Two years ago my friend Pauline wrote an article for us on how to flip stuff like a pro. It was a fascinating read (and tips) on how her boyfriend buys/sells/trades stuff for profit, and it was pretty crazy how far he went with it.
But there was one line in it that I’ve never forgotten:
“Cash is scarce. If I want to sell you something, I just need to find what you want to get rid of, and swap it with you.”
In other words, take the cash part out of the equation and figure out how to give you something you really want in exchange for something you don’t, but that’s more valuable. The “Trade Up” game, in a sense, where both parties get what they want out of the transaction and part ways happy.
But what I love the most about this is that it works in the opposite direction too. If there’s something you really want to BUY but don’t have the money (or don’t want to spend your money on) can you figure out a different way to get it?
And the answer is, yes. You can! All depending on how adventurous/patient/badly you want it ;)
How you achieve this is by figuring out what the other person actually wants since it’s usually not just “to have money.” In other words, what will they be DOING with this $$$ in exchange for the item you desire?
Let’s take a cool old bill for sale, for example. J. Money, always on the hunt for awesome new coins and currency to add to his collection – sees an ad for a $500 bill and deeply wants to own it. But knowing that it would be silly of him to drop $1,000 on the spot for something that literally says it’s only worth $500 (hah!), he gets creative and asks you what you plan on doing with this $1,000?
Now if you’re a BudgetsAreSexy reader, you tell me “to help max out my IRA” and then I’m $hit out of luck ;) But if you’re a normal consumer, you say “a new laptop” and I now know what you’re REALLY looking for. Yes getting the cash would be easier, but you’re only going to turn around and use it for a laptop anyways, so you’d probably be happy if I could trade you for one as well.
Now *how* you go about finding that laptop is a whole other story (maybe you have an extra one laying around, or have a killer hook up at Best Buy, or need to make a separate trade to get one?), but the point is that person is really after a laptop and not the $$$ itself. And depending on how good you are at bartering/scheming, chances are you can find a good one without having to pony up a grand.
Remember – money is only a *tool* to get us what we really want in life. It seems like we only use it for bills or to eat, pay off debt, etc, but we also use it for freedom and dreams and safety, and especially for “stuff.”
Let me give you another example – this time a real experience I had :)
14 years ago when I graduated college I moved to New York City to pursue “the dream.” Which was basically to party all the time and have an incredibly kick-ass job as an Art Director. Only, I wasn’t nearly as talented as everyone else IN THE WORLD trying to do the same thing (I couldn’t even get an internship! That paid $0.00!) so I had to shift focus.
I still wanted to live there and have fun w/ my 5 roommates (how else do you afford to live there?), but I needed a new career. And preferably one I could get more passionate about.
So one day I literally wrote down a list of all the stuff I enjoy, and then whittled it down to my top 3 to see what jobs might pop out. This was literally what the list looked like (*lowers head in shame*).
And when I listed possible jobs next to them…
- Porn, PIMP
- Bartender, brewer
- Travel agent, airlines
Now for obvious reasons I skipped over #1 ;), and while #2 sounded plausible, I didn’t think I had it in me to again compete with such fierce competition, especially since I liked the idea of slinging drinks more so than the job itself. And even better, drinking them.
So that left me with travel.
I looked around for gigs in the paper (that’s how long ago this was!) and stumbled across a reasonably priced course on becoming a travel agent. So I took it, graduated, and got a job as an official agent that lasted all of about 2.3 weeks.
As it turns out, it’s a) no fun at all booking OTHER peoples’ vacations, and b) there’s actually not as many travel perks in it as you’d guess. Sure you get discounts and the occasional freebie, but it def. wasn’t “travel the world on a dime” type stuff. Before I could give up hope, though, my boss overheard my desire to fly around and recommended I apply to the airlines instead.
So I did! And with her help, became one of the first employees hired at Continental Airlines right after 9/11. And boy did I take advantage of those almost-free tickets. I flew to London for the weekend, California to hang with friends, The Mall of America just for lunch and shopping (!!), and numerous other trips to places like Cancun, Miami, and the incredibly beautiful Puerto Rico. My family loved me for it too :)
Now, they paid like crap and I was constantly broke 24/7, but the point is – I traded my time/skills in return for something I desperately wanted: Travel.
You can also do the same thing for other goals and bills too:
So think about that any time you’re stuck trying to get from A to B without any cash in your pockets. Are there other routes you can take to accomplish the same results? What is the other person REALLY wanting to do with the $$$ they’re asking for? Can you take on a better aligned/extra job?
Having money’s nice, but it’s only because you equate it to something it buys :) Your world opens much wider when you realize there are other ways to achieve these things with a little creativity.
PS: The reason I was able to move to NYC and pursue my dream in the first place? I got a job working at Old Navy in my hometown, and then got them to transfer me so I wouldn’t be showing up without an income stream. I traded a boring location for a much more thrilling one! (And avoided 6 rounds of interviews in the process – no joke)
PPS: You can find a list of all 35+ jobs I’ve had in my lifetime here: J’s work history