Well, a year, and LOTS of trades, later, I am no longer a novice at this concept! I've been known to cold-call a shop that I like, and just ask for a trade! Sometimes I get turned down; either the shop can't afford to trade, or I don't have anything they're needing. But, just about as frequently, I've completed some awesome trades, and in turn, have introduced them to the trading concept. Last Christmas, I was able to do the vast majority of my gift shopping, not in the crowded malls, but by fabulous trades. Now, do I trade with everybody? Not usually. In fact, I've traded for so much soap and jewelry that I'm more than stocked up! Trading is also a great way to try new items; I had never tried handmade bath and beauty products, and now I love them!
So, what, you may ask, am I getting ready for? Well, it just so happens that one of those big Trade and Stay events is starting tomorrow morning! If you search the forum topics tomorrow morning for "tradeaholic" and you should be able to find the forum thread. Then, you can start shopping! Check out the shops on the most recent list, and send a message to someone you're interested in trading with. Each shop will agree on a trade that is as equal in value (including shipping) as possible. Then you just purchase the items, but don't pay through Paypal (your items will be your payment). Mail out your items in a timely fashion, and soon your mailbox will be filled with all kinds of wonderful goodies!
If you decide to join the fun, please share the great trades you pick up! I'd love to see what you picked up! :)