Ammo is a useful—and valuable—bartering item. Tim MacWelch

“Hey, I’ll trade you three bullets for that roll of toilet paper.”

Bartering for our necessities can be traced back to pre-literate cultures at least 6,000 years ago. And surprisingly, barter is still happening in modern times. In economically challenged countries, people are bartering right now to take care of their families. And in the high-tech world, people are swapping items and services through various web based barter systems and networking organizations. But could you really survive through that system if you were out of cash or the electronic payment systems were down? Here’s one more thing that could help your family survive during a long term crisis.

Even though you’d face the same barter system problems that our ancestors faced, like the difficulty assigning a value to items, the benefits of barter are plentiful.

1. Anything can be traded for anything, if both parties agree.
2. The barter system works under any conditions, regardless of a failure of utilities or infrastructure.
3. ** Barter lets you trade different combinations of services, goods and supplies for your needs.
It can transcend language and cultural boundaries, though it’s best to have common ground.

But there is some work that needs to happen on the front end of any barter deal. If we think of the barter itself as a “checkmate”, then the negotiation that leads up to it is the entire chess game. And since it’s unlikely that people would run into each other with equal value goods that the other person needed, anyone who wants to barter will need to learn how to haggle.

Also referred to as quibbling, wrangling, and bargaining, haggling is simply an informal version of a business negotiation. But it takes more than personal charm to haggle. Firstly, you need to be able to communicate with your potential trade partner and explain that it’s in their best interest to make this trade. If you can effectively explain “what’s in it for them,” then the rest becomes easier. Secondly, you need to have some basis of value for your trade. Just because you really want or need something, doesn’t mean you should “pay” whatever they are asking. Barter trades should leave each person walking away happy with the transaction. Finally, don’t get emotional. If you are willing to walk away, then you are not too emotionally involved in the barter deal. This will keep the mood lighter and friendlier, which is the way you’d want it to be. With these ideas in place, you can make someone an offer, listen to their counter offer, and then work back and forth until you come to an agreement. Don’t be afraid to get creative. You can make your offer a blend of goods and services, if your goods don’t quite add up.

Would you be willing to haggle and barter after a crisis? Would you do it now? Please leave us comment to share your thoughts.