Your letters and MoneyMates

Many thanks to those who have written in with money-saving tips and questions. We post them up on the website but here are some of the recent postings.

Josephine from Otorohanga has some suggestions about dehydrating greens. “I removed some leaves from a red cabbage and dried them for hours in the oven on a low heat. Next, I did kale on a cake rack in the electric fry pan squashed under the high lid on the lowest setting for about four hours, turning it until there was no steam on the glass lid. Greens shrink amazingly. I then whizzed them and put them in a screw-top jar. I sprinkle 1 teaspoon per person on each dinner plate, or in each serving of soup. It’s yummy and healthy. The cheapest dehydrating is in the sunshine. I place the leaves in a bug proof cage – it takes about four days in the sunshine.”

Gaynora from Kapiti says, “I’m shocked over the number of disposable cleaning cloths in supermarkets. I cut up old tee shirts etc then use and reuse them. I can still have different colours for different tasks.”

A budgeting advisor writes, “I would like to share with you information about the MoneyMates program the Budget Services provide around the country. MoneyMates is a free, confidential educational program to learn and share in a comfortable environment. A small group of persons get together to learn and share about financial topics that are relevant to them: best way to get a loan, consumer rights, Kiwisaver, tips on making ends meet, etc. It is a great program and we would like more people to know about it!”

We have discovered that MoneyMates it is part of a Ministry of Social Development initiative called “Building Financial Capability”. They say:

MSD has changed how it funds and supports budgeting services. A new approach, called Building Financial Capability (BFC), was developed through co-design with the sector. The aim of BFC is to build the financial capability and resilience of people, families and whanau experiencing hardship.

We are putting in place a suite of products and services from prevention to intensive support that will help people have:

• reduced unproductive debt
• reduced stress caused by financial problems
• increased short- and long-term savings
• improved financial confidence and capability
• improved resilience to cope with financial shocks
• improved financial and material wellbeing.

They say there are four core parts to delivering BFC.

1. Financial mentors – focused on helping people with their finances
2. MoneyMates – peer-led support group programme that encourages people to learn from others as they talk about money and finances in a group situation
3. MoneyMates Fund – grants to support innovative ideas that will build the financial capability of people in hardship
4. Community Finance Initiative – affordable credit for individuals on low incomes.

Any initiative to help people take control of their money is good but we wonder if MSD and its BFC is getting a little bit too fancy for its own good. We think it’s pretty simple – if you save part of everything you earn then tomorrow will be better than today. How do households on a low income save money? The same way everyone else does – by not spending everything they earn. The easiest way to do that is to put something into a dedicated and preferably untouchable savings account – like Kiwisaver.

Saving involves setting priorities – and doing what oil raggers do – growing your own fruit and vegetables, drinking lemon water instead of expensive sugary drinks, making lunch each day instead of buying it, not wasting money on smokes and booze, giving up the Sky subscription, using the local library, seeing a trip to McDonald’s as an occasional treat rather than a regular event, buying from an op’ shop instead of hire purchase, and all of the other things which each save a few dollars, but add up to many dollars by the end of the week.

While the MSD may have well-intentioned programmes encouraging better money management, our observation is those who most need to save don’t, and won’t unless they are compelled to do so. Unfortunately, not a lot is done in the schools to teach young people about money – it seems the priorities nowadays are on other worthy causes like recycling and worm farms. Saving money does not make the grade as something to be encouraged, despite its huge importance.