Skip to next element

Samantha Daly

The Art of Bartering

The Art of Bartering

When SHTF your money will be worthless, but the goods you have stored will become incredibly valuable. Knowing which items will be worth the most, and how to maximize your trades, is an important skill to have in a post-disaster society.

Long before monetary systems were developed, people bartered for all of the goods/services they needed. This system was strengthened when crops were developed and people settled down, developing different skills and items that were unique to trade. Blankets, fur, tools, flour, sugar, and other foods were all important trade commodities. These items were so valuable, in fact, that in ancient Rome, the soldiers were paid in quantities of salt.

Even once the monetary system was developed, bartering continued, and is still prevalent in the aftermath of disasters. Chances are, anything in your prepper stockpile is good for bartering. Any non-perishable food, sugar, salt, first-aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, toothpaste, cleaning supplies, water purifiers, etc. that you can spare will be of great value for people in need. Think about things that people need on a daily basis – these are the most highly sought-after items.

Just having the supplies is not enough. You need to know how to effectively barter for what you need. Here are our top eight tips:

    1. Have something valuable to trade. The best bartering items do not cost much before SHTF, but will be worth a lot after. You do not want to be disadvantaged from the start by having little value to offer. You only want to offer what you can live without, so stocking up an excess of certain supplies is essential.
    2. Guard your supplies just as you would actual money. Try to form alliances with friends and neighbors and stay safe in numbers. Do not meet someone alone with a car full of valuable items or bring them into your house. Always have an exit strategy for meetings in which items will be exchanged.
    3. Know the value of your bartering items. Do not underestimate the value of what you have. The market has changed, and your bartering items are not easily obtainable. The price of your goods now is far higher than it was pre-disaster. 
    4. Know the value of the item you need. How badly do you need this item? Are there alternatives that would also work? Ensure that you are not overpaying for non-essentials. 
    5. Promote your item. Make your item seem as valuable as possible. Talk about how hard it is to obtain and all the ways it is useful. While doing so, talk down the item you want, never letting on that it is valuable. You want them to think that you can live without the trade, but they cannot. 
    6. Be willing to walk away. Walking away is not losing, as much as it may feel that way. Do not pay too much because you did not want to walk away. 
    7. Leave room to negotiate. You need to have a target price in mind for the item you are “selling.” Your first offer should be above your bottom line so that you can lower your price in negotiations and still get the target price you want. You also need to have a plan for if they reject your offer. You could add another item, offer something completely different, or walk away from the trade. 
    8. Have many sources. Establish multiple sources for any item you need to barter for. That way, you are not dependent on any single source and cannot be forced into paying an unreasonable price for something you need. 


With a stockpile of tradeable items and these key tips, you will be at a great advantage when SHTF. Remember to only trade those items which you have in excess, as you do not want to be required to trade for something you once had, but gave away, as you will likely be losing “money” in the second transaction. The longer people are without a reliable source of goods, the more value your items gain, so do not immediately rush to trade everything you have. Your items will be worth far more later.

Have you ever bartered for things you needed? Share your story on our Facebook page!

Share on:

Load Scripts