I got sick of hoisting Spud up to wash his hands. A bamboo step stool has now taken up permanent residence at the bathroom basin. Most importantly, it has saved my arms and back, and many splashes…
With two dogs and a toddler around, the floors are in a constant state of disarray (emergency, even?). A dustpan and brush sometimes feel inadequate and it’s not always convenient or practical to whip out the vacuum constantly. Enter the BISSELL manual sweeper! It’s like a contained broom and it’s a godsend. The carpet sweeper ‘vacuums’ up carpet nicely, controlling pet hair, and it does a reasonable job of hard floors too. There are a lot fewer crumbs in my life now and I’m much happier for it.
It’s not uncommon to see railway tracks chalked all over our driveway and the footpath outside our house, all in bright colours courtesy of Crayola sidewalk chalk. Great fun on dry days!
Speaking of tracks, I nabbed Spud some secondhand wooden train tracks for Christmas and they were a hit. These are his fave toys at daycare. I was reluctant to double up at home, but really, he loves them – why deny him?
The long days, short nights and 2 year sleep regression hit hard. Later, I figured out that granola for breakfast was probably causing a lot of the painful wakings (sleep and eating issues are still closely linked for Spud even at this age … and the traces of nuts in the granola were probably the culprit). As for the prolonged bedtimes, I resorted to trying chewables with magnesium to help support/encourage falling asleep. No idea if they actually helped, but now they’ve become a key part of the routine: vitamin, books, and bed.
Next up on my wishlist? Bath crayons to keep bathtime engaging.
What are you loving right now for your little ones?
Can you imagine a guy telling his colleagues that the thing he’s most looking forward to in the new year is starting a family?
I’ve seen this happen (incidentally, he a) left for another company early not long after, and b) is now expecting a baby too – but that’s by the by) and you know what, that really stunned me.
I cannot ever, EVER imagine saying the same thing as a woman. It seems too great of a risk.
I saw a tweet ages ago that went something like ‘in the old days, men could say they needed a raise so they could start a family”.
I suspect if a woman were to pull that the reaction would be quite different. Even though if she was the breadwinner, she would need that raise WAY more than any dude in the equivalent situation.
Who earns what matters. Here’s why
For those who say it doesn’t who matter who makes more…
Let’s say he makes $40k.
She makes $80k.
The time she takes off results in a loss of 2/3 of the household income.
If we reverse that….
He makes $80k.
She makes $40k.
The time she takes off results in a loss of 1/3 of the household income.
I’m terrible at maths but even I can immediately see that’s there’s a huge, gaping difference there.
Because yes, she’s going to need SOME time off to push a mini human out of her body and recover from that process … even if they elect for him to be the primary caregiver.
I guess ironically, at some income levels this matters less. If you’re making a much higher income, your surplus makes it easier to save large amounts to cover those months you won’t be earning for.
But for your average middle class couple, this is a pretty major consideration.
How much my maternity leave cost me
I was uber fortunate to have a very generous employer – the company I worked for while pregnant offers 3 months of leave at full pay. (I’d still be there were it not for the mass layoffs that took place shortly before I was due to return to work.) That’s super rare, and they were definitely a market leader in regard to this benefit. Very few companies here offer any paid parental leave at all, much less at full pay and for that long. Most people only get the 22 weeks worth of paid government leave that clocks in at something like $480 a week post-tax, maximum.
I wound up taking about 7.5 months off, which included the 3 months of paid parental leave, and another month of annual leave that I’d saved up.
That meant 3.5 months of lost income from my day job, which adds up to over $15k of takehome income.
Add to that over $3.5k in missed superannuation contributions (between my contributions and employer contributions – again, my old employer was very generous on that front) plus any gains that amount would have made in the market.
All up, my brief (by NZ standards) parental leave meant I lost out on nearly $20k. And if I’d worked almost anywhere else, that amount would have probably doubled, as I wouldn’t have benefited from any fully-paid leave. Straight up, I wouldn’t have been able to take that much time off to stay home with Spud.
Like every other human on Facebook, I have mixed feelings about social media. Particularly since managing social media has been part of my job in almost every role I’ve ever held.
