Written by Theresa Waldrop
Dana Nolan thought she was going to have to spend up to $10,000 to repair her deck, but she found a way to get the project done for only $300.
After getting contractors' estimates that were outside her budget, Nolan decided the traditional route of paying cash for labor wasn't going to work. Instead, she opted to trade her own skills for the labor needed for the repairs. In exchange for renovations, Nolan has helped people with their resumes, worked on fundraising committees and supplied transportation, among other things. Her only out-of-pocket expense was for materials.
How did she do it? Nolan tracked the exchange through her local TimeBanks USA group, a nonprofit organization with chapters around the country that allows people to donate their time and talent in exchange for services, like deck repairs or even spa treatments.
A new take on the old-fashioned barter system, the concept of time banks has boomed in recent decades and is a unique way for underemployed people to keep their skills sharp and for people to give back to their communities in general, according to a 2011 New York Times blog. TimeBanks USA was first formed in 1995, has chapters throughout the country, but mainly on the East and West Coasts.
Trading time and talent
In fact, Nolan has found a way to save thousands of dollars on home renovations since joining her time bank group two and a half years ago, and the benefits don't stop there.
“I’ve received massages, house painting, tutoring for my son, had electrical problems fixed, rented tools such as a tree trimmer and had my deck repaired, all for the exchange of time,” says Nolan, who is a board member of her time bank.
You can find a TimeBanks USA chapter near you on this map, or you can start your own with the help of the Washington D.C.-based central office.
This year over 64 percent of American homeowners will make improvements to their house (according to a survey carried out by Harris Interactive for CouponCabin), so there’s a good chance you’ll find like-minded helpers near you. And you might even make a few friends in the process.
“I’ve met numerous people through TimeBanks and that’s developed into friendships,” Nolan said.
“It’s addicting,” said Charity Plaster, an Ohio resident whose family saved $2,000 when they lived in Florida and were members of a TimeBanks USA group. “You help people, you get help, and you feel good about it.”
About this series: As part of our Smart Spending reporting, Patch is profiling people across the country who have found creative ways to save money. Do you pool resources with your neighbors? We want to hear from you! Share your story here or in the comments section below.