Link love (Powered by lentils and little surprises)

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Thank god for the weekend!

The low of my week was a work-related thing, and finishing Firefly :( On the plus side, Scandal is back. (Fellow Nathan Fillion fans, should I give Castle a go? I adore Bones, if that helps)

The high of my week was receiving our first produce box (we’re trying out a local delivery service. Will write about it once we’ve got a few weeks under the belt).

My plans this weekend include going for a long overdue run. Oh yes. I gotta step it up on the health front (and made a good effort this week, eating lentils for lunch almost every day)

This time last year we were in New York and Washington DC. *wishful sigh*

This week’s links

Take the power back! A Terrible Husband on reclaiming control of your story

What to do when you unexpectedly lose your job, from Figuring Money Out

And a PSA for freelancers – how to deal when a client dumps you, via Cordelia Calls it quits

Over at Salon, what it’s like being a minority woman in journalism (at the NYT, no less)

And on a similar note at Corporette, growing up poor and clawing your way into the strange cocoon of corporate law

The absolute worst things about job hunting

The worst things about job hunting are...

Thanks to a lot of hard work and a healthy dose of good luck, I’ve never really personally struggled with unemployment. Being a firsthand witness to a long job hunt, though, has definitely got me sympathising. These are the worst things about job hunting, as observed by me.

Please call in order for us to reject you

I can’t believe there are people/companies that will leave a message asking you to call back – only for them to tell you that you were unsuccessful, once you return the call. Just leave a voicemail, or send an email. Seriously.

Radio silence after in-person interviews

There’s a special place in hell for those who don’t get back to you after interviews. I get that some industries don’t screen much and often interview a lot of people in person, but I do think it’s a courtesy once you’ve brought someone in. (Personally I don’t think rejections are needed if you don’t get to interview stage, and actually prefer it this way, but I know a lot of people disagree. As a job hunter, I don’t expect any acknowledgement of receipt, just like I wouldn’t if I was a PR rep pitching a journalist – editors are busy and we’ll ignore pitches we’re not interested in.)

Super scammy sales roles

There are always SO many entry-level sales/promotion type roles promising a fast track to success for hard workers. The thing is, these sales roles are usually pretty dodgy – shady insurance companies and the like – and often just door to door marketing. If it sounds too good to be true…

The weird thing about job hunting is that you’ve got to totally amp yourself up for interviews and really commit to imagining yourself in a particular job. Then you’ve got to completely disengage and do your best to forget about it, since odds are high you won’t make it any further.

What are your pet peeves about job hunting?

What do you get for $250k, $500k, $750k or $1m in Auckland?

(I know I promised no more real estate masochism, but I put this together weeks ago! Scroll to the bottom for the other blogs taking part in this real estate roundup)

A little context first, perhaps.

Our CBD is more a place for work/leisure rather than living. There are apartments in town, but in many cases they’re cheap and nasty shoeboxes, with some nice luxury ones at the other end of the spectrum and not much in between. While the Auckland real estate market has soared, apartments have not appreciated in the same way. (Banks have relaxed the rules in the past couple of years but generally you needed a 30-50% deposit when buying an apartment. )To get an idea of how our housing market has grown, there’s a great interactive chart over at The Economist - aside from the craziness that is Hong Kong, NZ is basically on par with Australia and Britain.

The most sought-after places to live are the areas immediately surrounding the CBD. Years ago these were worker bee neighbourhoods, with houses packed up close against each other in narrow streets. A generation on these villas are now the domain of the wealthy and go for seven figures – gentrification! Woot!

Outside of the CBD, standalone houses remain the norm here. You’ll find the odd apartment block or terraced house complex here and there, but in many cases they’re hideous and poorly built. ‘Leaky home’ syndrome also affects a lot of the new standalone homes built in the 1990s/2000s boom.

Finally, very few properties actually get listed with an asking price (as you’ll notice on a few of these links) and most are sold at auction. There’s a lot of guesswork involved if you’re buying a place in Auckland, and council valuations are more often than not just a starting indication – places sell for well over those prices.

