Tag Archives: money

Call me mercenary, but…

More money, more options

There’s no nobility in poverty.

No romance in being broke.

No joy in struggle.

I really really really like being able to afford to:

  • Heat my home
  • Visit the dentist
  • Eat dinner out
  • Wear real leather
  • Buy 3-ply TP
  • Donate to charity

Call me mercenary, but in my life, money has directly correlated to quality of life and happiness without exception.

Literally every area of my life has improved thanks to money. Not saying I’m on a never-ending chase for more above everything else (especially since I hit the so-called ideal salary for happiness) but earning more is certainly a goal. As long as I can grow my income while maintaining enjoyment in what I do, why wouldn’t I?

Fewer dollars = fewer options. Life has only gotten easier as my income increased.

I eat better. I am healthier (because I live in a house that isn’t damp and cold). I have a reliable vehicle. Pets. I’m a hell of a lot less stressed and feel less vulnerable to the bottom falling out of my life.

When you’re going through a period of life that’s defined by scarcity, it’s incredibly stressful. You’re panicked and constantly worried, living on the edge. You make poorer decisions because you’re just not in the best frame of mind and/or have fewer choices available to you. You simply don’t think about the long term future because you have to focus on getting through today, tomorrow and maybe next week. How can you possibly think about retirement when you lack decent housing today?

Whatever the reasons for money being tight (and they can be oh-so-complex – acute, chronic, unfortunate, deliberate) the outcome is the same. And in the moment, that’s all that matters.

Money stress has a way of keeping you up at night, not to mention tainting your waking hours with its sneaky way of spilling into every moment. 

The first day in 2016 that I felt truly free from financial stress – for the first time in, oh, just about a full year – was amazing. There are no words for the lightness that brings.

I’ve spent far too much time in misery for lack of money. On the other hand, I’ve never been miserable with money.

I cannot relate to the ‘broke but happy’ brigade. YMMV.

I’ve lived through times where I’ve had enough, and times without enough – and I’d take the money every single time.

Link love (the fees-will-get-you-every-time edition)

NZ Muse link love roundup

Indulge me, if you will!

I remember the first time I learned that banks could charge you for the privilege of holding your money, when my ex’s mother spoke about the $10 monthly fee on her day-to-day account.

More recently, I got to hear about some of the stuff that regulators are involved in within the consumer protection space. Changes to the law last year put a much bigger onus on lenders to disclose, disclose, disclose – to be upfront about fees and costs associated with credit contracts, as well as be more responsible and ethical about how and who to lend to. Noncompliance can apparently result in borrowers not being liable for fees/interest if lenders don’t play by the rules. And one finance company has been caught out charging excessive and irrelevant fees – eg high loan establishment fees due to building in overheads beyond the scope of any work involved with actually setting up a loan. The view is that lenders shouldn’t be making huge profits off these kinds of fees, to which I say amen.

Another much more mainstream topic of late has been KiwiSaver fees. On average KiwiSaver fees are 1.3% per annum and now that the scheme has been going for a few years, balances are getting higher and thus providers are getting an ever-bigger cut each year. There’s a new provider, Simplicity KiwiSaver, launching soon that will be totally passive – the international part will be handled through Vanguard. Given that I might be paying up to $40k in KiwiSaver fees over my lifetime, I’ll be keeping an eye on this to see if it’s worth switching. Maybe other KiwiSaver providers will up their game and sharpen up.

This week’s links

Still not quite sure how to answer this: What are you proud of?

The best financial advice

What’s harder: saving or repaying debt?

8 financial commandments

Finally, I’m feeling this post on first home ownership so hard right now.

What I believe about money

3 things I believe about money

I spend a lot of time thinking about money, between work and my own personal interests neuroses. Here are some conclusions I’ve recently reached.

I don’t believe in hopes and wishesBut I do believe in setting your sights on a target. 

I work at the exact organisation I once imagined would be an ideal place for me, in a newly created role that perfectly suits my skill set, at the salary I was determined to reach.

There’s something to be said for knowing where you want to go – how else will you be able to get there?

