Most people living in the United States and many other industrialized countries consider bartering as an antiquated method for exchanging goods and services. We have all become very accustomed to fiat currency, credits cards and digital transactions, so bartering just seems strange. But it wasn’t so long ago that bartering was commonly used and worked very effectively.
If a major disaster or economic collapse immobilizes the existing banking system, ATMs will run out of cash very quickly, and your credit cards may stop working. Communities will definitely go on, but the way society functions may be quite different. People who have useful skills and items with which they can barter or trade are likely to benefit, perhaps even thrive.
Below are some ideas of which valuable skills to develop to increase your ability to survive and have something to trade if you find yourself in a barter-friendly world. Being able to share your skills and knowledge with other people also carries a high barter value.
1. Growing Food
Knowing how to grow your own food is essential for survival. In case of a short-term disaster, a few buckets of emergency storable food may be sufficient, but if you find yourself in a situation where food is limited over a longer term, knowing how to garden is a must.
The best way to start gardening is to begin with small projects, like an indoor herb garden, a few containers or a couple raised beds. You may be surprised just how many low-cost resources are available to help you along the way. Some of my favorites have been Easy Container Gardening and Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide.
Just get your feet wet and start learning. Over time, your garden will expand as does your skill-set, and you may become interested in learning other gardening skills, such as building a low-cost greenhouseor permaculture design, which will make your knowledge even more trade worthy.
2. Harvesting and Storing Seeds
Knowing how to properly harvest, store and sow seeds is one of the fundamentals of successful gardening. Seeds (and of course the food you can grow) can become excellent items for barter. Check out the video below to get you thinking about how to harvest and save the seeds from your garden.
3. Food Processing and Preservation
Food is a necessity with a very short lifespan, so during any disaster or societal disruption, the majority of people will need food. Learning specific skills involving food processing and preservation can help you take advantage of seasonal abundance so you can enjoy/sell/barter food products during off seasons and winter months. Furthermore, knowledge about food preservation methods that use minimal to no electricity, such as smoking, salt curing, pickling and dehydration, are likely to hold high value in a post economic collapse economy. Even without societal disruption, creating preserved food products can become a great way to earn an income.
4. Cooking and Food Preparation
Knowing how to prepare food without abundant electricity, such as on a wood-burning stove or fire, is an important skill if faced with a natural disaster. We are so accustomed to using electricity driven appliances, we forget that there are methods for cooking food in sun ovens or in outdoor fire pits, which can be just as effective.
5. Plant Gathering
Knowledge about edible plants is not only a great hobby for avid hikers and backpackers but can be a valuable survival skill. You may be surprised by just how many plants around your neighborhood can be eaten or have beneficial medicinal properties. Learning how to identify these plants is a skill that you can perfect with a detailed guide book. Such a book is also a good resource to add to your survival library.
6. Hunting and Fishing
In our modern lifestyle, all foods are already packaged and perfectly displayed at your local grocer’s counter. But having the proper training and gear to hunt and fish, as well as clean what you catch, can be priceless. Having tools such as bows, slingshots, knives and spears, and knowing how to use them, would give you the ability to barter during any event that may hinder modern civilization.
7. Raising Animals
Other important skills when it comes to food include knowing how to raise and take care of small farm animals. If people don’t have access to a steady supply of food, they will once again turn to small local “food producers” – you! – for their favorite foods. Check out Your Farm in the City to get started.
8. Handy Work
You don’t need the skills of a home builder, electrician or master wood worker to become a valuable asset to people in your community by offering handy work and helping with small construction projects around the home. In addition to learning how to fix common household problems, such as a broken toilet, you can learn specific survival skills such as how to construct a water collection system, how to build a sun dehydrator, etc.
9. Tool Collection
Tool collection isn’t really a skill, but tools are great barter items. Garden tools and supplies, as well as other tools, such as axes, hammers, saw blades, etc., are valuable assets. They can become real money if you find yourself is a post-disaster situation. Garage sales are great places to look for bargains on tools, allowing you to stock up. When the time comes, you will have what you need to be more self-sustainable, and you can loan or trade items in exchange for products and services.
10. Water Collection, Purification and Storage
Every household can benefit from a good quality water filter, both for the home and for the bug-out bag. But even with a good water filter, obtaining clean water may not be a simple task if you do not have conventional water delivery service.
When clean water is more difficult to come by, especially if your home or community are faced with no municipal water delivery or no electricity to pump well water, water collection, purification and proper storage will become important. In addition to understanding what makes for effective water collection and storage, you can stock up on supplies to build water collection systems. Even a stockpile of small items, such as water purification tablets, may prove invaluable.