Tara Crooks
Limitless Contributor

The home business I ran before I ran Army Wife Network had roots in a very strong community — the work at home mom (WAHM) community. The WAHM community is something most military spouses would relate to as it is much like the military spouse community. It's a strong group of like-minded individuals from all over the world, strung together by a common thread. As a WAHM that thread is working from home. As military spouses, it is our commitment and service to our service member, country, and family.


There are some observations I have made with my opportunity of being a part of both of these communities. First and foremost, these communities have quite an overlap. Perhaps it is because both communities possess individuals who are highly motivated, intelligent, talented, and typically untraditional in their income producing activities.


One thing I saw prevalent in the WAHM community was a trade — or barter if you will — of talent and services. Most of us hear the word "barter" and we think of the past. Days when you'd bring in a deer to a local market and trade its meat for vegetables or staples. Most people don't think about bartering their cake baking talent for house painting or in my case, trading advertising on my website for products from a salesperson. We should. It's a great way to add value to our lives and our bank accounts, share our passions/talents and products, all while serving others.


Here's an example: I have some unsold advertising space available on a website. I trade that ad space for products that I can utilize in my home. Normally I would have had to pay full price for those products. Good for me. Unsold space yields product. The product salesperson who traded with me stands to gain exposure for their business at a significant discount. How? They paid for the space in retail price of product that they had purchased wholesale or product that has gone unsold. Good for them. Unsold product or wholesale product yields advertising.


Just recently I was reading an article about a new take on barter systems — they call them "time banks". Cities are working in co-ops of people who have talent or services that they could offer in return for the talents and services of others. It's a "pay it forward" concept but when you pay, you pay in time and you get something in return.


DCTimeBank.org says, "At its most basic level, time banking is simply about spending an hour doing something for someone else in your community. That hour goes into the time bank as a time bank hour. Then, you have a Time Bank Hour to redeem by having someone else do something for you. It's a simple idea, but it has powerful ripple effects in building community connections."


The most interesting thing I found in a formalized bartering system like a time bank is that it doesn't have to be a trade between two people/businesses. It is effectively with many members of the bank. Who you give to doesn't have to be who you receive from.


What a great way to share your talent and reward yourself financially without spending any money whatsoever. There are time banks set up all over the nation with hundreds of members waiting to trade their time and talents for some of yours. Some time banks — or blogs about experiences with time banks — even referenced medical services, babysitting, respite care, and attraction/entertainment tickets.


This concept is not foreign to the WAHM nor the military spouse community — we do this all of the time. Maybe not as formally as these time banks do it but we informally support and network with each other sharing our talents every day. Little did I know that it had a formal name — other than Volunteer of the Year. Who knew you could trade your talents for tickets to a show or someone to paint your house? I'm in.


To find out more about time banks and see if there is one near you visit: Timebanks.org