Bartering After SHTF

BarteringAfterSHTF-620x400If the world all went to hell in a hand basket today, you would probably be stuck with what you have now in your possession and what you know or the skills you have learned already. Assuming your city or home didn’t get destroyed and along with it all of your prepper supplies, you could either be pretty well off for some time or in a serious world of hurt almost immediately. Most of us reading this have made some attempts at becoming prepared. Even if you are new to prepping, you may have taken steps already to ensure you have stocked up some water and food for an emergency. Others have years’ worth of survival items stored up just in case.

Whether we have a ton of preps already stored or are just starting out; the concept of Barter eventually enters the conversation. Bartering is what people routinely used to do before there was the nearly universal concept of money that we have now. Bartering was a way of trading something you had, for something you wanted and was widely used as the main form of commerce.

If you had been raising livestock, you could trade a chicken or some eggs to your neighbor for helping you put up some fence. If you were traveling through an area, you might trade a day’s work for room and board for the night. The details of the trade  was up to you and the person who had the good or service you wanted.

Many prepping blogs offer information about bartering after SHTF as the replacement potential for commerce if we ever find ourselves on the other end of some crisis that destroys the financial system. The concept sounds valid as in a SHTF world, you could expect to not have any money or a job and your entire existence would be simply trying to get by as best you could. To this end, many preppers recommend stocking up on supplies for barter after SHTF so that you would have a built-in supply of items to trade. These stored items would be one form of new currency in a grid down world.

What are bad bartering items?

Like many of you, I read these articles and look at the comments on prepping and survival blogs to learn as much as I can, but in some cases, I think that the people stocking up extras are deluding themselves. It comes down to a couple of things, but you have to look at what you are planning to trade and what value those items are going to have to someone else.

Frequently, I hear people suggesting to stock up on toiletry items, toothbrushes, combs, notebooks, chap stick, scissors, buttons, coloring books and small knick-knacks like that. I don’t believe that too many people would ever trade for anything like that in the type of end of the world I am imagining that would destroy all modern forms of commerce. Could you find a use for them? Of course, but what would their real value be in contrast to the world you are envisioning?

Take this example: the world has turned so bad that you have no money, no home possibly, no food or shoes. Do you really think you would trade anything you had for a toothbrush? If you are so destitute and the world has devolved so completely that no stores are open anymore, do you really think anyone is going to find value with a pair of scissors?

OK, I can make the case that maybe well after the expected die off from this hypothetical disaster has ended – years down the road you might find someone who is willing to trade you a few eggs for those scissors. Maybe they want to start a new career as the town barber? But after the initial disaster, would those really be the most important items you can think of to trade? What would you give if the shoe was on the other foot in trade for those buttons or coloring books? Would you trade eggs that could feed your family? Would you work all day to give your kids a coloring book? Would you give away a clean shirt you have? Maybe, but I think that is a long shot.

I think that relying on anything that can be viewed as a “nice to have” would make a bad bartering item. Buttons would be lying all over the place on the bodies of dead people or in homes that are vacant. Scissors and paper would too for that matter most likely. Your bartering items are not going to replace the dollar store. You have to remember the viewpoint of anyone in a TEOTWAWKI scenario and think of what they are going to be looking for potentially.

What are good bartering items?

The flip side of this topic, would be obviously what are some good items for barter? This is easier to answer, but the problem with coming up with lists like this would be one of resources. If you have something that is valuable enough to trade, would you really want to part with it? It would depend on what the trade was in the end. I can see situations in dire cases where some women and possibly men will trade their bodies because they have nothing else of value. Food, ammo, weapons, tools, fuel. All of these make great bartering items, but would you want to part with them? What would be worth more than your food?

Anything you have after the grid goes down that will make survival possible will be a good barter item. If you have canned food, that will be valuable if there are no stores open any longer. If you have a surplus of .22 ammo or several other calibers, that would be valuable. Liquor and cigarettes would find a home I am sure as these are vices, not necessities. I can easily see people wanting to trade you for a small bottle of whiskey either because they simply want a drink or are having a small celebration. How about small bags of rice and beans?

Other bartering items to consider:

Water filtration kits – You can get Sawyer Mini water filtration in packs of 4 for about $75. Can you imagine the value of having clean, disease free water would be in a post-collapse world? Even if you didn’t trade for it, you could give these to family and save a life.

Coffee and Tea – This is from the same type of list as whiskey. It isn’t necessary, but it sure makes life better for someone coming out of caffeine withdrawals. I can’t see someone trading food for coffee, but you never know. Maybe they have a year worth of freeze dried foods stocked up, but neglected to remember the coffee or their favorite chamomile tea.

