How to get essential items without spending money

How to Get Essential Items Without Spending Money

Money doesn’t apply to everything. Sometimes, the saying “use what you have to get what you want” is exactly what you should follow. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, many companies have closed down, people have lost their jobs, and everyone has to stay a reasonable distance away from each other. Since there’s a limited flow of income, you begin to think of how to get essential items without spending money.

One valid way to go about it is to trade by barter.

Bartering is a process of obtaining goods or services by exchanging with other goods or services you have to offer. When bartering, there’s no money involved.

During this outbreak, many people have created online groups where they exchange items they have at home. For instance, you can exchange toilet paper for disinfecting wipes.

In New Hampshire, a man traded eggs for flour and created a bartering group that already has over 2,000 members. With everyone losing their jobs, they’re ready to give out something they have in excess, for something they need. Although bartering is a very ancient method of getting goods, it has returned amid the coronavirus crisis.

Let’s get you through the process, so you can start stocking up on new items in no time.

What Can You Barter?

You might be thinking that you have nothing valuable in your home, so you would still have to spend your money anyways. But, that is not true. Everyone has something that someone else desires. You could exchange digital music players, old cars, groceries, activities like shopping, etc. Bartering is only limited by your imagination.

Here are some of the things you can barter:

  • Clothing: If you haven’t put all the fairly-used clothes in your wardrobe up for sale already, you can still use them to get something you desire. You may even use a particular type of cloth you have in your closet to get one you want to wear when the crisis is over.

You can arrange a small group of people who will dig out their closets and get out clothes they are willing to swap. Due to social distancing, you can take pictures of the clothes online and select the ones you want. Everyone can have a limited amount of clothing to select. It’s a win-win situation.

  • Food items: The recent closure of many stores and lack of funds resulted in people searching for alternatives to get food items. If your house is close to a store that still opens, you can opt to shop for groceries for the other party while you get something else in return, such as a cooked meal or something else you want in your kitchen (not everyone is comfortable eating food cooked by other people).
  • Technology: Do you have an old iPhone in your home while you’re using a new one? You can get something big in exchange for your iPhone. Many people still desire old technology. Some people can’t afford to buy the new ones while others just fancy carrying them around. For example, when Apple releases a new iPhone, the fairly used market for older versions see a boom in sales. The same thing goes for bartering.

You should always be careful when making technology trades. Make sure what you’re getting in exchange works perfectly and has no faults.

  • Skills: Sitting at home has made people want to try something new. Everyone is trying to learn something that will help them after the lockdown is over. Many of us have been able to develop a skill over the years. You can decide to get something in return for teaching someone a skill you’re very good at. You may even enjoy doing this as it helps you get better too and keeps you busy.
  • Toys: Are your children tired of their toys? You don’t need to dispose of the ones they already have. You can go to online groups to find parents who are also looking to exchange their kids’ toys. Also, your kids may have aged; grown too old for toys, Instead of throwing the toys in the garbage can, you can exchange it with other items such as foodstuff, a small number of clothes, etc.

Methods Involved in Bartering


The internet has become more useful to carry out the trade by barter especially during this period when you may not be able to meet physically. Even if you have items to trade, you may not find someone to exchange with on time if you want to go through the physical route. The internet has facilitated a free and easy system of exchanging goods and services with strangers.

When trading online, there’s no need for introduction through friends. You only need to place an ad describing what you have and also stating what you need in return. However, you have to be very careful when trading online. Exchanging with people you don’t know could have its risks. Not all bartering websites or person using these sites is legit. So, always be cautious.

Here are some sites you can find people to trade with –

Facebook groups are a good place to find people willing to exchange goods with you. These groups are created and run by people, so there’s some risk involved when trading via these groups. When you meet people who have the goods or services you need, make sure you get to know them properly before you give out your item. Always be aware of scams.

On Craigslist, you can do so many things like find a job, purchase used goods and furniture, sell old items, and also trade by barter. Using Craigslist to barter is completely free. You just have to go through the same process you would if you want to post items or jobs for sale.

When using Craigslist, you also have to be careful of scams. No one monitors your barter ads, which means anyone can see it. Always vet the people you meet before you agree to exchange items. You may not be able to travel during this pandemic, but if you’ll be doing door delivery, there’s still a potential risk involved. You could lose your goods and get nothing in return.

U-Exchange is a website built specifically for bartering. On U-Exchange, you’ll be searching for people to exchange goods with based on geographical area. You can search for your country and even narrow it down to your state. You have to register on the site before you can start posting, but the service is free.

