A popular community-based money saving Facebook page shut down after it grew too big for its founder to manage is back online after a Government-funded charity stepped in.
Cheaper Living (NZ only!) had 110,000 members when founder, Christchurch mum-of-two Hannah Noble, archived it in the middle of last year.
Last week the page went back online and members are again posting several times a day asking for or offering advice about how to budget, get the best deals and cut debt.
The page is now being run by Noble, as a short-term consultant, and Ministry of Social Development-supported charity FinCap, under the banner of FinCap's free financial helpline MoneyTalks. FinCap supports budgeting and financial capability services around New Zealand.
Noble said she had received several offers over the years from people wanting to take over the page, but their interest always came with baggage — they had their own business they wanted to promote — that didn't fit with how she wanted the page to be.
It is fiercely advertising-free.
"I always thought, 'This is selling it out, as opposed to selling it'. It was in the back of my head when I archived it that, if an organisation approaches me who wants to run it, who's not going to sell it out and actually have resources that are going to be perfect for Cheaper Living then ... I'll probably say yes. If it's not going to be perfect, I would rather it be shut down."
FinCap didn't pay to take over the page, but had paid Noble for blog post content and training and consultancy work as they took over.
A sister page, the 20,000-member Frugal Kitchen, is also part of the deal, but Noble will continue to run three other sister pages — Organised Chaos, Frugal Renovation and DIY, and Keto NZ, which have a combined membership of about 50,000.
The 32-year-old, who is a qualified professional coach and early childhood teacher, started Cheaper Living with the support of a few friends and about 20 members in 2012.
"We were living in a caravan at that time and I didn't want to live in a caravan with a baby any more."
Through online cloth nappy groups Noble soon realised there was a community of people who wanted to talk about saving money.
"The intention was never to be a big group. It was just to start a group where we could chat and be a bit real about what we were trying to save money on and what debt we were trying to get rid of. To have some accountability really."
The page really took off in late 2016, when membership grew from 5000 in July to 30,000 by December, Noble said.
A year later numbers had swelled to 100,000.
There was a strong focus on making the group welcoming, and useful, to everyone, no matter their financial circumstances.
"It was really about motivating, challenging and encouraging each other, rather than being down on each other, like, 'Oh my goodness, you've got that much debt', or, 'How the heck did you save $10,000 in three months, that's just ridiculous'."
She believed that was why the group resonated.
"One of the things people said was that it was a safe group, where they weren't going to be criticised for being able to go to Fiji, or they weren't going to be criticised because they only had $50 to feed their family that week."
The wide range of circumstances proved its value — the struggling and the not struggling learned from each other.
"It was sort of like putting the elderly and the babies together ... like a village, but across the socio-economic scale."
As for herself, Noble said the group had helped her and her husband "save ridiculously" and get out of the caravan and into their own home.
FinCap chief executive Tim Barnett said MoneyTalks and Cheaper Living were a natural fit, as both encouraged Kiwis to talk about money and seek support. MoneyTalks was launched in July and last week had its highest number of contacts, with more than 200.
Both also embraced the digital age — MoneyTalks was a multi-mode helpline with calling, email, text and webchat, and Cheaper Living was an "organic social media phenomena", Barnett said.
"A collaboration between a helpline and social media group is unique. It's not something that national NGOs usually do. FinCap is out to do things different in the financial capability sector.
"We need to go where people are, and most people look for support these days online before they go to an on-the-ground service."
Hannah Noble's top tips for living cheaper
• Find ways to save on the things that don't matter to you, so you can spend on the things that matter.
• Look through your bills and spending each year to see where you can save - even $2 a week is more than $100 a year.
• Basics first! Roof, power, getting to your job and basic food comes first in a budget because without these, life is really difficult.
• Buy quality when it counts. Things that are used once a year might not need to be high quality or price, but something that is used daily is something to spend a little more on.
• Remember that those quality things you buy can be second hand! Sometimes you can get that second hand thing that'll last a long time for less than the price of the new, cheap, poor-quality version.
• Go big! Or small! Making a massive, crazy big change or decision that you are passionate about can make it easier to make the changes.
• Buying less takeaways and convenience food is a massive way to save on the food budget.
• Take your bills, divide them into weekly amounts and put that money away into a "Bills" account ready to be taken out for the bills. This way, you will get to a stage where you aren't looking for money for the power, phone or rent.
• If you want to change something, focus on it! The more attention you give something, the more ability you have to change it. Look at the goal, look at your reality right now, figure out your options and then take action.
• Organise the house well enough so that you know where the thing you need is and don't have to buy it again - or borrow it if you rarely need it and a friend has one.
• Enjoy life. It can be difficult, but enjoy moments together as family and friends even when the budget is tight and life is hard.