I believe in plans. But I also believe in taking little leaps of faith.

The two biggest financial decisions I’ve ever made – taking a six month leave to travel, buying a house – were not airtight. The general plans were pretty rock solid; I’d been working toward them for awhile.

But I didn’t have quite enough saved by the time we left the country. I was pretty confident I could make it up while freelancing on the road (and I did, almost to the dollar…) and at the worst, I knew I had a job to come back to.

And in many ways I bought a house at the worst time, my accounts having been decimated due to circumstances beyond my control. But I felt secure in my job and was earning a reasonable income, and a down payment that met requirements.

Life is fickle and while we can – and should – do our best to plan and prepare, nothing is ever 100%.

I believe your pay is not necessarily reflective of your worth.  But I believe in negotiating for what you believe you’re worth.

As above, I honestly never thought I’d earn what I’m making now. If I’d stayed in journalism, I wouldn’t be. But out of it, my skills are marketable enough to justify what seem like insane pay rates in comparison. (Not that these go all that far in NZ or Auckland, or impress mortgage brokers, but it’s a huge step up from before.) I look back on the jobs I’ve done and the call centre and hospitality work I once did was so much harder and so poorly compensated.

Whatever you do for work, do it to the best of your ability, and remember that nobody else will fight as hard for your best financial interests.

What do you believe about money?

Disease Called Debt

CYA: Revisiting my insurance coverage

Although insurance isn’t a huge line in my budget, the peace of mind it provides is invaluable. While my car insurance is pretty sussed and doesn’t require much thought, a couple things have got me rethinking some of my other insurance cover.

Contents insurance

I stumbled across a TradeMe thread the other week in which people were discussing how much contents insurance they had. $100k for a three bedroom house seemed to be the consensus. This was my reaction:

WTF?And then I followed one of the links through to a contents insurance calculator and whizzed through quickly. By our standards, their allowances were a teeny bit insane. $7k for two laptops? A $1500 dryer? $4000 of shoes per person? An expensive china cabinet full of antiques? Nuh uh.

I’m not sure we count as minimalist, but we don’t have a ton of stuff realistically and most of it isn’t worth very much.

To be fair, we probably are a little underinsured (I can’t even remember exactly how much cover we currently have) but hopefully come next renewal, we’ll also have redone the kitchen and may as well roll all those changes up at once. Very little we own was obtained new, but I am definitely aware that should we need to replace it all at once it would be expensive. That said, should we lose everything in one fell swoop, we would still replace things gradually in order to get more for the money. It took about 3 months for us to buy a bedroom set after moving in here (dresser and bedside tables).

A kitchen with a dishwasher, a decent fridge, a gas stove and cabinets not from the 1960s will probably add a significant number to the amount we want to be insured for. Still, the annual premium dropped to around $400 when I became a homeowner, so hopefully it will still be pretty affordable even after increasing the coverage and updating the policy accordingly.

Health insurance

Previously I’ve had a bit of a look into private health insurance – where previous employers offered discounts through Southern Cross (my current one does not) and when I needed my wisdom teeth out. And maybe now once again, since a friend is undergoing expensive dental work after an accident which is only partly covered by ACC.

Every time I’ve reached the conclusion that for me it’s a waste of money, my needs are around optical and dental and the cost of policies just don’t stack up against what I would get back. T might benefit from policies that cover physiotherapy, being both accident and injury prone.

What I would give for a comprehensive health insurance comparison site! Maybe this is an instance where an adviser would actually be worth it.

But I suspect this is something I’m going to put aside yet again. Maybe when kids come into the picture (my two bosses who have kids reckon they’ve got their money’s worth and more from health insurance).

When did you last reconsider your insurance coverage?

What to do if you have champagne taste on a beer budget

What to do if you have champagne taste on a beer budget

No judgement if your tastes skew a little more extravagant than your budget indicates. I think most of us know what it’s like to not have everything we want.

It’s an eternal struggle. Our money is limited but the list of things we can potentially do with it is not.

Spend less

The quickest win is to cut expenses where possible. A dollar saved is a dollar earned (and won’t be taxed!). Trimming the budget = instant savings.

For most of us the three biggest expenses are housing, food, and transport. If you can cut down on any (or all!) of these big ticket costs you’ll be saving money every week/fortnight/month on these regular expenses.

While renting I always endeavoured to keep rent as low as possible, but now that I own I’m making extra principal payments with the aim of eliminating the mortgage outright earlier than scheduled. We’re a one-car household, which saves an untold amount of money, and while we could easily spend much more on groceries and eating out (and would love to) we keep it in check as much as possible.

Other recurring categories to look at are all your utilities and subscriptions – internet, phone, power, water, TV, gym, etc. I have a fear of commitment when it comes to these things and have no contracts for any utilities. That said, I do have a Spotify subscription, mainly for music on my commute!

Earn more

Sometimes there’s no way around it – you just need to bring in more money.

The most basic existence in today’s world costs money, and the kind of life you want almost certainly costs more than that.

If you can’t achieve what you want on your income, or at least make progress towards it – even after cutting back and ruthlessly prioritising – you may need to grow your income.

Whether that’s by diversifying your income and making money on the side, learning to negotiate or change jobs to make more, or even retrain and upskill in order to increase your earning potential, there are options.

In my experience this has made the biggest difference. Even when I was first starting out I was constantly side hustling to earn more money to squirrel away for my goals.

Making more has seriously supercharged my ability to get ahead. With that extra money I’ve been able to save and invest, buy a house, stop buying clunker cars. Quite simply, I could not have gotten this while making $40k, because there’s only so far you can trim expenses. I increased my income $15k overnight, and almost $30k in under 2 years – no amount of frugality could have achieved that same impact.

If you want to get right back to basics, the key thing is to spend less than you earn. And thus there are only two ways to improve your financial standing are: spend less and/or earn more.




Disease Called Debt

How much does it cost to get chickens?

Meet Betty White and Helen Mirren #suburbia #chickens

A photo posted by egesther (@egesther) on

I suspect having chickens won’t actually save us money overall (because, uh, I don’t actually buy free range eggs). But it’s fun to have chickens around, and we’ll have truly free range eggs once they start laying.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost of getting set up with chickens.

Buying a chicken coop – $220

Originally we’d planned to build a chicken coop, but after looking at the cost of kitset coops online and the cost of raw materials, we decided to buy one premade. It came in pieces, with (largely incomprehensible) instructions and we put it together ourselves.

The high end ones go for around $500-600; at the budget end, you might find homemade tiny coops for $50. The ones that are around $100 or less on TradeMe are often also billed as being for bunnies, for what it’s worth.

Water dispenser – $12

From the local pet store. We didn’t buy a special feed container; we just use a small metal bowl we already had.

Feed – $15

Our first bag of feed was a small one from the pet shop and didn’t last very long – a week or two? We now buy chicken feed from the supermarket and a $10 bag lasts maybe a month.

Hay – $10

There’s a local-ish lady who specialises in all things rabbit-related. She offers heaps of stuff for small animals, including fresh hay she packages up herself and sells online.

Two chickens – $50

I wanted to get chickens from a nearby farm, but the one I contacted never responded. (Similarly, I still haven’t heard back from a local dog daycare dude who runs a service on his farm around the corner … I want to give you my money, seriously!) So we got our birds from our local pet shop. It has an entire bird barn – this part is bigger than the normal pet store part – so I didn’t feel too bad about this, as it’s actually a specialty of theirs.


We also recently built a big run for them, which cost about $180 in materials (though we didn’t use all of them). For a while we let them run around freely but they seriously crap everywhere and it was getting a bit much. (At one point they were even drinking from the dog bowl, which I found amusing.)

ETA: Right after I published this post, they finally laid their first eggs! Here’s hoping they get the hang of it fast – so far they’re averaging one each every other day.




Money is no substitute for love, but love is no substitute for money either

Love vs money - NZ Muse

You can’t buy love. Spend your way to affection. Substitute stuff for time and attention. Paper over the cracks with lavish offerings.

