Bartering Services Taking Off in Twin Cities

Harvey Meyer
Community Barter Network

Bartering? I thought that was something people did in the old days. You know, like, “I’ll trade you this sack of potatoes if you help me put up a fence.” Or something like that. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover bartering – primarily, exchanging one service for another – is alive and well today in the Twin Cities. In fact, through five local groups (and perhaps more), you can trade, for example, house cleaning or yard work for services ranging from minor car maintenance and child care to tutoring and computer consultation. Generally, participants receive one credit for offering an hour of service; in turn, they can receive an hour of service. Among the services I’ve offered at the Community Barter Network (CBN) in south Minneapolis are resume preparation and budgeting advice. In return, I’ve received assistance with minor electrical repairs and playing the guitar. It is nice to know I can contact someone else to perform work I’m either not interested in or can’t afford. I also appreciate the fact I can learn new skills and talents from like-minded folks.

For some, developing new skills and talents helps them become more attractive to employers. It may even lead to people outside the bartering community paying for that service. Improving skills also helps barterers feel better about themselves. Whatever skill you offer, whether it’s as simple as walking a dog or just visiting with someone, all are valued as much as any other service. Another benefit of bartering: cost savings. Membership is free. And you’re able to help reduce expenses because you’re paying with time and energy instead of dollars. For some, especially the elderly and disabled, these savings are important. Often, cutting costs through bartering allows them to stay in their homes longer. Participants can also help those in need by donating their credits to them.

Mary Reed-Johnson of Minneapolis knows first hand about the cost-saving potential of bartering. Reed-Johnson, a hair-styling entrepreneur who primarily offers her styling as her bartering service, recalls using a graphic artist and proofreader through CBN to help her complete her first book. “I received 11 hours of high-quality service from the graphic artist, something that would normally cost me $60 per hour or more,” said Reed-Johnson. “That was quite a chunk of change I was able to save.”

Bartering also allows a person to befriend others, something that seems increasingly difficult in a large metropolitan area. Building such relationships creates caring and trust, and this helps strengthen the community. “One of our main goals with our bartering organization is to help build community on St. Paul’s West Side,” said Steve Faust, who oversees the Westside Barterworks. “The best way of doing that is with neighbors getting to know each other, and bartering helps facilitate that.” Carole Broad, CBN coordinator, adds, “One of the hidden benefits of bartering is connecting people who wouldn’t necessarily have a reason to meet, either because of age, location or occupation. I’ve seen some lasting cross-generation relationships formed because of their barter involvement.”

Five service exchange groups which operate in the Twin Cites area include :

Community Barter Network (CBN): See Resource Box for contact info. This is the area’s largest bartering program with 220 participants; last year 3,370 service hours were exchanged. CBN is a program of Pillsbury United Communities, and is located at its Pillsbury House Neighborhood Center in south Minneapolis. CBN was launched in 1996, and although the majority of participants are from the south Minneapolis area, the program is open to anyone.

The Hour Dollars Program: Launched in 1997, Hour Dollars currently has 180 members in the Hamline Midway, Summit University and East Side neighborhoods of St. Paul and several other nearby neighborhoods. They are located in St. Paul.

The Neighborhood Service Exchange (NSE): The NSE began in 1998 as a new program of Community Volunteer Service, a nonprofit serving the Stillwater-St. Croix Valley region. The exchange, is open to all Washington County residents. It currently has more than 100 members, but special target groups include seniors, youth, differently abled people and families transferring from welfare to work. 651-439-7434 E-mail:

The Westside Barterworks: Serving St. Paul’s West Side, Westside Barterworks was launched in 1997, from within the Westside Citizens Organization. It has about 40 members, and it holds monthly gatherings that double as social outings. 651-293-1708

Peace and Community Together (PACT): A 22-member service exchange program started in 2000 by the Peace Lutheran Church. Membership is restricted to church members and those living in Lauderdale.


25 Ways to Get (and Give) What You Want Without Money

Reprinted from

1 Hold a home-baked bread or dessert swap.
2 Grow your own fruits and vegetables to give away.
3 Share seeds, plants and clippings from your garden.
4 Buy food or supplies in bulk and share with friends.
5 Start a dinner co-op.
6 Arrange a cooking day among friends to prepare food like next weeks’ dinners, pasta sauces or granola in bulk.
7 Start a dinner program in your neighborhood. When something momentous happens to a family (having a baby, losing a loved one, illness, etc.) form a neighborhood team to provide dinners on a rotating basis until the family is back on its feet.

8 Start a babysitting or childcare co-op.
9 Start a pet-sitting co-op.
10 Arrange to look after a sick friend with neighbors.

11 Form a home-repair team. Give and get services from painting to putting up a fence or fixing the roof.
12 Share infrequently used tools and garden supplies.
13 Collect partially used or unused cans of paint to share and exchange. It saves money and cuts down

14 Hold a clothes swap at work, church or in your neighborhood. Have a fashion show and clothes swap with friends.
15 Hold toy or sporting goods swaps/exchanges for kids so they can learn new sports and games.

16 Exchange lessons, like oil painting for guitar playing.
17 Ask a 12-year-old how to get onto the Internet.

18 Start a skills exchange in your community.
19 Start a carpool in your neighborhood or office.
20 Swap your skills for accommodation. Provide accounting, housework, nursing care, childcare or other skills in return for a room in a house. Alternatively, provide accommodations in your house to get the services you need and help a student or young person get started.

21 Make your own money.

22 Adopt a stream or a highway to restore or improve it.
23 Give a traveler a place to stay.
24 Set up an area at a community center, apartment building, church/synagogue where people can leave items they no longer need for others. Give what’s left to a charity.
25 Volunteer your time and energy, in your neighborhood, city, town or region.


What You Can Do

Consider bartering…

* If you’re interested in saving money
* If you’d like to get to know others in your community
* If you’d like to learn a new talent or skill
* If you’re not interested in performing certain tasks yourself
* If you’d like to feel good about helping others




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