Auckland is pretty sprawling, but I’ll be focusing here on the inner city suburbs surrounding the CBD, as well as the CBD itself – roughly within the Outer City Link bus route. This provides a better reflection of the areas where people most want to live. (We don’t really delineate between ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘suburb’ here, certainly not as clearly as some of you might be used to.) According to Google Maps, this area is within about 10km of the CBD.

auckland

$250,000

In the CBD, you’ll get a 1, maybe 2 bedroom apartment. The nicer ones might be 50 sq m with one bedroom; the more cramped ones 40 sq m with 2 bedrooms. (There is a listing – that I will not dignify with a link – for a 3 bedroom apartment crammed into less than 50 sq m … that’s half of what a 3 bedroom dwelling should cover.) A carpark is a maybe at this price. Here is a reasonably typical example.

You might find the odd apartment in the fringe suburbs – there aren’t many of those (less than 10 at this very moment, one with ‘weathertightness’ issues). At this price point they’d be 1 bedroom.

$500,000

This would get you a somewhat decent apartment, with carpark even, in the CBD or surrounds. Like this.

In the inner suburbs $500k will barely stretch to a small , 1-2 bedroom unit in a block. These most often come in rows of 4. Here’s a typical example, as pictured above.

$750,000

In the CBD, you get a pretty nice, roomy apartment. Maybe this one?

In the inner suburbs, this is still entry-level territory. You’ll get nothing special; houses in this bracket might even still be do-ups that need work.  Example here.

$1,000,000

There are about five CBD apartments listed in this price bracket (but yes, they are lovely).

In the inner suburbs, it’ll get you a classic 3 bedroom bungalow or villa (here’s a do-up, and here’s a renovated one), or a newer build house. Or a condemned hovel on some prime land.

Why not rent instead?

Alas, while renting might be cheaper, it might literally kill you. The standard of rental housing here is ridiculously low. See my most recent rants here, here and here.

REAL ESTATE COMPARISON IN OTHER CITIES

CANADA

U.S.A.

Link love (Powered by all the feelings)

nzmuse link love roundup

Oh hi there. I feel a bit naked after that epic vent earlier this week (which was extremely cathartic, and thank you for lending your ears). I hate uncertainty and I hate the feeling of the future slipping further away with every day that the status quo continues.

Normally I consider myself pretty good at coping with pressure/stress. When I went on sabbatical to travel last year they went through not 1, not 2, but 3 replacements for me, so I swear I am not an incompetent petal. But apparently I don’t do so great when it’s to do with my personal life, and obviously I am just at my limit. Proof: I teared up at work when I saw this in my tweet stream this week. I don’t even know why.

Tomorrow is T’s birthday. Like mine, it’s inevitably going to be a massive step down after the past two years (New York and a South Island road trip), coupled with the current situation. But it is what it is.

Also, there was a death in his family this week. When it rains, it pours…. The funeral was a strange occasion – too many cigarettes and mullets, not enough shoes or parental control (kids running around grabbing flowers and toys off random graves?! Nuh uh) but at the end, there was hangi and the best damn raw fish salad I’ve ever had. And it provided a bit of perspective, too.

This week’s links

A couple of takes on whistling and catcalling (which annoy me no end) – A flowchart and some thoughts on how privilege plays into this

Nomad Wallet ponders whether taking sabbaticals to travel is worth it

At Thought Catalog, Nomadic Matt reminds us that the grass is never greener on the other side

Jezebel on dating up and dating down. Insightful comments going on, too

Tonya on drawing the line between things that are hard but worthy, and things you just don’t want to pursue anymore

What are you REALLY seeking at work? Via Seth Godin

Stephany on being a highly sensitive person

A budget travel guide to the Maldives, from Never Ending Footsteps

A tale to tell for years to come: The best time I thought I was going to die in the Italian woods (took me right back to those sweaty, stressful, halcyon days navigating trains in Italy)

The ultimate guide to baking cookies. No joke

At the Vulture: Debating the merits of Rory Gilmore’s boyfriends. Just because

A non-exhaustive list of things that scare me about parenting

A list of things that scare me about parenting

Jezebel is pretty hit and miss, but sometimes they really knock it out of the park. Like with this headline:

We Need To Talk About Women Who Regret Motherhood

I can take or leave kids, personally, but I have a partner who wants them, so kids are in the plan. On a scale of one to baby fever, though, I’m definitely wayyy down on the ‘terrified’ end of the spectrum.

