Time-banking is a form of alternative currency that helps community members exchange skills without using money. Credit: Unsplash

When I act on behalf of my community, I feel wealthier. You may have experienced this too if you’ve ever volunteered locally. 

Most recently, I found that my neighbor (an amazing masseuse) is willing to do bodywork for me in exchange for my inoculating oak logs with shiitake mushrooms that will produce food for her family. To me, this exchange is worth more than money, directly connecting people who have unique gifts to share with one another.

Credit: iStock

You can experience more joy, build your community and save money — all without spending a dime — by completely transforming your relationship with time and money. 

It’s called time-banking. Here are seven steps you can take to start time banking too. 

1. Trade with credits (i.e. time or alternative currencies) instead of money. 

Many of us work jobs that are tiresome, do not bring us joy, and don’t provide enough money to meet our basic needs. Yet we can meet our needs without money by using and sharing other assets — such as skills, time, used goods — to access services we would otherwise pay for. This can give us more time for joy, and also help us grow community at a time of greater social isolation due to the pandemic. 

Time-banking can be a solution with all these benefits. 

Credit: iStock

Natalee, a newly-introduced time-banker, said she joined because she was looking for an exchange platform as the pandemic took hold. 

“At the start of 2020,” she said, “with the job losses spreading across the world, I was growing concerned about the state of the economy and people’s access to resources without being able to earn money. I wanted to create an exchange platform (a fancy spreadsheet, really) where people could earn points for the skills they had and use those points to access other services. Luckily, I came across Simbi, an even better user-friendly interface, so I decided to join instead!”

2. Pick a platform, and sign up. 

You can read more about the history of timebanks and what they are here.  But take note of two different types of platforms you could pick. 

A timebank is an alternative ledger system that records exchanges and values with each hour contributed as equal, regardless of whether the hour was spent doing yard work, providing legal counsel, or cleaning someone’s teeth. Community Weaver by Timebanks USA, (founded by the father of timebanking, Edgar Cahn) is a popular option. Visit their timebanks directory page and search by state to get a comprehensive list of timebanks in your area (Time & Talents by Hourworld also has a directory). There are time banks all over the world; one robust example is the Kola Nut Collaborative in Chicago area. You can also organize your own

Alternatively, a credit-based currency system (my preferred system so far) still offers a non-financial platform for conducting transactions, however in this case, the value of each service or transaction is not determined by hours, but rather self-determined by the users, which means on these platforms users can trade other things, including items and goods. YING (group skill-sharing) and Nomos are two examples of emergent time-banking platforms. Simbi is a more established skill sharing network—and it’s also my top choice.

Simbi’s easy-to-use interface makes it a great option for time-sharing newbies. Credit: Simbi

Simbi is accessible, available in multiple languages, and easy to use. It also boasts the largest quantity of goods and services you can access. You can use simbi (the credits that you can earn in the app) to reciprocate with your friends, family and neighbors for things that they do for you “offline”. They can then, in turn, use those credits to redeem goods and services such as health coaching, accounting, and Reiki healing sessions. Users earn simbi credits when they share Simbi.com with friends, while nonprofit organizations can also utilize simbi to reward their volunteers, providing a great incentive for folks to invest their time in their cause. 

3. List your offers. 

Once you’ve chosen a platform, write a list of all the things that you would do, that you do automatically, as a way to bring joy to your life and to others. Then, look at this list and ask yourself — does anything on this list look like a skill that someone would find valuable and want to learn about? This becomes the basis of your “offers.” Pick one or two, and write a compelling pitch that would entice someone to take you up on learning this skill. 

4. List your needs.

Next, make a list of all the things you currently spend money on monthly, or things that you don’t spend money on but would if you could afford to massage, acupuncture, cooking lessons (to cook more of your own food at home instead of going out to eat), sustainability advice/consulting, etc. Search those “keywords” on the time-banking platform or currency exchange of your choice.

Time-banking and skill-sharing don’t just save people money. They also help community members connect, grow, and learn from each other. Credit: Pexels

During COVID, I was searching for a vocal coach. Through Simbi, I found Aiesha. After working with her for a few sessions and paying her with my “simbi credits” I found that her coaching around diaphragmatic breathing and the breathing exercises were helping to enhance my lung health and acting as preventative medicine — so critical during COVID times! Additionally, I felt like I gained a new friend and fellow collaborator.

5. Develop a habit. 

Next time you get a recommendation from a friend to try something new, instead of automatically googling or going to Yelp, you can “try it out” with someone in the world on a timebank exchange platform.

6. Act with integrity and build trust. 

Don’t forget to treat commitments on time-banking platforms as you would any other relationship. The rewards are literally more than money can buy. In fact, in many ways, the intimacy of having to develop other forms of reciprocity, not mitigated by money, can in some ways mean bonds can be built that are much higher quality and much more fulfilling than the transactional relationships that dominate our lives.

7. Grow the movement! 

In many cases, timebanks or exchange platforms will reward you for spreading the word about time-banking. This is a great benefit because the more community members you trust join the platform, the better your chances of success at offsetting your financial needs through timebanking. Here’s a helpful video on how to run a virtual offers and needs market, as well to help grow a culture of sharing resources.

Ready, set, share: You can start time-banking and building up your local collaborative economy today.

Time-banking is gaining popularity from increased interest during the COVID pandemic to awareness raised by presidential candidate Andrew Yang. This means that users will be able to find more quality goods and services and meet more specialty needs (helping you save more cash) than ever before. 

Come join the revolution!

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Erin Axelrod


Erin Axelrod

Erin Axelrod is a partner and worker-owner at LIFT Economy, specializing in accelerating the spread of climate-beneficial and land-based businesses in the Next Economy. When not working, she loves to