Break the Bank: Build Your Local Economy

From babysitting co-ops to community currency, an alternative economy is brimming under the surface of our consumer system. Find out how to help build more local, equitable economic models — and feel good about the ways you spend your money.


| December 2013/January 2014



Neighbors working in a garden

Neighborhood gardens turn empty city lots into food-growing commons.


Photo By John Koivuluouma

Bartering was the original means of exchanging goods and services, predating the invention of money as we know it. Garden bounty was traded for sheep’s cheese; mead was swapped for a woven blanket. Today, a resurgence in bartering is underway, as people turn away from our culture’s dominant “buy more stuff” paradigm, and instead take pride and satisfaction in the goods and services they provide, the handiwork of their friends and neighbors, and in helping make their communities more self-reliant.

The growth of this direct-trade economy is accompanied by an emergence of several other exciting economic trends that diverge from business as usual. Options include seed libraries, bike-sharing programs, local currencies and socially responsible investment plans. Here’s how you can join in and be a part of the change.

Self-Reliance Through DIY Projects

As many MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers already know, you can break away from the 8-to-5 grind (or, these days, often the 7-to-7 grind) by limiting spending and producing more for yourself. As part of the journey, you’ll embrace basic skills, such as gardening, cooking, raising chickens and livestock, chopping wood, and maybe even building your own home. Why? Because this type of modern homesteading not only reduces consumption and saves money, but it’s also satisfying and more sustainable. Two terrific books about the true value of homemaking are A Householder’s Guide to the Universe by Harriet Fasenfest and Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.

Barter and Trade For What You Need

One way you can get off the money train is to barter for some of the things you need. It’s a great way to live well with less cash, and it creates a stronger community of like-minded DIYers.

Bank your time. Work-exchange programs are a rewarding way to trade skills instead of cash to get a job done. A common example is a babysitting co-op, an organized group where parents take turns babysitting. If you don’t have a local co-op, start one yourself or find a babysitter at Babysitting Coop, which primarily lists for-a-fee services. For many other types of work exchanges (think gardening help for a free haircut), look for a local “time bank.” If time is money, then time-banking cuts out the middleman by replacing currency with units of time. Find a local time bank at Community Timebanks.

Make it an event. Keep your eyes open for nearby barter fairs, swap meets, seed swaps and clothing-exchange parties. Host a larder swap to trade your excess pickles for a friend’s spicy mustard. Keep your closet fresh by exchanging the clothes you don’t wear anymore for new-to-you attire at a clothing swap. You’ll find a whole section devoted to trading secondhand clothing at ClothesSwap at Meetup.

midnightowl
11/26/2013 12:55:56 PM

see http://timebanks.org/ for more information


midnightowl
11/26/2013 12:54:48 PM

Re reporting to the irs. Timebanking is not barter. Timebanking is a volunteer exchange service alotting no monetary value to the volunteered time. I volunteer one hour of my service and somewhere down the line I use one hour of another members volunteered time. The timebank is a database outlining and recording activities that I and other members are able to volunteer. ie: reading a book to an elderly person, weeding a garden, shopping for food for someone who is not able to....as far as I know volunteering is a non taxable activity.


rayw
11/21/2013 7:09:29 AM

Bartering is a good idea because it builds relationships as well as getting you what you need. I would add that doing business with a locally owned bank is also a good idea. Your locally owned bank has the best interests of your community at heart, an entirely different agenda than Bank of America or Chase.


dona
11/20/2013 10:40:45 AM

I joined a Time Bank this spring, exchanging weeding, planting, plant starts, produce, and other garden type stuff for things like dog boarding, compost, strawberry starts, bicycle tune ups, chain saw rental, tool sharpening, and a pie. This Christmas I'm using the Time Bank members as my own personal elves, including getting advice on gift ideas. It has taken a little imagination to find uses for the Time Credits I've accumulated but I like a challenge. By the way, there is no IRS involvement with Time Banks (at least so far).


druidjo
11/20/2013 7:50:25 AM

I hate to be the one to rain on a parade, but please remember that the value of what you barter must be reported to the IRS on a 1040 form by April 15, of the tax year in which the barter took place. If you doubt what I am posting go to irs.gov and type barter income into the search bar. I have prepared taxes professionally for over 20 years and have had barter income found during audits for at least 3 clients.






mother earth news fair

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!

LEARN MORE