BrumLETS: Exchange goods and services without money!
LETS (Local Exchange Trading Scheme) enables people to trade services
without exchanging money. People join a non-profit making club to exchange
services, using their own local “currency” and accounting system. A directory
of goods and skills is made available to all members— services offered
can range from darning to computer skills, babysitting to counselling.
Members trade with each other whenever they wish, and record their transactions
on the BrumLETS website. Members who don't have ready access to the Internet
can use paper cheques and send them to the Hearts Treasurer to be entered
on the system.
There are many LETS schemes throughout the country, and each has its
own local currency. In Birmingham, our currency units are called Hearts
(as Birmingham is the "Heart of England"). When you come to advertise
your services, we recommend a typical rate of 6 Hearts per hour, but you
are free to set your own rate, or put “neg” to indicate a negotiable rate.
It is worth remembering that, unlike the mainstream economy, LETS encourages
people to place equal value on all services, from accounting to cleaning.
There is no penalty for having a 'minus balance' on your LETS account
(unlike mainstream banking, where people are charged fees and interest
for going overdrawn).
The BrumLETS Members' Website
Once you have joined, you will receive a membership number and password
that will give you access to the members-only area of the BrumLETS website.
On the website, you can: update your contact details and personal information
enter details of the skills and goods you wish to offer search the services
and goods offered by other members make hearts payments for services and
goods received give feedback on services and goods received find contact
details for other members check your hearts account balance and trading
history see other members' balances and trading history
Making a Trade
When you've found a service or item for sale that you're interested in,
you contact the person who has placed the offer and negotiate the "deal".
Once the service has been completed to your satisfaction, you log in to
the website, and pay the provider the agreed number of Hearts. You can
also leave feedback, which will be visible to all other members. Don't
forget you don't need to be in credit to trade!
How you keep in touch
A weekly email is sent out informing members of any new or updated offers
and wants - members can also opt to have this sent on a daily basis, or
switch it off, by editing their personal information via the My Profile
link on the sidebar. An occasional newsletter is produced to which all
members can contribute, and info on forthcoming events can be found in
the 'News & Events' section of the website. You can meet other members
at LETS social events and members’ meetings, which can be set up individually
via an "-Event" offer. BrumLETS has a “Core Group” of active
and experienced members who help with the running and development of LETS;
members can approach them for advice, and can discuss new ideas with them.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What if I don’t have anything to offer? Everyone has something
to offer. You don’t need to be “skilled”, just willing and available to
help with ordinary tasks. LETS members can help others move house, hold
up shelves while someone drills the holes, run errands or offer household
help to someone who is very busy, ill or just stressed. You can give as
much or as little time as you want — some members do the occasional hour
or two here and there, others contribute whole days. Some jobs you can
even do in your own home. And if you do have a special skill, so much
Can I trade if I have no Hearts in my account? YES! You
do not have to be in credit to trade. Your account can go into debit (“minus
balance”) but no interest is charged. (In fact, as the total number of
Hearts in the system is always zero, it wouldn’t work at all if everyone
tried to stay in credit all the time!)
What is a Heart worth? A Heart is approximately equivalent
to £1, and some people charge exactly the same in Hearts as they might
in £s for their goods or services. However, because there are no debit
limits, LETS members find they can afford to be much more generous in
Hearts than they could be with £s. Therefore, the value of the Heart is
flexible, and it often depends on what the two people involved in the
transaction agree upon.
What if I still need cash? Hearts can be used along with
cash. You can ask for a proportion in cash (eg. 25% cash, 75% Hearts)
or for cash to cover materials, petrol etc. Only Hearts are recorded in
your accounts. What if I’m not satisfied with someone’s work? LETS functions
on the basis of goodwill and trust, and problems like this are rare. However,
you can try to avoid misunderstandings by agreeing in advance the price,
timescale and standard of work, and you are free to ask the person about
their qualifications and experience. If you have problems, a mediation
service is available. Normal trading laws still apply to LETS. In the
very last resort, claims for compensation can be made in the county court.
What if I run up a large debit? In LETS, having a minus
balance does not present a problem. LETS cheques cannot “bounce”, and
it is more important to keep trading than to keep your account in credit.
If someone goes further and further into debit, a member of the Core Group
will discuss the situation with them and offer advice. However, in LETS
there is no embarrassment attached to having a minus balance. It is better
to spend Hearts than to hoard them! Is trading on LETS taxable? Most LETS
trading is of an occasional “social favour” type, which is not taxable.
However, if a member conducts trade on LETS as part of a regular business,
any profits (after deducting business expenses and personal allowance)
will be taxable in sterling. Such members should declare the Hearts earned
in their normal line of work in their tax returns. They can ensure that
they cover their tax liabilities by asking for a percentage in sterling.
Will earnings in Hearts affect my benefits? Most benefits
should not be affected as long as claimants are not trading for more than
16 hours a week, and are available for work.
About BrumLETS Further