The Art of Bartering: The Rules to Go By

Burmese women in traditional clothes are sellign vegetables and fruit at the Nyang U market, Bagan, Myanmar. Located in the northeastern part of Bagan, Nyaung U market is Nyaung village's local market, where it is possible find goods in different section.

A Necessary Skill for a Post-Collapse World

Bartering is the process of obtaining goods or services without the exchange of money. In a situation where currency has no value and to ensure the supply of life-sustaining goods, bartering can be an important skill. Many believe that bartering only has a role in a post-collapse world when the banks and government fail and people become dependent on the exchange of possessions to secure the goods and services that would typically be available through normal channels.

The following items are assumed to have a high value in the event of a societal breakdown:

  • Water, including purification methods
  • Gasoline
  • Guns and ammo
  • Fire starting supplies (flint, matches)
  • Sanitary supplies (toilet paper, feminine hygiene products)
  • Drugs
  • Medical supplies
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Batteries
  • Hand tools (axe, knife, hammer)
  • Reading glasses
  • Flashlights

Bartering Tips

Bartering has a place in the 21st century as well. Popular websites like BarterQuest, SwapAce, TradeAway, Craigslist and BarterOnly create a community to safely trade cars, electronics, professional services, antiques, jewelry, toys and other sought-after items.

If you prefer face-to-face interaction over a computer screen, bartering clubs offer many cities a local opportunity to trade their goods and services. Before joining a club it is wise to ask the following questions:

  • How long has the club been established?
  • How often will I use the membership?
  • How many members are currently active?

The answers to these questions can give you insight into how successful the club has been in the past and whether it is a good fit for you.

How to Effectively Barter

The best strategy is to properly value the item you wish to trade and be willing to walk away from the trade if your terms are not met. The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” applies here. Use this knowledge to your benefit when finalizing a trade. Strong negotiation skills are a plus. Here are six tips for bartering:

  1. Know the value of what you are selling. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into a bad trade.
  2. Be persuasive in your pitch. The person with the most information usually gets the better end of the deal.
  3. Share all the details. An honest trade is the best way to go – share all the information up front, whether good or bad.
  4. Use your manners and body language to your benefit. Manners go a long way; so does being firm. Pay attention to your body language as well as the potential bidder’s movements.
  5. Embrace your walkaway power. If it is not a good deal, walk away. Best case scenario, they chase you down and agree to your terms. The worst case scenario is you leave without the trade. However, you still have the opportunity to make a good trade at another time with a different bidder.
  6. Get it in writing. It is best to memorialize the terms of your agreement in writing.
  7. Bartering Income. When receiving income from bartering, you may be required to pay estimate tax 1040-ES.

Bartering is a skill and the best method for improvement is continued practice. The good news is, there is almost no limit on what you can trade.

Additional Resources





  • InstaTrade, by Keith Chamish, available on iTunes for free
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