• The one question I hate being asked, as a pregnant woman…

    WIll you go back to work after the baby?

     

    I hate, hate, HATE conversations about last names. I have a LOT of feelings about name changing and anyone who asks me if I did (because it only inevitably leads to me having to justify keeping mine).

    But wow, my hate for that particular question has serious rivalry.

    “Will you go back to work?”

    I don’t get a choice in that, and it’s really irritating to get asked this.

    (See also: “Was it planned/expected?” Something about that also rubs me the wrong way.)

    I get that it’s probably still rare for her to earn the bulk of the household income and to not take a full year off. But that’s changing. Thankfully, one of my fellow preggo coworkers is also a breadwinner and gets what it’s like when your household relies on your income. The other one in our Knocked Up cohort is in a much more traditional setup but I appreciate that she acknowledges she’s fortunate her partner can more than support them all financially.

    It’s hard not to be defensive as my gut reaction, but I’m working on it. And  I’m reframing this for my own sake as an issue of equality.

    I want us to be equal coparents. And part of that involves sharing parental leave. It’s a great opportunity for us to split leave – and responsibilities – from early on.

    Not that this is necessarily uncontroversial either.

    “Why do you want things to be equal?” I was asked. (Yes, in 2018. By someone my age. Oh how I wish I was kidding right now.)

    I have to justify that too?! Even if we earned exactly equal incomes I would still want us to split leave. The only scenario in which this would change is if I was earning a significant amount less. Equality is both a financial and political issue in this case.

    On that note, at some point we’ll have to decide what to do about Spud’s last name. Neither of us care about passing our surnames down (and neither of us particularly like ours anyway. And no, that was not reason enough to change them then or now, though I love love love when couples make up a brand new name together). Definitely not interested in hyphenation or combining. And I suppose it’s insane to make up a random last name for zir. It might just come down to whichever last name sounds better with the first name we choose.

    Incidentally, I was stunned a couple of years ago to find out that my BIL’s kid has her mother’s last name. And funnily enough, T actually seems fairly keen on us possibly doing the same. It’s a far cry from years ago when we initially clashed over my intention to keep my name…

     

  • A couple frustrations with the NZ maternity system so far…

    I should probably preface this by saying: my complaints are fairly minor. They’re pretty First World. But it’s my blog, and I’ll complain if I want to…

    Finding a midwife

    There’s been a lot of news coverage about the shortage of midwives in NZ lately. About how our system functions, how midwives are paid, and what needs to change. (I like The Spinoff’s series on this.)

    And so pretty much the week I peed on a stick and got that positive result, I set about looking for a midwife in a suitable location (ideally close to home, but not too far off my commuting route, etc). At first, the choices seemed overwhelming! So many beaming headshots. And then I started to eliminate the ones who weren’t available in October. The ones who didn’t have birthing arrangements with both hospitals and Birthcare. And then it was about reading their profiles and getting a feel for their style and approach.

    In theory I think they say you should meet with a few, almost like interviewing them, and then make your decision. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

    I narrowed it down to a couple of midwives and fired off emails. No go on the first (she was only available in the first half of the month and I’m due at the end of the month). The second, thankfully, I got a great feeling about. I’d sensed a good vibe from the beginning (I swear) just from seeing her profile online. She responded with enthusiasm and emoji and basically welcoming me with open arms. I wasn’t able to get an appointment with her for a couple of weeks because she was travelling and I was on deadline at work, but she arranged some prescriptions for me and dropped them off in my letterbox, since she lives not far away. And so, I guess I landed myself a midwife before ever meeting her!

    You can change midwives at any time, but luckily I liked her in person as well. I feel good about it and their particular practice seems to have rave reviews from lots of other women.

    That worked out perfectly for me, and let’s face it … I don’t do well when faced with a lot of choices anyway.

    But what if your limited choices of midwives in your area aren’t great? Finding one available for your due date, one whose location works for you, one who you click with…. It’s a real possibility.

    Setting up scans

    Sonographers, man. They’re up there with property managers. Remember all the dramas I used to have trying to get to view rentals during the work day (because rental viewings are only ever held during business hours? Whilst open homes for sale are only ever on weekends?!) It’s like that, all over again.

    T can literally be anywhere in the city (or even beyond it on the outskirts) in any direction at any given time during the work week. He won’t know until the day of where he’ll be going. And so he just can’t commit to any appointments – not even at lunchtime – short of taking a leave day. Obviously, however, we want to save his leave for the birth so he can take time off then.

