First things first — my blog looks different than it did last week. I started messing around with it on Wednesday. One too many people had mentioned that it was hard to see the comments. Also, it bugged me that new readers had to scroll all the way down before bumping into basic navigational information like What is Counting Zeros?
So I’m experimenting with this new layout. It did require making a bold statement with the banner image …. The scene represents the pilgrimage that Counting Zeros is taking me on. While the weekly assignments are all about the money, the 52 week process is leading me to consider changes to the basic set-up of my life … like where I live and how I spend my time. Which demands that I have a better sense of the value of money rather than just wishing the matter away.
(In the past I resented having to spend any amount of time thinking about my personal finances. I’m not sure that’s really going to change fundamentally but the idea is to put aside this attitude for a year of my life.)
Specifically, I’m considering funding a 2nd home, outside of London, where I’d escape on week-ends or for writing retreats. It would be spectacular if that 2nd home was somewhere down the road from mountains and lakes and most importantly, the ocean.
Maybe it won’t happen … but I’m certainly exploring it as I try to sell my London property and consider where next to buy.
As for this week’s assignment … bartering, this is proving a tricky business. Bartering goods is a whole lot easier than swapping your time and services. I’m pretty sure that before my mother leaves London after her visit to see me, I’ll have a new necklace and she’ll have my handbag. Final negotiations still ongoing. This was far from difficult to arrange. It came about naturally without any pressure from the week’s assignment.
It took me less than 5 minutes to list the services I could really use. I could ALWAYS use a handyman and an accountant, never mind a financial advisor. Obviously!
But what do I have to offer?
I considered the things that friends tend to ask me to do — fix their CVs, advise them on conflicts at work, navigate thorny family problems, critique their written work — but quite frankly it’s a whole lot easier to do these things as a FAVOUR than it is to ask for something in exchange. And anyway what if the person who can’t get along with their boss isn’t able to fix my cat flap?
And what are the odds that one of us will feel short-changed at the end of it? HIGH, I reckon. Do I want to put a friendship at risk in this way? And so as the week progressed it became so very obvious why bartering is better off conducted amongst strangers and would-be enemies.
For an hour or so I got excited that I might complete my assignment without inveigling those near and dear to me as I explored joining a time bank or an online barter exchange, but the more I scrolled through these sites, the more time consuming and amateur and messy these ventures seemed. TimeOut lists barter-related sites worth checking out and in particular Timebanking UK caught my interest but after 20 minutes on the website I still couldn’t work out how it worked so I gave up and clicked along to U-Exchange which turned out to be the nearest thing to what I was after. While the bulk of what was on offer involved house swaps, there was a smattering of other things too …
- Alicja will give tutorials in fine art or digital photography in exchange for Russian language lessons
- Someone able to teach Java computing wants swimming lessons
- Marianne is prepared to do my accounts in exchange for dental work or alternative therapies — neither of which I can offer, but I could pay for these treatments and she could do my accounts. But then isn’t this beside the point.
- A holistic healer is after a small bit of safe and dry storage and I do have a closet … but holistic treatments aren’t high on my list of must-have’s
So it was back to friends and family ….
I emailed a small collection of them letting them know the help I need — mostly to do with this blog and sourcing good art off the net and then I listed what I could offer in exchange. And this was the hardest part of the assignment (so far). It’s one thing when someone thinks you’re good at something, it’s another to put value on it yourself.
And yet being aware of my abilities and confident of their worth is at the very heart of some of thorny issues driving Counting Zeros.
I’m never ever going to be able to freelance — which I might want to do one day especially if I’m living near the mountains and the sea — if I cannot work out the value of what I have to offer.
In the end I managed to line up a couple of different bartering agreements which are ready to play out. For example, I’ve agreed to introduce the MBTI personality assessment (which I’m trained to administer) to a group of digital marketeers to smooth some of their team dynamics. They, in exchange, will advise me on how to increase Counting Zeros traffic. I’m very excited to see if we can make this trade really happen, but there’s plenty of finer details to iron out to make it so.
In other news, I’m off to see the financial advisor on Monday. He seemed way too chatty and chirpy and sales-y on the phone as the cliches came singing down the line (“Hey we don’t market ourselves, we’re only in business because people like you come back for more”).
If it looks like he can help me, I might offer to teach him flower arranging in exchange for his time.
But that’s Monday, I’ll be back before then to turn over the next card.