In so many ways, I’m not cut out for it

I don’t know how to ‘play’
This comment on the Jezebel piece sums me up nicely:

Playing with my kids was always so hard for me. I remember trying to play barbies with my 3 year old once.

Me (holding barbie): “Hello, how are you?”
Her (holding her barbie): “Well I’m doing alright.”
Me: “…”
Her: “I don’t want to play with you anymore, where’s dad?”

I hate answering questions
And kids do nothing but ask questions all day long. Usually stupid ones.

I don’t have an ear for kid ‘frequency’
It’s like they operate on another wavelength. Whatever they say comes out sounding like a high pitched mumble to me

I need a LOT of sleep
I inherited that from my mother.

There are so many things I’m scared of (some shallow, some serious)

I’m scared my kids won’t love books
This comment on The Toast is almost literally true for me:

One of the many, many reasons I am averse to having kids is the possibility that they will not enjoy reading and I will have to kill them and try again.

I’m scared my kids will be picky eaters
Like my brother was, and is. All through our childhood, he never ate the same things the rest of us did.

I’m scared my kids will be stupid
Guess there’s a bit of a tiger parent in me buried deep down? Average, I can accept. Dim, that would be a hard swallow, especially if they had a smarter sibling. I’ve seen so many cases of bright siblings overshadowing a slower one. I don’t trust myself to navigate that kind of thing well.

I’m scared my kids will be really needy
I was a pretty self sufficient child. Entertained myself with books and writing. Never asked for things. Wouldn’t tell my parents when I was super lonely after we moved, certain they wouldn’t understand (school is for learning, not making friends). Clinginess is alien to me.

I’m scared my kids will just be bad eggs
I honestly believe sometimes nature > nurture.

These are my confessions. Maybe I sound like Cruella De Ville. But I’m not gonna lie – this is what’s going on inside my head.

In Notes From A Future Shitbag Mother, the Hairpin’s Alana Massey writes:

It is a tired cliché that insults the childfree to say that parenting is the most important job in the world, but it is the most permanent one. I am paralyzed by the fear that my inadequate handling of the job will spill across generations, poisoning lives that never even had to be. I must consider how willing I am to leave behind traces of myself in a world that I feel I have already disappointed quite sufficiently.

Like Massey, I’ve considered and acknowledged all my fears and come out still knowing that this is a path I’m willing to go down. For me, thinking and talking about these fears is a healthy thing. Personally, I think I’d be crazy to NOT have any doubts about something this big.

I’m sure I’ll be a decent parent one day. Or least, I’m confident I won’t be the worst parent ever. Daunting prospect, though.

Learning to let go

learning to let go of worries

I don’t like to throw around the word depression lightly. But the last couple of weeks have seen me at my lowest point in a long, long time.

There’s been fatigue, trouble sleeping, nightmares, an MIA period, tears and eventually, that’s bubbled up into conscious stress. I’m basically walking an emotional tightrope.

In search of peace and a good night’s sleep, I’ve been doing my best to let go and give up worrying about things that are outside my locus of control.

The job situation

I cannot control if/when T gets work. It’s as simple as that. I need to minimise fruitless dwelling on this, because it’s unproductive.

The house situation

I cannot control what the market does. How fast prices or rents rise. What rules the government/banks decide or don’t decide to impose on buyers. What the government does, or doesn’t do, about rental housing standards. How much competition there is for housing here – renting or buying.

I need to stop stalking real estate listings online. It does no good. It makes me depressed because we cannot afford to buy anything and we cannot afford to rent a good place – certainly not on one income as we are. And until I totally give up hope of ever buying, it’s imperative to keep rent cheap.

I stupidly got my hopes up last week. It was all sorts of rare: a private rental, so no agent fee; viewings at lunchtime but ALSO after work hours; a bit more than we really wanted to pay, but it looked so good we went along to the first evening viewing. It was nice but not enough to make the rent increase worth it, and there was already a FAT stack of completed rental applications on the counter anyway.

