Money is never enough, but we have all the time in the world. If only there was some way to trade time for goods and services — outside of getting a job, of course.
Good news! Missoula has a time bank. What the hell is a time bank? It's exactly what it sounds like — a service exchange based on time, not money.
"Our currency is time," said Susan Stubblefield, who serves on the Missoula Time Bank steering committee.
"People will ask for help from other time bank members when they wouldn't ask for help otherwise because it would feel like asking too much for not getting any compensation," she said.
The Missoula Time Bank was established last June after months of planning. The idea is simple — trade what you can do for what you want or need. So you can weed and get weaving lessons, help someone move and learn how to make a mosaic, or fix computer problems and get a hypnotherapy session. The services are often simple favors people are shy about asking friends or family to do, Stubblefield said.
Time bank members get credit for every hour they give to someone and debit for every hour they take from someone else. Members keep track of their hours in a running total on the Missoula Time Bank website, where they can also offer or request services.
The time bank is a communal idea, though, and is not meant to be used between only two individuals, Stubblefield said.
“It’s not a barter system. It’s not me-to-you, you-to-me. Instead, it’s me-to-you and you to someone else in the bank. Bartering would be taxable by the IRS.”
One of the larger ideas behind time banking is building a stronger, closer and more sustainable community, time bank member and fall 2014 University of Montana law student Anna Wallace said.
“It’s a really great tool for building a resilient community and economy that would be really apt to helping us face issues that might come up in the future,” she said, citing environmental issues like oil and gas depletion.
Wallace started using the time bank in November 2013 after a skiing accident required surgery. She used her time bank hours to get reiki sessions, a Japanese form of healing therapy focused on relaxation and stress reduction.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it (reiki therapy) nearly as much without the time bank,” Wallace said. “I definitely wouldn’t have had as much benefit from it.”
James Fix, a reiki and cranial sacral therapist with Your Energy Fix, said the benefit is mutual.
"It gives folks who might not have the opportunity to come see me more often," Fix said. "On top of that, I can use the services that others have to offer... I don't think I would have ever had my astrology read without the time bank."
When it comes to who or how you choose to spend and give your time, it's a personal decision. The time bank doesn’t screen any of the members or the services they offer, Stubblefield said.
“It’s up to individual members to talk with the people they’re doing their exchanges with. They need to do their own research,” she said.
But there are plenty of members to pick from. As of February, Missoula Time Bank had 67 members.
The steering committee recently signed a lease for office space with the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, and Stubblefield said they plan to have the office open in April. Several local businesses have affiliated themselves with the time bank including I.E. Recycling, the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, Transition Missoula, and the Community Food and Agriculture Co-op.
Stubblefield said the time bank is looking to hire a full-time coordinator to run daily operations.
"The time banks that generally do well pay a coordinator because it involves an awful lot of time and effort to run them,” she said.
A new member fee of $25 will go toward funding the coordinator position, as well as training, marketing and office lease costs. New members can also donate three hours of time instead of the $25 fee. It’s a small price to pay for what Stubblefield calls a perfect fit for Missoula.
"We have a lot of retired people, we have a lot of students, we have a lot of unemployed and underemployed people. This is a community where people care about each other and they want to help each other."