Modern Bartering Becoming More Commonplace

What is modern bartering? Well, you may be seeing it (or doing it) more and more…

Modern Bartering Reborn

I first wrote about ‘bartering’ here on the blog during 2010, a period of time just exiting the “Great Recession”. In fact it was this very article – which I just ‘revamped’, given the relevance with today’s ongoing recessionary period following Covid. Coupled with the absolutely enormous economic bubbles that will surely burst and wreak havoc in our future at some point.

(2007 – 2009) The subprime mortgage crisis led to the collapse of the United States housing bubble. Falling housing-related assets contributed to a global financial crisis, even as oil and food prices soared. The crisis led to the failure or collapse of many of the United States’ largest financial institutions: Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and AIG, as well as a crisis in the automobile industry. During that time, the government responded with an unprecedented $700 billion bank bailout and $787 billion fiscal stimulus package.

List of recessions in the United States

During that ‘great recession’, it was obvious that the barter system made a comeback. You might call it ‘modern bartering’ during modern times. Many people were experiencing great financial difficulties and job losses. Some of those people were getting themselves further into debt, just to buy the items they needed. But others were increasingly bartering for goods and services.

Many of us have heard of the term ‘barter’, or bartering. But if you’re like most people, the image that comes to mind is that of a poor farmer paying the small town doctor for his clinical services with one of the chickens from his farm. From days long ago…

Webster’s dictionary tells us the definition of barter is to trade by exchanging one commodity for another.

Bartering systems have been around in most cultures since before money was created. For example, during the colonial era, money was scarce so the colonists used bartering as a primary means of procuring the goods or services they needed. They would trade such items as musket balls, tobacco, beaver pelts and deer skins. By the way, the later (deer skins) is where we derived our modern slang term ‘buck’, or bucks, meaning ‘dollars’. People who had items or services to sell would exchange them with others for the things they needed.

Bartering enables getting the items you need without having to part with actual government currency

It allows you to trade. Maybe items that you no longer need, to get the items you do need. Good negotiating makes the barter system work at its best. A good negotiation means both parties feel they have made a good deal and will walk away happy.

Often times ‘services’ can be a far more valuable trade commodity than a physical item

One thing to bear in mind concerning the barter system is that you don’t have to be trading items. Perhaps you are a plumber and your neighbor works as an automotive mechanic. Your truck needs a brake job and your neighbor has a dripping water leak somewhere underneath the kitchen sink. After a little chatting and negotiating, you’ve got a fair trade!

Everyone has a service they can barter, just be creative.

Modern Bartering is a natural fit in local communities

Bartering also makes for good neighbors. In our neighborhood, talking with people we already knew, led us to other neighbors with talents we were looking for, but we hadn’t made their acquaintance yet. Word of mouth truly can be the best advertising. When times are difficult, your local community and neighborhood can be your best asset.

I think whilst goods are great trade and barter items, you can never beat trading a skill for something you need.

If post SHTF you have a skill that nobody else has in your group/community has you are going to be a scarce resource and people will offer you food and water in exchange for your skill.

I think what they teach in schools about getting a trade and getting qualified is good advice.

~ Dave

I barter quite regularly to get things done on my ranch, and to get equipment and supplies. I’ve bartered for everything from baling hay to “purchasing” vehicles.

It’s common in an agricultural setting – so much so, that the government wants farmers/ranchers to report bartering as income. Yes, it’s on the tax form – the value of goods and services attained via barter. Hah!


One more thought… If they implement some sort of digital currency, a digital dollar, a FedWallet… this is really going to kick start modern bartering outside the system.