The car situation

I cannot control how long our car lasts or what else goes wrong with it.

Fun fact – it was totally brake-less for a while a few weeks ago. Thankfully that is now fixed, but there were already a million other issues and it just keeps deteriorating. Another fun fact: after maybe 4 years of owning it, we just found out that the engine was replaced at some point – a 2001-or-later engine sitting in a 1998 car. This explains why every time we’ve had to get parts for it or get anything done to the engine, it’s been a massive clusterfuck.

The conundrum, of course, is T needs a reliable car for work purposes but needs work to afford a car. We’re just going to have to wait until he’s back in work – no way am I draining cash savings for a vehicle. We were previously planning to get a loan for a decent car – I was waiting until he passed the trial period at work and had job security – but that situation turned toxic  and screwed up the timeline on that plan.

What else is bugging me? That T stupidly came off his motorbike last week and scraped himself up something terrible – basically nixing any hope of immediate temp work and saddling me with the housework on top of earning a crust to support the two of us. That we’re still waiting on about $250 in reimbursements from that toxic ex-job of his. That we have at least another three years of a government that doesn’t give a toss about renters. That I’m literally feeling a constant weight on my chest – my sternum – making it hard to breathe (whether this is a symptom of stress or just the cold – spring made a brief appearance then disappeared – I don’t know). That I didn’t fall in love with a millionaire. KIDDING. Still have a sense of humour.

I don’t like dwelling on this kind of stuff. I don’t want pity. I hate when people with a die-hard victim mentality go online just to bitch and moan and refuse to make any effort to help themselves.

I’m also conscious that I don’t want to paint NZ in broad brushstrokes – it’s a mild, clean, safe and beautiful place, and as one of the few NZ bloggers I know of, I want to represent my country fairly. But as you already know, it’s not cheap. And the state of housing is especially dreadful – I think it’s our biggest shame. Luckily for you, though, I think I’m almost all blogged out on that topic.

I’ll probably regret publishing this, but it’s been cathartic. I’d even venture to say it’s helped me let go of things.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

I’m trying to focus on the good things. I’m earning more than I ever have before, even if I’m not seeing the actual bottom line benefits of that at the moment. Since T missed out on a good job that would’ve taken up all his weekends, at least we’ll be able to get outdoors in the weekends this summer and do stuff. And food, as always, is a guaranteed pick-me-up; the best 50 cents I’ve spent recently was on upgrading to a croissant roll with chicken and avocado, rather than a plain bread roll. When in doubt, eat, and make hay while your metabolism is still on your side. Mixed metaphors FTW.

Any advice on letting go of worries?

Link love (Powered by granola and an election)

nzmuse link love roundup

Spotify Friday is now a thing at the office. It’s awesome.

Since I never listen to the radio, I never really know what’s new, or who sings what.

This is a song I would 100 percent have said was local – it has a pretty kiwi vibe and sound. But no. Nice one Canada!

This time last year: We were in Iceland! (Where I felt right at home, if only it wasn’t so cold…) Now, I’m off to vote.

This week’s links

Great minds

Just the other day I blogged about communicating and the futility of forcing anything on others. This week Jess Lively wrote about how trying to control people doesn’t work

Rachel Hills and I have been blogging for almost the same amount of time. And this week we both reflected on the journey (here’s mine)

Earlier this week I wrote about toxic bosses; here’s a handy LinkedIn post about how to deal with destructive workplaces

The best of the rest

Musical Poem reflects on growing up biracial

Oldie, but new to me – Mark Manson’s 6 healthy relationship habits

Neurotic Workaholic lists out the things she wishes she was brave enough to say

Reassurance over at Stratejoy: For now, you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing

Why you should give up on being the best, at The Broke and Beautiful Life

Add Vodka asks: what goals have you talked yourself out of lately?

How to actually change your habits, at A Life Less Bullshit

Some little changes to make life more interesting, at Yes and Yes

Lots of deep ponderings, I know. Happy weekends!

Toxic bosses and trial periods

Bad bosses and nightmare workplaces

How many bad bosses are out there? I’m starting to wonder if they aren’t the majority rather than the exception, after two particularly bad apples in a row for T. Both seemed like great opportunities to start with, but the rot eventually became apparent. And both ended abruptly, thanks to the 90-day trial period rule brought in three years ago.

