Talking about money – sometimes other people will surprise you

What is 'real' savings anyway?

I love talking about money. I mean, you already know that, but in real life it’s even more awesome.

Asians don’t shy away from money talk, but I was always raised to remember that it’s a taboo topic in wider society here.

And so, I’ve been ridiculously stoked to be part of honest conversations with various colleagues about money over the past year or two.

Day to day we talk about the cost of housing, cars, travel. But pay is always a sensitive area, and one I’ve never felt safe broaching unless it’s around the time that I’m leaving that job – just before, or just after.

Every time it’s started with general discussions, tiptoeing around the subject and talking in percentages or just very vaguely. And then, the other person has come out with a number first. (Cue reciprocity.)

I’ve been surprised at how happy others are to disclose numbers, but in a good way – more transparency FTW.

Also, two thumbs up for the rad female bosses I’ve had who have encouraged me to negotiate pay.

Shameless plug: Next week is NZ Money Week, a campaign that I’ve been involved with through work. There’s a number of events – workshops, seminars – happening around the country (see and if you take this quick quiz you can enter to win a Les Mills gym membership plus some time with an authorised financial adviser. 

Wednesday Wanderlust: Places I’d rather be…

What I REALLY would love right now is to get away and be spoiled, somewhere luxurious like…

Minaret Station

Much as I love the city, I also really need space around me (hence, living in the burbs). I quite like the sound of escaping into the Southern Alps to a chalet accessible only by helicopter.

eagle's nest

Eagle’s Nest

Russell is a sweet little spot in the Bay of Islands and Eagle’s Nest is probably the ultimate place to stay. Infinity pool, Jacuzzi, personal chefs and spa therapists – yes please.

the farm at cape kidnappers

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers

Hawke’s Bay is one region I haven’t really explored (but would like to). As well as all the usual luxuries, I love the sound of the amazing food – straight from the veggie garden, inhouse pastry chef and local meat and seafood.

When was your last holiday?

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As tagged by Revanche.

  1. What’s the best thing you’ve purchased or been given in the past six months?

New handbag. SO overdue.

  1. What’s your favorite snack? (No one gets to say fruit.)

But I love (some) fruit! Probably not my favorite, though. Honey roasted peanuts, then. Or any form of chips.

  1. What form of exercise do you hate the most. (“All” is a perfectly acceptable answer.)

Let’s go with all. Particularly any form that involves equipment/machinery.

  1. If you could afford/manage to live anywhere, where would it be?

Right where I am, only owning instead. (A crash pad in NYC wouldn’t go astray, either.)

  1. What’s the geekiest hobby or pastime you have?

I don’t know, tracking my money?

This week’s links

An astute blogger recently noted that she knows of no couples with a female breadwinner that are 100% okay/happy/comfortable with that. And with the recent implosion of the only other couples I know who also fall in this category … well, this piece on the dilemma of the powerful woman resonated

We can’t afford to buy in our cities; that doesn’t make us entitled millennials

Such wise words by a commenter on this piece about knowing when to quit: “There are 3 components of our careers, the work we do, the people we work with, and the money we make. We need to be happy with the majority of these things. ”

Lots of good stuff to dig into in this series on the future of work

Sometimes it’s nice to have nice things

It’s okay to love money

Storytelling vs staging your life (on social media)

I’m too old for wayyy too many things

Financial stress: my least favourite kind of monster

Arm wrestling - money woesArm wrestling - money woes

“Money comes and money goes,” a friend observed the other day, in conversation about our marital woes.

Indeed. It’s frightening to think about how much money actually flows in and out of our bank accounts. The monthly graphs my online banking generates for me throws this into stark relief.

It’s particularly frustrating when it’s coming and going (particularly going) beyond your control. This may not jive with the bootstrapping and responsibility the PF world loves to tout, but there are times in life when you simply have to deal with what you’ve got.

I was at a digital marketing seminar the other day and one thing that really stuck with me was the idea that we have to give up on expecting to control everything. That these days it’s more likely at any one point in time we are more likely to wind up going backwards rather than forwards. Obviously that was in a marketing context, but it’s just as true in our financial lives – heck in our lives, full stop. The changing nature of employment and the economy has seen to that.

It’s really hard to stay motivated when that happens. Why work so hard? What’s the point?

Sometimes being a grown up sucks.

Both Lauren and Jordann just blogged about dealing with financial stress. They’ve got some good advice.

I’m trying to:

Eat decently. I used to be a hardcore emotional eater (HAVE FEELINGS, EAT ALL THE THINGS) but it’s been a few years. Now I tend to lose my appetite when stressed.

Talk to people. It blows to talk about depressing things, but it’s worse to bottle them up.

Have little indulgences. Much-needed new work shoes, underwear and headphones are perking up daily life SO much. Small expenditures, well worth it.

Anyone else in a bit of a financial funk right now?

Just say it.

No woman is an island

Last week I came out and said something that had been bubbling away in my mind for weeks.

It was the kind of thing I didn’t really think should be said, not just yet, but maybe in some ways, it did.

I’ve been doing this a lot more lately – coming right out with stuff. Uncomfortable stuff. And amazingly, the world isn’t ending.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that nobody else can understand and nobody else is going through the same thing.

It’s so easy to retreat and hide. I spent most of 2014 avoiding people.
When my life was falling apart and there was no light at the end of the tunnel I couldn’t handle it – when everyone else’s lives were going much better I couldn’t swallow the jealousy. Pain is isolating. And it’s difficult to think that when I was wrapped up in my own struggles, friends were quietly going through their own heartbreaks. We’re all coming out the other side  and bringing it all into the light.

(It’s really nice to not feel that way anymore. I know I can’t just hold it all inside again, because I will implode. It didn’t work then and it most certainly won’t work now.)

None of us can say our lives are what we thought they would be at this age. And as young women from Asian backgrounds, I think that’s in many ways extra hard to cope with and to admit.

But it feels good to let stuff out. It’s the only way.

Things I want but just can’t have

Currently coveting...
By: Thomas Rousing

I would pay good money to get some stability in my life. Unfortunately, some things you just can’t buy. And the universe seems to enjoy pissing on me lately.

There’s some things you CAN buy though – or at least, that you should be able to. But I cannot find these anywhere in Auckland either!

Banh mi

Latest letdown: Viet Sandwich. I know there are still a couple more banh mi spots I haven’t hit up yet, but to be honest, I’ve hit all the ‘top’ ones that have been most recommended. With the closure of Mi Vietnamese, District 5 is probably my pick of the bunch right now.

Napoli pizza

Quite frankly, Sette Bello is just about as good as Dante’s (which in turn isn’t quite meeting my standards) and is both cheaper and more convenient to boot.


Big, fat, juicy American burritos. Augh. Mad Mex gets pretty close, I suppose (but you need to pick the right filling). Everyone raves about Flying Burrito Brothers, but I went there on the weekend of my birthday and it was bland and expensive.

Black cardigan

I just want a nice, fitted, plain black cardi. Slim, not chunky. Not made of acrylic or polyester or other nasty crap. No frills, no fuss. Apparently this is asking too much. These cardis just aren’t in this season?

Black flats

Pretty much the same story here. I mean, there are some options, but I think it’s outrageous to charge close to $100 for a pair of ballet flats that aren’t even leather. The prices in NZ!

So that’s my Wednesday whinge. Feel free to get stuff off your chest too.

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Just a wee gem of relationship advice I came across recently that I wanted to share…

(Paraphrasing here:)

If the current trouble/conflict/problem were to immediately resolve itself, would you then still want to leave at that point?

Such clarity, it made me cry.

This week’s links

Most of this is going over my head. But lots of smart people in the comments discussing house prices and the NZ situation.

Things I won’t be telling my future kids

Lessons learned from a breakup

Musings on money and marriage

A financial gut check

Why some people seem to have it all

Advice for people in their 20s

Don’t let your resume be a roadblock to your career

Navigating friendships as your finances change

#BlogGreatness: Counting down to Japan

By: Moyan Brenn

One month (God willing) until we leave for Japan!

I am desperately in need of some R&R. To be honest, it’s probably going to be a pretty full-on trip.

We are there for a week – the plan is to spend most of it in Tokyo, but also get away for an overnight trip to Kyoto and Osaka. (Because fooooood.)

I’ve already built a Google food map, so I’ve got a fair few places to look for – while also leaving room to explore and discover random gems along the way. Nothing worse than the frustration of spending ages hunting for a restaurant, particularly if it winds up being fruitless.

What I DO need advice on is the following!

Phones – sim cards/wifi and data

Should we get a pocket wifi doohickey? Or look into a sim card with data? I am positive we’ll want to be able to get online in Japan to look things up and get directions. Remember we’re in NZ and roaming charges on our own telcos are exorbitant.

Sumo tickets

We’re hoping to catch a sumo match (or at least, T is). Tickets go on sale next week, so fingers crossed! That will determine our final itinerary. I’m leaning towards buying normal chair seats, which I think will be not only cheaper but more comfortable for us. He’s far too large to enjoy the traditional box seats, I suspect. And yes, we could line up for cheap tickets on the morning of the match … but time is the more precious commodity on this trip. Anyone care to comment on box vs chair seating?


