How to barter

The word barter is thought to have it’s origin from an Old French word barater which means ‘deceive’.

The origin of the word should have been my first clue as to why I am terrible at bartering. I mean I am really, really bad at it.

Deception is not in my repertory. I found an item online one time and called the seller. The conversation went something like this:

Seller: “Hello.”

Me: “Hi, you have a tea pot for sale?”

Seller: “Yes, it’s still for sale.” 

Me: “Great. I don’t want to buy it. I just called to tell you that I have one like it and you are not charging enough for it. You’ve underpriced it by about a hundred dollars. It’s a collector’s item. I thought you should know.”

Seller: “Thank you.”

On another day, in an antique store I begged my friend to barter on my behalf. He told me no and that I must learn. I tried to tell him I have no aptitude for bartering, but he stood his ground.

I approached the store owner. “Would you accept eighty dollars for that picture over there?”

The store owner was stone faced as he said “No.” It was a hard, flat “no” without even the hint of maybe you could try again in his tone.

I paid full price for my picture and watched in awe as my friend put his items on the counter and then proceeded to coax a smile from the stone faced owner and a reduction on every single item he bought.

Dejected, I consoled myself by thinking of all the things I am good at, but as a highly competitive person, that wasn’t good enough. I resolved that some day, I too, would be able to barter like a pro.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Canada, my “not yet met” husband was the King of garage sale wheeling and dealing.

Do you know that he was actually  paid to take an item? All he said was “who would pay a dollar to buy this thing?” The lady running the sale said “I’ll give you two dollars to take it with you.” He found out later that she would have gone as high as five dollars.

He walked away with a taxidermy frog. The frog had it’s hands tacked to a bongo drum and sported a sombrero emblazoned with Tijuana perched jauntily on it’s head. He was posed behind the bongo drum as if he would burst into song if the taxidermist hadn’t sewn his mouth shut.

Although Senor Frog is long gone, he spoke wistfully of it tonight when we discussed the concept of bartering. “It was such a great conversation piece.” I swear there was a tear in his eye.

Ay Caramba!

He is also the only person I know who jacked up the price on every item at his garage sale because sales were slow. He figured, people aren’t buying because my prices are too low and they aren’t perceiving value or quality. So, he doubled the price of everything!

He sold everything and made out like a bandit. Barater, indeed.
Most preppers at some point bring up barter. We want to have the skills or goods to barter for other items we might need. 

I think it is an important skill to have. So, I wanted to learn how does one barter effectively?

The first article I found was titled “6 Major Disadvantages of the Barter System.” I was hopeful, perhaps I wouldn’t have barter, after all. 

The article is about microeconomics and how it’s hard find someone who has a cow to barter with your horse. It really becomes a problem when you only want to pay four sheep for someone’s horse. They want five sheep. If only you could divide a sheep, you could have made a deal at four and one half sheep for that horse.

I read through it but still didn’t know how to barter and I had a major headache.

Here’s the link for it if anyone likes microeconomics served with a side of order of headache.


Then I found this website and thought I might just have a chance of learning how to do this properly.


I am still not there yet. The last article gave me hope but I wondered if anyone here could share about how they learned to barter successfully?

Does anyone have any tips or suggestions for successful bartering?

I have a feeling I’m going to need all the help I can get and there is no way I’m sending my husband to barter. One Senor Frog is enough.


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