If you want to trade business services and products, join a local barter exchange. Find them in your area through the chamber of commerce or at the website of the International Reciprocal Trade Association (irta.com; click on Membership). Note that all barters are taxable transactions and have to be reported to the IRS as income. Barter clubs will typically keep track of all your trades for you and send you paperwork at the end of the year, just like a bank.
Local Barter Groups
If you want to meet people and trade personal belongings like clothes, books, and electronics, pay a visit to meetup.com to find people near you who share interests. The Freecycle Network (www.freecycle.org) promotes “green” trading and also maintains a national directory of barter groups.
One catch: As with any transaction involving strangers, you can get taken if you’re not careful. If you’re exchanging low-value goods like books and DVDs, you’re probably okay shipping them to the other person. But if you’re swapping valuable goods, you should trade only with local people so you can meet them in person and inspect the products you’re getting in return (you can’t always trust photos). Bring a friend with you and arrange to make the swap at a public place, like a coffee shop or a restaurant.
If you’re looking to trade homes, go to goswap.org, pad4pad.com, or domuswap.com. You’ll need legal representation, and you may also want to hire a licensed “exchangor” to help close the deals and work out the complicated tax implications. Commissions vary widely. You can find one at the National Council of Exchangors’ website (nce1031.net).