Kate Hughes: Go swapping – it's good for both your wallet and health
Growing numbers of consumers are finding that, as a recession beater, bartering is brilliant
Saturday 25 May 2013
Last week's news of contactless card catastrophe – when at least five people claimed that money had been removed from their cards without authorisation because their wallets were in the same postcode as a 21st century till – has sparked renewed chat about the perils and pitfalls of a cashless society.
But a different type of cashless society, an older, lower tech, lower key movement is quietly growing out there on the British streets. Swapping and bartering are hardly new ideas, having been going since human beings first sat around a campfire.
Nor are organised bartering networks. (The first UK labour exchange was launched in 1910). But it seems the appetite for straightforward human interaction with tangible value is growing once more.
The Food Swap Network, started across the pond, now boasts communities in London, York, Altrincham, Nottingham and St Albans, and they're just the official ones involved with a single organisation. It seems bartering lightbulbs are going on up and down the country.
And now celebs are getting in on the act.
Backed by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, model, actress and Cambridge graduate Lily Cole has just launched a service among the university's students that offers a forum for sharing favours or skills. Named 'impossible', it's presented as a pay-it-forward type of thing focused on general reciprocity and Cole is expected to roll the scheme out nationwide later in the year.
When she does, she might well find she has an increasingly receptive audience.
Online forum Gumtree, for example, has found the number of new ads on its Swap Shop section has increased dramatically in the last three years - from 30 per cent year on year growth in 2011 to 85 per cent by 2013.
Of course there's an obvious link between the current climate and the apparent increase in bartering activity. In Greece and Spain, the number of swapping networks and communities have boomed and organisations like the Greek Network Exchange and Solidarity of Magnesia have become a de facto bank for many.
As one US congressman put it: "... when a country goes through a monetary crisis, depression or recession, traditional methods of income disappear, sometimes overnight. As a result, those who are aware that the paradigm has or is shifting and are willing to accept their new reality will prosper."
"There's definitely been an increase in the number of people swapping or exchanging rather than simply paying for services," says Alison Paule, development manager for the Paxton Green Time Bank - where members exchange an hour of their time and skill set for an hour of someone else's.
"It's particularly true in those groups that have grown organically from a local need. In the last couple of years we've seen a lot of people who wouldn't traditionally have been members start to get involved."
"There's a saying 'You have what you need if you use what you have'," she adds. "But it's more than that - giving rather than just taking makes you feel better about yourself."
In fact, a number of research studies have demonstrated that the additional benefits could be extensive.
One thirty-year study in the United States found that individuals reported improved well-being and physical health that was attributed directly to the increase in social support through reciprocity, the development of a supportive community and growing friendships.
So as well as a way to beat the crunch, is this in some small way also a wider response to the money technology explosion leaving many of us behind, literally contactless?
Sure, none of this is rocket science and nobody has ever implied that you can have a decent chat with a cash-point. But I for one might think on it the next time I don't exchange a single word on a trip to the supermarket. And then some automated system fails and I have to leave with nothing.
Compare with the Independent: See how much you could save by switching credit cards. Compare now
Last bank in town? Shut it down, say Barclays and then RBS. But locals say No
You'll need £220,000 for a minimum wage in your retirement
Row goes on over deferred student loans
How to start your own internet business
The whole truth about legal fees: Conveyancing can knock a big hole in home-buyers' finances. To get the best deal you must cross-examine solicitors about their charges, says Sue Fieldman
- 1 Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 2 Naked yoga: the bare truth - it's already big in the US, and has now landed here
- 3 Man on a leash in Farringdon, London: Mystery of 'walkies' solved
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline bribed doctors to boost sales, says whistleblower
David Cameron: 'Jesus invented the Big Society – I'm just continuing God's work'
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading, Cit...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: You must ...
£45000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Corporate Acti...
£350 - £400 per day: Harrington Starr: An opportunity has arisen at a FCA regu...
Day In a Page
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar
A newly refurbished one-bedroom flat in the heart of Mayfair, close to Grosvenor Square
A charming four-bedroom house overlooking Burleigh Square Park, close to Thorpe Bay
A three-bedroom farmhouse with a large inglenook fireplace and exposed beams
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds