Earlier this year I had one of my loans roll over (my mortgage is in 3 parts) and annoyingly, since interest rates had gone up since 2016, I wound up paying something like $20 a fortnight more. (Ish? I’m too lazy to go check.)
Such is life in NZ where we don’t have fixed rates for 30 years.
I refixed that loan for another year, and figured I’d look at a full refinance the same time next year when everything would come up for renewal.
But last month I refinanced it all to a new bank.
Why? So so much has been happening moneywise: a bit of which I actually can’t write about, the rest which I will get around to soon.
The main takeaway is, I’ll now be saving nearly $90 a fortnight, which is nothing to sniff at!
Between rates falling a bit in the past few months and the new bank offering a sharp deal, I start saving money right away. I got $3k cashback, which covered the break fees (just under $1000) and also the cash clawback.
The what?! Well, when I took out this mortgage back in 2016 they gave me $1200 in cash. Annoyingly, there was no paperwork outlining the conditions of this (I only have an email confirming the amount, nothing about the payback period). I would have assumed the clawback was proportional over time (as it is with the new bank – I made sure to get this down in an email this time), but no, they required the full cashback amount be paid back in full if I left early.
I’m slightly out of pocket right now due to the lawyer fees for the refinance process but the fortnightly savings will quickly make up for that.
I’ve also now been able to set up the floating part of the mortgage as offset, so the positive balances in my accounts will reduce the amount of interest charged on that part of the mortgage. It’s not a huge amount right now (a few grand offsetting $25k). But early next year I expect to have a much larger lump sum come in (a topic for another future post) and sit around for a little while – and that will be handy.
Ever been through a refinance? How’d you find the process?
You know you’ve come full circle when your spender partner doesn’t want to spend the money he’s been saving for a particular thing, on that particular thing.
I find it amusing, anyway.
How did we get here?
I’ve alluded before to how we have somewhat separate accounts (the mixed method really) and it’s working so much better compared to when I handled basically 100% of that stuff. Overall, money meetings/talks are now way less stressful and anchored in positivity more often than not.
That’s not to say it’s been effortless, especially at the beginning. But like with most things, getting into a groove starts with laying the groundwork.
Banish the cobwebs
Step one for us was getting back to ground zero. And that meant a little bit of individually reflecting and looking back before we could move forward.
Where are you now and why? What’s your role in the situation? Hopefully you’ve become aware of your own blind spots, tendencies, and yeah, mistakes. We’ve all made missteps at some point, some more serious than others. It takes two, rarely is one partner entirely faultless. Even if (ahem) you feel hugely slighted, if you’re committing to making this work, being the bigger person goes a long way initially. Have the grace to forgive yourself, forgive them and let the past go.
Forgetting may not be possible or desirable, but forgiving is necessary to make progress – if that’s what you want to do.
Pick the right time
Okay, so you want to actually talk money? Set up for success – timing is everything! It’s got to be a place and time where you’re both relaxed and have the headspace to give the topic your full attention. You wouldn’t want to hit your boss up for a big raise when they’ve just spent all day rushing from workshop to meeting to conference and are totally exhausted. Context matters.
So don’t force the money talks. They may (and probably will) initially kick up some complicated feelings and negative energy. Pushing and pushing for a conversation at that point is only going to lead to hurt feelings, taking things personally and wrongly perceiving things as an attack or criticism. Keep it short, know when to stop.
Back to basics
Don’t assume anything, especially if you’re the person who’s been doing it all. T literally did not know what we spent on most of our key expense categories, because it’s not something he’s all that interested in and thus I didn’t make an effort to involve him. But (duh) him not being across things at that basic level made it really hard to talk about money in any detail let alone our bigger goals for the future and what we might need to do to reach those.
Make it a conversation
Keep the dialogue going and try to avoid absolutes – you always, you never etc. Also bad: taking opposing stances on everything – you’re careless, you’re stingy, you’re too generous, you’re too obsessive.
Try and turn each point around and look for examples of contradictions – I bet you’ll find a few cases where you broke with the pattern. The time when you splurged randomly – why? The time when you saved for something and actually stuck to a plan – why? While we all have tendencies we naturally fall into and revert to, we’re also capable of acting out of character and understanding what drives that can be really insightful.
Speaking of ‘why’ … that’ll be the next step. Figuring out your goals and getting aligned behind them.
Take it slow
Don’t expect to see 100% eye-to-eye. This is totally natural. Resist the urge to nag and try to convince your partner that your way is the only way. Particularly if you’re paired up with a Rebel (Four Tendencies anyone?) that’s gonna land like a lead balloon.
