Hitting the financial reset button

Comparing myself to others is always going to be something I struggle with. I’m old enough to realise that this is not a part of myself that’s going to change. And the best way to slay that demon is not to try and squash it, but kill it with reason.

Mostly, whenever I fall into the pit of comparison, I wind up feeling pretty depressed. Yes, we are mid 20s with no debt, but also no assets to speak of and little hope of escaping the hamster wheel of grim, mouldy rentals anytime soon. I can’t help but feel like we’re never really going to pick up pace.

When I think about the people our age I know who’ve managed to buy houses, they’ve all had advantages in one form or another. Most have had parental help – parents who paid some or all of their deposit, either using cash or equity in their own houses. Some have lived at home for years rent free. A couple have had cars bought for or given to them. Some have one partner in the relationship who earns significantly more.

For our situation to change, I think we need two things. One, steady and reasonably-paid employment on T’s part – considering his stints of unemployment add up to a couple years, plus a few more months’ worth of reduced and lost income from injuries on top of that, maybe it’s a wonder we aren’t even further behind. As this Billfold piece wisely observed last month, we really need to start accounting for unemployment in the current environment, and adjust financial advice accordingly.

Two, a steady and reliable car. Going the cheap secondhand route has not served us well. After so many years and a handful of different cars, we’re still exactly where we were on the car front as when we first started out – treading water with maintenance and repairs, with nothing really saved for a better and newer vehicle. Debt-averse as I am, I’m increasingly open to the idea of borrowing for a decent vehicle that we can drive into the ground (10 years at least?) so depreciation doesn’t matter. Vehicle financing options here are still kind of unappealing, but the other day I saw what might be the best offer I’d ever seen – something like 2 percent on new cars? – so things may be changing on that front. I’d much rather pay 2 percent on a new car than 10 percent on a used car that could have had any kind of history, and T’s experience from his stint in car sales should help us in the negotiation stage.

But for my own peace of mind, I think I need to scale back on my expectations. In some ways, this year has worked out better than I expected, but in many ways it also worked out much worse. The long term goal remains buying a house and escaping the terrible Auckland rental market for all the reasons I’ve covered on this blog before, like health, stability, pets, kids – but I’m going to refrain from setting a timeline or any hard measures, because I honestly don’t know what the next few years hold for us.

19 thoughts on “Hitting the financial reset button

  1. Some deep thoughts happening here!

    I feel you on the car front — we had a flat tire last night and it really made me appreciate how few problems (relatively speaking) we’ve had with the car. If it was something like that every month or even every quarter, it would add tons of stress to our situation!

  2. Right there with you on holding off on any house buying for ourselves. I *really* want to be in a house for reasons and without the restrictions of a rental but it never seems like we’re going to make enough to manage it. As well as some things go, other things will always keep eating up the margin of “extra” and .. yeah.

  3. i am with you on everything in this post. I am glad my husband finally has a stable job that we don’t have to worry about. As for cars, I sometimes agree about buying a used model to save money, but I worry about repairs. My husband and I both bought our cars new and we’ve had them for YEARS–so does that kind of balance each other out?
    And as for buying a house. I am still undecided about it but for now I’m still leaning toward not anytime soon, simply bc I don’t want to have to worry about the added responsibility. We’ve been living broke for so long, that we are enjoying being able to enjoy our increase in income. This would def change if we had a mortgage

  4. Meh. I had kind of given up on ever owning a house in Auckland. It’s beyond ridiculous. Our rent is $300 a week and I walk 12 minutes to/from work. A mortgage would be over double that per week and I’d have to pay for a commute in both money and and time. You can’t really put a price on time and I think you could add an extra $50-$100 for petrol or bus.

    I bought my first car this year at age 30. My dad wanted an upgrade so I bought his old car off him. He never had a problem with it and we haven’t had any either. Best $2000 I ever spent.

    I love a bargain. I never pay full price for any big purchase, instead preferring to do a few days research in either buying on sale or second hand. But I’ve never felt poor. Not once. I think travel puts money into perspective. When you see first-hand how people in poorer countries get by, you can never feel poor in a safety net country like NZ.

    There is no shortage of people who give me lectures on a weekly basis on how I should be saving to buy a house. I’m at the point where I desperately need stop their lectures before they begin because I’m sooooo bored of them. And then of course as you have mentioned before, people lecturing me on why I need to start a family ASAP.

    I’m not looking to die with the most cash or the most assets or the most family at my bedside. That doesn’t interest me.

    1. Just offering another viewpoint – maybe all the lecturers have told you this, so I’m sorry if so. But the best argument for buying a house is that yes, your mortgage payments may be $600 as opposed to $300 in rent, but in 20 years time you rent may be $700 and your mortgage would still be $600 (plus travel, insurance, taxes etc). Eventually you pay it off and it is zero.

      I don’t have a problem if you are happy to rent, just thought I’d add this in case all the nosey people like me hadn’t brought it up yet :)

      1. Oh, how lovely, I usually have commenters (because most readers are American) railing about how mortgages are a bum deal.