You can’t live on love. All the love in the world won’t keep you out of debt, secure a stable home, put food on the table.

You need both. Love AND money.

I used to think love was the most important thing ever. The real world has taught me otherwise. Love is not all you need. Love does not conquer all. Love alone, unfortunately, is a poor substitute for the basic necessities in life.

The partners we choose for ourselves play such an integral role in our financial situation. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am today and the choices that got me here.

Where I am today has been shaped by a lot of things beyond my control. But I made choices that set these things in motion. I may not have thought about it or realised it back then but now I have a much better understanding of why I made them.

Even if it’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow, these are the facts. My relationship and circumstances now are a strong reflection of the choices that I’ve made to date.  In trying to escape the shortcomings of my childhood, I gravitated towards certain traits, not realising what the trade-off would be or appreciating the value of what I did have.

I’ve come to terms with my tendencies as an enabler and the impact of this. I’m cognisant of how this has informed my decisions in the past and I know I need to be alert going forward to ensure I don’t make the same mistakes again.

I now know what I need, what I cannot stand for, and have a clear picture of what the balance between love and money should look like in my life.

“The goal of a relationship,” writes John Armstrong, in How To Worry Less About Money, “is that both people flourish together. And because money is a crucial ingredient in flourishing, it is a crucial ingredient in marriage.”

Disease Called Debt

I used to be afraid of debt. Now I understand how to use it to my advantage

USING DEBT TO GET AHEAD

I was super lucky to sidestep the burden of student loans. Thank you, scholarship! I’m getting to the age where a few people are starting to clear their student debt, but I’d say the majority are still paying theirs back.

I’ve always been debt averse. I’ve never really bought anything I couldn’t afford, and have avoided going into consumer debt.

(Granted, I have carried a balance on my credit card during some of the super fun times of unemployment and being down to one income. Paying that interest sucked – they were small balances of a couple grand but still. That shit stressed me out.)

Using debt to get ahead

We paid for all our cars in cash. But unfortunately that never turned out too well for us, because we couldn’t afford very good vehicles.

For this car I took out a loan and paid it down aggressively, eventually pulling from savings to pay it off  in full 9 months in. This saved so much stress and at the end of it we have a reliable paid off car that should have years left in it (touch wood).

And after years of enduring substandard NZ rentals, I have bought a house of my own and am already enjoying the benefits. The peace of mind that comes with the stability of owning is priceless; I am finally able to own a dog; and I’ve noticed my health is better now I have a warmer, drier home environment. This means I can be more productive – not to mention be taken more seriously as a professional when I don’t have a constantly literally dripping nose through winter and sniffles year round.

I don’t expect interest rates to stay this low so I’m directing extra money to the mortgage where I can – early repayments at this stage have a massive impact on the long term total cost.  Reaching retirement with a paid-off home will be a big win.

Going into debt as a calculated move has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’d probably be better off had I done so sooner.

Debt is debt and I still hate it – but money is a tool and debt can be too, done right.

In an ideal world nobody would ever need to borrow money (and we’d have 0% unemployment, poverty, homelessness etc…).

Sadly, that’s not the world we live in – and if we do need to borrow money then the key is to do it wisely.




Share the Wealth Sunday

How I doubled my pay and halved my stress

How I doubled my pay and halved my stress

Since graduating with my degree, I’ve managed to double my pay. Most of that growth has happened in the past couple of years, thanks to two strategic job moves. Here’s the process I went through.

I realised it was time for a change

It’s a long running truism that you don’t go into journalism for the pay. Young, energetic and idealistic, we rushed into the trenches with shining eyes and grand notions.

It’s thankless in those trenches. The work never ends. You’re constantly being forced to do more with less. Media organisations keep cutting back; the whole industry is struggling to find a sustainable model.

I loved my job, but it was tough. When I took a six-month sabbatical, the person covering for me quit after just a few weeks. For what it’s worth, I’d always worked at that pace and this was a bit of an awakening. It really did get me wondering what a normal workload outside of publishing might feel like.

