Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Free, or Friendship?

Free, a fascinating book by Chris Anderson, discusses how "free" has changed over the years in business. It is a completely fascinating history, including the etymological tidbit that the words "free" and "friend" are actually related!

I mention this because my subject today, is best mentioned with a reminder that using the "currencies" of trust, friendship, and time could be more costly than actual money if spent or paid unwisely!

Our subject, then, is bartering! I personally barter my time, gas, wear and tear on my car, and presence in exchange for a free fitness membership in a nearby town. I COULD add another expense into our budget, and go somewhere closer, but I have decided that what I receive in return is currently worth it for me. See what I get in exchange:

1. Play time for my son with kids his age.
2 Once out of three times a week, his mom is the one watching him and the other kids.
3. I get to work out at any available class whether I take my son or not, at no monetary cost to me beyond the extra I spend for gas.
4. I get to meet and spend time with a whole other network of fellow Family Managers.

The key here is that it is a business transaction. The fitness franchise's loss of a monthly membership fee is massively smaller than the cost of employing "professional" childcare. Plus, they attract more moms as members whose children are preschool age or younger than they would without babysitting provided.

Now, how does bartering work when it is a friendship transaction? Have you ever said to someone, "I owe you, " without referring to money? Have you swapped childcare, organization, or cleaning service with a fellow Family Manager? Have you given non-monetary compensation for help from a teen? These things are powerful, and can help us accomplish more while spending less money (notice I did not say save!).

Looking for ways to barter can be a big help, especially to single moms. However, make sure that it really is a win/win situation for all involved, and always preface the "agreement" with a "I will let you off the hook if this ever doesn't make sense for you" statement. The currency of friendship is priceless, and not worth your saving $20 just so you can get your laundry done!

Do you have any great bartering ideas that you would love to share?

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