Spare batteries – We have moved to rechargeable Eneloop batteries now, with a backup solar charger, but for people who didn’t have anything, small 4-packs of batteries would be very valuable.

Reading glasses – You have to be able to see and if the local optometrist is out of commission, just having a few pairs of cheap reading glasses could come in handy. Replacing broken glasses could be very important to some people. You can buy 6 packs of regular reading glasses for less than $20. It might not be the perfect prescription, but I could see value in these.

Condoms – Need I say anything more?

Seeds – Stocking up on seeds now is a smart plan for the future. I think you should already have a working garden, but having extra heirloom seeds for the people who haven’t thought as far ahead of you could be a relatively cheap barter item that would be very valuable in a post-collapse scenario.

What are risks of bartering?

I wrote about some of the risks of bartering in another post entitled the Pros and Cons of Bartering, but I think they primarily come down to getting ripped off or injured in the process of conducting the transaction. Bartering in my mind will be first done among your neighbors unlike some who envision a town market where people show up with everything they want to trade. I just can’t see that happening for a very long time and I can’t envision something like Bartertown out of the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome movie happening for a very long time. Maybe the bartering expo is a local event and you just have to walk one street over and set up a table or blanket in Mary’s front yard. That I can see, but you would be trading with people you knew or who lived very near you.

After SHTF, you may have to be more careful when you are conducting business.

Trading with people you don’t know is where the danger comes in and this is even truer in a post disaster world. If we are looking at a world without rule of law (WROL), I can see double-cross being used by many unscrupulous people who care nothing for right and wrong, only what they can get.  You wouldn’t want to be conducting a transaction with a stranger without taking a few precautions. First, I would never trade unless I had someone watching my back. I think this will hold true for almost any situation where you are out in the open. Second I wouldn’t trade for anything sight unseen. The old excuse, “It’s just around this corner over here” would be a huge red flag. Do not go around that corner!!! I would be yelling at the TV right now.

The risks are that you could have what you are trading for stolen right from you or that, knowing you have items of value, the strangers – maybe even your neighbors would follow you back home in search of other items. All of these possible scenarios make me think that bartering would not see the light of day in an organized fashion without many hard lessons being learned first.

How to negotiate a trade

OK, assuming everything else is alright. You are in a safe situation and you are sure you won’t be taken advantage of criminally at least you next have to negotiate the deal in a way that doesn’t leave you on the short end of the stick.

1 – Figure out what you want and what you are willing totrade – Have this firmly in your mind before you ever speak to the person. Knowing an amount you would be willing to part with will help you know how much to initially offer and more importantly, what to walk away from. Don’t offer something you aren’t willing to give.

2- Remember, you do not have to agree to the trade if you don’t like it – Thinking back to point number one. If you don’t think the trade is worth it, walk away. This may actually work to your favor if the person trading really wants to deal. Being able to walk away puts you in control of the trade.

3- Spell out the details – If you have ever read any children’s stories, they are full of situations where the young hero agrees to something without getting all the facts. Yes, I will let you marry my daughter, but I didn’t say which one. And poof you are stuck with the ugly step daughter for a wife… If you are trading one good for another, be specific. If it is a good or service write down the details and have both parties sign. Of course this is only as good as the person’s word you are agreeing with, but it could clarify the deal in a way that saves your bacon. Oh, and it assumes you have paper, which I said was basically worthless as barter….

4-Trust your gut – If something doesn’t seem right, walk away. Trust your intuition and if the person or the details of the trade make your spidey senses start tingling, it is better to hold off.

Barter can be done right now without having any devastation. If you believe that bartering is in our future, you can go practice right now while there is so much less risk. Go out to flea markets or try yard sales. You won’t necessarily be bartering for goods you have, but practice negotiating. Find something you want and go through the process of the transaction to see how it feels. It may help you learn some things about yourself that could help you down the road.

So, now it’s your turn. Are you stocking supplies to barter? What do you have to trade?

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published February 11th, 2015
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  • Kula Farmer

    Living where i do on an island where EVERYTHING needs to be flown or shipped in i dont see barter taking off anytime soon after a SHTF event, i CAN see a lot of desparate people trying to overrun anyone who has anything resembling food or other useful items,
    During WW1 and WW2 everything was rationed and everything was scarce, those were much more polite days back then, now we have a huge element of government dependent, and drug dependent people, sometimes they are both, theres also a lot of just plain unscrupulous and evil people. It will get real awful fast, at first my neighbors will wonder why im piling dirt up against my house, after a while they will see why,,,

  • Lorin Chane Partain

    What no silver coins?

