Pretty much everyone I know agrees that getting paid for work is crucial. While I’m also of the opinion that money is a great incentive, there are other ways to be crafty with your time that can result in excellent benefits.

Crafty Employment
Your’s truly working hard to earn free ski passes

Where I live there are lots of outdoor options for the winter season (which is pretty much 11 months of the year). Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ski jumping, hockey, ice skating, sledding…the list goes on. We love to ski, but as a family of five the cost can be fairly prohibitive. A few years ago I started volunteering one day a week at the local ski resort’s racecourse. In exchange for six hours of my time every Wednesday, I not only get to enjoy winter and hang out with some pretty fun people, but I also get access to amazing perks. These include free season ski passes for my family, a few free one-day ski passes for friends and 50% off at the resort shops and restaurants. (My son particularly loves this perk, as given the cost of a hamburger is no longer $279 we can afford to buy lunch on the mountain as a special treat every once in a while!)

A friend of mine found another opportunity that helps her to save on food costs for her family. Once a week she volunteers to pack the weekly produce boxes at the local food co-op, and in exchange she’s able to take home the fresh produce left over at the end of the day. Although she doesn’t receive a paycheck, in exchange for her time she gets access to free fresh fruits and veggies. (It’s like MasterChef Mystery Box challenge in real life with the assortment of fruits and vegetables she takes home!) A few other creative alternatives to the ‘traditional employment = monetary paycheck’ formula I’ve seen include swapping piano lessons for dental work, teaching dance lessons in exchange for free lessons for your child, volunteering your time for discounted club sports dues, swapping kids with another family so you can escape for the weekend with your spouse, or serving on a co-op school board to receive reduced tuition fees.

Stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone to find a new way to get what you want without forking over the big bucks takes a little courage and effort. But it can be worth it, I promise. Give this simple action plan a try…

  1. Think about areas in your budget that afford themselves to some flexibility (probably not the mortgage or utility bills, rather more along the lines of entertainment or recreation activities). Hone in on the ones that tend to be a bit more costly than you’d like.
  2. Next, put your thinking cap on and get the creative juices flowing. In an ideal world, how might you “pay” for that service without using your limited supply of greenbacks? What can you offer in exchange — your time, your talents, your expertise? Think outside the box, even asking your friends and family for ideas. They know you well and will happily highlight your strengths!
  3. Now, be a brave soul and go for it! Make a proposition and see what happens. Really, you have NOTHING to lose…you were planning to, or already have been, paying for it. If it works, fantastic. If it’s a no go, then try again with someone else or for something else. I tell our kids all the time, “You’ll never know if you don’t ask.”
  4. Finally, after you’ve been at it for some time, be sure to re-evaluate on occasion. Ask yourself, “Is this sweet barter deal I’ve got going still worth it to me? Or is it requiring me to give up too much?” Answering those internal questions will help you know whether to keep up the swap or move on.

Be open to opportunities to barter your time for discounts, incentives and goods, instead of focussing solely on a monetary reward. And thinking creatively (for our purposes, also known as ‘being financially astute’) means you also don’t have to worry about the tax implications of increasing your gross income. ‘Work’ doesn’t always have to be about a paycheck to make financial sense!