Save cash and barter for your small business instead

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Dear WAHFAQ,

I’ve had a lot of hidden costs in starting my business. Things I didn’t even think to think about! Do you have any suggestions for keeping costs low while I get started?

Before the time of MasterCard, Visa and Amex, people paid for things by cash or bartering. As a new business, bartering is a wonderful way to trade services and products for other, well, services and products. You’ll save your cash flow for bills instead of other necessities.

I love trade. Don’t get me wrong, I do still much prefer earning money for my skills, but if someone can give me something that I’ve wanted or needed, I’d be happy to do a trade. For example, once upon a time I used to run a small collective artsy space in Detroit. People rented from me to teach classes like yoga, Pilates, art, etc. I also had people in there for discussions ranging from insurance benefits to understanding the Tarot. Since I love yoga and take every class that I can, I traded instruction for a discount on the use of my space for the instructor. It saves both of us money, and we still get what we need.

There are bartering organizations nationwide who help you get in contact with businesses who want to trade with you.  Any industry is welcome: Hair care, groceries, advertising,  paper supplies, computer repair and more…the list is endless. You’ll generally have to pay a membership fee to the organization, and a percentage of each transaction. But some organizations will allow that membership fee to directly turn into bartering dollars. In return they’ll help promote you, your business, and connect you with services you need. Make sure you keep track of the services you trade for tax purposes. You’ll need to declare the value of the transactions given and received as part of your income and deductions.

Contact the National Association of Trade Exchanges (www.natebarter.com) and the International Reciprocal Trade Association (www.irta.com) to find participating organizations in your area. You can also look on Craigslist under “free” and “trade” or your local Facebook buy/sell/trade groups to see if you can get what you need without spending your money!

Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company. Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!

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