Wishing for them to change (especially overnight…) does not work. Focus on what you CAN control, namely yourself: doing what you can and leading by example. Odds are that they’ll increasingly get onboard once the benefits start to become clearer under your steering. Or you may gradually come around more to your partner’s way of thinking and adjust your approach accordingly. For us, he’s moved a long way towards me on the spectrum, but I’ve also loosened up a little and shuffled his way a bit. And let’s be honest, it hasn’t hurt that our income’s gone up, meaning the purse strings are less tight – that’s a luxury that’s helped a lot in this regard.
People often ask me if I’ve been having any cravings – and the answer is always no!
Aversions, on the other hand…
I miss enjoying food; nothing ever sounds appealing 99% of the time but one has to eat nonetheless. These days I’m eating to live vs living to eat, and that’s so not me.
Cravings aren’t costing me anything, but lemonade’s now a staple on the shopping list every week. It might be a placebo but quite frankly when the delightful pre-bed upset.indigestion sets in (usually peaks between 8-10pm) I don’t care.
Fortunately, healthcare is mostly free here and my antenatal costs have been minimal. A few bucks here and there for prescriptions, and $50 a pop for scans (beyond the first free dating scan).
I have health insurance through work, however the (small) obstetrics allowance only kicks in after a year – so would only cover costs in about the last month of pregnancy and beyond. As far as I can tell there should be no charges associated with labour/birth, apart from perhaps the fee they charge for partners to stay overnight with you at Birthcare.
So far, I’m still fitting into my current bras (this was perfect timing actually, as this lot were all about to hit the end of their life, having stretched out over the past couple of years) and still squeezing into my pants with the help of a handy $20 extender though possibly not for much longer. So far I’ve spent about $25 on new (thrifted) clothing – two pairs of stretchy pants that I live in when I’m at home (surely now down to about 0.01 cents cost per wear) and a flowy skirt with stretchy waistband.
In terms of baby stuff, we’re yet to actually begin shopping. I’m pretty set on avoiding mindless browsing and only buying the essentials, especially to start off with.
We definitely seem to be in line for some hand me downs, and I’d like to buy secondhand stuff where possible and safe. From what I can tell, lots of baby stuff just doesn’t get used for long and winds up getting sold online for much less, lightly used. Savings aside, think of all the wastefulness! I’d so much prefer to reuse than to contribute to unnecessary waste. And yes, I’m thinking about doing some cloth diapering too, but we’ll see how we go…
The time has come: we may be facing our first significant piece of house maintenance/repair!
Our dining room/sunroom is an extension on the original house, and it looks like the roof on this part will need replacing, which really sucks. A small leak sprung the other day (we’ve had a crapton of rain and a few storms), which we’ve solved for now but probably not for the long term.
I’ve also mentioned before how one side of our fence is chain link and falling apart; looks like this year is the year and it’s getting more urgent as lately we’ve caught one of the dogs sneaking over to the neighbour to play with their dog (which they’re not actually allowed to have, but that’s a whole separate issue…). We’ve been saving for this but doesn’t mean I like it 😛
Other stuff on the radar:
There’s an annoying dip in the driveway that fills up anytime it rains (so it’s a permanent puddle in winter) – again something we’ve been putting off tackling
The baby room. It’s pink. Barbie pink on every wall. That’s gonna have to change, no debate!
Expenses aside, I love our house and life and wouldn’t change a thing! We wouldn’t be able to have these two silly dogs otherwise and I wouldn’t feel secure in having a stable place to raise this little spud-to-be.
Being selfless is good. Selfish is a dirty word. Right?!
Nay, my friends. On the contrary. Learning to be selfish is the single best thing you can do for your finances. (And life in general.) If there’s one thing I’ve learned over and over in my 20s, it is the importance of putting myself squarely first.
It is the key to making more money, to hanging on to your money, and that is what will enable you to build the life you want – and ultimately, give back consciously and deliberately in ways that are meaningful for you.
It’s particularly important for women, I think. We tend to struggle more with self-confidence, imposter syndrome and negotiating; bad relationships tend to be more financially devastating for us. And that is where selfishness comes into play.
Here are my best tips for stepping up your game, based off my personal experiences and observations of others around me.
Be an advocate for yourself
Let’s face it, nobody else will. No one else will put your best financial interests first. Your employer does not exist to help you make money. It’s up to you to learn to track your accomplishments, trot them out, and use that to ask for raises or negotiate higher salaries. Those who don’t ask, don’t get.
(Well, generally. Some will do the right thing – when I applied for my first non-journalism job, I secretly wanted to make $60k but I couldn’t, deep down, fathom anyone paying me that much. It just seemed outrageous. So on the application form, I wrote $58k in the desired salary field. They offered me $65k – a full 12% more. But it would be a mistake to count on any employer ever doing that again!)
Listen to your mentors
Okay, so maybe you need an external nudge? Hopefully, you have senior people to give you a reality check! Take their advice.
One told me to ask for a raise. I didn’t. I was planning to go travelling soon, which would either mean taking extended leave or resigning, and it seemed like bad faith to ask for more money right before that. Plus, I had terrible imposter syndrome and suspected I was overpaid. Ugh.