Like Craigslist and many other online services, U-Exchange is a general posting site, so it is risky if you don’t take caution. You remain responsible for all contacts and exchanges you make.

Other bartering websites you will find useful include,,,,,,, and

Physical (Face-to-Face)

Sometimes, you can find people to exchange goods and services when you’re relaxing with your friends or acquaintances. It could also happen that your relative or friend knows someone who needs something you’re about to dispose of. This person can then arrange for both of you to meet and discuss your terms.

During holidays such as Christmas, you can even create barter groups that allow different people to trade their goods.

During the coronavirus pandemic, face-to-face may not be possible. Trading your goods online is the better alternative to stay safe.

Time Banks

What if you want to give out some clothes and you want to get some shoes in return. Another person is willing to give out his shoes but wants jewelry in return, and a third person wants to get clothes, but he’s only giving out groceries. How is this kind of situation handled?

Time Banks!

A time bank allows you to exchange your goods for time dollars. So, you’re banking what you’ve earned from the goods or services you provided. You can use the funds you’ve generated from giving out goods to collect whatever you want.

Every item has its worth. So, you cannot trade groceries and use the funds to collect an SUV. You have to take what your time dollar can afford.

You can search for time banks in your area online by visiting Timebanks’ management varies based on region. So, the rules in one state might vary from those in another state. To know the general rules of the timebank in your local area, you should attend one of the meetings held in your area. You can start trading after this.

Some time banks require a small membership fee before you start trading. It’s usually very affordable, so you shouldn’t worry too much about this.

Steps to Follow When Bartering

Now that you know where to go to find people to trade with, here’s how to get essential items without spending money –

Figure out what you’re ready to give.

Remember that what you can give out is unlimited. It could be something personal or professional. You just have to think about it.

Get your trading partner.

You can choose from any of the above methods. If you can’t wait for a friend or acquaintance to refer you to someone else who wants to trade, you can try online groups, websites, or time banks.

Put out an ad, participate!

You don’t expect people to know what you want to trade or what you want to receive without putting the word out first. Also, if you see people in online groups or sites giving out something you want, don’t hesitate to indicate that you’re up for a trade.

Go over the details

Bartering is not as easy and straight forward as you thought. You don’t just stretch out your hand and exchange your goods without setting up the terms of the deal upfront.

  • Assess the value of your goods or service

Research the price of whatever you want to offer online or in local newspaper classifieds first. If you’re rendering a service instead, find out how much you would charge if you weren’t bartering. Make sure you include the cost of supplies when summing it all up. Then, you can make an even exchange. For instance, if you’re charging $80 for a birthday cake, you can collect $80 worth of cosmetics. The same applies to whatever service you’re offering.

  • Set time frame

How long will it take you and your partner to fulfill your parts of the deal? You have to discuss this and set a deadline. If it’s an ongoing deal, always set a particular time for review. Make sure one person is not lagging, so you both stay happy.

  • Put it in writing

A signed agreement is sometimes necessary. If you’re going to be exchanging serious services like painting an office, designing a company brochure, etc, it is advisable to put it in writing, so both parties agree to what they’re doing and how long it will take.

Disadvantages of Bartering

Bartering went out of the system for a reason. There are numerous disadvantages of trading by barter.

  • There are taxes involved –

Bartering is considered income, so you may have to pay taxes after trading some assets. Of course, you don’t need to declare tax when trading small items like swapping with your neighbor or giving your clothes out for new kicks. But if your trade is between businesses, it is considered a taxable income. You may even be responsible for tracking capital gains or losses. You should consult the IRS website if you have any doubts.

  • Unequal bartering –

Cases of unequal bartering are not unusual at all. After trading, some people end up feeling like they’ve been used; they gave out their goods or service for free. As mentioned above, you can diminish inequities by assessing the dollar price of your goods or service. So you’re sure that you weren’t cheated during the process.

  • Availability of trade partner –

Because bartering was already going out of style and people barely engaged anymore, it may be difficult to find someone who wants to give out what you want. Of course, things are changing again due to the recent outbreak that has prevented people from going out to get their items. So, you may have better luck now. Just keep your ads out and don’t stop interacting with people.


Now that you know how to get essential items without spending money, it is time to put what you’ve learned to good use. Remember that this is a period where you should save as much as you can because we don’t know exactly when the economy will bounce back. So, if you have something to give out, find a way to exchange it with something you need.

Meanwhile, remember not to barter something you’re not willing to give or barter for something you don’t want to have. Also, stay cautious and inquisitive. You have to know as much about your partner to be sure you’re safe.

Have you ever had any success bartering? What tips and suggestions do you have on how to barter successfully?

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