When I started thinking about my next move, I looked around and saw no opportunities in journalism that excited me. Forget advertised positions; even just considering what roles existed and were currently filled, there was nothing that spiked my interest. Nothing I wanted to aspire towards.

And just as importantly, I saw little opportunity to increase my income. I was getting by fine, but in order to get ahead, or to afford a family or a halfway decent place to call home, I had to make a change.

I assessed my transferable skills

I took the skills I had and started applying to jobs outside of publishing. The decline of journalism has led to lots of new opportunities in all kinds of companies – as content marketing grows, editorial talent is in demand on the brand side. (The typical trajectory for ex-journalists is to head into PR or communications, but you could not pay me enough to do media relations.) They need people who can write, understand their audience, and manage digital channels.

How to get a job you love

I researched salaries as best as I could

I talked to people. I looked at salary surveys. I spent time on TradeMe and Seek just playing around with the filters and seeing how the results changed when I altered the salary band in my search parameters. (This works for real estate listings, too. In both cases you typically won’t see a number listed outright but you can use the filters to see when listings disappear from the results and make an assumption about the range based on that.)

I sucked it up and negotiated

Full disclosure: it took me until my fourth job to actually negotiate for the first time.

In Job 1 I was on union pay rates. My hourly rate wasn’t very high. But a few months into the job I accepted a change in duties that had me working weekend shifts. As a result, I actually took home something like 40% more than that every pay day unless I had a weekend off.

In Job 2 I was willing to effectively take a small pay cut for better hours, (though technically my actual base rate was higher).

In Job 3 – my first outside of journalism – I had every intention of negotiating. But the application form asked for a salary range and I was afraid to leave it blank. They offered me more than the figure I wrote down, and more than I would have even dared to expect, to the tune of a 25% effective increase. And so, I didn’t negotiate further. But this was a real eye opener. There was money to be made! My skills were valuable in the marketing world!

In Job 4 I negotiated and received the exact salary I wanted – a 25% increase again. Boom.

In hindsight

Life after journalism is sweet. I’ve been picky about the organisations I apply to and the kind of work I want to do – and as as a result I find even more meaning in my job now. Plus I’m better resourced to do it (though of course, as is the way, there’s usually still too many ideas and too much to do compared to actual capacity). I’ve been able to save more and start to build wealth. And that is incredibly important to me.




Disease Called Debt

Does your budget reflect what you value?

Does your budget reflect your values?

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

Everybody does money differently – we all have our own way of approaching things. But ultimately the key to happiness is spending in line with our values.

There are infinite things I could spend money on. Being mindful about my money and where it goes – specifically, spending it on things that enrich my life – gives me immense satisfaction.

I don’t really drink; I don’t have a clothing budget. Here’s where the bulk of my budget goes.

A home environment I love

For me, that’s an Auckland-sized mortgage in order to live in the city I love and grew up in. To have a dog I love. To live in a home free of mould and mushrooms, where I can literally breathe easier. Surprise: warm dry air is a lot better for you than cold wet air. (Sure, theoretically it’s possible to achieve the latter while renting, but quality rentals are rare and expensive and the market is competitive. At that kind of price to me it made more sense to buy – even in a less central location – and pay the premium of rates and maintenance in exchange for long term security and quality.)

Food­­ that makes my tastebuds tingle

Eating out is our main form of entertainment, but we don’t do that very often either. Quality not quantity (although we do tend to do at least one weekend bakery breakfast run). I buy cheese and dips and olive oil with minimal guilt and don’t fret too much at the supermarket checkout till.

Travel and getting away

At this point in time I’m not specifically saving for travel. I’m more than happy just to burrow in at home since buying a place. But at some point a holiday will definitely be in order – I’m just not sure where in the pecking order it will fall as a financial priority just yet. I’d like to do another South Island road trip; visit Melbourne and the Gold Coast; and head back to the US to places both new and old.

How does your budget stack up against your values?

Disease Called Debt