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By Elizabeth Harper, dealnews contributor
Bartering for goods or services may seem like an old-fashioned concept, but with the power of the Internet, it's coming back in style. With a variety of sites and services to help you trade or swap goods of all types, now's as good a time as ever to go on that shopping spree — even if finances are tight. Sound too good to be true? We've collected eight stellar services that help you get rid of things you don't want in exchange for things you do.
The online classifieds section may not be what comes to mind when you think of bartering, but Craigslist does have a bartering section just for this purpose. (It's listed under "for sale.") In this forum you can post about things you want to get rid of or things you're looking for and see if anyone bites. However, the downside to Craigslist is that anyone can post anything and nothing on the service comes with any guarantee. Though you can find some great deals, be on the lookout for scams.
Bondsy is an interesting twist on the bartering concept in that it only allows you to trade with people you know or trust. Fire up Bondsy on your iPhone (sorry, other smartphone users) and write up the details on what you have and include a picture. With luck, one of your other iPhone-toting pals will have a use for it.
Like its name suggests, Swap.com lets members swap stuff, and it's simple to use. Just box up what you don't want and ship it to Swap.com: they'll sort it, photograph it, and list it on the site. You can swap your goods for those from other users listed on the site, or accept a cash payment.
While Swap.com charges a fee for shipping, cataloging, and listing as well as storage fees for goods that don't sell, its guaranteed listings ensure that anything you buy on the site is exactly what it says it is. But just in case it isn't, the site also has a no-hassle return policy.
This online exchange is unique: in addition to being a forum for trading goods, it's also a space for people to trade services. It's a great place for those who don't have anything to trade but are willing to offer dance lessons or house painting services in exchange for items or services needed. So long as you can find someone else who's willing to make the trade, you can find all sorts of goods and services on U-Exchange.
Like Craigslist, U-Exchange involves you trading directly with other people — which comes with no guarantees. Be careful and keep an eye out for scams.
Freecycle differentiates itself with a focus on recycling: instead of throwing stuff away, why not let someone else who can use your unwanted stuff have at it? While you'll find swaps and trades here, the Freecycle focus is on giving things away, so you'll find lots of goods at no cost other than the time and effort it takes you to pick stuff up.
Like others on this list, Freecycle just helps its users trade person-to-person, so (again) be wary of scams when looking for trades.
Instead of serving as a marketplace for trading all kinds of stuff, Goozex instead focuses entirely on swapping and selling movies and video games. Send whatever discs want to get rid of to Goozex and you'll earn points on everything, which you can then use towards "purchasing" movies and games others have sent in. There's a fee for each item you receive (from $0.99 to $2.97, depending on the value of the item), but because all goods are sent to Goozex, they guarantee you'll get what you ordered, and will even refund your points if your item gets lost or damaged in the mail.
This network of sites focuses on trading several types of goods: books via PaperBackSwap, CDs through SwapACD, and DVDs with SwapADVD. Using each site is as simple as listing your items for trade and waiting for someone to request something. When the transaction is complete you'll earn credits that you can use for goods that others are trading in. What's more, these credits are valid for goods on any site in the network. While these sites have no transaction fees, you will pay for shipping. But, it's still a bargain compared to buying new (or even used) books, music, or movies.
Readers, are you keen on swapping your belongings in place of something new(-ish)? Have you ever had a swap turn out horribly, or much better than you expected? Are you willing to swap services? Tell us all about your own swap stories in the comments below!