        I firmly believe buying a house would be the best for our situation. It’s not for everyone but for us it would be.

  5. I would like a to buy a condo again but it’s not an immediate priority. We can’t help but compare ourselves to others in order to see how we are doing. As you said, it will probably help once your boyfriend’s employment becomes stable and long term so you can begin to build your assets. Keeping our expectations in check really does help.

  6. Very thoughtful post! I feel ya on a lot of these points. My partner and I have $100k in student loan debt between us and we’re 30. Sometimes I want to crawl in a hole and scream, where did we go wrong? We thought education was the path to success. It’s been hard as now my partner makes slightly above minimum wage and I work at a nonprofit. Even though we are paying off debt and saving, I wonder will we ever not be broke? It can be so depressing at times but I have to have faith things will get better.

  7. Having no debt in your mid-twenties is amazing! It’s tough, but try not to compare yourself to others. Keeping your expectations in check is a smart choice. You’re doing better than you think. It will get easier.

  8. I had student loans til I was about…27?? 28? So you are doing very well to be debt-free, esp. in a place like Auckland, AND after spending 6 months traveling the world. Well done! And you will get there with the house. :) Just keep saving!

  9. It’s a pity you’ve had bad luck with cars, I’ve had two run about’s the first $1.4k the second $2.5k and both have served me really well, I had the first one for 8 years and only sold it as I moved to Auckland and wanted something that would definitely make the trip back to Wanganui on a semi regular occassion.
    I can see how having the maintenance on a car would dig into the house savings though! Have you ever considered moving out of Auckland or are you set on buying here?

    1. I have a post coming up soon breaking down our sad, sad car history! Look out for it. It doesn’t help either that T is hard on his cars (tough on everything he owns actually – clothes, shoes, phones). My mum thinks we need to get something over $10,000 (like both her and my dad did, and their cars have been going for like 15 years) and I agree.

      Not leaving Auckland. Work, family and friends and lifestyle all here. Couldn’t live anywhere colder than here, either.

  10. This post hit me hard. I was having a conversation with another blogger who was arguing that someone was saying they can’t vs they could but don’t want to when they get home from a very draining job. I basically do the same job so I completely understood where the other person they were patronizing were coming from.

    Even though I have the drive to want to do other things, sometimes I can’t make myself. I feel like I am forever in survivor mode even though I haven’t technically been in survivor mode in awhile. I’m still playing catch up from having to take care of myself for so many years and never really having any support.

    I think T will find employment and you guys will be able to get financially ahead. You are so smart and resourceful, I see nothing else for you guys.

  11. I feel like this a lot. The husband still has 3.5 years of school left. We live in an apt way too small for our growing family. And rent just keeps going up. We have cut A LOT. And it’s still hard to save. Just have to stay optimistic and remember not to measure our success against others. :)

  12. At your age we were still in grad school and making next to nothing. We always (2x) buy new cars and are still driving them both. We financed one of them. We don’t make a habit of financing depreciating assets, but early on you are the appreciating asset. High end cars tend to have more expensive repairs than low end. If you’re concerned about maintenance costs, check out consumer reports or something similar with that info.

  13. We are about to acquire a second vehicle in the fall and doing a ton of shopping around right now. We will definitely be getting a loan as we don’t want anything TOO cheap. However, even in our price range (with a loan) most vehicles have 150,000 – 200,000 km on them! So it’s really hard to decide whether it’s worth paying an extra thousand (or couple thousand in some cases) for a vehicle with less km. So much to think about!

    1. Yep finding the same – for $10-15k purchase price we would still be looking at a 3-10 year old vehicle with anywhere from about 40,000-140,000km. Worrying.

  14. Many of my friends and family are in much better positions with making more money and career wise than myself ( I am in my early 30s) , so it’s only natural that I am constantly comparing myself to them. I , too, get grumpy and bitter when I think about my current situation, which mind you, isn’t really that bad, but I just feel like it could be better.

    I’m beginning to think I will be one of those people who feel it’s never enough and will never be satisfied.

    Don’t forget that you got married in your mid-20s and TRAVELLED THE WORLD, which is something that people constantly wish for or say someday. I backpacked for a month in Europe. Looking back at it, I wish I done more long term travelling, say for half a year.

    I have spent some significant cash on travel which has set me back several thousands of dollars, but I don’t regret it one bit. I like how people consider me a “traveler”, even though I haven’t done any extensive travelling lately.

  15. I’m lucky that I don’t want/need/have a car, but rent is INSANE in DC, and it keeps going up every year. My rent increased this year but by a small amount, so I renewed my lease. I love my apartment, but it’s a small studio and a lot for what I pay but the location can’t be beat. Eventually, though, I’m going to want to move, whether it be to another apartment in DC or another city (or country?) altogether. I’m also adding some new travel goals in light of my recent trip to Chile and Argentina, and that’s going to require some reevaluating of my savings goals and finances, too. Gah, being a grown up is hard!

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