The Barter Value of Skills

Recently, we talked about the necessity of learning skills to aid us in a survival situation.  Don’t underestimate the value of those skills for barter.  If the grid goes down, people may be left with no access to medical care, serious gaps in their knowledge or the inability to repair vital items.  If you possess those abilities, your skills will be in high demand.

In the situation of economic collapse, there will be a revival of the barter system.  To barter means to exchange your goods or services for someone else’s goods or services.  To complete a satisfactory barter transaction, each person must desire something from the other party.  Despite the potential of desperation, it’s morally imperative to be fair to the party that is most in need. Remember that one day, that person who is most in need may be you.

Right now, if something breaks, the replacement is only as far away as the closest Wal-Mart.  However, in the event of an economic collapse or a disaster that causes the trucks to stop running, it won’t be easy to replace broken items. The ability to repair broken items will be in very high demand.  It will be a rare skill, because we live in a world of planned obsolescence. Few people actually know how to repair an item in a sturdy and long-lasting way.

Brandon Smith of Alt-Market calls this about bringing back the American Tradesman:

“If you wish to survive after the destruction of the mainstream system that has babied us for so long,” he says, “you must be able to either make a necessary product, repair a necessary product, or teach a necessary skill. A limited few have the capital required to stockpile enough barter goods or gold and silver to live indefinitely. The American Tradesman must return in full force, not only for the sake of self preservation, but also for the sake of our heritage at large.”

Check out Brandon’s excellent article on the barter system here.

There is no limit to the skills that could be used in a barter situation.  Some examples would be:

  • First Aid for traumatic injuries
  • Sutures
  • Midwifery/delivering babies
  • Dental care
  • Herbal remedies
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Veterinary Skills
  • Teaching children
  • Teaching skills to adults like knitting, gardening, machine repair, etc.
  • Mechanic’s skills: the ability to fix solar generators, small machines, automobiles, etc.
  • Other repair skills: the ability to repair tools, woodstoves, plumbing, etc.
  • Gardening/Farming
  • Construction
  • Gunsmithing/Weapon repair
  • Security services
  • Food Preservation
  • Sewing/Mending
  • Making soap and candles
  • Blacksmithing

If the grid goes down or the economy collapses in a long-term way, gone are the days of making your living doing IT work or ringing through purchases at the grocery store.  You will need to become not only self-sufficient, but a provider of goods or services. Consider what abilities and knowledge you possess that can be shared with others.  Nobody can do it alone – there is always going to be something you need that you can’t provide for yourself.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published April 23rd, 2012
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  • VanMom

    Thank you for your dedication, Tess!

  • charlie

    I can work on bicycles.  The old style ones, not these new ones, that they have intentionally made hard to work on, just as they have done with the cars.

  • Ken

    I saw something left out that struck my eye.  Perhaps it is my bias as a homebrewer, but the ability to make good alcohol or provide other intoxicating products seems  like a venue of great value during a time when supply lines are down. 
    Just my two cents.

    • Aili

      I agree: brewing is an efficient way to sterilize water, and you could use the yeasty dregs to make a bread starter (bet it would taste better than sourdough too!).

  • Joe Kool

    Ken, you stole my thunder. I remember seeing a reality/Survivor-type show on PBS about people that emulated the homesteading out West of the early settlers. There were different families competing and they were allowed to bring one item from that period with them to start. The family that brought an old-time still was able to barter the moonshine they made for all kinds of other items. Yes, don’t discount the power of home brew!

    • Joe,

      I loved that show! It really put things into perspective and showed how different our way of life would be.

    • Mrs. Skills

      During prohibition, one NY relative rented a house he owned. The renters used/wrecked the interior of the house building a still. The house needed to be razed.

  • Mrs. Skills

    Barter is not a long term option in difficult times. There are only a few situations in which this has worked for my husband and I. We both have a large skill base. The person who could use your services and does not have the funds to pay for it most likely does not have any skill to barter for it. Those who have not obtained/worked for any real skill, have no intrinsic value for skill, either. Their only reference and value is what they have purchased from a store.  A time bank wouldn’t necessarily work either, as many skills take time and and hour for hour exchange would be difficult. 
    Based on my husband and my experiences, those who are unable to do for themselves will want it for free, dirt cheap, or they will do without. It will not matter how badly their financial situation is. My relatives (maternal extended family) during the Great Depression lived in the ‘burbs of Queens NY. They planted flowers in their tiny “backyard,” did not have a sewing machine in their home and rarely sewed by hand. They did other things that made no sense to me, either. My mother lived with her grandparents, aunt and uncles. The aunt and uncles were born in the early/mid 1890’s! The story was similar with my paternal relatives who lived in the burbs around Newark, NJ, but the situation had more complications. With our increasingly de-skilled society, daily living choices will be even more perplexing.

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