    I went to the dating scan alone, but we both wanted him to accompany me to subsequent scans. In order for that to happen though, we needed appointments after 4pm. Which I thought would be fine… surely there’d be plenty of slots available  between 4-5pm?

    How wrong I was!

    Clinics may be open to 5, 6, 7 or later – but that only seems to apply to X-rays. If you’re needing an ultrasound, you can only get those done up till around 2-3 at many places, at least the ones in areas that worked for our needs. I respect sonographers’ valuable time but as a patient, this SUCKS. I literally cried at work on the phone trying to book a scan and being unable to get a time that I knew T could make.

    After a lot of frantic emails/calls, I found that Auckland Radiology in Avondale offers evening scans on a Wednesday. That’s now our go-to, and if you need flexibility with your appointments, that’s one place you can definitely try.

     

  • Do the right thing, dammit (even if it’s not the easy thing)

    WHY IT PAYS TO DO THE RIGHT THING

    The right thing and the easy thing are never the same.

    Ain’t that the truth?

     

    Thing is, taking the easy way out will often backfire. Laziness, procrastination, whatever you want to call it … sometimes it comes back to bite you square on the butt.

    And I don’t know about you, but very few things annoy me quite as much as putting things off for later only for it to come back and cost me later.

    How laziness can be expensive, in two case studies:

    Example A: The oil leak

    Our car boot has been home to a spear (as in spearfishing) for awhile – it’s just been kicking around in there since a mate left it there.

    Then we bought some oil for the car, since it’s about due for a service. Left that in the boot too, until a few days later when T went to retrieve it …

    Cue oil leak. The dang spear pierced the bottom of the oil bottle and about 80% of the contents leaked, seeping into the boot carpeting and down into the spare tyre alcove (at least the cap didn’t come off, a gushing flood would have been SO much worse).

    To add insult to injury, we have a protective rubber liner that usually lives on the boot floor but had been putting off putting it back in after taking it out for a cleaning ages ago. If that had been in place, it would have been much tidier and made cleaning up a cinch.

    The damage: about $50 in oil and the subsequent cleanup.

    Example B: The water leak

    We took out part of a wall over the holidays, as part of the kitchen project. We did get an absolute steal on the labour because we know the guys, but they are legit building professionals.

    Afterward, they apparently swept a bunch of the detritus straight through the hole in the floor, under the house. I learned this too late, and was wringing my hands about it (“what about the dogs?! You KNOW they like to wander underneath the house sometimes, and they could get hurt!”)

    Alas, what was done was done.

    And then a few days later I suspected a leak. Sure enough, we have a tiny little rubber water hose running below the house – it connects the main tap to our fridge (our new fridge has a cold water dispenser built in) and in their willy nilly dumping of crap through the floor instead of disposing of it properly, must have punctured the hose.

    The damage: TBC. I’m hoping it won’t have majorly impacted our water bill, given how small the hose is and the size of the hole/leak. And I doubt that amount of water will have done much damage to the house itself. But I’m still majorly annoyed about it .

    (The fix: I faced my claustrophobia and crawled under the house to snip the hose off before the leak and cap it there to stop the flow. It SUCKED but at least now I know I can handle it, dirt and all. I still, however, refuse to try to get up into the roof … that involves putting a chair in our tiny hall closet and then squeezing through an even smaller hole to reach the roof space.)

    Laziness costs money, guys.

    Ever taken the easy route and wound up regretting it?

  • The soul-sucking agony of job interviews

    The soul sucking agony of job interviews

     

    I knew my lucky streak couldn’t last forever, particularly after acknowledging it on the blog.

    My most recent job hunt took longer than I expected. It consumed my life – monitoring listings, reaching out to contacts, crafting cover letters and tweaking my resume, over and over again.

    Then the phone interviews (a nightmare to wrangle when you work in an open plan office with virtually no private spaces, and you don’t drive to work) and of course, the in person interviews!

