In the spring of 2020, Americans found themselves unable to buy items they desperately needed due to supply chain disruptions. Suddenly, we were willing to trade whatever we had for toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Without realizing it, we entered into an age-old tradition of survival bartering.
Bartering has existed since the beginning of time – instances are recorded in the Old Testament. Throughout history, people have exchanged goods or services for items or services in return. Bilingue Business Review explains, “Babylonians […] developed an improved bartering system, where goods and services were exchanged for food, tea, weapons, and spices. In the same period, salt was another essential item that could be exchanged and was widely recognized from the Roman Empire to African tribes. In fact, the value and the recognition of salt was so high that Roman soldiers' salaries were often paid with it.”
While our economy has evolved, the practice of bartering is still used in difficult times. During the Great Depression, bartering became a means of survival for Americans. Since people didn’t trust banks and didn’t have much money, they bartered. In an interview with the Living History Farm in York, Nebraska, Walter Schmitt “remembers a time when his blacksmith shop accepted payment in the form of potatoes – which was OK with him because, ‘No meal is complete without potatoes somewhere.’” Even doctors accepted food in exchange for services.
In 2015 when Russia suffered an economic recession, bartering once again became a means of survival. The Moscow Times reports, “An economic recession and soaring grocery prices have prompted Russians to go online to trade household items for food, with scores of websites facilitating a barter system cropping up around the country. […] Some of the ads are phrased in general terms, describing the item that is being offered and inviting possible trades. Others are highly specific, offering a hair straightener in exchange for a chicken, a handbag for a kilogram of sugar, or a clothing iron for three cans of sardines.”
Today, people all over the world use bartering to get items and services they need but can’t find or afford. According to the BBC, “Around the world, people have been turning to swapping, trading and bartering during the coronavirus pandemic, whether to do their bit for the local community, save money or simply source hard-to-find baking ingredients.” One London-based bartering group modeled themselves after Fiji’s long tradition of bartering.
For example, in Fiji, 20% of the population uses a Facebook bartering group. BBC claims, “Items changing hands have run the gamut – pigs for kayaks, a violin for a leather satchel and doughnuts for building bricks – but the most commonly requested items have been groceries and food.”
Whether it all goes south due to another pandemic or the economy collapses, as these examples have shown, we will turn to survival bartering. Take steps to prepare to barter your way to survival today.
Identify the resources and skills you have
Start by identifying resources you have that you’d be willing to part with, such as household goods or heirlooms. Then, consider resources you can stockpile today that you can barter in the future (see our list below). Finally, consider the skills you have that people may need, such as gardening, foraging, or medical care. What do you have to offer that may be in demand in times of upheaval?
Identify your needs
Next, identify your needs. What do you need that you’d be willing to trade services or goods for? For example, AARP shares this story from a woman named Teresa Konechne, 58, of Henderson, Minnesota: “She recently traded home-cooked food with some organic farmers who provided advice, soil and other materials for her garden. And she got a much-needed quarantine haircut from a friend’s husband in exchange for some fresh basil.” She needed materials for her garden and a haircut. She used her skills and resources to make it happen. Whether you need materials or services, consider who could meet those needs in exchange for what you have to offer.
Set a price
According to Investopedia, “Successful bartering must result in the satisfaction of both parties. This can only happen if the items bartered are realistically valued.” In other words, you can’t expect to trade a low-value item or service for a high-value one. Here’s a modern-day example from USA Today: “For Scott Huffard, 34, a history professor living in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, a remote mountain town in the Blue Ridge Mountains that is a 25-minute drive from the nearest grocery store, toilet paper became the perfect bartering chip when he ran out of dishwasher soap. He swapped six rolls for five packets.”
Top bartering items to stockpile today
As participants in the survivalist lifestyle, we understand the importance of emergency preparedness. One way to prepare today for disaster tomorrow is to stockpile goods that will be in demand. The idea is to purchase items that are cheap today that you have space to store and will be of great value during a disaster. Now, this doesn’t mean you rush out and buy out all the hand sanitizer available and jack up the prices. Instead, it means striving to be self-sufficient when the time comes by having items you can trade for the things you need.
- Coffee – Not only are people addicted to their coffee, but it is also an in-demand caffeine resource. Coffee is the world's second most valuable commodity traded today only behind crude oil. Plus, Franklin’s Finest Survival Coffee has a 30-year shelf life.
- Alcohol – Alcohol has multiple survival uses. It is used for cleaning, sanitation, and first aid. It is also used for making beverages that tend to be in-demand during times of crisis.
- Seeds – A perfect example of cheap today, worth tons tomorrow, is seeds. If you can grow your own food, you don’t have to rely on anyone else.
- Fresh food – While you can’t stockpile fresh food, you can stockpile emergency food or learn to grow your own food. Both of these will be hot commodities for bartering.
- Medical supplies – People will trade basically anything to make themselves or their loved ones feel better or heal from an injury. Having a supply of basic medicines and first aid is a solid choice for bartering.
- Tools – Many people rely on handymen when they have repair issues, but that isn’t always possible. Instead, they’ll be forced to do things on their own, which requires tools.
- Weapons – During the recession in 2008, ammunition was a scarce resource. Therefore, it makes a good bartering item. Similarly, in worst-case scenarios, those without weapons will be desperate for one.
- Batteries – Stockpiling batteries, rechargeable batteries, and solar chargers is always a good idea, but these items will be especially helpful for bartering. Generators are also an in-demand item.
- Water filtration – Water is essential for survival, but during extended power outages, it is difficult to access clean water. Therefore, water filtration tools will be in demand.
- Cigarettes – During Venezuela’s economic collapse, people used cigarettes to “pay” for other necessities. The reason cigarettes or tobacco are favored items for bartering is because many people will crave their nicotine fix.
- Hygiene items – As the pandemic has shown, basic hygiene items like toilet paper can be good to stockpile. In addition, soap, baby wipes, and tampons can be used for bartering.
Once again, if you don’t have items to barter, you can barter your skills. Learn an in-demand skill now before it’s too late.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply