• Carnival of Personal Finance #358: Anzac edition

    Roll up, roll up. Welcome one and all to this week’s carnival of personal finance!

    This week’s a short one for me – it’s cleaved neatly in half by Anzac Day.

    For those not familiar with Anzac Day, it’s a national holiday commemorating our soldiers who fought at Gallipoli during WWI.

    They fought for a mission, a cause larger than any single one of them.

    While most of us will never be part of something on that level, we are united in a common journey – that’s what this carnival is all about! We’re all on a quest to achieve financial savvy, stability and independence. And as always, here are the links to the best of this week’s writing to prove it.

    Editor’s Picks

    Should kids have to take a minimum wage job when they’re teens? Nicole, Maggie, and the grumpy readership weigh in on whether grunt work is worth it. (My general feeling is that unless they’re genuinely tied up with other things – Olympic training, practising for a performance at Carnegie Hall, prepping for early entry to uni or other pursuits at that level, why not?)

    Want to pick up your blogging game? Here are 12 tactics to build up a money-making blog, via The Financial Blogger. (I have a post tomorrow on why I’m doing the exact opposite.)

    Eric from Narrow Bridge Finance explains why he hates bad tippers. (We pay our hospo staff a living minimum wage. I’m very glad tipping is not part of our culture, though most places now have tip jars – and the higher-end places usually offer an option to add on a tip when you pay by Eftpos.)

    Some fees just can’t be avoided. Boomer & Echo presents 10 Fees that are actually worth it. (Sometimes it pays to pay for a privilege.)

    According to the Weakonomist there are only six kinds of employees. (I’m fortunate to work with great people – that’s such an important element when it comes to a satisfying work environment.)


    MISSION: Rock the search, the work and the exit.

    There’s been a lot of brouhaha over employers asking for Facebook passwords. Obviously these are a very select few. Still, Glen Craig from Free From Broke presents Should You Give Human Resources Access to Your Facebook Profile?

    Some jobs are downright awful. Everyone’s heard stories about people who stuck it to their employer and stormed out of the office. Jeremy from Modest Money presents Avoid Burning Your Bridges, and reminds us why that should always be a lst resort.


    MISSION: Minimise charges, maximise rewards

    Apparently there’s a new credit card fee making a resurrection. Beware!, Matt Schulz from InvestingAnswers.com says.

    And on a similar note, Liana from Card Hub presents Get Ready For More Credit Card Fees – watch out for offers that require you to pay a fee before your account is even open.

    What do you really know about credit cards? John from Wallet Blog presents 6 Fun Facts about Credit Cards.

    We’ve all heard the typical advice for a healthy credit score: Pay your bills on time. Don’t max out your credit cards. Don’t close your oldest accounts. But the problem is, this advice is just that: typical. Bethy from Credit Karma Blog presents 4 Ways to Get a Better Credit Score Now.


    MISSION: Kill it

    Ryan Yates from Deliver Away Debt presents The Fine Line of Debt Refinancing – Rescue vs. Ruin, and says, “Talking with a bank is a lot like being on a first date; if you don’t shave your financial legs, you won’t let them get too far the first time you meet.”

    Danesh Parhar from The Financial Rebellion says there’s more to worry about debt than just the amount of debt you have – consider the monthly payment.

    In Debt Consolidation Programs, Ben from ReadyForZero Blog explains the different types of debt consolidation available.


    MISSION: Forewarned is forearmed

    The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes (or effort). FMF from Free Money Finance suggests you should 80-20 Your Finances, too.

    Since the GFC, the US government has increased the insurance limits on deposits. Jim from Bargaineering elaborates further in FDIC Limits.


    MISSION: Do more with less

    Hosting people can be expensive (and exhausting). Amanda from My Dollar Plan presents How to Host Out-of-Town Guests Without Breaking the Bank.

    Babies are a blessing, but they are also a target for materialism. Don’t get sucked in, warns Everything Finance! Here are some Baby Essential Costs You Can Skip.

    What’s a good car to own in your 20s? Green Panda from Green Panda Treehouse presents Best Cars for College Graduates to Drive.

    Don’t be foiled by food labels. Sandy from Yes, I am Cheap presents Food Labels And Terms That Fool You.

    In Buy Current Technology, Not State of the Art, Ryan at yourlifeforless says it’s important to focus on your needs, and avoid buying state of the art technology just for the sake of it.

    Jason from Live Real, Now reminds us in Be Happy with What You Have that it’s not possible to buy happiness, either directly or indirectly, through the accumulation of “stuff”.

    Once upon a time, the two-income household was virtually unheard of. Justin from The Family Finances asks, Is It Still Possible To Raise A Family On One Income?

    Money Thinker from Money Thinking presents Sifting through Needs and Wants, with a few handy questions to ask yourself before whipping out your wallet.


    MISSION: Work smarter, not harder

    Acronym alert! Is SIPC like being FDIC insured? Not so, says Evan from My Journey to Millions, in What Is SIPC? Recent Sanford Case Should Lead to Interesting Results.

    James from Short Road To Retirement presents How To Invest Your 401k Plan, with a link to a calculator that will tell you how to allocate your assets based on your age and risk tolerance.

    Bonds have a place in many an investment strategy. SB from One Cent At A Time reckons Bonds are Paramount in your Portfolio; Even with Room for Volatility.

    Over time, tax treatment can make more difference than net returns or expense ratios. Dan from ETF Base explains What Makes an ETF Tax Efficient.

    How much do different investments really return? Drew from Objective Wealth presents Investment Asset Classes, Start Your Engines! with a car racing twist.

    In Sprint in $300 Million Tax Fraud Lawsuit, Flexo from Consumerism Commentary says, “Sprint says it was just “looking out for the consumer” when it failed to collect and pay $100 million in taxes.”

    Thinking of joining the IRA bandwagon? Mike Piper from Oblivious Investor presents Where Should I Open an IRA?, and says, “With all the new commission-free offerings in the last couple years, the answers to this common question have changed.”

    Money Management

    MISSION: Keep the ship running smoothly

    Gender roles often influence the division of household tasks. Ray from Tie the Money Knot asks, Who is the Financial Driver? in your relationship.

    Mike from Do Not Wait explains Why Simplicity is Key For Retirement – as it is in many aspects of life.

    Laura @ Frugal Follies on what a 1940 census taught her about saving. Digging into your ancestry can be uber-revealing!

    Robert from The College Investor shares his Top Apps for Finance, Investing and News.

    Would You Rather Live a Little More Now? Or Have a Pile of Cash Later?  Smart on Money wonders if we have to sacrifice everything right now to save up for the future.


    MISSION: Educate yourself

    Learning to handle your time wisely must be one of the hardest things about adulthood. Miss T. from Prairie Eco Thrifter lists 7 Time Management Tips that Will Help You Work Efficiently.

    Is ProvisionRX a Scammy Pyramid Scheme? Lazy Man and Money says ProvisionRX looks like the most basic of scams.

    In Shopping for Health Care, Money Walks offers some tips for buying health insurance.

    Real Estate

    MISSION: Learn from the property gurus

    In Home Mortgage Pre-Approval Letter Received, PT Money Personal Finance reaches a new chapter in the journey to buy a new home and become a landlord.

    Family Money Values presents Real Estate Investing – Get Better Cash Flow from your Rental Properties, and says, “Here are some suggestions on how to evaluate your properties to make sure that you are keeping a taut ship.”

    PK from Don’t Quit Your Day Job asks Who Decided 417:1 Leverage is a Good Idea?, and wonders if another federal bailout is imminent.


    MISSION: Crunch those numbers

    Those deductions can really add up when you run your own company. Teacher Man from My University Money presents Claiming a Business Loss – Losing Money Never Felt So Good.

    Left your taxes to the last minute AND made a boo-boo in the rush? Peter from Bible Money Matters has 8 Tips for Amending Your Tax Return When You Make a Mistake.

    Darwin’s Money explains Obama’s proposed ‘Buffett’ rule and why it’s a horrible idea for America in Senate Rejects Buffett Rule – Fighting Stupidity with Logic.