    Here are a few highlights:

    • The interview that never was. I had phone confirmation (but no email confirmation) and when I turned up the interviewer wasn’t there. I’d left work early and gone all that way (it wasn’t a super handy location) and she was a no show – she was in another city that day!
    • The interview that started super late. I scheduled this one for my lunch break expecting to be back at work within an hour, give or take, even with travel time. Nope! I turned up on time, but they didn’t. The longer I waited the more nervous I got, being painfully aware of time ticking on. We didn’t begin until about 20 minutes after the scheduled start and their lateness really threw me off – I spent half of the interview worrying about making it back to work at a reasonable time, and the other struggling to keep up with their aggressive interviewing style. Did I mention that the interviewers were not the same people HR told me I I would meet with?! Just a disaster from start to finish.
    • The interview on my birthday. I took annual leave so that I could have a day at home to chill out, but you know what? The day before I got a frantic email from a recruiter who had been ‘trying to reach me for days’ (they most certainly had not). Cue a phone call in which they declared that my birthday was the only day on which they were holding interviews. I opted for an early slot to get it out of the way, and trekked into the city and back on my birthday just for it. (I didn’t get that job, but later that day I got a call about an interview – for another company I’d given up on ever hearing back from – for the next day, which wound up being The One.)

    Now I can look back and laugh, but dammit, it was grueling and disheartening at the time.

    And it all worked out perfectly in the end, as it always has in this regard. #praisebe

  • There’s nothing like being able to throw money at a problem

    SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO THROW MONEY AT A PROBLEM

    Some things are much better solved with money than time.

    Some things can ONLY be solved with money.

    Most of the issues I’ve had have fallen into one of the above categories.




    When the dogs broke a window

    When we had to replace tyre after tyre after tyre due to pesky nails turning up in the treads

    When our pets required unexpected veterinary care

    When our vacuum died

    When I suddenly needed to get my wisdom teeth out

    When our reactive dog really needed expert help

    When we needed X rays done

    When we simply needed help with keeping the house clean

    When only prescription meds could help with skin issues

    When we suddenly had to move house

    When my glasses broke accidentally

    It’s interesting to me to look at this list and see how many are health/medical related. (Also, dog related. Sigh.)

    T has been seeing a chiro regularly and that’s a chunk of money for appointments that only last a few minutes at a time… but is well worth it.

    Lately it’s also become clear to me just how much some of my coworkers must spend on healthcare. For health insurance. For specialist visits. For private surgeries.

    As someone who never even goes to the doctor except in dire circumstances, it’s all so strange and foreign to me.

    Melanie recently asked what the best thing is that money has afforded us.

    Aside from the ability to sleep at night, like I told her, I would also add the ability to not worry about health costs. When you’re talking about your health, financial stress/constraints are the last thing you want to deal with on top of all that.

  • I don’t want to live with less

    CUTTING BACK IS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER

    (This is not the post for you if you are used to regular raises, bonuses, shopping and living large. Obviously.)

    Sometimes I feel like the only person online who doesn’t religiously read and follow minimalism blogs. (And many of the mainstream PF blogs, for that matter.)

    Why?

    They don’t resonate with me.

    Decluttering and downsizing are not things I struggle with or aspire to.

    I am the person who rotates through the same 3 pairs of shoes every week.

    Who put up with only having 3 forks for nearly a year.

    Who has lived in painfully small places due to money not choice, and bought a small and dated house because it’s what I could afford.

    Who has always lived in a one-car, two-person household.

    When you tell me to get ahead by saving my pay raises, living in a small cheap place, ditching the car, cutting back on coffee and clothes … I bounce, cause that ain’t my life. Many of us don’t get raises, live in large places we can downsize from, have a car, buy lattes or shop for leisure. These are not practical options for everyone.

    I get it. Trimming the fat is an easy win for lots of people. They are the low hanging fruit. And they’re everywhere on the internet.

    There are also people who are doing all the right things, but can’t get ahead. Quite simply, if they want to change that, they need to bring in more. Cutting back is not realistic (any odd small splurge they can manage is what keeps them going, and is not going to materially impact their overall situation). Popular advice assumes a baseline that is way above where they operate from. I don’t know what percentage of the population they represent, but they exist. Particularly in a low-wage, high cost-of-living country like this. They are on the internet too, but you don’t see or hear about them as often. I’ve seen their comments and stories pop up more and more over the past year, and it breaks my heart.




    I often find myself short of things that are more need than want. I’ve lost so much over the years through various cycles of flatmates, and moving house. I got by for so long without a shower caddy, baking trays, and tons more little domestic touches that make a home. It made no sense to invest in anything of that nature while renting, and even after buying my house I struggled to spend money on those little things despite their huge ROI in terms of quality of life.

    I’m not saying I am perfectly ascetic. I have plenty of crap I don’t need lying around the house and it’s a battle as I have hoarding tendencies rooted in a scarcity mindset (what if we need it someday?!) Mainly free stuff. When freebies come into my home, be they books or drinking flasks or candles or whatever, it’s really hard for me to get rid of something ‘perfectly good’.

