Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Will Barter For Cake

Occasionally the situation arises where you're asked, or you want to ask someone else, if they'll barter their services with yours.

I recently bartered the partial cost of a wedding cake for a tour of a specific place that my son would like to see, but that he wouldn't have been able to get access to otherwise. (I'll let you all wonder what it is!) I've also bartered for other goods in the past, so it's something that I will consider doing.

But only if I suggest it, or if it's something that I really can use. A lot of the time people want to barter things that I just have no need of, and it's slightly awkward to say no if someone offers me something that I can't use or don't want. I would say no, though, and I wouldn't take it personally if someone asked. It never hurts to ask, but you do have to be prepared for the other person to say "no thanks."

If you're going to barter with people on a regular basis, you might want to look into a local trade organization that's set up for that. There are a couple here, and you get trade credits for providing things to other members. You bank the credits, then you can spend them with any other member according to the rules that the group has set up. The organization is usually the one to keep track of the value of the items being bartered for you, so that you get your IRS statement for your taxes at the end of the year and you don't have to keep track of it.

Because yes, if you barter, that counts as income. If I trade someone a $100 cake for $100 worth of their services, I have to record that they paid me $100. I'm not an accountant, so I'm sure that there's more to it than that, but you do have to include it as income at tax time.

When I filled out the contract for my bartered cake, I filled out what the full price would have been, then made a note indicating that I was reducing the price due to a barter agreement. When I fill in my ledger for this month I'll make a note of that somewhere so that I have the information at the end of the year.

Bartering can be good as long as you don't let it get out of control. As I said before, limit it to things that you can really use. You might want to trade services with other wedding professionals, too. People in the wedding industry tend to be pretty open to that (as long as it's a useful trade.)

And no, I don't need web design services, logo-making services, or baking lessons. So if you were thinking of offering a trade on those, I would be saying "no thanks."

 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at and


Anonymous said...

Good points Kara. I recently bartered with a local mechanic that charged my car's ac in exchange for a cake (VERY important to have ac in the car!). I wasn't aware that it was still considered income... Most definitely make sure it's a fair barter and something that is beneficial to both sides. So far I've not had anyone try to take advantage of me, say a wedding cake for a few veggies from their garden. I love when photographers let you have a great pic of your cake and all they ask is that you give them (rightful) credit. Only once was I asked for money (& it was a LOT) to which I replied thanks, but no thanks.
cindy/cindy's cakery

Jennifer said...

I've been offered bartering options before, specifically one from a landscaper whose daughter ordered a wedding cake from me (the hardest one I've ever done, and she got a bridal show discount). They offered to put in our lawn and then take off the value of the cake. At the time I was dramatically undercharging, and they are the MOST expensive company in the area. So if I would have agreed to it I would have been reducing their services to the level of everyone else in the area.

I passed. I guess my point is to make sure you begin the conversation with a bartering proposal, not when one party has already given a quote, AND that you have priced yourself in a position of strength.