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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

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"Trade ya?"
"Trade ya?"

Barter your way to a better life

I am a vehement Craigslist enthusiast for a multitude of activities. I find the site a useful resource for freelance jobs in my makeup/fitness realm. Its calendar of events can be a goldmine of local activities. Do not underestimate the entertainment factor that can be glommed from the "Missed Connections," "Rants and Raves" and "Pets" sections.

Most of all, I utilize Craigslist for its "For Sale" area. If you want it or need it, God knows it's gotta be on Craigslist. I think of it as another way to save money, to consume less, to recycle and reuse. For all of that and a feeling of camaraderie with my fellow penny pincher, the shining star of the 'List is the "Barter" area.

Bartering has a rich history and is almost a primal instinct in children. Remember the power an individually wrapped piece of candy had at the lunch table back in elementary school days? That morsel of sugary goodness could be exchanged for any number of material desirables.

How about baseball cards or Garbage Pail Kids – a "collecting" activity motivated by the barter system. "I'll trade ya for a ..." fill in the blank. You could get what you wanted by means of exchange back in the day. Trading items is not only useful, but has an element of sportsmanship that makes it fun too, so no wonder kids see the option of exchange as a natural means for an economic system to get what they want.

These days, Craigslist is the hub of the bartering world (for me at least – if you know another resource – do tell!) I have found much success recently doing what I call the "Barter Bus." It started with "Bowflex Dumbbells for Spin Bike" and then went successfully to the next stop, "Trade Spin Bike for Treadmill."

I got an almost instantaneous response and therefore, immediate gratification almost identical to shopping for something brand new! You can start at a one-item destination and trade up to whatever your last stop will be. Remember that guy who traded a paperclip for a house? The Barter Bus can make it happen!

Trade/Barter is the perfect solution for attention-deficit plagued people like me who are into one thing one minute and need another stimuli the next. Got a food dehydrator sitting in the cupboard? Trade it for food processor or a watercolor set! Stopped using that dog-training collar? Post it as a trade for whatever you require right now.

Trading, of course, exists outside of Craigslist. The service industry has always embraced the bartering. Massage therapists trade a rub down for hair color, restaurant owners exchange meals for personal training and nail techs get haircuts for manicures. Why not offer a service as exchange for something of value – other than money?

The barter system is healthy and intact in several other realms. Stockbrokers have found a way to profit from "I'll give you this for that" by trading commodities. Car dealers make trades of automobiles daily. Professional athletic teams even trade people! As offensive as that sounds, players are traded to other teams on a regular basis. The barter system is alive and well.

Surprisingly, I've been blessed to have all positive swapping experiences in my little Craigslist bubble. In fact, I have found most of my trading compatriots to be extremely fair and quite nice. Most even seem like people I would like to get to know better. After all, they are utilizing a system of commerce based on civility and reasonable offers that we mutually respect.

Although popular belief is that there were entire societies that existed on the trade/ barter system, according to my research, that is unfortunately not true. That may just be too utopic to have actually existed. Recall the joy after a successful trade back in the day, getting that elusive "Adam Bomb" Garbage Pail Kid or the extra slice of pizza at lunch in exchange for something you were willing to let go of.

Maybe bartering is the key to happiness and a peaceful society. Get what you want in exchange for what you don't. Another man's trash is truly another man's treasure. If everyone is happy and has enough ... I better stop before the talkbacks start calling me something worse than a hippie.

Upon my most recent peruse of Milwaukee.Craigslist.org/bar/ I found these enticing offers:

  • "trade for car trailer Air filters trade for diesel tractor"
  • "Dental Work for Home Repair Handyman"
  • "I NEED A HANDYDUDE, U NEED A PLACE TO CRASH"
  • "Need Hardwood Floors Refinished for Int. Painting"
  • "92 Chevy short Bus for Flee Marketing"

I could copy and paste all day, but the bottom line is - don't let crap collect in your garage or pile up in the closets. Short the capital for something you really want or need? I bet you've got something that holds significance in the bartering world! In the Barter section of Craigslist, you are never stuck with stuff you don't fancy or never employ. Post it – and barter it for better.

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