    I know just how little it’s possible to live on. I backpacked around the world for six months. Full time travel forces you to get pretty bloody minimalist.

    I’ve lived with less and I know that I want more. A life of abundance. (And yes, for me that means some stuff.)

    Could I cut down my possessions by 30, 50, 70 percent?

    Sure. But I’d really rather not.

    Could I live on a lower income?

    I have done. And I definitely would rather not.

    Every new job/salary bump has enabled me to save more and build the life I want. My best life costs money – a house costs money, dogs cost money, babies cost money.

    For lots of us, cutting back is not the answer.

    (But I still haven’t cut my hair in over a year. I’m still not sure when I actually will get around to it.)

  • A millennial’s perspective on the Auckland real estate market

    auckland real estate rant

    Everyone and their hamster has an opinion about first home buyers in the Auckland property market.

    Even those who have no freaking idea what they’re talking about. I don’t know why this surprises me. It really shouldn’t.

    I may own a house myself but I get SO riled up when this topic comes up. We had a spirited conversation about it at work the other day, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it afterward. Here are my definitive personal thoughts on the matter based on the most frequently asked questions.

    Why don’t you just buy an apartment/townhouse?

    Banks are tougher on lending when it comes to apartments (especially smaller ones) and then you have to account for body corporate fees.

    Apartments and townhouses may have a good reputation for being modern and sought after overseas. Here, they are more synonymous with cheap and nasty. How many apartments/townhouses built in the 2000s here were part of the leaky house epidemic? Not only have those owners had to deal with the costs of fixing their properties, they haven’t seen much (if any) capital gain.

    I lived in a neighbourhood where quite a few apartment/townhouse developments sprung up around the same time. I have lived in 3 separate properties in those developments (1 apartment, 2 townhouses). They were cramped, poorly built, with paper thin walls, and ALL OF THEM WERE LEAKY. I didn’t really care as a renter, but I would never buy one to own. In terms of the residents, let’s just say they almost exclusively fell into 2 main buckets and I didn’t love either of those crowds. They have almost become a kind of ghetto in a way, and I believe the same is true in other similar developments around Auckland.

    Some of those actual apartments/townhouses can be bought for fairly cheap right now. And I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.

    What about buying a new apartment or townhouse? Well, I can’t afford them, quite simply. If I did have $700k to spend, I personally would rather buy an older house on more land. As you might have guessed, I’m pretty wary of recent construction in Auckland from my personal experiences. And so many current development projects have been cancelled in the past few months – so if you’re buying off the plans your apartment/townhouse may not actually get built after all.

    But a house in my suburb just sold for [dollar figure significantly under the average price] …

    Bully for you. Do you understand what average means? Some sell for higher, and some sell for lower. But the average is the average for a reason. (As per previous point – just because something is cheap doesn’t mean you should buy it.)

    Everyone expects too much – new houses today are huge!

    Yes, new builds today are monstrous McMansions. … but us first home buyers are not really buying them (because we can’t bloody afford them). We are buying 70, 80, 90 square metre houses from the 1960s/70s/80s because those humble do ups are what’s (juuuust) in our price range.

    Count yourself lucky – I was paying 20% interest on my mortgage!

    And were house prices 8-10 times your household income back then? House prices have ballooned, but incomes have not grown at the same pace. Payments on a $100k mortgage at 20% are still a lot less than a $500k mortgage at 5%.

    Why don’t you just resign yourself to renting?

    (Oh, I love this one! Let me count the ways…)

    Have you ever felt the sheer terror of having to move house because you’ve been given notice to leave? Used up all your goodwill with the boss because you have to keep ducking out of work to go to viewings (because rentals are only ever shown during working hours, unlike open homes)? Applied to countless places only to never hear back because there’s so much fierce competition? Wondered WTF you’re going to do as your last day approaches and you have nowhere to live lined up?

    Have you ever opened your wardrobe to find mould growing on your clothes like a rash? Or found a mushroom growing through your carpet?

    (Then, my friend, you haven’t truly lived. Let’s swap lives, k?)

    Do you dream of owning a pet?

    Do you want to have kids, settle down, make a home?

    Do you want to decorate, hang things on the walls, paint? Do anything at all to put your stamp on your place?

    Do you want to breathe at night?

    There is your answer.

    (PS – Fortuitously, The Spinoff is running Rent Week right now … a series highlighting just how much renting in NZ sucks. Check it out.)




  • Link love (the ranty edition)

    NZMuse - Link love roundup with awesome reads from the week

    Indulge me, if you will, in getting a few things off my chest:

    WTF: Steamrolling your fiancee into changing her name (if you care that much, you better damn well be just as open to changing your own surname).