    Believe it or not, the IRS offers installment plans. Rob from Dough Roller presents Can’t Pay Your Taxes? Read This.

    Thanks all for taking part! Be sure to get your submissions in to next week’s Carnival when it is hosted by My Personal Finance Journey.

  • Personal finance topics I’m so over

    personal finance topics i'm so overSaving for your kids’ university vs saving for your retirement

    I may be biased.

    In New Zealand, everyone can get an education, if they are so inclined. Schooling is “free” (annual fees, or “donations” as they call them, are just short of being compulsory – but you can get away without paying them. I didn’t pay my fees in the last year of high school as I was financially supporting myself and that $150 or whatever was a lot of money. It does mean you might miss out on certain things, like getting a yearbook, and of course you have to pay for school trips and stationery and whatnot). And everybody is entitled to an interest-free government student loan to cover your tertiary education.

    But you know what? No matter where in the world you live, some things don’t change. You, and you alone, are responsible for your financial situation. Nobody else will put your interests first. So if you don’t, what do you expect to happen to you?

    Sure, you can help out your kids, if you would like to and can swing it. I know fees in the US are reaching ridiculous new highs. But you won’t be doing anybody any good by jeopardising your own twilight future and potentially becoming a burden on your offspring later down the track.

    Do both by all means. But put one of these priorities – yourself – first, and don’t go for the other on its own.

    Why buying name brand items is a waste of money and how a kitten/fairy/unicorn dies every time you do it

    Look, there really is no difference sometimes. Budget milk is the same as Anchor (and even if not, the price difference is too staggering to make me fork out for the blue label). Budget pasta is the same as the next brand up, and a few more beyond that. Heck, T gets by just fine wearing Warehouse own-label jeans, though he does spend most of his time in Dickies.

    Here’s the thing, though. Some generic brands are downright godawful. No-name ketchup. Instant noodles. Canned vegetables. I’ve done it, and never again. That’s wasted food I couldn’t stomach, that never got finished, and money down the drain. I know what items it pays to pay a little more for, and I stick to it.

    Cellphones are a luxury and if you think otherwise, you’re a spoilt, entitled Gen Yer

    I work in media. Having a cellphone is expected (and in fact I now have a work phone). But even when I worked in hospitality, I was still expected to be easily reachable for last-minute shift changes or in the case of another job, to be contacted in regard to my availability to serve at various functions and events. You don’t have to be super important and way up the hierarchy to be needed, if you know what I mean.

    Cellphones don’t need to be expensive, either. I’ve had a phone since about 16 (I’m now 23) and in those years, I rarely spent more than $20 a month. A home phone costs more than that, with extra for voicemail. (Incidentally, we do have a landline with our broadband package, but doesn’t actually work with our modem – we have to unplug it to use the phone – and we use it so infrequently I can’t be bothered doing anything to remedy the situation.)

    Any blog topics you’ve had enough of, finance or otherwise?

  • How I FINALLY learned to budget: The long road to budgeting bliss

    How I learned to budget

    I’ve always been good with money. I got my first job – a paper round – at 13, making something like a whopping $80 a month, and saved every dollar I earned.

    I got my first real job in Year 11 at a cafe, working weekends. Then I decided I wanted to get an electric guitar, so I got another job at a call centre working weekdays after school. I worked constantly for months until I scraped together the $600 for my Ibanez and my amp, plus other paraphernalia like cords, a case, picks and the like.

    I moved out of home the following year and got by with barely $20 a week to spare, but I made it work.

    Then I – we – lost track a bit when T and I moved in together, throwing a car into the mix, along with other things. After a few months I sat down, went through our bank statements and was shocked to see what we were spending on food. (The first step to budgeting: tracking, and knowing what you’re spending.)

    Thus began some pathetic attempts at budgeting, stymied largely by variations in numbers. Income varied every week. Rent was the same every week, but all our other expenses varied. Plus of course, there are all the irregular expenses that crop up at the least opportune times. Cue head explosion.