[ Read: The Most Valuable Items For Barter After The Collapse ]

[ Read: Valuable Services For Barter After Collapse Or SHTF ]


  1. In the past week, I was able to purchase some primers at inflated prices. I did not mind paying the price because the primers were part of an estate sale. A gun shop owner kept his ear close to the ground and heard from a long-time customer who is on hospice care. He divested all of his inventory to a shop in town. Proceeds go to his surviving wife and grown children. ( small cut to the shop owner that went to the home to remove all of the haz-mat from the home and relocate to the shop ).
    This can serve as a lesson to us all in several areas: An old saying: “There are no pockets on a shroud” meaning you cannot take it with you. Another customer was in the shop complaining about the inflated prices on the ammo when I reminded him that it was part of an estate sale. Proceeds go to the surviving family members with a small cut going to the shop itself for all the labor and storage costs. “If you do not like the prices, step out of the way and leave the shop.” While we are busy bartering and going about our daily lives, life happens and death is a part of life. At least I know the money will be going to a good and worthy cause in this case.

    1. Calirefugee, oddly enough that is nearly identical to how I picked up some hard to find primers and 45 auto rim brass. The man entered hospice care and called a mutual friend asking about anyone he knew that would be interested. I paid cash and even picked them up from the man. I ended up staying several hours and we talked like old friends. It’s just a shame I met this gentleman in the last stages of his life. I sure would have liked to have known him earlier.

  2. We have planted a somewhat larger garden this season in anticipation of coming storms.We would barter home grown produce or fruit instead of store canned products . Store bought food products may indicate a stored food supply to some hungry people and I don’t think that home grown produce would give that implication.We may also barter plumbing.carpentry and sewing skills.
    While bartering I try to remember that “loose lips sink ships” .There is a need to know and a want to know. No one knows how many jars of peaches or beets we can because they do not need to know.
    With the push towards digital dollars it seems that bartering will make a comeback. Going to yard sales is a very good learning place for bartering skills and bartering will require some prudence and a time to practice OPSEC .

    1. Bluesman,
      i would never barter MY food for anything. to do so would give away the fact that i had some put up.
      neighbors could become hungry and desperate to the point that they would do things that they would normally not do. i would tell the neighbors that i’m just as hungry as they are.
      i have a deep well with well buckets and rope that i would trade/ barter water with and i would not be out of anything but a few minutes time.
      trading ammo for something, no, it could come back to haunt you in the middle of the night.

      1. nyscout,
        No barter on garden stuff until our needs are met. I would only consider bartering with someone I know and trust. Agree on the ammo trade ,I don’t want it returning in my direction.

        1. Bluesman,
          plan on 2yrs of pantry food. just because you have planted it does not mean you will get a harvest.
          crops do fail for a lot of reasons. we plan our pantry on a 3yr rotation. the things that we put up in a pressure canner have lasted us 3-4 years easy. never in 30yrs have we had a problem, yet.
          we just store them in the right way, dark, cool and dry.

      2. I too would have to tell neighbors that knock on my door “I got nothing, just like you”. Gonna be tough, got a big young family nearby that I just know aren’t ready, others on the block that eat out constantly… they’re lining up for hours at markets already down in South Africa, just a few days after the looting, & now supply lines are fractured…

    2. Bluesman I admire your thinking here. Better to establish a working relationship instead of hoping the neighbors DON’T notice you’ve enough to eat.

      I am sure I’m preaching to the Choir but know whom your trading with.

      Folks that I already do personal business with that return favors are high on my trading list. they are known decent people in normal times, I still keep an eye on them in Bad times.

      Folks willing to put in labor I am willing to trade with. I always keep an eye on them. Some might get promoted to the first group I like to trade with, given time.

      Always trade from strength. An acceptable place to trade instead of allowing them easy access to your place is my suggestion. The person knocking on your door asking to trade for some peaches *might* want to Trade you a Bloody Knife for it and more.

      The most terrifying words to hear “Mommy, I’m HUNGRY”, makes good people into dangerous animals.

