When Leah Funk’s son, now four, outgrew his bike, she turned to an online community for help instead of going out and buying a new one.
For the past two years, Funk has been a member of various Winnipeg neighborhood Buy Nothing groups, which offer members a way to give and receive, share and lend without changing hands.
“When we got the bike, I was over the moon,” he said.
“It was a pedal bike, which I hadn’t learned to ride at the time, so I was really excited to see the next stage of his riding skills,” Funk said.
Buy Nothing groups are helping many Manitobans cut expenses amid record inflation rates and cost-of-living increases.
Leah Funk orders and receives toys and clothes for her two children at her local Buy Nothing group. The Winnipeg mom says the gifts help her budget for clothes and toys so she doesn’t have to worry about buying increasingly expensive food. (Submitted by Leah Funk)
Funk says the extra gifts of a bike rack for her one-year-old son and a gift of summer clothes for her oldest, items that were no longer used by a fellow group member, helped her reduce her budget for clothes and to cover the rising costs of food. .
“My son’s favorite thing is raspberries. They’re probably one of the most expensive things, but I’m not going to deny him just because the cost is too high when it’s going to make him healthy and eat fruit,” she said.
“To have this kind of thing given away by us [means] that we can still get everything we need at the grocery store.”
Leah Funk’s one-year-old son enjoys riding the bike rack he received as a gift through his local Buy Nothing group. (Submitted by Leah Funk)
Funk is among thousands of people who are part of Buy Nothing groups on Facebook and in a newly created app.
There are 55 Buy Nothing groups in Manitoba, including 34 in Winnipeg, with hundreds of members each.
Christine Nelson-Didych is one of the administrators of Winnipeg’s largest and most active Buy Nothing group: Transcona, with 3,300 members.
She said there has been an increase in membership and requests for food and household items in the past six months.
“Basic items like bread, eggs, milk and nappies – there are a lot of people who are really struggling, and our group is able to help bridge the gap with that.”
Ukrainians displaced by Russian aggression have also moved into the neighborhood and are receiving help from people in the group.
According to Nelson-Didych, members of the Transcona Buy Nothing group look for staples like these and more. (Travis Golby/CBC)
“We’ve been able to help a number of members get comfortable and settled into their homes, and I imagine that’s something we’ll see more of,” he said. “I’m looking forward to helping with that,” Nelson-Didych said.
Liesl Clark, the co-founder of the Buy Nothing projectwho created the model behind Buy Nothing Facebook groups, says the number of users skyrocketed during the pandemic, when many people were laid off.
There was another surge when there were severe supply disruptions, and as interest rates rise and the costs of gas and food rise, so do more users.
“Economic Safety Net”
“Not only are more people joining, but the people who are already present in the groups are expressing a deeper need for the goods and services that people have to offer,” Clark said from his home in the state of Washington.
Items that people might have thrown away or donated to a thrift store are now being given away on the pages.
“People are saying, ‘I’d rather give it to my neighbors and someone I might know who actually lives next door to me.’ People are finding a lot more meaning in this way of giving, asking and sharing with each other,” he said. said Clark.
The groups “are becoming a social safety net, an economic safety net for all of us, and it’s a place where you can fall into the arms of your neighbors if you need to,” he said.
LOOK | CBC’s Lamia Abozaid reports on how Manitobans are turning to neighborhood groups to cut spending:
Winnipeg neighborhood “Buy Nothing” groups are growing in popularity
Funk said her Winnipeg group has become a place where she can store things she and her children love but no longer use, that others may find valuable in their homes.
“Knowing how much joy it’s brought them, that we can give back to someone else who maybe can’t afford to get it, because it’s their extra,” she said.
“I don’t think anyone is buying a lot of their extras that would be nice to have, so to be able to give it to someone else and be the recipient is amazing.”