When most people think about bartering, they limit themselves to thinking about what goods they can give away. That’s fine as far as it goes; but there is an inherent risk in bartering goods in a crisis situation. That is that others might get the idea that you have something they need and decide to try to steal it from you.
On the other hand, you can barter skills just as well as you can barter goods. While bartering goods may invite attack and cost you supplies in the long run, bartering your skills may make you valuable enough to the community that nobody would think of attacking you. Instead, they will want to protect you so that they can continually benefit from your skills.
Of course, being able to barter skills requires having skills that people will need during the crisis. What skills might those be?
• Survival Skills. If you are preparing for a disaster, then you are clearly learning many skills that will be necessary in such a time. You will know a wide range of skills, such as starting a fire, which your neighbors won’t. Those skills will be valuable to them, as well as to you.
• Water Purification. Most people don’t have the first idea of how to purify water, other than to boil it. You could easily make a trade with a neighbor: They haul water for both families, and you purify it.
• First-Aid and Minor Medical. Medical services are often overrun during a crisis. Being able to clean and bandage a wound, splint a fracture and treat minor sickness might even save a life. You must be careful in this case of not putting yourself in a situation where you could be legally liable for causing someone harm or for not being able to save their life.
• Midwifery. Babies come when they want to and won’t stop for something as small as a crisis. Being able to help women give birth could be invaluable, especially if they can’t get to the hospital.
• Home Repair. Many types of disasters cause damage to people’s homes. The ability to perform even rudimentary temporary repairs could help keep them in their home when others don’t have a roof over their heads.
• Mechanics. Vehicles break down at the most inopportune times. Fewer and fewer people really understand how to repair their own vehicles anymore depending upon mechanics to do it for them. This provides you with a great opportunity if you have the tools and knowledge.
• Small Engine Repair. Small engines are just different enough from car engines that most mechanics don’t know how to repair them. During a crisis situation, more people are likely to be using them for generators and other equipment. This opens up the opportunity to be able to repair their non-working engines for them.
• Gardening. If you are planning on growing a survival garden to help feed your family, you can be sure that your neighbors will have the same need. Get them started with vegetable seeds, and trade your expertise for their assistance.
• Animal Husbandry. Just like gardening, your ability to raise chickens or goats can be something you can use to help your neighbors.
• Home Defense. Every neighborhood will need to organize in order to defend themselves from attack. If you are the expert in your neighborhood, you could take command, developing a plan and getting everyone on board for helping each other defend your neighborhood from any attackers.
The Bottom Line
Any skill your family needs will be needed by others as well. Keep that in mind as you prepare yourself, and you will see opportunities to leverage those skills. It is possible that the crisis may eliminate your current job, and in that case, your skills in other areas may develop into a business that you can use to support your family as society rebuilds itself.
If the skills you are going to use require some sort of special materials or supplies, then it would be good to put in a stock of supplies as well. You can’t put in a whole auto parts store in your garage, but you can put in a stock of the most common items you’ll need.
Immediately after the crisis hits, supply chains may be cut. That stockpile will give you something to start working with while you are waiting for the supply lines to be reformed. That will provide you with the opportunity of putting your skills to work immediately, rather than having to wait until materials are available.