Money Mondays: Bartering goods and services

By Liz Hurley - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Are your closets overflowing? Could you outfit a college dorm with the stuff you have stashed in your garage? Are you tight on cash?

If you want to see what your friends, neighbors and co-workers are doing to get rid of the things they no longer want, in order to get the things they do want or need WAFF 48 News has a new twist on an old idea.

80 years ago in the great depression, people used what they had, grew or what they were trained to do to get what you needed.

People bartered or traded just about anything instead of taking the intermediate step of converting that corn into cash. People were resourceful.

Today Americans like Josh McCulley are borrowing that page from history by using friends, family, and even the internet.

"See this guy is actually trading a service. 'I'll paint your car or truck for almost anything of value,'" said McCulley, a horse trader at heart and always has been. "I've been doing this since I was a kid. Growing up, me and by brother would trade things."

One man's junk is another mans form of entertainment.

"i love this thing (boogie board). Every year we take it to the beach and every year I bust my butt on it," said McCulley as he shows his storage room and bedroom that look like a swap shop."It's a reprint, but hey it's Bear Bryant. I mean, who wouldn't want that who's an Alabama fan?"

He even traded an old broken fishing pole for this coveted helmet for his girlfriend.

He's a bartering big shot and you can be one too.

McCulley says to start small by trading between friends or co-workers.

He also swears by Craigslist, but he also preaches common sense.

"Safety is a big thing. Anytime I've ever traded with somebody I don't know or I've never met. I always say meet me in a public place," said McCulley. "There's always going to be ups and downs as to whether it's stolen or not, you've got to figure out whether you're morally right to do it."

"Bartering to me doesn't involve just items," said McCulley. "It's always money. Money makes the world go around. It always will."

To protect yourself, the Better Business Bureau says look at every exchange as a business deal.

"We definitely advise people to get something in writing that both parties show and agree to in advance that has details to it, exactly what you are giving and what you are receiving so that you have a legal document that you can use," said Michele McDaniel with the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB has documented thousands of scams involving Craigslist, and they have the same message as Josh when it comes to common sense.

"You definitely have to do your homework," said McDaniel. "You have to know exactly who you are dealing with and still understand there's never going to be a 100 percent guarantee it's going to be a safe transaction."

Still, McCulley isn't phased by the risks. He's cleaning out closets and pondering his next big deal.

"I'm telling you, everybody needs something," McCulley said.

To start, make a list of all the things you have you can do without and another list of all the things you want or need.

Figure out the value of your stuff or your services by comparison shopping.

Finally, decide how you want to barter from a distance using sites like eBay where you can research sellers.

To be more personable, using Craigslist or local newspaper classifieds.

For more information on how bartering could affect your bottom line with the IRS and other bartering websites, click here.

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