The slash and burn

An established industry name, it was talked up as a place with great potential where high achievers would be rewarded. While T was new to the industry, he quickly took to it; all the other team members said so and the big boss (as in, the one the company is named after) took note, publicly praising him.

A couple of months in, he and the other newbie got their marching orders. We don’t know about the other new guy, but T had never had any negative feedback at all, so this was completely unexpected. Being still within the 90-day period, the company didn’t have to give a reason for letting them go. (While it shouldn’t have any bearing on the matter at all, I’ll add that just before this, T injured his leg on a day off and wound up being off work for a week – hobbling around on crutches isn’t really conducive to the kind of job where you’re on your feet all day and interacting with customers. The week after was when he and the other guy got let go.)

In the following months, the company kept recruiting for entry level staff – and eventually, for an assistant manager. Thanks to the guys there who he’d kept in contact with, we learned that all the remaining staff quit in quick succession, and heard that managers got demoted due to the indeterminate firings they’d carried out.

Lesson learned: Unclear. Never sprain your ankle during the first 90 days?

 

The Jekyll/Hide boss

It was a small and new, growing company, almost all fresh staff, seemingly good prospects. However, a few weeks in it became clear there was little regard for customers (y’know, the lifeblood of any business), a lack of support and a temperamental boss. Out of the blue, he suddenly seemed to turn on T, and overnight T could do nothing right whatsoever – the badmouthing done behind his back to other staff was unbelieveable. Our best reading of this situation: a boss who picks out a golden boy to take under his wing, but if you fall out of his good graces at any point, you are OUT for good. He also treated other staff poorly, and the newest hire of all (newer than T) quit after just a couple of weeks. A few weeks and a lot of mental stress later, we decided T needed to follow suit – this was about 2 months in.

In this case, I suppose we benefited in that under the 90-day rules he could quit right away rather than giving 2 weeks’ notice – but the reason for quitting in the first place was a real fear that he was going to be pushed out (IMO, jumping is much preferable to being forced out). That’s how bad it was – how much the situation had deteriorated. Under these rules he could be let go at any time for no reason, as we already knew – no warnings or notice needed. If it wasn’t for that, we would have stuck it out until he found a new job.

Lesson learned: Unclear. Be nothing but an absolute doormat/yesman during the first 90 days?

I don’t have a problem with the 90-day rule; I absolutely understand the rationale for it. Theoretically nobody would abuse it as the cost/hassle of recruiting and training should be a huge deterrent. But as we all know, logic does not always reign supreme, even in the free market. (Hence why we badly need some legal standards around rental housing – case in point.) Especially in small companies with no HR – which are also the companies that most need this legislation – there’s so much potential for this kind of thing to happen unchecked. Oh, the irony.

The happiest way to spin this, of course, is to say it worked out and he’s well rid of them – better off out of those places. I’m really keen for him to temp until a genuinely good job comes along (a third short-term stint will look dire) and hopefully we are a bit better equipped to tell the difference.

Got any bad boss/nightmare workplace war stories?

Three things I’m grateful for right now

 

So, here’s the reason I’ve been feeling down in the dumps lately. We made a decision that T would leave his job with nothing lined up (a first for us and an extreme move, yes – a topic for a separate, upcoming post).

That’s put us back to one income. We are definitely not living for today OR saving for tomorrow. Thus = unhappy me.

Rather than run down the street screaming, as I felt like doing at one recent low point, I thought I’d focus on the few things I’m currently grateful for.

(And I’m going to bite the bullet and book in a haircut – I’d been putting it off until he got back to work, but that is just ridiculous considering my haircuts are $30.)

Interest rates are on the rise

I’m currently earning 2.75% in my online savings account with my main bank, and 3.40% in my other savings account with my online-only bank.

Cheap rent

When we were searching for a place after returning to NZ, we were a one-income household. Not knowing when T would find work, it was important we live somewhere that I could afford alone. Since he’s been out of work for about half of this year, this has proven a good move, even if this place is like a deep freezer in winter. Low absolute rent also means it will be easier for us to save for a down payment … at some point.

