All of us have things we don't want and, at the same time, want or need other things. Usually, the transition between the two requires selling what you don't want and buying what you want or need - but often, you lose value on both transactions.
A better solution is bartering - exchange something you have for something of roughly equal value that someone else has. This works quite well in some environments, but it's often difficult to find like-minded people to barter with.
That's where the internet comes in handy. Here are fourteen great services for bartering, most of them operating by mail and from the convenience of home. I use most of the services listed below and I've mentioned quite a few of them before - some of them, particularly PaperBackSwap, are part of the fabric of my life at this point.
Let's dive right in and get bartering! (One quick note: the sites that trade "everything" aren't necessarily the best places to go - often, it's difficult to find things you want on those sites. I find the niche sites have a much higher level of success for that specific area.) For a few links, I've included my email address in the link if you click on it so I can quickly touch base with any readers who sign up for the service.
13 Online Barter Communities
What you can trade: babysitting, carpooling, pet-sitting, tutoring, etc.
This website essentially helps you set up a babysitting, tutoring, pet-sitting, or similar neighborhood sharing cooperative online. Here's how it works: you get a small group of families who all know each other, then you all sign up for BabysitterExchange. The site helps you schedule exchanges of common tasks like babysitting and so forth, enabling all members of the cooperative to essentially have those services for free (and with easy access) in exchange for providing the service every once in a while.
What you can trade: business services and goods
Quite often, businesses are heavily involved in fairly similar marketplaces but aren't in direct competition with one another. In those situations, it makes a lot of sense for those businesses to cooperate strongly with one another with regards to many specific business elements - sales, marketing, and so forth. BizXchange helps businesses interested in such exchanges to find each other and help set up healthy relationships.
What you can trade: everything
Craigslist is a three ring circus - newspaper classifieds gone wild. There are countless items and services for sale and trade. Digging through it is kind of like walking through a carnival - there are all sorts of interesting sideshows and you may or may not find what you want, but you'll enjoy the trip!
What you can trade: everything
Freecycle is kind of like Craigslist's DIY libertarian cousin. It revolves around people wanting to give things away - items they have that they just want to find a good home for. It has its own culture - it's generally considered good form to both give and take, not just take, making it more of a laid-back bartering site.
5. Game Trading Zone
What you can trade: video games
Game Trading Zone is a service that lets you set up trades for video games and video game accessories. Instead of listing what you have and receiving credit for those listings, Game Trading Zone allows individual users to trade with each other. They browse each others' libraries, set up trades, possibly throw in other items, then ship things to one another.
What you can trade: video games, computer games
On the other hand, Goozex also allows trading of video games and computer games, but instead of requiring users to set up trades, it assigns a point value to each game or peripheral you list. Trades are made basically by moving those points around - if someone with enough points to request an item you have requests it, you send the item away and receive those points, which you can then use to request any other items that are listed. More efficient - but sometimes less fun - than the Game Trading Zone system.
What you can trade: books
What can I say? I love PaperBackSwap. I'm an avid reader, and that often means that my shelves get overstuffed with books. I used to take piles of them to the used book store, but I'd get at best a 2-for-1 exchange and the selection at local used book stores was limited. PaperBackSwap works much more efficiently. You just list ten books you want to trade and the site gives you two credits. A credit essentially represents a single book that you can request, so you can immediately request two books out of the more than a million books listed on the site. Want more credits? When someone requests a book you've listed, send it to them and receive a credit when they receive it. Shipping is easy, too - you can print off complete shipping labels directly from the site. For me, it beats used book stores in selection, convenience, time, and cost.
What you can trade: CDs
This service works much like PaperBackSwap, except with CDs. You receive a credit for each CD sent out; requesting a CD costs a credit and $0.49. You can swap credits between SwapACD and PaperBackSwap and SwapADVD, so you can effectively make trades in each type of media (send out DVDs and get books in return, or send out CDs and get DVDs in return, for example).
What you can trade: DVDs
Again, this works much like PaperBackSwap, except for DVDs. When you sign up, you list ten DVDs for trade and receive two credits. You receive a credit for each DVD sent out and requesting a DVD costs a credit. It's also "credit compatible" with SwapACD and PaperBackSwap, meaning you can move credits back and forth between the sites.
What you can trade: clothing, fashion accessories
This is a perfect place to go if you're a clothes or fashion junkie. You can swap clothes, cosmetics, shoes, handbags and so on. Although the items are all women's fashions, several readers have told me that the items available here are quite great.
What you can trade: everything
SwapThing is basically a giant swapping free-for-all, where swaps are individually negotiated between two people. You simply list items you're willing to swap, then negotiate with the lister of an item that you want. Once you come to an arrangement that makes you both happy, you send out the items.
What you can trade: services such as carpentry, cleaning, electricity, etc.
U-Exchange facilitates face-to-face bartering in specific locations. Visit the site, browse through the proposed swaps in your area, and see if there's anything that you want or can trade. It's fun to browse, if nothing else, and you might just find a great bartering situation for you.
What you can trade: kid's stuff: clothes, toys, accessories
Lately, I've become a huge fan of Zwaggle. Zwaggle is a swap site for stuff for children - in other words, a treasure trove for parents. You can swap kids' clothes, toys, furniture, and so forth. For every item you shop, you receive a number of points (roughly equal to the dollar value of the item) which you can then spend on other items. Virtually everyone involved with the site is a parent who just wants to find bargains on high-quality items - something I can certainly identify with.