  • Paul T

    No silver. Why? Because silver is money. You don’t barter with money, you set prices with money.

    Barter Items: Extra seeds, especially corn. Specialized tools–for trade with skill usage not trade in tools, Powdered food in long lasting containers, lantern wicks by the yard. And toothpaste—try going for a few months or weeks without toothpaste—-see the point?

    • Lorin Chane Partain

      It is not current money. It might become current money, but up and until it does it would be barter. Money and currency are not necessarily the same thing, as we well know.

  • Dave

    While I prep and there is a need to do so; articles such as this should be tagged as ‘entertainment’.
    There will not be a TEOWAWKI such as described here.
    Why?
    I have not yet read ONE article such as this that examines the single most important aspect of an event of this magnitude.
    Government will survive and be a major player.
    Read that sentence again and accept it.
    Now, that doesn’t mean they will be rounding you up for re-education or at the opposite bailing you out.
    But it will be there.
    All First world Governments are the BEST Preppers with the USA leading the pack.
    We have the best caves, bases, food stocks, weapons, technology AND the resources to put them in operation.
    There has been a fundemental shift in the hardcore prepper movement the past few years recognizing that a true grid down event will decimate the US population by a minimum of 50%.
    If it occurs during winter months, count that at 75%+.
    In a true grid down event there will be a massive relocation effort towards the south.
    And the Government will rebuild with the help of survivors.
    There will be massive amounts of tools, homes, etc left behind by those less fortunate.
    If a TEOTWAWKI takes out the government it has already gotten you and the earth is a smouldering lump of charcoal in space.
    An old joke best sums up my prep philosphy:
    A couple of guys are hiking through the woods. They happen upon a mother bear with a cub. She menacingly turns toward them and one guy digs into his back pack and puts on running shoes.
    His buddy chuckles and says,” You ain’t gonna out run that bear, buddy.”
    “No,” his companions says, “I only have to out run YOU.”
    One final comment;
    While a grid down event might include some suspensions of certain Constitutional Rights, remember that your personal oppressions and intolerances will be accounted and held responsible.

    • blank

      Thank you O’ wise oracle of delphi. I do often wonder if there was someone who said the same thing in the 1920’s USA, or 5th century Rome.

      You’ve given no evidence to ANY of your “points”, you’ve provided little more than supposition that flies in the face of ALL recorded history.

      Let’s recall such contemporary events such as; Katrina, Fukushima disaster and the preceding Tsunami, Hurricane Andrew, 1977 east coast blackout, great depression. How well did your precious evergreen government do with those mostly regional events?History shows that government cannot and often will not be there in a true disaster.

      Do you have any idea as to the feeble state of our power grid (lack of spare and hard to manufacture high voltage transformers, antiquated highly vulnerable computer control system…). Do you understand that is so little as 25% of the east coast grid were to fail Nuclear power plants usually having less than one month of generator time will begin to meltdown without constant attention? The entire might of FEMA couldn’t get bottles of water to the superdome, and you somehow believe they’ll be able to deliver daily shipments of diesel to dozens of power plants? Your trust and faith in government boggles my mind, when have any of the qualities you strangely ascribe to government ever been shown to be true?

      I hope you aren’t implying that you intend to take what ever you want/need in a disaster (that you claim couldn’t happen), You should know there are some of us who have decided to prepare and are willing and capable of using our big guns, many including myself have also attended intensive firearms training schools and are quite capable of defending what we have. It amazes me how people who refuse to prepare, or the ones who buy a few guns and some ammo convince themselves they’ll be willing or able to conquer the earth if SHTF. How many rounds have you shot with the gun you plan to pillage us with, how much *formal* training do you have, how many people in your group, what about comms, how do you plan to deal with 4 people trained and capable in small unit tactics?

      If you don’t want to prep, fine. But please spare us the, I’ll just take what I need bluster, “you’re just paranoid” ad hominem attacks, and the government will save us with their limitless milk and honey BS. Most of us dedicated to self sufficiency have heard it all before and it doesn’t ever get any closer to being true.

  • Daddyotis

    “I would trade a couple of rounds for a loaf of bread or use the ammo to take it if needed”

    “use the ammo to take it if needed”???

    That style of thinking will likely have you ending up with those 90% you were talking about. Most of the preppers I know will not tolerate that kind of BS. Take some advice, Friend. Don’t go down that road.

    • mangoman

      Apparently you’re not well rehearsed on bartering…wwr stated that he would barter first, and then take it …”if needed!” Your apocalyptic thinking about early assumptions will most likely leave you DRT unless you can modify!!

