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Swapsity Interviews the Barter Babe

Nov 17th 2011, 18:16, by Swapsity

Meet Shannon Simmons, a charismatic and upbeat financial planner who recently wrapped up a life-changing year of bartering. In 2010, Shannon quit her high rolling Bay Street job to spend a year living on barter. It was a huge adjustment for Shannon, who went from Holt Renfrew to housecoats, daily taxis to trekking it and high-end salons to dying her hair out of a box—but out of her year-long goal, the Barter Babes project was born. After saving up enough money to pay her rent and cell phone bill, the Torontonian condemned herself to living of $35 per week and swapping with more than 300 other Barter Babes for everything she needed.

The Swapsity team had the pleasure of meeting some of these swap savvy ladies at the Barter Babe Celebration Party on October 12, where we hosted a fun fashion swap for all the babes. Recently, we had a chance to chat with Shannon again and get the full scoop of her swap endeavour.

During Shannon’s year of swapping, there were many sleepless nights, a lot of nail biting and a daily debates over what she needed versus what she wanted and how she could get it. Shannon also spent time looking inward.

“I learned a lot about who I am and what I measured as success,” she says. “The house in Rosedale, the Lexus, kids’ in private school used to be the indicators of success for me. But, after my monetary time out, that has all changed.”

Away from the constant pressure to own more stuff, life become about utility for Shannon, who learned you can be successful without having stuff. She found that having skills and community connections proved to be powerful forms of social capital worth something significant. The Barter Babes project also gave Shannon a chance to barter with women from all walks of life and find out how much she had to offer.

“I realized that if I was on a desert island, I'd be eaten first,” she says. “I had no skills beyond financial advice. Now, I do have skills beyond my job and I value skills of others.”

As a financial advisor and someone who lived by barter, Shannon believes everyone should barter to keep cash in their wallets, spending off credit cards and stop mindless consumption.”

“After a full year living on barter, it's nice to know we are all worth more than what's in our bank account,” she says. “Find out what you have to offer—I bet it’s amazing!”"

Want to learn more about Shannon’s inspiring endeavour? Learn more about her amazing adventure in her own words:

What was the defining moment that inspired you to initiate the Barter Babes Project?
I was at a bar in Vancouver and two young women were in line for a drink. These women were not discussing work or relationships or politics, they were discussing their money problems. This is not rare. I had heard women lamenting their money frustrations everywhere—the gym, at work, at parties and now at a bar in another province. So many women lack the confidence in their financial choices. I struck up a conversation with these two ladies and we talked finance for about 20 minutes at a nearby table. Later that night, the ladies dropped off a round of drinks for everyone at my table saying "we can't afford your advice, but at least we can supply you with drinks!" And with that, Barter Babes was born.

What do you feel you have accomplished through the Barter Babes project?
Two really important things. First, I've provided access to professional financial advice to a demographic that is often missed by larger financial institutions. Secondly, I have brought the idea of barter and trade to the forefront. Many Barter Babes were bartering for the first time and never thought about how to get what you want without actually using cash or credit!

What does financial advice ‘buy’ on the barter market these days?

A few examples include:

1. A return flight to Chicago for $100 all-in
2. A circus lesson
3. A night in a swanky hotel
4. A bike
5. A private guided tour of the AGO

Do you think anyone out there can barter? What do you say to the sceptics who don’t think it’s possible?

Yes! EVERYONE CAN BARTER! I think the sceptics just don't know all the great things they have to offer in barter and think that you can only do it if you have an easily tradable job-related skill. Many times, I heard things like "I'm a paramedic, so I can't barter CPR with you". But, once you show people that they can barter just about any skill they have or item in their home it opens the whole world up! Then, they aren't so sceptical anymore!

Do you feel that barter should be built into one’s personal budget?
Absolutely. After living a year on barter, I realized that you can't live 100% on barter in our economy but bartering can DEFINITELY help with our discretionary expenses. I think everyone should aim to barter for 5% of their "fun" money. I use barter for hair styling, massage, acupuncture and yoga! These are all things that used to cost me hundreds of dollars on my Visa that I trade for now. If we barter 5% of our fun money, we keep more money in the bank for the things we can't trade for, like a mortgage payment. It's financially smart to barter. 

How has the project changed your life and thinking?
I look at every expense differently. Instead of figuring out if I can afford something, I figure out how I can trade for it. I think about spending and consuming differently. Before, if I wanted something, I could immediately have it due to credit or cash. Now I have to wait for a trade, so I only consume what's really important to me. I don't recklessly consume anymore, except on holidays.

What are the three key lessons you learnt about barter?
1. It's possible and easy.
2. Once you get into it, you're hooked.
3. The community that evolves from barter is phenomenal. It's neighbour helping neighbour. 

We couldn’t agree more!

Get inspired to make barter a part of your daily life with a talk from Shannon at our Buy Nothing, Swap Something Day event on November 25 and catch her monthly Swapsity column launching that very day!


CaraH wrote on Jan 6th 2012, 15:16

amazing! so glad that Shannon could bring such a positive outlook on bartering and how we all could learn to incorporate this into our lives more! not only that, but it inspires me to try and barter with neighbors.. let's see when i actually try that out ;)

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