Occupy America Social Network
No money? No problem! Pay with time instead. Pay with "time dollars" on everything. In a modern twist on the ancient practice of barter, people are joining time banks to help them get the things they need or want without having to spend cash. In a time bank members get credit for services they provide to other members, from cooking to housekeeping to car rides to home repair. For each hour of work, one time dollar is deposited into a member's account, good for services offered by other members.
Scores of time banks have been started in hard-hit communities around the nation - and thousands of devotees are helping each other survive tough financial times. Community Exchange, a 10-year-old time bank in Allentown, PA. with 500 members offers everything from electrical work to tai chi. Because of stubbornly high unemployment, newer banks with names like ‘Back On Track’ have joined Community Exchange in offering an alternative to cash. Time Banks USA, an advocacy group, says interest in time banking has surged: About 115 now operate nationwide, with 100 more in early stages of development. Membership fluctuates but is believed to total more than 15,000. People see time banking as a way to deal with the economic pressures they are experiencing. In South Carolina, Back on Track Charleston was launched recently. It already has 80 members. In Maine, where paper mills and shoe manufacturers have closed, time dollars buy everything from guitar lessons to yard work. In California, they buy haircuts, tax help and aromatherapy. In Michigan, child care, plumbing and yoga.
Unlike bartering, transactions in time banking are not usually reciprocal. Instead, Jane baby-sits for John, John fixes Mary's leaky faucet, Mary drives Tom to the doctor's office, and so on, all of them earning and spending time dollars. Their labor is valued equally: One hour is always worth one time dollar. (Time dollars are not taxable, according to Time Banks USA)
People often join for economic reasons but wind up getting more out of it. Among the benefits: networking, getting to know neighbors, building a sense of community and keeping skills sharp. Part of it is very practical and another part that's ideological. People believe the best way to survive in a debt-based economic system and unpredictable world is to forge local ties to support local economies.
Time banks are labor intensive but worth the effort. People need to be a little more creative about using resources within a community that might not have been considered resources in the past. Time dollar members use time dollars to pay for services that would typically cost hundreds of dollars.