They say that money can't buy everything, and they're right. For some things, you've got to put away your wallet. Instead, barter!
If you must have the new Madonna CD but your piggy bank has run dry -- or if exchanging goods for money at auction sites just seems too pedestrian -- then head over to one of the Web's swapping sites. Everyone has stacks of unwanted CDs, books, and other stuff. These sites help you find someone who wants them and has something that you want.
Like auction sites, there are many swap sites to choose from: some are popular, some are not. Some have a narrow focus (like music trades) while others have a broad scope. And like auction sites, these barter sites take a few cents every time you complete a transaction.
WebSwap (www.webswap.com) breaks down one's life into two categories: "haves" and "wants." First, create lists of the things you have and are willing to part with (perhaps your unloved Beanie Babies) and the things lacking in your life (a portable CD player?) As other users browse the listings, they can make offers -- would you accept a broken down 8-track deck for your mint Bumble the bee? Webswap offers a diverse range of categories, from computers and CDs to toys and trading cards. The site charges a transaction fee based on the estimated value of your items, with a minimum of 50 cents.
Swap.com (www.swap.com) is geared toward kids. It includes features to protect the privacy of those under 18, including the ability to swap without revealing your home address. The kid-oriented categories include clothes, skate 'n' surf, comic books, and video games. Swaps are free until June 1, then will cost 77 cents each.
Swapping sites are a relatively new phenomenon compared to online auctions. So, many of these sites have a lot of potential but haven't reached full speed with a healthy number of users and listings. The following sites are worth visiting, but need to gain momentum before they can be exceptional swapping communities.
Qswap (www.qswap.com) allows users to trade music, games, movies, and books. Intellibarter (www.intellibarter.com) lets users buy, sell, and trade items such as show tickets, trading cards, and antiques. The service is free for now -- eventually the site will take 50 cents per trade. YesSwap (www.yesswap.com) is for trading CDs and movies, and Xchangecity (www.xchangecity.com) focuses on video games and DVDs.
Just launched last week and still in "preview" mode, MrSwap (mrswap.com) allows members to trade music, movies, and video games. Its unique SwapPoints feature allows users to build credit by trading items for points, then purchase items from other users with those points. The idea is you don't have to wait for someone who wants to trade their Willie Nelson CD for Garth Brooks. Instead, you can send Garth to one person and use those credits to buy Willie from someone else.