Skip to main content
PBS logo
Want fewer ads?

Press & Media » Tuscaloosa

Bartering Online Leaves Money In The Bank

Tuscaloosa (Newspaper) - 6/8/2008 by By Alyson Ward, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
FORT WORTH, Texas | Long before we humans got smart enough to invent currency, we got our goods without coin or cash: by swapping and borrowing. Exchanging with another person is still an effective strategy for getting what you want with minimum financial fuss, and a number of Web sites bring the marketplace to your desktop.

You could, of course, head to a local market and try to see what they'd give you for your granddaddy's watch. Or you could take a look at these five ways to save money by swapping, borrowing or sharing.

Trade clothesRemember back in college when you'd rummage through a friend or sister's closet to find something "new" to wear? And sometimes you'd get to keep it? This is the premise of a clothing swap.

Suzanne Agasi of San Francisco has been hosting parties to trade clothes for more than a decade, but she says the idea is just now catching on nationally. "I haven't bought a pair of jeans in 14 years," she says. She offers this method for putting together a clothes-swap party:

n Before you start organizing, choose a charity to receive leftover items. Even though most guests will go home with something snazzy, lots will be left over.

n Choose a time and day, and invite your friends. Have them invite friends. Don't worry about sizes; the more the merrier.

n Instruct friends to bring quality, freshly cleaned clothes. Ask them to bring purses, shoes and accessories they're ready to get rid of, as well.

n Designate a safe room or area for purses, shoes and the clothes people come in. Otherwise, says Agasi, guests will lose items they never intended to trade.

n When guests arrive, have them sort items. Place shoes and purses together, sweaters together, tops together, dresses together and jeans together.

n Have everyone bring a "shopping" bag. Chosen items should go in the bag. Bags are off-limits for swapping.

n After the party, pack up extra items and transport them to the charity.

Exchange books Books, though certainly worthy purchases, can hit the checking account hard and fast. Save money by getting and giving books in an online book swap. Usually you pay to send books to other people, and other people will send books to you. You choose the books you'd like via an online database, and once you get them, they're yours to keep or swap again. Here are a few book-swap sites:

n Paperbackswap, The site also lets you print out a wrapper that's ready for mailing. You just wrap it around the book, add the necessary postage and drop it in the mail. Borrowing works on a point system: When you send out a book, you get enough points to request one.

n Titletrader, This site allows members to swap books, movies and CDs. It works on a point system, but members can buy points. Members pay postage.

n Bookins, On this site, which swaps books and DVDs, each swap costs $4.49, but Bookins provides postage and tracks shipments. Members also earn swaps based on trades; in-

demand titles earn more points.

n Bookmooch, This works like Bookins or Titletrader but with two nifty extras. People can trade books in multiple languages and internationally. Members also can donate points to charity partners such as children's hospitals. Members must send at least one book for every two they order.

n NovelAction, www.novel Members pay $4.80 to ship up to 6 pounds of books, and a one-year membership of $25 buys unlimited exchanges. NovelAction also has tracking features and lets users set notifications for favorite authors, genres or titles.

Swap gift cardsWe've all gotten them - a gift card to a store or restaurant we'll probably never set foot in. Instead of just letting the gift card expire, hop online and sell it or trade it for one you'll use, or give to someone else as a gift.

n Swapagift,, allows you to trade, sell or buy gift cards at a discounted price. The site charges $1.99 to list a card.

n Certificateswap,, acts as an online marketplace to sell gift certificates. It groups certificates by type - men's, women's, automotive, dining - to make browsing easier.

n Cardavenue,, also allows trades but has an eBay-like component that auctions off gift cards to the highest bidder. Of course, you also can sell gift cards on eBay.

Share ridesWith gas prices approaching $4 this summer, even a car with great gas mileage can feel like a guzzler. Sharing the costs with riding partner or two becomes ever more attractive.

If you have a long commute, you can save even more cash by joining a vanpool. A vanpool driver plans the most efficient route and then picks up and drops off the riders each morning and evening.

Borrowed shelter Whittle down your summer travel budget by couch surfing or house swapping.

House swapping, common overseas, came to American attention after the release of the 2006 movie "The Holiday." House swapping is exactly what it sounds like. Figure out where you'd like to go on vacation and find someone there who's willing to trade pads with you for a specified length of time.

If you're worried about opening up your home to a perfect stranger, a reasonable concern to be sure, going through an established Web site like, or HomeLink International,, can ease fears. Both Web sites have lengthy info sections on the safety of the trades and charge a fee to list homes.

The most important rule of house swapping, experts say, is to leave the house exactly the way that you found it.

A second way to snag a bed without paying Motel 6 is couch surfing. When you couch surf, you don't have to trade your place for theirs. You just stay with them while you're visiting their city - like being an exchange student.

Stacy Anderson, a 39-year-old self-employed Fort Worth, Texas, resident, has had three surfers stay at her house, which she shares with her boyfriend, and she just finished her first "surfing trip" to Alaska this month.

Before she signed up to surf or host, she attended couch-surfing meetups to get a better feel for the people and the process. (Get in touch with local couch surfers at, which networks surfers from more than 200 countries.)

Surfers don't pay hosts, but they generally bring him or her a gift from their home.
Want fewer ads?