Our rent is going up $20 a week next month, which I’m not happy about, but I’ve already been watching listings and there isn’t a lot of choice out there. We have a fantastic location and while it’s freezing and we don’t have a full kitchen, at least it’s not damp. Summer will be okay here and I think I can survive one more winter. Beyond that, we will either be on track to buying and decide to stick it out a bit longer, or give up on ever buying and fork out for a decent rental (whether agents/landlords will deign to choose us as tenants is the other hurdle, of course).

Side income

Being down to one income has meant more or less giving up on saving during this period. Yay for side income, which goes into my higher interest online savings account/mutual funds and stays there.

What are you feeling grateful for today?

Six things I’ve learned in six years of blogging

NZMuse - Blogging lessons learned

As of this month, I’ve been chronicling my life here for six years. Unbelieveable.

Since I missed the big five-year mark, being off gallivanting somewhere in Europe last year, I’ll have to make up for it now.

Here are the biggest things I’ve learned.

It’s all about me

It’s the rawest and most honest posts that seem to resonate.

Guest posts and posts where I get a bit more journalistic just don’t get the same response.

It makes sense – if I think about all the blogs I currently read, the reason I continue to subscribe is because I feel a connection to the blogger. This is why I read very few blogs that use staff writers (and usually skim over the staff posts in favour of the posts by the original writer). I promise I will never hire staff writers.

Ultimately, the only thing you have to set you apart online is yourself - your viewpoint, your writing, your voice.

It’s hard to know how much to reveal

Walking that fine line is something anyone who writes for public consumption faces.

As I’ve become less anonymous, finding that balance has become even harder. I want to be as honest as possible, but within reason. Although I don’t share my blog with many people IRL, my rough benchmark is ‘would I mind if my family/closest friends read this?’ and that helps guide me.

I will happily talk to anyone, online or offline, stranger or friend, about how I spend and save. I probably wouldn’t share my income or net worth. I might not want to disclose the details if I was going through a rough time personally but I might allude to them or talk about how I’m coping (or not). Struggles with relationships and career/work, I find, are the toughest to navigate.

Go self-hosted early

I wish I’d made the switch to self-hosted blogging earlier. (Check out some options for domains and hosting.) Mainly for selfish reasons, to be honest with you: I could have made a lot more money.

But it’s also encouraged me to take my writing here more seriously. I almost don’t even count those first couple of years of blogging. These days, I usually work on draft posts for awhile and preschedule them – often continuing to make tweaks before and even just after go-live.

Don’t sell out

Doesn’t this directly contradict that last point, you ask? Well, like with most things, it’s all about balance. I’m not principled enough to eschew commercialism entirely. In going self-hosted, I wanted to be confident I would at least make enough to cover the costs involved.

That doesn’t mean jumping at every opportunity, though. I had a phase where I ran a ton of crappy (paid) guest posts, and that accounted for a reasonable proportion of the money I earned online while travelling full-time last year. I tried to edit to higher standards and put my own spin on them with a personalised intro, but ultimately I was no longer comfortable playing that game. It was a weird and totally conflicting dynamic at play: Advertisers essentially wanted to piggyback off your blog’s SEO juice, but in allowing them to do so you put that hard-earned built-up SEO goodness – the very thing advertisers are paying you for – at risk. And since I was working in mainstream media (which of course is playing its own game with sponsored content and struggling to define boundaries) I felt extremely suspect doing this kind of thing on my personal site.

Suffice to say my standards are now a lot higher. I want to be proud of everything I run here.

Do not obsess over stats

I go through ebbs and flows – currently I’m in a phase where I feel compelled to check in on my traffic every few hours. This is unhealthy and I know it!

I’m used to running larger, non-personal sites and constantly monitoring analytics, because that kind of data informs what we do. I don’t want to do the same here.

I don’t have the huge numbers that some other bloggers do, and while sometimes that bums me out, ultimately, I’m much more interested in quality, not quantity.

Don’t force it

When it comes to blogging, I go through bursts and spurts of inspiration. Often I’ll realise I’ve almost run out of posts, but it always works out. Forcing ideas never works!