Another told me to quote high on some freelance work. I took that on board, and as a result, for the first time ever, charged $50 an hour. A preposterous sum of money to me, probably a fair professional rate in their view.
Do not give too much away
You work hard for the money. Don’t let it trickle away with lax boundaries.
I’m talking about giving too much to the people closest to you. You might feel obligated to help them out with money, or they might actually outright pressure you into it.
Don’t do it. You must put your own financial security first. That has to be your top priority. You will know when you can afford to be generous, and in most cases, this is not that time.
Get over your mental blocks
Easier said than done, I know.
There are so many messy messages wrapped up with money. You might think making money means selling out. There’s nobility in being a struggling artist. Rich people are assholes. Liking money makes you greedy or a bad person somehow.
If you stop to really reflect on your most deep-rooted perceptions around money, and wheel them out for inspection in broad daylight, you start to realise how unfounded and illogical many of them are.
There is nothing wrong with earning or enjoying money. Sure, if you were a tosser before, you’ll still be a tosser – having money won’t change that. But if you’re a decent human being, having money won’t change that either. If you’re starting from a reasonable baseline, then you’re good. You’ll still be you. Promise.
And selfishly? If you’re anything like me, you have dreams and those dreams ain’t free.
But you know what I hate? Being constrained financially. Being FORCED into frugality, into cutting costs and pinching pennies. I never want to be limited by money. Particularly as we live in a capitalist society, where inflation ensures life only gets more (not less) expensive.
There’s no use feeling guilty about your financial situation, either. So lots of people do much harder jobs for lower pay; so some people struggle. The answer does not lie with you. If you were to earn less, this would not magically level the field for everyone. You having more does not mean someone else automatically has less. Your success does not take anything away from others. If anything, you could argue it’s your responsibility to reach your maximum earning potential so that you can use that money to give back.
Go get it.
After more inspiration? Head over here this International Women’s Day and have a read of all the other awesome #WomenRockMoney content.
Amazingly … it made a difference. I wouldn’t say it changed my core personality – I’m definitely still a realist, with the same sarcastic tongue and sense of humour – but it actually did wonders for my state of mind and made me a more pleasant person to be around.
Hell, I even changed my passwords like some say to do, so that your goal is front of mind each time you type it in.
Is it helping? Can’t hurt, I figure … there’s nothing to lose. At the very least, it reminds me of my goals multiple times a day.
Of course, not everything is within our control and shit happens. Positive thinking doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand and blinding yourself to reality.
But it can definitely shore up your ability to cope with setbacks and manage stress. I’ve found that opening up my mind like this has led to me to see more possibilities and think differently in order to succeed.
Balancing these viewpoints, I’ve come to realise that this is something I’ve basically always proclaimed to aspire to:
Aside from actually looking at your account balances, that is!
For me, it’s things like…
Passing a WOF
After years of expensive Warrant of Fitness checks (they always struck terror into my heart – our crappy car always failed and so it was never a question of whether we needed to sink money into it to pass the WOF, but how much). Since buying this car, that stress has totally gone away, and we only need to go once a year as opposed to every six months. It’s such a great feeling to pass the first time around. And it still feels like a luxury.
Going to the movies
We’re lucky that competition in our part of the city has driven prices down. Instead of paying $15 or more per ticket, we can buy tickets for under $9 at our local cinema! Even so, going to the movies still feels like a big extravagance to me.
As a kid we only ever rented movies from the video store. Even though new releases ($8 for overnight) cost more than a child movie ticket. (Sure, more than one person can watch it if you’re hiring movies to play at home … but it was only ever just me, as my parents aren’t into movies and my brother was so much younger.)
Getting food delivered
Recently UberEats launched here and I got a $10 voucher to use on it. There’s something so crazy indulgent about having a meal come to you without having to lift a finger (aside from tapping out your order in the app). I feel very strange about having a person rock up at my door with dinner from an outlet that’s literally located just a few minutes away. Not planning to make this a habit, but a good backup for when you’re bedridden with the winter flu potentially and can’t rustle up real food for yourself!
It’s different for everyone…
This all stemmed from a random conversation we had the other day when T talked about how as a kid, a bucket of chicken from KFC was kind of a signifier of money – it’s something he didn’t see or experience until adulthood. And how in general they never had name brand stuff growing up. These days it’s often important to him to get branded stuff if it’s going to last longer; the flipside is that having grown up with cheap stuff that they weren’t taught to care for or treat well, looking after the good stuff properly is not an instinctive thing either.
For me, if I go back to my childhood … I don’t think we ever paid full price for anything, so buying something that’s not on sale sometimes still feels like a splurge.
That was my reaction a few weeks ago when the first pay day of the year arrived … and I hadn’t been paid.