One non-food thing on the agenda is staying in a ryokan. Originally I thought we’d do this in Kyoto but I’ve got a recommendation for one in Tokyo that sounds pretty good. Thoughts?

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So much going on that I just can’t write about right now.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This week’s links

FUCK YES to everything in this Modern Love piece on marriage

The struggle for self-acceptance

Things you don’t anticipate about being a stay-home parent

Dealing with financial stress

Emotional reward doesn’t pay the bills

The things you want in life will happen at their own pace

Your life is an occasion – rise to it

The photobook wars

Mission: Sort out our digital photos


Much as I try, I am not a naturally organised person. Over the years my photo storage system – or lack thereof – has gotten OUT OF CONTROL. I’ve got pics in Dropbox, on the laptop, on Facebook, on an SD card, on a USB stick … all over the place, really.

So when I finally decided it was time to do something about our wedding photos (2 years on…) I figured might as well tackle the whole shebang. Particularly those pesky travel pics, which I really wanted some tangible copies of.

As a result, I’ve been on a bit of a photobooking spree, and tried a few different companies in the process. Here are my thoughts…


I spent ages researching photobook makers renowned for their quality and that would ship to NZ. I was willing to fork out a bit for our wedding album, and MyPublisher seemed to fit the bill.

I actually quite liked the software, from the layouts to the ability to organise your photos in a particular order (though that particular drag and drop function was finicky and frustrating).

But the dealbreaker was that it’s not web-based and, uh, didn’t actually work for me. I downloaded the programme, spent ages creating my album, and then when I went to place my order – crickets. It just wouldn’t connect to the site (or something). I checked the FAQs and Googled, but couldn’t find a fix that worked. So I gave up.


Then it was back to the drawing board. This time around I signed up to try Mixbook. I went for a lay-flat photobook, with thick cardstock pages.

Mixbook’s software is web-based, with a fairly clean design and is simple enough to use. Definitely a fan.

The downside was that when my book arrived, there were 2 small ink dots on one of the pages. I would have let it go, except this was my wedding album! I wanted perfection! So I emailed and asked nicely if anything could be done about it. Lo and behold, they made another and sent me a perfect copy. Yay for American-style customer service.  Five stars for Mixbook (and their cute software that let me rate their response by clicking on a smiley face in the CSR’s email signature).


Then it was time to make some travel photo books, which I wasn’t willing to spend as much on. Shutterfly is US-based, so shipping is ouchies. But I got a free book courtesy of Revanche, so gave them a go (free book but paid shipping wound up costing about the same as a local Snapfish book – more on that later).

Shutterfly’s got a pretty clean interface, and I liked  that you could simply hover over a photo for an enlarged view.

That said, I found it unintuitively difficult to resize photo boxes (I had to google this) and the popup menu for editing an already-placed photo did not fit my screen. (Scrolling within lightboxes is a PITA.)

The physical quality of the books is pretty impressive; they feel well made and include a lovely waffle-textured page as the first and last.


Snapfish has a local operation, so it wins out in terms of cost and shipping time.

That said, it’s probably my least favourite site to use for actually making photobooks.

I found the interface cluttered and overwhelming. It’s nearly impossible to find a nice plain theme if you just want your photos to shine and be the focus. I couldn’t seem to nudge using arrow keys and their guidelines/snap rules are pretty basic. And the settings didn’t seem to save across different login sessions (eg, I like the side frame to hide photos that I’ve already used or removed).

Quality wise, the first book that arrived had the inside cover bubbling up a bit as if it was damp or not glued together properly. That felt cheap and looked sloppy. (My flatmate who also has a Snapfish book had the same issue.) The next 2 books were fine, though.

Photo prints

Both Snapfish and Shutterfly offer 50 free prints when you sign up, so I took the opportunity to get some wedding prints and compare quality.

Shutterfly’s prints came out a little light, and lower contrast. Probably more natural is fair to say. Snapfish’s prints were high contrast, with very dark blacks. I wasn’t blown away by either.

To be honest, I prefer the prints I got done at Warehouse Stationery, of all places. I liked these the best – strong clear colours, natural looking skin tones, not too dark or too light.

Honestly, while I think photobooks are pretty cool, I feel like the quality just doesn’t match up to normal prints. From a design perspective they’re nifty, but there’s definitely something still to old school albums. All said and done, though, the convenience of photobooking is a huge factor.

What have your forays into photobooking been like?