    I would mock up beautiful budgets with colourful bars for each category. Breathless, I would log on after pay day and see how the numbers stacked up against the plan. Almost always, I would be thwarted, and give up yet again, thinking I could never make it work.

    Until one day I realised something very simple. The numbers fluctuated. And so should the budget. A budget is a living document that evolves as necessary.

    Instead of trying to make the money match my ideal budget every week, I needed to tailor the budget to that week’s numbers.

    Amazing, right?

    So simple, so obvious. Nonetheless, this was a major epiphany that cut through the fog.

    Did some overtime? That can go into savings.

    Lean week? Time to trim and eat in all weekend.

    The next step: figuring out how to handle those irregular expenses. I sat down and calculated what power, phone and internet was costing us, as well as less frequent payments like insurance, car registration and all those other bills. I added up an annual figure and divided that by 52. Every week, I put aside that amount into a subaccount, and then draw money from it as bills come due.

    Then simplify, simplify, simplify. Now that I’ve got a good system going, our expenditure in any one week is pretty predictable. Rent, groceries, petrol, bill money, and a little bit for fun – eating out, entertainment, etc. Done. It’s at the stage where I no longer budget, in fact, although I carefully track our spending every month.

    In my mind, budgeting bliss comes down to three steps:

    • Awareness – getting your head out of the sand about what you’re spending and facing up to the numbers
    • Action – doing something about it. Tackling debt, cutting back on frivolous spending, finding ways to trim your essential expenses
    • Automation – getting into a comfortable routine. Once this is second nature (I might even venture to use the term “autopilot”), you may not even feel the need to budget as such any more

    Need some more guidance? I like the 60% solution – a basic formula with suggestions for how much you should spend on various things:

    • 60% to Committed Expenses
    • 10% to Retirement.
    • 10% to Irregular Expenses
    • 10% to Long-Term Savings/Debt
    • 10% for Fun

    And if you’re after a budget spreadsheet, Budgets are Sexy has a handy list with a ton of free templates here.

    Are you a stringent budgeter, or more of a hands-off gal like me?

    This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about budgeting see the Budgeting Roundup

  • The long road to financial harmony


    Financial nirvana. Does it it exist?

    I’m not sure, but I can tell you that no two people handle money the exact same way, and being on a different page from your partner is a recipe for teeth-gnashing and tears.

    However you handle finances – joint accounts, separate, or a mix; equally, or with one person handling the bulk of the admin – reaching some basic agreements about money management is so important. Think along the lines of:

    • how you’ll each contribute to expenses
    • how you handle debt
    • how you’ll save for big goals
    • how much is okay to spend without consulting the other person
    • how much is reasonable to spend on (fill in the blank – could be clothing, food, video games, whatever)

    T and I kind of fell in the deep end with joint finances early on in our relationship. We moved in together, he started a new job and didn’t have a bank account of his own, so organised to be paid into my account. I also started university, we bought a car, and generally had more cash than we’d ever had – but vehicle expenses, getting T set up with the basics for work and life, and letting the extra income go to our heads (mainly to food, actually) meant we struggled a lot.

    Pretty early on, our wildly different money personalities became evident. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy. But I don’t think it would have been any easier if we’d delayed it. Heck, it might have been even worse, if he’d been left to his own devices.

    I can’t tell you when you should have the “money talk” with your partner, or what kind of financial system you should set up. Heck, some people go all their lives without knowing how much their significant other earns. Separate finances make total sense if both parties already have a good thing going individually and don’t mind splitting everything (personally I’d get fed up with all the calculations; do I really want to be keeping track of who last bought toilet paper .. or, later down the track, diapers for our little bundle of anxiety?).

    We went all out early on, but I’ve since refined it so that T has his own separate savings account and his own allowance/spending money every week: proof that joint finances can work even when one is a saver and one a spender. Whether we’ll combine savings fully once we get married remains to be seen, but I think we’ll always maintain some kind of husband fund for him to save up for toys – a bigger motorbike, a project car, etc. (Plus of course, even if both parties have access to the joint accounts, it can be nice to have a pot of your own.)