      1. NH Michael,
        We are in the same choir group.We have been getting to know our neighbors, the good ,the bad and the ugly as well. We would never consider a farmers market type barter scenario . That would be a great place for the ugly ones to check folks out. We think it far too dangerous for us.
        Unfortunately if there is a big storm and the weather gets bad you never know who may appear on your doorstep for a handout.
        We have lots of what if discussions, now is the time to do that.

  3. This week I picked up a complete unopened RCBS Rock Chucker single stage reloading kit (press, scales, pads etc.) that was from an estate sale for a really good price. I’ll keep my eyes out for some popular caliber dies (9mm, .45acp, 7.62, .38/357 etc) to put back with it. I already have a Rock Chucker and Special 5 press with dies for all the calibers I reload but it’s nice to have spares (two is one, one is none) or for barter in the future.

    Look how quick the ammo supply dried up last year and don’t think the government and social media can’t put the squeeze on retailers to stop selling ammo or place enormous taxes it in the future. Walmart is a fine example of this. Reloading to me is as important as gardening, canning or any other self-reliance skills and will be extremely necessary in a SHTF situation.

    1. ammo supply’s in my area seem go be getting better, more on the shelves and the prices have come down a little.
      it’s not what it was 2 yrs ago, but it seems to be getting a little better.
      still no primers.

    2. “Reloading to me is as important as gardening, canning or any other self-reliance skills and will be extremely necessary in a SHTF situation”

      Amen. It is only a matter of time before ammo is outlawed or taxed beyond the reach of the average citizen. Powder, primers, cases, etc. will become valuable and over priced. If you haven’t been doing your homework you’re gonna be in deep s__t soon enough.

  4. Bartering:
    Hummmm, does trading a decent bag of Swiss Chard and 2 Heads of Cabbage picked fresh from the Garden for (2) 1/2 Gallon Jars of Fresh Milk and a box of Apricots, Than trading one of those 1/2 gallons for a Dozen Fresh Eggs count as Bartering?
    Just for clarification I will be sending the .gov the Tax that would have been collected…….

    1. Ohhhh yeah;
      There was a Quart of fresh made Yogurt in that trade somewhere. hehehe
      OMG that Yogurt is gooddddders stuff

  5. I love to barter. I have fixed cars and been paid with tillers, lawn mowers, and all kinds of stuff. One guy even built me a shed for fixing his truck. No paper work, no taxes and the gov. gets nothing out of the deal.

    1. car guy,
      it’s been the same way in my area for a hundred years.
      we don’t call it bartering, we call it neighbors helping neighbors. we have a very tight, small, community.
      it’s always been that way here. if someone needs help with a project, we’re there. if they need something, it’s theirs. it’s always a back and forth. we don’t know whose farm tractor tools are whose anymore, i need to put a shot of blue spray paint on mine : )
      good deeds always come back to you.

      P/S don’t forget to help the old folks in your area, they may not have a lot to give back, but they have already given us so much.

      1. nyscout
        I agree on helping the older folks. They may not be in the best condition physically but most of them have a lot of knowledge. I always share my garden stuff with my older neighbors.

  6. Bluesman as long as automobile exist the ability to limit their access to your home is important. They can bring trouble in from some distance away.

    I’ve seen a stolen vehicle used as a battering ram-thug delivery vehicle overseas. As we keep importing folks from overseas that is a thought.

    Concrete Bollards are a Fed thing. I find a few well placed raised beds pretty darn good. A well anchored cable with stout padlocks make a driveway less grab and go. Even post hole diggers and stout chunks of log that is about 24 inches high will give any non military vehicle troubles.

    Nobody should be able to walk up to your doorstep. Even a ten foot standoff beats the “Who’s there” knock on the door. As our homes are generally not bullet resistant, let alone fire bomb resistant stand off hard points give your guards some safety and comfort. I have tested my ability to throw a 750 ml wine bottle full of water against my home (I used the Shed, as wife *might* have gotten annoyed)). So far I am pretty sure I can do it at a window at 10 feet but then again I am not young.

