The Day I Got A Dishwasher (a story about bartering)
Once upon a time we lived in a house without an automatic dishwasher. I spent hours in front of the sink every day (not really, but it seemed like hours!) constantly lamenting about the fact that poor me had to wash dishes by hand. Seriously, hours. My mother once asked my son where our dishwasher was and he led her to the sink! GASP! (I know, really, I know.)
A year or so later we happened to be kicking back with the daily dose of neighborhood gossip with some, well, neighbors. One of them mentioned that her father had a portable dishwasher he couldn’t use and she needed to get rid of it but didn’t want to bother with selling it. My ears perked, “What? They make those?”
My husband asked her how much she wanted for it and they struck a deal. In exchange for the almost new portable dishwasher he would take care of her father’s lawn for a few months. My husband absolutely hated mowing the lawn (and did it as little as possible until the code enforcement people came around, true story) but he loved me more than he hated mowing the lawn. They shook on it and he wheeled home the most beautiful appliance I’ve ever laid my eyes on.
Bartering is a practice that seems to have fallen by the wayside. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because we live in an increasingly solitary society. Maybe it’s because we’re conditioned that everything is a matter of yes or no. Who knows.
The point of my story is that if you ask, sometimes you will receive. My family has been blessed with furniture, solid wood bunk beds, computers, and many other things, just because we asked and offered a trade. Sometimes people didn’t want anything more than for us to haul the item out of their house.
There are also communities full of people with stuff to give, sell or barter. Craigslist, Freecycle and Cheapcycle stick out in my mind (you can google each of those to find the group in your area). Facebook is another great resource if you’d rather exchange cash for an item, just search for your city and the words “for sale” or something similar.
At this point I’d feel remiss if I didn’t warn you to be careful. Use your common sense in these situations. Meet in public areas, never give out your address, give them a cell phone number, etc. You have a brain and an ingrained ability to protect yourself from bad situations, use it.
Sometimes you have to be very patient but if you spend the time to actively look for the item you want, and ask others to keep an eye out for the item you need, you can usually find it for free or at an acceptable price. (As I edit this my awesome friend April – go visit her at Mama Loves Food, no really, go visit her when you’re done here – told me she scored a Kitchenaid Mixer for $40 on a local Freecycle list! SCORE!)