    What if it all goes pear-shaped?

    I suppose that’s a big one in favour of separate accounts. It’s true, nothing in life or love is certain. But if you have any sense (and I know my readers do) you wouldn’t be meshing funds unless you were pretty serious. Making a personal and emotional commitment to another human being is also a financial commitment, and for some couples that lends itself to joint bank accounts.

    Caveat: if I was a celebrity, I definitely wouldn’t. Nor would I fail to get a prenup and I sure as hell would not change my surname. I know every celeb thinks their marriage will be different, but the odds are heinously against you.

    Seriously though, while I would not recommend mixing finances as early as we did, I’m happy with how it turned out. We’ve settled into a semi-blissful groove, and if we ever split, it’s decided: he takes the TV, food processor, microwave, and his motorbike; I get the bed, laptop and car.


    This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about relationships and money, see the Relationships and Money Roundup

  • Budget updates: Life in the new house

    Our rent has gone up twice in the last six months or so. First, an increase from $250 to $280 a week. That was the prompt we needed to start looking for a larger place for our money, and for $320, we now have a garage for T’s motorbike, a living room (before we were in a studio where there was barely space for me to lie on the floor by the bed and do stretches), a kitchen we can both fit into at the same time (no more bitter cursing from me every other minute while I’m cooking), and there’s also all the little things:

    • a decent laundry line
    • our own recycling bin
    • lightbulbs that don’t cost the earth to replace
    • honest-to-goodness hot water in the kitchen
    • saving on bus fare
    • and saving on petrol, being closer to T’s friends and family

    Our utilities are also going up, our internet package costs $10 more, and our electricity is also on the rise.

    When the Montreal moving brought our stuff into the new house, I overheard an off remark in French, I’m sure he was chatting to his co-worker about our heating boards and how out-dated this place is…  maybe we should of check it out more carefully. At our old house our daily spend ranged from $2.30 to $3.50 a day, or around $80 to $100 a month, with a decent on time, online discount of 22 percent. I think we were averaging around 250 kw a month in raw unit use.

    Now, our usage is closer to 400kw, although our bills have not increased significantly (to date $99 and $80) thanks to Powershop.

    But that’s a big jump in units used. Why?

    I’ve lived in larger houses than this with flatmates, and power was usually around $40-60 each when split. And while we are in a bigger place now, I didn’t see any reason why we would be using more electricity. After all, we still only have the lights or fan on in one room at a time.

    However, at our old place, the water was heated by gas, which we didn’t pay for (nor did we pay for water itself, actually. Another bill to add – usually $90 a quarter, depending how much rates have gone up in the last two years).

    To compensate, we’re downgrading our TV package. I anticipate adding on the movie channels maybe once every few months when good films are on, or buying the odd Box Office movie – but our regular monthly bill will be lower.

  • Should the student allowance be enough to live on?


    Eavesdropping is one of my guilty pleasures. I like listening in to others’ conversations on the bus, in the office, wherever. (And most certainly on Twitter, where jumping into the stream is what it’s all about.)

    Sometimes, though, these conversations only serve to rark you up.

    Recent case in point: a discussion about the student allowance, and specifically how it’s not enough to live on.

    Right now, student allowance runs to a maximum of $167 a week, from what I can tell. If you’re in Auckland, you can get another $40 in accommodation allowance for a total of $207. (If you don’t qualify for the student allowance, you can borrow $169 a week in living costs. This is never a good idea, because your loan balance will balloon like you cannot believe. But it’s an option.) And if you’re over 24 – a personal bugbear for me; why should you get more simply for being over an arbitrary age? – you qualify for up to $201 a week.

    You can’t live on that alone, I grant you. But it’s not so hard to get a job for 10 or 15 hours a week, and with that additional income, it’s certainly more than enough to eke out a reasonable standard of living. Your income in any one week can be up to $203.13 before tax before your allowance payments are affected.

    When I was studying, I received a total of $185 a week (the maximum back then). I was making maybe another $150 between my various hustles (I’ve always worked multiple jobs, although now my second gig consists of the very occasional mystery shop or essay editing gig).

