Do you ever exchange goods or services without using money? I have been practicing this wonderful technique of bartering since I have been a young girl. I don’t know if it started because of my difficult economic situation or if I was just guided to this marvelous way to do business. I have discovered how much fun it is to engage in this type of trade.
My first experience was in high school. I loved to style my girlfriends hair using all sorts of rollers for curls, hair extensions to add volume, and decorated metal hair clips of my own design. In those days they didn’t sell any hair accessories so my creations were the hit of the neighborhood. I can remember many Friday and Saturday late afternoons when I would spend hours before a party working on two or three friend’s hair for a special event. In exchange I would receive a beautiful belt, or perhaps a used sweater or skirt. I didn’t exactly say, “I’ll do your hair for a piece of clothing.” It just seemed to work out that my group of friends liked to swap. I remember one friend made the most delicious chocolate chip cookies and I just loved it when she wanted her hair done because of the reward when I got home and opened up her tin of treats.
During my teenage years I became very serious about dancing and yet I couldn’t afford as many dance lessons as I would have liked. My dance teacher, Yvonne, offered me two advanced classes of ballet and jazz if I would help her with the younger children’s beginning classes. I jumped at this chance and grew to love watching the 3-5 year old girls reach their tiny little hands up to the barre and struggle to plie. There wasn’t a lot of dancing on my part in these classes for pre-school kids, but the experience was valuable for my role as a teacher in later years. It taught me how gratifying it is to share what you learn with others.
After college I discovered a talent for decorating people’s apartments and homes. I wasn’t the typical decorator who makes purchases for their client; most often I was called upon to arrange furniture, paintings, photographs, and decorative objects to create a more pleasing environment. Many friends had wonderful objet d’ art which they had collected or had been given, but they didn’t have the ability to put all their pieces together in a cohesive way. I understood spatial relationships quite well and could quickly transform a room from an assortment of eclectic furniture and sentimental knick-knacks to a cozy, well-balanced space. I remember several unique trades using this gift: home-cooked meals from a talented chef served elegantly at his apartment, cashmere sweaters from a local sweater distributor and Tai Chi classes to name just a few. When I had my pottery school in Marin County, CA we would often trade a whole session of classes for dental services, and/or massage therapy.
Most recently my physical therapist that I have been seeing for 14 years for Myofascial Release called me and said, “I really want one of your paintings. Would you be interested in trading for physical therapy appointments? You can use the visits for anyone in your family or for friends.” I was absolutely thrilled to receive this request. I said, “Yes, definitely!” I have started to work on a painting just for her and I have already used two physical therapy appointments and my husband has used one as well. The beauty of these special exchanges is that you become aware of your connection to the person with whom you are trading. It doesn’t seem like you are paying but almost doing and receiving for free. It feels so good give something to another and then to accept their gift in return. I strongly encourage you to contemplate bartering. It will put a smile on your face.