    WTF: Caring more about whether a baby is born, than the quality of life it is going to have as a human for all the years beyond that

    WTF: Believing that you, as a non-indigenous person, have more claim to the country that you live in than any other immigrant

    I think that helped.

    Need to let off some steam? Blow all your steam off in the comments. Go for it.

    This week’s links (the first link love of 2017, if you can believe it!)

    For 90% of us, LESS money is NOT the solution (Couldn’t agree more! People who espouse this sound so hilariously oblivious to me, and I wrote about this exact topic late last year)

    How to stop expecting certain things of people

    Bullshit reasons not to buy a house, refuted

    How to let go of financial regrets

    10 daily money affirmations 

    8 money moments for your bucket list

    The underlying privilege in minimalism

    How to deal with food boredom

    5 ways to spend on your marriage

  • Financial vampires: Is there one in your life?

    Financial vampires - cut them out of your life

    Have you ever had a financial vampire in your life?

    Some people are just financially toxic. They are in the shit moneywise, and by merely being present in your life, will drag you down too.

    You may feel obligated to help, or they may explicitly pressure you to do so.

    Whatever their situation, do not risk your own financial wellbeing on their behalf.

    When you step into the role of the money martyr, odds are you’re not just damaging your own financial health but also doing a number on your emotional and physical health as well in the process.

    Those who truly love us and have our best interests at heart will not expect this of us.

    I mean, it feels good to be selfless, if you can afford it. Not to get all The Secret-y on you, but I swear little windfalls have correlated with times that I’ve given more.

    And yet.

    Beware of giving up too much to the people closest to you.

    There’s a difference between supporting someone through a temporary rough patch, vs enabling consistently poor choices and habits. The trick is making that distinction and it’s not always easy to see where that line falls, particularly in a newer relationship.

    I’ve spoken to so many people recently who’ve been in relationships where a significant other has taken advantage of their financial goodwill. In some cases it’s been about subsidising their slacker partners; in others it’s been about taking responsibility for a partner’s debt, or even incurring new debt on their behalf.

    We all agreed on one thing: we’d be much better off today if we’d wised up earlier. Sexually transmitted debt – it’s a thing, and in the worst cases can take years to bounce back from.

    We only get one shot at life, and it’s okay to put your own financial wellbeing first. Start by helping yourself and securing your own needs, then you can turn your attention to helping others.

    When it comes to financially toxic relationships, it’s best to cut those losses earlier rather than later. As a wise friend said, we aren’t just hurting our current selves by staying – we’re also hurting our future selves.

    Give generously. But never, ever sacrifice your own financial stability for anyone else’s sake.

    When it comes to money, ALWAYS put yourself first.

  • Why millennials need to save for retirement

    Why millennials need to save for retirementIt’s safe to say I never really gave retirement very much thought at all until this year.

    But now that I’m not deathly worried about bouncing from cold damp rental to cold damp rental for the rest of my life, I can focus on other things.

    Also, some of the things work has sucked me into lately are all about retirement savings and planning for the future. Heavy shit, in other words.

    All around the world countries are struggling with the affordability of supporting retirees.

    In the future we probably won’t be able to rely on superannuation, and will probably have to pay more of our own living costs and health costs.

    Currently NZ has low levels of elder poverty – our  high levels of home ownership, and NZ Super being universal, non-means-tested, and pegged to 66% of the average wage play a role in that. But soaring house prices mean home ownership levels are falling, and I can’t imagine NZ Super will be immune to the kinds of pension reforms that are underway around the world.

    Seeing and hearing some of the things people say on this subject makes me shake my head.

    I can understand indifference and inertia. I know it feels hopeless. You need to save so much for retirement and it seems like your money isn’t going very far. Hell, I know *I* should really be saving more. But something is better than nothing.

    What I don’t understand is all the ignorance and paranoia out there around KiwiSaver. Seriously. 1) Take the free money, the rest of us are! 2) Your KiwiSaver funds belong to you, not the government. Let go of those tinfoil hats, people.

    Save for the futures, dudes. It’s one thing to pay for the less fortunate – the non-able, whose who don’t earn a living wage – those who aren’t able to take care of themselves. It’s another (and kinda immoral IMO) thing to be a drain on the system because you simply didn’t plan ahead.

    As soon as you can, get started. Even if you start small, you can always ramp it up. Every little bit helps. Time, at least, is on our side. Just do it.