    My basic expenses were $100 rent (I was living three stages out on the bus route), $30 for transport (an unlimited monthly pass), $50 or so on groceries (a princely sum compared to the $25/30 I spent during the last year of high school in which I lived on my own) and utilities worked out to around $30 a week.

    But I don’t want to live out in the burbs!!!

    Well, you could live closer to town, or in town, and cut out transport for a corresponding gain in rent (probably $150 or more but you might find a cheap room for around $120). Still doable.

    Yes, it’s an austere existence, but we don’t pay taxes so you can live it up while at uni.

    And if you can’t find a job (or can’t work one because you’re a medical student, etc), then living at home it is. Such is life.

    Worst case scenario, you left a small town in order to attend university and your parents can’t or won’t provide any financial help. That’s rough, and kind of leaves with little choice aside from racking up more debt. But as a student, you do at least have access to cheap loans and overdrafts (and potentially cheap credit cards; I can’t remember what the banks were offering in my day).

    Let’s face it, nobody ever promised that student allowance would provide for all your needs. As a nation we simply cannot afford such a luxury. It’d be nice to have $15 minimum wage and free medical and dental care for all. But these things just aren’t realistic for this (any?) country.

    What do you reckon? Classic entitlement attitude? Something worthy of tax dollars? Something in between?

  • The cost of convenience

    We’ve been living at our current place for three months. And yet my recent visit to our local dairy, two minutes away at the corner shops, was my first.

    Here’s what I picked up – a Primo, two Time Outs and two ice blocks. Total cost: $10.20. (Paid for by T. He wanted snacks, and didn’t want to wait till we did our grocery shop.)

    There really is no quicker way to bust the budget than through frequent stops to pick up stuff at dairies and petrol stations. The markup on everything from milk to tampons is out of this world – the cost of convenience.

    We pick up treats during the weekly supermarket shop, and those have to last us the week. As you can guess, they usually get devoured in the first couple of days. T also isn’t a fan of tap water, so the shop usually includes juice and fizzy – and he spends his own money on more snacks during the week.

    In fact, the vast majority of his spending money goes on consumables. I used to pack his lunches, but while sometimes he devoured them, most of the time he didn’t eat them at all  (whether because he really didn’t feel like whatever food it was, or because he simply didn’t eat at all that day. He has a terrible lack of routine) so they went to waste. Now he’s responsible for buying his own lunches, and while the cost makes me grit my teeth a little, it’s also a relief – honestly, making my own lunches is enough of a chore.

    I’m a total cheapskate, on the other hand. I drink water when we go out to eat, and do my level best to avoid being forced into food purchases on the run. For example, I ate an early dinner before the Incubus gig last month while everybody else headed to the nearby McDonalds straight after, and if I’m out at an event after work that doesn’t feed a full dinner, rather than stopping somewhere for a bite I’ll hold on till I can get home and whip up something quick that’s both cheaper and healthier.

    That said, sometimes I’m willing to pay for convenience – packs of frozen hash browns, the occasional pack of pre-cut stir fry beef, the odd soup from the local takeaway when I’m sick and cannot face standing over the stove to make my own dinner (ahem, too many times this week).

    When do you pay for convenience?

  • Things I don’t (and won’t) pay for


    English: Cinema 4 at HOYTS, Forest Hill Shoppi...

    Image via Wikipedia

    I could not live without books. But I don’t care to own them, and even free ones are just clutter to me – they get passed on or donated. I’m a lifelong library lover, myself, and I can think of only a tiny handful of books I might actually want to possess (none of which I do).

    Movies at the cinema

    Perhaps it’s cheating, but I pretty much only go to movies on reward dollars earned from using my CC. (But I’m not *spending* anything in doing so!) I also get to go to the odd free screening through work. With regular tickets now costing something like $16, prices are just insane.

    Hair removal

    I have to admit I am lucky in that I’m pretty hairless (especially as I’m dark-haired). I use T’s cast-off razors (which sounds disgusting, I know, but he only uses them once or twice each) and plain old soap. Wouldn’t work for everyone, though.