    I know one neighbor has a few “Keyhole Gardens” (look them up their productive and nice) made of recycled bricks that is actually fighting positions. Dual use and not that obvious to the random visitor.

    2nd Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

    Maybe they can help you clear soil for expanded gardens? Collect firewood? Gather materials for the expanded compost piles? There is always something useful folks willing to work can do.

    The storm is near. Praying for wisdom

    1. “Keyhole Gardens” So cool. Never heard of them before. Thanks for putting it out there.

    2. NH Michael, re the verse on those who do not work shall not eat. In a survival scenario, trading food for work presupposes you have more than enough to meet your needs. In the GSM scenario, it presupposes you have more than enough on hand to make it through five or more years, keeping in mind that plentiful gardening might not be an option for several years. Not just hard times coming, but hard times spanning years. With faith and resolve, and prudent preparation, we’ll make it through.

      1. Agree Anony Mee, but one must try. We ALL MUST Work even with ample foods set aside just to get through a few years of very poor harvests. Every calorie we can supplement our stored foods is a hard worked for blessing.

        I’ve been working on work arounds for early and late frosts with some success but the amount of man power to cover and uncover crops would make it Foolish in the era of plenty of food in the grocery stores. The thrift store sheets keeping the Hubbard Squashes alive and productive despite early frosts and such. Not economical when Hannaford’s Grocery Store is selling them at 1.99 a pound but during GSM maybe they will not have them for sale?

        I’ve studied how folks in currently very BAD growing areas manage to keep fed. A lot of adaptation to diet that DOES grow well there. It’s what you HAVE for dinner, not what you WANT for dinner in plenty of places today, let alone a global crop failure issue. The Chinese Earthen Green Houses in Mongolia, the Walipini in Peru, the Russian steppes grow trenches. Polyculture farm ponds-irrigating-fertilizing intensive gardens. Mainly man power and shovels.

        These peoples main “wealth” was manpower so they used it to keep the man power alive.

        Thus the GREAT Value of knowing and being known by your neighbors. Some are good, some not so good.

        Have you read about how the mega drought in the corn belt is threatening our corn crop? Pollination failure is the concern.

        The era of cheap food is almost gone. Today was the good ole days.

  7. As a tutor of home-schooled kids and kids with special needs, I would routinely barter my services. I received fresh eggs from chicken ranchers, microbrew, and grocery-store gift cards. The problem with a barter economy in a disaster, WROL scenario is people will talk. You may have to deal with a bunch of desperate, armed bandits showing up on your property. Plan accordingly.


      All the more reason to have a good working relationship with as many neighbors as possible.

      nyscout made a good point about doing favors for neighbors now, in good times…more likely to be friend, not foe, should conditions go terrible bad.

      I’m not as apocalyptic as some folks when it comes to fearing neighbors with hungry bellies. I see most of mine as allies should times go bad. I’ve had several conversations in the past week…with neighbors…on this very subject.

      I’m also not an idealistic fool…I know that threats will increase with a world gone stupid…most likely coming from folks I’ve already identified as shaky at best, or folks from outside…all the more reason to have built up good relations with good folks.

      1. Dennis, I’m of the same opinion. I have neighbors that treat me like family, and a few of them really are family. I treat them the same way. We’ve lived in this little community for generations. We will make it together. I sincerely hope anyone reading this can find that type of community in their life.

  8. Farmers markets are a great forum to barter as long as it is local. Farmers markets were the social network prior to face book, social media etc. A majority of my private hunting jobs to take out a crop raider/destroyer came from contacts made at farmers markets. Payment in the form of social contacts and crop surpluses is a good thing. The local vegetable farmers get first choice on the cuts of meat and portion of liver of a deer that was harvested from their patch of vegetables. Farmers markets are places where people talk.

    1. Calirefugee,

      I agree that local farmers markets are a great forum to barter, buy and meet your community neighbors . I do believe that scenario would change in troublesome times .

  9. Word. Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer. Godspeed.

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