A concern expressed by many people in these challenging economic times is that they just don't have enough money to take care of their needs. While the supermarket tabs and the utility bills are constantly rising, the income amount remains static. It may therefore be difficult for the average person to find practical ways to get more money to offset this perpetual shortfall.
It seems that our lives are consumed by the never-ending pursuit of money. Employees work at jobs they dislike to receive a pay cheque; business owners sacrifice family and leisure time to increase profits; dishonest persons design schemes to acquire ill-gotten gains; and the authorities raise taxes to increase the flow into government's coffers.
This financial reality led me to consider our need for money. The quotation from the hit musical Cabaret, "money makes the world go 'round" is very appropriate, as it almost feels like the Earth would grind to a screeching halt without the fuel of funds to keep it moving. How did money become such a central and indispensable part of our existence?
There was life before money
Money is simply anything with an agreed value which can be used to pay for goods and services, and is accepted as legal tender in a country. Essentially, money is required to get the items we need to survive such as food, clothing and shelter -- as well as the things we want in order to enjoy life. Apart from a means of exchange, we also use money to measure a person's wealth.
Before money was invented, ancient people traded livestock such as sheep and cows; when agriculture evolved, they exchanged produce such as grain or vegetables. By 1200 BC, the Chinese began using cowrie shells to denote the value of things they wanted to obtain. Later, metal coins and paper money became the standard, and are still utilised in present day.
Today, technology has advanced where we don't require the physical movement of money to carry out transactions. We can write cheques, swipe debit cards and use mobile phones to pay for goods and services. In fact, we never even have to touch any form of money, as funds can be wired electronically through financial institutions all around the world.
A future without money?
However, if there was another way to obtain the things we needed and wanted, and there was an alternative means of quantifying someone's financial worth, perhaps there would no longer be a need for money. Can modern society exist without money? What would life be like in a cashless world, where transactions took place without this symbol of exchange?
I found a quote online, attributed to the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King: "There is no reason products and services could not be swapped directly by consumers and producers through a system of direct exchange. All it requires is some commonly used unit of account and adequate computing power to make sure all transactions could be settled immediately."
King continued, "People would pay each other electronically, without the payment being routed through anything that we would currently recognise as a bank. Central banks in their present form would no longer exist -- nor would money." While I can't confirm the authenticity of the statement, the premise holds true. Money is not really necessary once another medium of exchange exists.
Bartering is back
In times of financial crisis, bartering, the process of swapping goods and services without an exchange of money, has been utilised. In fact, countries regularly make barter deals as a method of trading. The benefit of bartering is that it allows individuals, companies and nations alike to get the things they need for survival by providing something else of value to the other entity.
For an effective barter system to work, brokers or trade exchanges would be necessary to connect people who have something to offer with those who need their products or services. Websites facilitating bartering include craigslist.org, u-exchange.com, and freecycle.org. Ironically, there are some companies that offer bartering services for a monetary fee.
Recently, Jamaican firm Anbell Trade Exchange was launched to enable companies to sell their products and services for trade dollars, which can be used to pay for other items. Instead of paying cash for expenses such as accounting, advertising, or accommodation, businesses would be able to trade in their offerings to receive these services.
Bartering can help you to reduce the need to spend money in various ways. If you have a car, you could trade transportation for your neighbour's catering services. Your backyard garden produce could be exchanged for math tutoring for your children. Be creative in thinking of ways in which you can barter and cut back on your costs.
Cherryl is a money coach, business mentor and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. Her upcoming book, "The 3 Ms of Money" will reveal all the secrets she learned about financial success. Read more on money and business matters at www.entrepreneursinjamaica.com. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.