My mind immediately went into overdrive.
Where was the money? Was it just delayed due to the New Year public holidays? Had it not been processed by the finance team? What if I wasn’t going to get paid at all? What would this mean for cashflow for the next week, and the week after, and the week after, and the week after? I’d have to tap into savings, maybe take some from the house renovation fund …
And so on and so forth. Straight into the worst case scenario and all the disastrous consequences.
It’s so easy to spiral – but I managed to take a deep breath before spinning totally out of control and reassess.
I had enough in that account to pay the mortgage – priority numero uno.
Cash savings elsewhere would tide me over for all the other expenses.
And that was all I truly needed to think about right then and there.
No use immediately jumping to catastrophic conclusions and getting lost down the paths of endless what ifs.
Worrying isn’t always a bad thing, if you know when to stop
There’s the productive kind that leads to making contingency plans.
But then there’s needless stressing. It’s like picking a scab.
It serves no purpose whatsoever – aside, perhaps, from giving your mind something to do. And the only possible result is that you make yourself feel worse and worse as it drives you into a frenzy of fear and self pity (you know exactly what I’m talking about).
That’s unhelpful, unhealthy, and it’s something I’ve worked hard to cut out.
It doesn’t sound like much, but I was super proud of myself for catching myself in the act and nipping it in the bud.
Because as it turns out, my biggest downfall is my own hyperactive mind. Some might abuse substances, or food; my destructive behaviour manifests as compulsive, obsessive stressing.
Happy ending! The money came through sometime between then and the next time I checked back – which I refrained from doing until the next day. All that fretting would have been for nothing.
The urge to scratch that itch was strong, but every time I stamp it down it gets a little easier.
Rewiring your mind
Another example: several months ago I got a letter from the owner/landlord of the neighbouring property. They wanted to put up a new fence … and their estimate was over $6,000, or $3,000 for my half.
Now, a new fence is on the roadmap for us, and it’s something we wanted to get done as soon as possible. But not just yet (the kitchen comes first) and certainly not at that price. $3k for a fence was not in the budget any time soon.
I stressed out majorly about this. Raged, worried, spent ages researching the law and our obligations. Wrote back outlining my viewpoint and countering their proposal (which boiled down to, we do not currently have the funds or desire to do this right now).
Then it was just a matter of waiting. Time enough for me to review the situation with a clearer mind and reassure myself that even if this were to go ahead, I could absorb the expense. Sure, it would make a massive dent in my savings and postpone our kitchen project for who knows how long … but it wouldn’t ruin me.
Time passed and no response came, so: crisis averted. We can tackle the fence later when we’re in a position to do so.
And that was a huge exercise in resetting my emotional reactions, and a big leap forward for me. In fact, I think it was my biggest breakthrough in terms of stopping the spiral before it went too far.
Breaking the cycle
Since then, I’ve taught myself to allow less and less time to freak the fuck out, and more quickly move on to considering the options, and accepting the possible outcomes. Stop panicking. Stop spiralling. Stop freaking out about money.
Overwriting that thought pattern takes time, just like building any muscle or habit. Developing the self awareness and self control so that you can catch yourself before the worrying stops being productive and crosses over into self flagellation.
You’ve got to be able to recognise when you’re heading down that path, and make the choice to break the cycle right there.
It’ll do wonders for your happiness. Seriously, learning to not let my scarcity mindset drag me down is probably my favourite life hack ever.
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?
My grocery shopping game weakens every week now that we do so much of it online. My new groove is going to the supermarket near work at lunch to pick up supplies, which costs more than if I were to plan ahead better – but at least I have a few teammates who do the same thing, so it’s like going out for lunch together but way more frugal!
Max (our big dopey dog) will need some teeth yanked. Eeeek.
I’ve been saving a bit of money here and there on commuting, getting a ride in with T sometimes in the morning (OTOH, this occasionally results in him ranting about particular issues which I have no interest in debating, least of all at 7am before work).
After getting into a bit of a musical rut I downgraded to the free Spotify for a bit in favour of just listening to podcasts on the train, and then took up a 3-months-for-the-price-of-one deal for Premium. Particularly in summer, it’s so worth it to me to have offline music access.
A little trip we were looking forward to won’t be happening after all, but financially this saves big $$$!
I ordered a couple of small dog toys ages ago that went missing in the post but this is finally getting resolved!
For the first time ever, I now have a phone with a monthly contract that I’m paying for myself. Most of my jobs have provided a phone (usually an iPhone) but currently this isn’t the case. There really wasn’t a saving to be made by buying outright vs going on a plan, and so despite my hatred of commitment to these things I’m now four months into a two-year deal.
I’m loving watching my investments grow month on month now – while I didn’t hit my stretch salary goal with this offer, the awesome benefits (particularly around retirement contributions) mean that the total package is definitely worth around that target.