      • Daddyotis

        I have perfect understanding of what “bartering” means. Taking what you need from others by force is NOT part of it. If you or anybody else likes to fancy they’ll simply be taking what they want from me, you’ll soon realize that I’m much more formidable than you assume. And soon after that you and wwr would be taking a dirt nap next to each other.

  • Thomas

    Your solution for the end of the world sounds… limited. The cost of a 20 round box of Federal 308 match king is $29.00 +/- odd cents .. $31.17 with tax.. as of this Wednesday at Gander mountain in Toledo, Ohio. ONE BOX of 20!
    I can feed the two of us for over two weeks with $29.00… I can purchase enough rice to last over 14 months for the cost of 500 rounds of it…
    The ‘Guns & Ammo’ frame of mind…… and using it to ‘take’ what a soul didn’t have the presence of mind to hold…. Oh yes…. Don’t go down that road … You will only find someone just like yourself …

  • blank

    *Don’t* plan on bartering ammo as you are likely to get some or all of it back, albeit at a much higher velocity. Doubly so for those of us at the top of Mr.Murphy’s short list.

    The only time you should be bartering with precious ammo (even if you reload) is at a neutral trading post far from your community/homestead, preferably one that checks all weapons at the door.

    You could imagine someone who has a gun and expended of ammo being someone you should keep an eye on. He’s very likely to load up a mag of his newly acquired ammo and shoot you in the back, then he’s got the ammo and everything else you had including that smoking deal you worked out in exchange for that ammo (and you thought you made away like a thief)! In my opinion, the same goes for the actual firearms and any related accoutrements; magazines, spare parts, ect. Possibly excluding the basic componets of ammunition like primers, powder, bullets, cases, though I personally consider them to be far too valuable unless starving or someone is dying. I do have some extra guns (ar’s and a few inexpensive Makarov pistols) in my collection I would hand to family, friends, and neighbors for their use only if things got really bad

    If you’re not among the faint of heart and you’re clever and definitely away from your community, you could attempt what the US did to Chiang Kai-Shek and give them defective ammo/guns. Then Observing how they will react when they presume to have the advantage. If they seem honorable, you can make the real trade, if not… Well be prepared to kill them (I said not for the faint of heart).

    As for me, for the purpose of bartering I have among others I forget;
    5 gal buckets of beans and rice (as a honeypot separate from my pantry)
    Some cheap bottled water
    Unused RX antibiotics, cheap medical supplies (Clotrimazole, moleskin, chap-stick)
    Minibar sized liquor bottles (whiskey, vodka)
    Junk silver (quarters, dimes mostly)
    Cheap (oppressively itchy) wool blankets
    Also I hope to experiment with moonshine distillery soon, as it makes great solvent for homesteading, anti-septic, it’ll be in high demand as a drug, ect.

  • AngelGabe

    Bartering ammo isn’t a great idea. Unless you have unlimited resources of ammo, why give up something that you may very well need yourself if things get really bad…PLUS why let everyone know that you have LOTS of ammo? IMO just asking for trouble. A better barter is something like toilet paper, sugar, coffee, things that someone may really want, and need for comfort but that they don’t feel the need to attack you just to get it. Barter with what you have EXCESS of, and can live without yourself, or that you have purchased just for bartering (I’m not particularly a coffee drinker, but I have set aside lots of it).

  • AngelGabe

    My bartering items are relegated to comfort items, things that I could easily do without, and that I know others may want: sugar, coffee, toilet paper, salt….never ‘real’ food like rice, beans, etc. Why would I give up precious items and also let someone know what I have lots of? Definitely NOT ammo! I have options for toilet paper (plus, I have TONS of it!), sugar, don’t really need coffee (although I know many who can’t survive without it),and salt, well although it is a basic need of life (the GOOD kind of salt) I have plenty and would be willing to share some if it got me something I can’t make or do for myself, which is the essence of bartering. I think I should be ok with what I have …

    Don’t forget that skills are barter material, too. Sewing, butchering, even hunting or fishing could be bartering tools for those who can’t do for themselves. I could fish, but am not a hunter. I can sew and have the materials and tools for that, as well as baking, or cooking on or off grid…. most will need to have those basic skills to survive at all…but still, they could come in handy at some point.

    Being able to find and maintain drinkable water could also become a bartering asset. A good high quality water purifying system could come in VERY handy, but might be on the edge of those things you wouldn’t want someone else to know you have…

    Just thoughts on alternative things that can be bartered, not all of them are staples, skills are good marketable items as well.

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