Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy, and it can weigh heavily on the wallet. Organic food can cost a pretty penny and holistic healthcare models are often paid out of pocket. It’s no surprise that money can be a major source of stress.
Money is a central topic in our lives. We talk about it, think about it and deal with it several times each and every day. Saving money is a chief priority, while wasting precious resources can cause burning regret. As many as 60 percent of North Americans list money as one of their primary worries. It is one of the most common factors behind divorce. It may even shape our attitude toward life and our feeling of achievement or self-worth.
Things weren’t always this way — in traditional societies, everyone supported the survival of the community by contributing what skills or services they were able. People looked out for one another and ensured that everyone’s needs were met for the betterment of the group.
While reverting to a moneyless system probably isn’t realistic today, there are ways that we can trade value and get the things we need in a less dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself manner. In fact, there is already a growing movement toward strategies that are more community-centric and less focused on cold hard cash.
Different types of creative currencies
Here are some of the moneyless arrangements which are helping people get their needs met without the financial burden.
Upcycling—If you’ve read the classic children’s book Something from Nothing, you already know all about upcycling. When the child’s favorite blanket becomes worn, it is refashioned into other items, such as a vest and finally a button. This promotes a great attitude where items are no longer disposable but rather they receive a loving upgrade and become useful and beautiful again. Upcycling is a great way to spend less money on gifts, furniture and home décor.
Freecycling—Communities can get together to reduce waste and help out a good cause by freecycling. This is essentially organized donating, where items such as clothing or books are collected and sent to charities or families in need.
Swapping—This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you have 20 DVDs that you’ve already watched, why not swap your library with someone else to get a fresh stash? The same can be done with clothing, books, musical instruments, sports equipment, you name it.
Bartering—Let’s take swapping to another level. In the bartering model, services and skills come into play. If you’re an accountant and your friend is a landscaper, why not make an arrangement where your backyard gets remodeled and their taxes get sorted out, without a penny spent!
If you are entering any of these arrangements with people you know, particularly bartering, be sure to set out each party’s expectations clearly and with total transparency. When honesty and integrity are maintained, everyone is satisfied and feels like they’ve won!
Note that some exchanges of services must legally be declared in your annual taxes. Generally this is true when you are providing services which are in keeping with your main profession — but do some research to determine the requirements for your situation.
How to get involved
Why not start a group to trade services or resources. Here are some ideas to get you inspired:
Work lunch club—Rather than spending $10 on lunch every day, establish a group of people that make lunch for each other. If you have a group of five, each person makes five servings of the same meal and brings them to the office in a reusable container on their designated day. You cook once but get to eat five times! It’s also a great way to grab social time in the office and enjoy the diversity of food cooked by others. Soups are a particularly easy way to start the club, since they can be made in large batches.
Transport—A similar arrangement can be made for rides to work, school or dance lessons. Taking turns driving can reduce the stress on your finances and your daily schedule.
Childcare—Paying for babysitting on date night can be expensive. Why not rotate childcare with a group of friends. You enjoy a night out, they host a fun movie night for the kids! Next time, switch up the roles. Pet-sitting is another way to share care obligations and save on kennel or home visit costs.
Land for gardening—Many people have land they don’t use, whether it’s in the backyard or on a country lot. If you need a vegetable plot, why not offer a share of the harvest in exchange for the use of a little land! Some communities even have formal exchange setups to facilitate this.
Use of expensive items—If you have a top-of-the-line juicer and your neighbor has a table saw, why not swap the use of these items rather than buying your own? This works ideally for things like tools and kitchen gadgets. Certain cities offer large-scale tool or kitchen libraries, but you can start your own with a group of neighbors too.
There are a lot of websites out there where you can put items and skills up for offer, but you can also use good old-fashioned word of mouth or handmade posters to establish local initiatives.
Think about skills, items or expertise you have that could be valuable to others. Everyone knows a thing or two about something! Maybe you have a knack for putting together IKEA furniture, or know how to turn a bumper backyard tomato harvest into a pantry full of salsa and spaghetti sauce. The use of your snowblower or dehydrator might be something you can trade. Even things like teaching someone how to use an iPad or change a tire are great ways to offer value, and can be exchanged for things that you might need in return.
Engaging in simple exchanges can not only leave you with more dollars at the end of the month, but can also convey a number of personal and community benefits.
Personally, you will feel valued, needed and accomplished as you pass on skills to others, who are impressed and grateful for your help. This is a wonderful way to boost your self-confidence and learn about your strengths and interests. Who knows, your bartering experiences could even open the door to a new passion-driven career!
Beyond the internal boost, the neighborhood and community also thrive when people support each other and share experience and ideas. Everyone benefits when they can connect with local people, old and young, while learning something new and saving money in the process.
Creative currencies can get your personal finances (not to mention your happiness and relationships) looking a whole lot healthier. Go even further by using green heat sources and shopping smart for healthy food.
Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.