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  • Writer's pictureNoel Williams

Benefit of Timebanks for Local Economies

When people think of timebanks, the first thought is the idea of people helping people. In many cases, people liken the participants in a timebank to community volunteers who willingly spend their free time helping; whether it be helping people, families, or some combination of the two. What people do not think of though, is the idea that timebanks can directly benefit a local economy.

Thanks to the way the average person thinks, one cannot help but to assume that a local economy is only as good as the number of dollars and cents flowing through it. While this is good, dollars and cents are not the only way for folks to support their local economy. This is where timebanks step in. Timebanks of any size can provide a substantial and palpable boost to the performance and overall functionality of a local community. In the following, we will address just a few ways timebanks can work wonders for economies, especially those that might be hard-hit by conventional economic distress.

Recognizing Value Where Value Exists

If you read our ‘Existing Timebanks and How They Work’ blog post, we discussed how timebanks value the time inputs of every person equally. No matter whether you are an interior designer or computer technician, an input of time worked is valued the same. For conventional transactions such as performing a home improvement service, understanding how one can bank the time worked is simple. A task that might have otherwise have been paid for in dollars and cents is now paid for in the form of time credits; simple enough. But what about tasks that people perform every day without any compensation? Tasks like caring for another person, cooking food, and cleaning.

Timebanks Foster Small Business and Communal Togetherness

For people who are elderly or are stay-at-home parents, timebanking offers ways to earn an income without having to change your daily routine, fill out a resume, or sit through a morning commute.

A stay-at-home mother who may not be able to earn a “traditional” income can explore watching other children during the day, besides her own. In the context of a timebank, the hours spent watching children can now generate an income that might not have otherwise existed. Now, the hypothetical mother in this situation might be able to earn time credits that can be cashed in for items and services that may be needed. Without any overhead at all, a small timebanking business of sorts can be set up. What’s more, the act of caring for other children serves the dual-purpose of allowing both you and your children to make friends while simultaneously using a timebank to benefit your local economy.

For elderly folks, timebanking offers a way to stay active during retirement. By baking for others, giving rides to those who need it, and otherwise putting skills to use, anyone and everyone has something of value to offer a timebank community. And like Mary Liepold of the Silver Spring Timebank has said, ‘The beauty of this is that you make friends. You don’t just get services.” And this is where timebanking separates itself from the traditional economic model. Rather than using informal dollars and cents, you are quite literally giving of yourself for the betterment of someone else. This is something lost in our highly monetized world.

An Economy In and Of Itself

Timebanks can benefit a local economy, but in reality they create completely new economies altogether.

The exchange of time credits amongst people within a single community creates a system of exchanges that exactly models the capitalistic one we live in. The main difference, of course, being that no physical money is exchanged and that the interactions are much more genuine. If I have a car and free time, I can earn time credits in much the same way an Uber driver can. But unlike Uber drivers, who have the real value of their work dictated and subsequently stolen by a larger corporation, members of a timebank retain all of the time credits they earn. So if you execute six hours of driving for members of your timebank, you now have six hours’ worth of credits that can be used for home improvement projects, cooking classes, or anything else that community members offer.

Within a timebank that is robust enough, many services and goods that might otherwise be paid for with dollars and cents can now be paid for in time credits. Every timebank has its limits, but no matter how small or large a timebank is, they offer an opportunity to get the maximum value out of your time and provide the maximum value as payment for someone else’s.


  1. "I like giving the gift of time’: Time banks build economies — and communities — without the almighty dollar" - The Washington Post Journal

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