Most people are familiar with the adage that “time is money”, but few see time as a bona fide replacement for cash, and fewer have actually used it as such.
While in the past, time was generally donated on a voluntary basis or as part of an understanding of mutual support among neighbors or friends, technology has made time banking a reality. For the first time, large numbers of people can accurately and easily track their time and turn it into a currency which can be banked and exchanged for desired goods and services.
How does time banking work?
The idea behind time banking is simple. An individual or entity provides a time-based service to another entity. This service could be anything which requires time, such as IT services, consultation, childcare, hairdressing, gardening, construction, tutoring or any other time-consuming activity. The time spend providing the service is recorded in a time bank. Time-based units accumulate in the time bank and can be used to purchase time-based services from other individuals when needed.
What time banking programs operate in Switzerland?
Switzerland, with its long traditions of alternative currencies, banking and social solidarity, is home to numerous time banking programs. The biggest drawback is that these programs are primarily regional, with around 40 different time exchanges in operation countrywide. This limits your opportunities for earning and spending time.
Time banking initiatives in Switzerland include Zürich Tauscht (Zurich), Zeittauschbörse Basel, Luzerner Tauschnetz (Lucerne), Ziitbörsa Chur und Umgebung (Chur), ZeitTausch Solothurn, Zeitbörse Benevol (St. Gallen), Scambio di Favori (Ticino), Zytbörse Thun, Tauschnetz Länggasse Bern, Tauschnetz Freiburg (Fribourg), Give&Get (Winterthur), and TALENT (Basel, Biel, St. Gallen, Zug, Aarau).
The biggest drawback of Swiss time banks is that they are, as yet, somewhat rudimentary in their use of technology. Things like time-banking apps which would make earning and spending time more efficient are not available. Online platforms are basic. However, if you are willing to put in more than the effort it takes to swipe a phone screen, the basic structure is there.
If you enjoy socializing and meeting new people, the social opportunities which time banks present are worth a mention. Most Swiss time banks operate like clubs and organize regular meet-ups for members. Add to that the inevitable socializing which accompanies exchanging services with other people, and time banking becomes a useful tool to increase you circle of friends and acquaintances.
It is worth noting that Swiss time banking initiatives may charge membership fees. In Many cases these can be paid in time.
Time banking as a retirement plan
In recent years, Swiss time banking initiatives have experimented with the idea of using time banking as part of a retirement plan. The idea behind these experiments is that young and capable adults who provide care to seniors can bank the time spent and then exchange that time for care when they are seniors. Currently just one retirement time bank – Zeitvorsorge St. Gallen – operates in Switzerland.
It is worth considering that the lengths of time involved and the speed with which society changes make this a rather risky proposal for young adults who are serious about receiving care in their old age. For those who want to do a kind deed with the possibility of remuneration in their golden years, retirement time banks can be an interesting option.
Can time banking save you money?
Most time banks treat time equally, regardless of services rendered. If your services have a high monetary value and you have the opportunity to exchange them for money instead of time, you will likely achieve a greater profit by charging fees for your time. However, if you find that your work leaves you with time to spare which could be exchanged against goods or services which you would spend money on, paying in time can save you money – possibly a lot of money.