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Exchanging Time Instead of Money

Have you heard of time banks? They’re not your ordinary bank where you get cash. A time bank is more like service exchanging within a community rather than just two people. I recently learned about the organization hOur World (a mash of “our” and “hour”) and was intrigued by the idea of a community exchanging time and services. You may not think you have any skilled trade to offer but you can offer something as simple as doing laundry or picking up groceries.

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The way time banks work is that you earn a “time dollar” for every hour of service you provide. You can then use your “dollars” toward any services you’d like for your own use. For example, I’m a registered dietitian but now that I’m home with my baby I only work a few hours a month teaching a nutrition class at a community college. I can provide dietary counseling as my service, log it on my community’s exchange site to earn my time dollar, and then use my dollar to “hire” someone to pull weeds in our yard. We all know the saying “time is money” so why not exchange our time instead of money? What I love about this is that you don’t have to trade with the person you get the service from. The more people in the community involved, the more services you can choose from!

Service opportunities are endless. Here are some skills I’ve seen offered in various communities:

  • sailboat lessons
  • massages
  • lawn care
  • carpentry
  • plumbing
  • counseling
  • painting
  • meal prepping
  • pet care
  • fitness classes
  • hair cuts
  • guitar lessons
  • financial counseling
  • seamstress services
  • house cleaning…

exchanging timeI’m curious to know how this concept would effect our economy on a large scale since there’s no actual money being used. However, something I’ve noticed from browsing the hOur World website is that the communities that seem to benefit the most from a time exchange are those that may not be financially able to afford certain services. For example, you may not be able to afford to have your house painted but if you know how to fix bikes or cars then you can use your skill to “pay” to have your house painted! Here’s another example specific to my role as a dietitian: often with nutrition counseling you have to have a specific diagnosis in order to have your health insurance cover your visit with a dietitian. When people called the office for weight loss counseling, the following response would run through my head: “Based on your height & weight you are considered overweight, not obese, so your insurance wouldn’t cover your visit with me. If you gain ten more pounds it would put you in the obese category and then your appointments would be covered.” How silly is that?! Having a time exchange like hOur World would allow me to help those who otherwise couldn’t afford to pay out-of-pocket for nutrition counseling.  Time exchanges also seem like a great idea for stay-at-home parents or retirees since you can continue to use your skills to help others without having to commit to a 9-5 job.

There are exchanges all over the world and I was surprised to learn that there are 18 exchange communities all over my home state of Michigan! Check out the hOur World website to see if there is an exchange in your area and learn how you can use your time!

What do you think of the hOur World concept? Would you utilize a time bank if available in your area?

This post has been written by Jessica from BudgetForHealth.com.

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AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

12 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, there is no activity here on the west side of Michigan. Very cool idea though! Thanks for the write-up!

  2. Hmmm… How would you account for the variable value of hours? Would an hour pulling weeds have the same value as an hour configuring a WordPress site?

    BTW, the general term for that is “barter” and the government has already figured out how to tax it.

    • That is a good point; some skills would definitely be worth more money in the real world. However, time bank users can avoid dealing with taxes because all exchanges are worth the same regardless how they’d match up in real life. There is an honor system involved in this. I think this concept takes bartering to another level since you don’t have to exchange with the person you receive services from.

  3. I LOVE this idea! Howard brings up a good point though about the value and I agree. But here is another way of looking at it…that value system is driven by supply and demand….that is why you can pay someone more to set up a WP site because there are less people that possess that skill set.

    But the fact of the matter is, someone that is well versed in WP (to stay with that example) can probably set up a site in an hour. Well…let’s say that same person absolutely HATES lawn maintenance. Even though the service would not cost as much by economic standards….to THAT person….that hour saved on lawn care could be just as valuable.

    Is there a checks/balance in place for QUALITY of work? That is my concern.

    • That’s a great point! I believe quality is something evaluated by the person receiving the service. Here’s what they say regarding their core values:
      “It’s expected that all members will honor one another’s time and skills, and enter each exchange with mutual respect and a spirit of generosity and service.”

  4. I like the idea and I agree with Howard’s comment. Taxation can be an issue. Money does not have to trade hands for the taxation authorities to determine there was an exchange of “value”.

    • That is a good point. As big as this organization is though (worldwide), I have to imagine they figured something out with the tax loophole.

  5. Sounds cool! Now that I am a stay at home momma I think I would consider doing that if it were available in my area. But alas, it’s not! Maybe one day though…


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