Swap Skills, and Barter Exchange to Save Money

Updated on March 30, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I write about employment issues, ways to earn money and how to get best value when spending it.

Swapping skills between generations. Providing lawn mowing is a popular skill swap.
Swapping skills between generations. Providing lawn mowing is a popular skill swap. | Source

What is Swapping and Bartering?

Before the invention of money, if you wanted something done, but were unable to do yourself, you could barter. Bartering means making a direct bargain with someone else. You offer something you have, in exchange for the service or item you need. For example, you may have a good crop of apples and so could offer a boxful in exchange for help repairing your broken fence.

Swapping can also involve the direct exchange of good or services, but it has come to mean exchanging within a small community of people. This is often preferable to a direct swap. For example, the person who was happy to help you repair your broken fence may also have had a good apple crop. So they want to make a swap for a haircut, not apples. Within your community of swappers there may be a hairdresser who wants the apples and so a three-way transaction can take place.

Living Without Money and Swapping Skills

Cash-Free Swaps Save Money and Build Community

Swapping can be a way to get little extras, or learn a new skill, but still save yourself some cash. The swaps offered can be anything from gardening help to mortgage advice, from language conversation to babysitting. A swap scheme can be local, national or even international. They can be set-up by anyone, and can be operated online or through face-to-face meetings.

The best one for you depends on what you want to get out of a swap scheme. The most successful schemes enable not just cashless skills swaps to take place, but also build a sense of community. Swapping skills could save you quite a bit of cash, but there are pros and cons.

Successful swap schemes rely on the group deciding on what is a fair exchange of time and skills. The rate of exchange between members is usually one hour for one hour whatever the skill offered. However, it can be a more complex system linked to supply and demand of particular skills.

What Can I Barter or Exchange?

According to a recent survey carried out by Halifax Home Insurance, many people are lacking in basic DIY home repair skills.

  • 45% of people under the age of 45 cannot put up shelves
  • 63% don’t know how to hang wallpaper
  • 54% don’t know how to bleed a radiator
  • 36% know nothing about gardening.

If you have any of these skills, or can offer similar handy-crafts, these would be good things to barter. In exchange, you may want to trade DIY skills for internet help, such as building a website.

Pros and Cons of Skill Swap Schemes


  • Skills swapping schemes can build community networks, and encourage local friendships to develop. They help combat loneliness and social isolation, and increase personal and community wellbeing.
  • Each scheme has its own local currency. Skill swaps are outside the tax system as long as they remain “favors” and not “transactions for profit”.
  • They are part of the sharing economy. Swapping encourages us to help the environment by sharing skills and reducing consumption while spending little or no cash.


  • Neighbors may no longer offer a helping hand without payment. They expect to receive a skills swap.
  • New schemes start with a burst of enthusiasm but often fizzle out after a year or two.
  • You may be left with unused credits if you need to move out of the area.
  • Some schemes charge a membership fee. This is to deter time-wasters, but is also a barrier if you’re not sure if the scheme is right for you.

Your skill may be to do make-overs for special occasions. Or you could offer lessons on how to apply make-up.
Your skill may be to do make-overs for special occasions. Or you could offer lessons on how to apply make-up. | Source

Different Types of Swapping Schemes

Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS)

Local Exchange Trading Schemes or LETS are community groups set up with the specific purpose of enabling money-free swaps between members. A directory or notice board of Offers and Wants is set up. This can be posted online, distributed by newsletter, or networked at regular meetings. As members get to know each other, they make connections for trading and cashless swaps take place.

Swapping Using Craigslist, or Gumtree

Established advertising lists like Gumtree and Craigslist are good for bartering, or for a direct swap of skills. However, this type of skill swap only works in a minority of cases as you need to find someone who not only is offering the skill you want, but is prepared to accept the skill you are offering in exchange. These listings are usually no good for three-way swaps.

Closed Swapping Group on Facebook

Setting up a closed group on Facebook or WhatsApp can be a good option if you want to get swapping. I use this FaceBook app to keep in touch with my skill swap group. Providing your community has good internet access, and potential members are comfortable using social media, this is a cheap and easy way to start.

You can limit membership of the group to your local area, and only accept new joiners who are recommended by existing members. This helps limit the issue of “stranger danger”, and protect your personal safety when unknown people come into your home to give a helping-hand.

Timebanks Use Hours and Minutes as Currency

Timebanking allows community members to build time-credits to pay for goods and services. Some non-profit organizations use this method to reward their volunteers. For example, a local arts center in my town allows volunteers to pay for events with earned time credits; one hours volunteering equals one dollar against a gig ticket.

International Online Swap Sites

The idea of going global is attractive, but distance is a barrier for many swaps. Unless you are offering or want a service that can be done remotely, then this is unlikely to work for you. With video chat services like Skype, you could offer language conversation practice or one-to-one life coaching. However, skills swapping through volunteering can and does work, as you can see in the video clip below.

International Exchange of Skills For Youth Environmental Action

How to Get Involved

To get started all you need is expertise to share and some available hours. If there isn’t a scheme in your neighborhood, get a group of friends together and create your own. Each scheme is unique depending on the range of skills offered by its members. Schemes can range in size from around 20 members to more than 2,000.

Whichever swap community you join, the process is straightforward. Set up a profile with the skills you are offering, then search the scheme's database for the different skills you might want to swap with. It’s a great way of trying out new things without handing over hard cash.

Some examples of skills you may want to offer; teaching someone how to cook or bake cakes, one-to-one English conversation practice, helping with website creation, or solving an IT problem.

3 Great Bartering and Swapping Websites

  1. Shared Earth connects people who have land, with people who want to garden or farm.
  2. The Freecycle Network is a nonprofit movement of people who give (and get) stuff for free in their own neighborhood. It's about reuse and repurposing.
  3. Craigslist is a worldwide classified ads site. You can choose marketplace categories such as “free,” and “barter” to swap or trade your skills.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Submit a Comment
  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    2 months ago from UK

    This sounds like a great concept in a world that sometimes seems obsessed with financial gain.


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