:

    I think bartering with friends is great, but you need to keep open communication in case one party isn’t interested any more.

  • Sherri says:

    My neice cuts my hair in exchange for shopping in my stockpile store. I coupon to get a lot of health and beauty supplies free and she shops my store in exchange for giving me a haircut.

  • When we were out driving in the country last weekend I saw a sign for a community vegetable exchange which I thought was an awesome idea!

  • julie carlson says:

    I just love this bread bag, is there a pattern for it? Would love to share this with my family!

  • julie carlson says:

    Do you have a pattern for the bread bag? Cute little idea for Christmas!

  • Gina says:

    I seen your note what Esther did for you-the Homemade vanilla creamer! Would there be any way you could send me her recipe?

  • Sou says:

    I love the whole concept and I am wondering how can I find people in my neighborhood willing to do it

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