    I have the greasiest mane in the world. It really doesn’t need it. I rotate shampoos a lot and sometimes get two in one shampoo/conditioner; otherwise, if the ends really are dry, a spot of oil (coconut or olive) rubbed into the ends suffices.

    Lunchboxes and ziplock bags

    We do have a few proper tupperware type lunchboxes, but otherwise I rely on plastic takeaway containers and ice cream cartons. Ziplock bags, I wash out when we use them to get nuts or lollies from the supermarket bulk bins.

    Glass and oven cleaner

    The things you can do with vinegar and baking soda are boundless.

    Bank fees

    My account is entirely free because I no longer receive paper statements. I rarely use ATMs, and if I do, I hunt out ones that belong to my bank in particular (T does generally run on cash though, and unfortunately isn’t as nutty as I am about only sticking to own-bank ATMs). Credit card fees are a given, but more than paid for through the rebates I earn just for using it.

    Delivery charges

    It’s almost always cheaper to get in the car and drive out yourself to pick up food. (Maybe it’s different overseas.)

    And there are plenty of other things I won’t pay full price for – DVD rentals, facials/massages, skincare. There’s just no reason to, between daily deal sites, discount sales, coupons and mystery shops.

    What things do you refuse to fork out for?

  • Dreaming of cheaper credit

    Ever since I started reading personal finance blogs, I’ve come to realise that credit is never going to be as cheap in New Zealand as it is elsewhere. (As with food, cars, clothes, technology and pretty much anything else you can think of.)

    Default credit card interest rates hover around 20%. You might see balance transfer offers around 5%. Car and personal loans around 10%.

    You bloggers in the States, though (and that’s most of you)? I hear tales of 0% loans. 0% balance transfer rates. Cards without annual fees. Plus of course, you have access to so many more kinds of cards, and it’s easy to compare credit cards online.

    Interest rates don’t overly fuss me, because I’m not in debt. What would be nice, though, is if there were local cards without annual fees.

    I currently have one plain old Visa, and it’s with the bank I’ve banked with all my life. Luckily, it’s a pretty awesome bank with accounts that suit my needs and the single best online banking system available, IMO. It’s ridiculously easy to make instant payments onto it (because I like to pay off purchases right after making them) and the six-monthly fee of $12 is one of the lowest out there.

    Recently I was tempted by Air NZ offering no joining fee on its Airpoints programme. (You know travel is number one on my list.) I could sign up for a credit card linked to Airpoints, and earn points on everyday spending.

    Thing is, the fee is more than double what I currently pay – $25 every six months. And based on our annual spending, we would be lucky to rack up enough points in a year for a single domestic flight.

    Maybe it’s worth it for frequent flyers, who also earn points when they book flights, but for those who are trying to save for travel, it doesn’t sound like such a hot deal.

    Tell me, how many credit cards do you have? Anyone out there an Airpoints member?

  • Financial independence is sexy

    When T got his tax refund last year, he told me he thought about going out and buying something straight away.

    But he didn’t. He could get something better later on if he saved that cash, he said.

    Hearing that? Best present ever. Bugger jewellery and don’t even think about buying me flowers. Having your finances in check? That’s hot.

    Our joint finances have taken an interesting journey of twists and turns. He didn’t have his own bank account when we first moved in together, but hastily starting a new job meant he needed to put down an account number for payroll, so mine it was. Wholly merged finances eventually evolved into a separate account for him, but all the money still flowing to me to handle. Then he started independently dealing to his own spending funds out of his account before taking over full control, giving me a set amount for household expenses every week.

    Now, we’re back to him handling his own fun money, with me taking care of the rest. And this is how it’s going to stay. He’s not one to micromanage, and doesn’t really like to think about money at all. Me, I’m happy to spend a few hours a month running numbers and shifting funds around. And let’s be honest: me pulling the purse strings can only be a good thing on the savings front.

    How long did it take you to settle into a joint financial groove (whether you have merged, separate or in-between)? Was it painful?