The Family Unit – Exchange, Contribution and Barter


I was reminded today of an old practice that has gained increasing popularity as individuals find themselves economically challenged…the barter system.  In fact, Craig’s List has a section devoted to barter in which you can find 50-75 new postings per day in most areas.  The act of trading services for labor, labor for labor or goods for goods can have unlimited benefits.  Historically, the barter system has always been a part of our life.  Even after different forms of money such as shells, coins and paper where created, people still continued to practice barter.

In The History of Money you can get a quick view of some of are early forms of money…and the extremes that some went to when you didn’t pay your debts.

My husband and I were talking about some of our great “life” barters.  He had a friend who was a lawyer and he owned a vintage speaker repair company.  For more than twenty years, they bartered their services, rarely ever having money be part of the transaction.  When my daughter was born, I made very little money but I knew how to clean a house.  I bartered my cleaning services with my midwife for prenatal and birthing services done at my home.  Really, all one needs to understand in order to have a successful barter is the concept of exchange and that any job well done is valuable.  How have you applied the barter system in your life?

Barter is actually a natural system of exchange.  Children instinctively understand it, far sooner than they understand the concept of money.  “I’ll trade you my Oreo cookies for your fruit roll up.” is a common form of barter.  I remember one Christmas I gave my daughter some dolls which she traded for some coloring books and crayons.

Learning about the concept of exchange is an important part of growing up.  Mom and dad work so that the family has food, clothing, a place to live and hopefully some pleasure time as well.   When children understand this, they want to help but they usually cannot make money the way their parents do.  But they can contribute…for centuries, children have helped their families by doing household chores, watching siblings or making meals.

Sadly, many of the children today do not participate in creating the family unit.  Here is an altogether familiar scene.

Photo take by tuxstorm

Photo take by tuxstorm

You go into the children’s room to get their dirty laundry and discover the room is a mess.  So you tell the kids to clean up their room and continue with the laundry.  Several hours later you return to the room with the now clean laundry, trip over one of the pillows on the floor…that the kids never cleaned up!  You sigh and pick up the pillows, setting them on the bed and pull up the covers up.  Quickly, you gather up the toys on the floor and throw them in the already stuffed toy box.  You look around and the room is free from tripping hazards and you think to yourself…that’s better!

So what did your kids learn as a result of this?  Do you ever feel like there is no time for you?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have some time of your own?

In my next article, I will be going over ways to accomplish this.