But it has been a godsend since having a baby, and here’s why.
I’ve been the grateful recipient of so many freebies that have saved me a ton of money.
Here’s a list of everything I can remember that I’ve received:
Reusable cloth nappies
Hanging storage racks for nappies/toys
Bags of toys
A change table
Curtains – that didn’t fit and that I regifted
A few tins of Neocate – the biggest game changer of all. Dairy-free, amino acid formula for which there’s a high bar to get a prescription (though some doctors may be more sympathetic than others). I was then able to say to our specialist, we’ve tried a few cans and it worked wonders, please prescribe it for us. More on our feeding journey and transition to formula here.
How to get free baby gear on Facebook? Easy. Any parent-to-be or new parent should join their local Frugal Mumma and Pay It Forward groups sooner rather than later.
I’ve learned about free playgroups, free counselling sessions, and discounted classes on Facebook. Going to therapy is a topic for a whole other post, but I’ve been having so many breakthroughs and working through so much childhood baggage.
On top of that, I’ve found so much value and support in various Facebook groups. The dairy-free breastfeeding group. The fussy baby group. The Sleep Store group. An NZ due date group. And more!
Yes, I’ve wasted a lot of time scrolling aimlessly through Facebook in search of freebies, as well as more generally. But overall, it has hands-down been a net positive for me during the past year.
Q: What do you get when two pregnant, breadwinning coworkers are on the train home together?
A: Slightly snarky (okay, envious) conversation about another colleague who’s living an Insta-perfect life on maternity leave with her baby, a husband who makes all the money AND does the cooking (score!).
But look, we all have our own problems (like a fairly horrendous pregnancy in that person’s case and I’m sure there are others) – it was just nice to vent honestly to each other knowing we’re in the same boat and not going to judge each other for our feelings. That it would be nice to have the option to stay home for however long we wanted. To not be the one responsible for incubating our children AND bearing the financial load to boot. Options, I’m all about options.
And I know we’re not alone. Just check out Google’s suggested related searches for the phrase ‘female breadwinner’:
All of that, I think, gets exacerbated in pregnancy. I had a fairly easy one. And I was still SO DONE by 8 months. Even taking it a day at a time was slightly torturous. No, pregnancy is not a disability … but I was definitely nowhere near 100%. And thanks to my extra lame immune system, I just kept getting sick what seemed like every month.
Don’t get me wrong; I was thankful to have made it that far and that healthy. I mean, nobody wants to experience pregnancy complications, but when your income is what keeps the household afloat, being put on early rest is going to be a huge financial blow (unless perhaps you shorten your maternity leave by the same amount of time, and get less time with the baby post-birth. Yay.)
I had to book in my leave plans at the 6 month mark, which was a bit tough. On the one hand, I had no idea how I would physically feel in those final weeks. People kept telling me how hard it was going to get and how I wouldn’t want to work up to 38 or 39 weeks, to which I clenched my teeth and smiled and nodded.
Because on the other hand, I didn’t want to fritter away my leave days. Simply put, every week I’m off pre-delivery means a week less post-birth to spend with baby. It’s a gamble – baby might come early, robbing you of that precious downtime at the end. But then again, baby might be late and leave you sitting around waiting! There’s just no telling. I’d rather err on the side of not wasting too much precious leave beforehand.
So in the end, I was planning to work up until 38 weeks and hoping to get a couple of lazy weeks in at home. (I was counting on the fact that first-time mothers are usually late … but then I read that Asian women often give birth early?!) And that seems to be quite late by usual standards around here, it seems more common to finish up a month before you’re due or sometimes even earlier. And I totally get it, pregnancy gets so more uncomfortable in the third trimester! The fatigue, the fogginess, and holy shit the reflux.
Of course, that was all a moot point when I went into labour at 36 weeks. September was always meant to be our month to get things properly ready ahead of Spud’s arrival, but that did not happen at all. His arrival in early (instead of late) October meant a mad scramble to take care of stuff – thank goodness for family chipping in to help a little bit, bringing food, helping clean up the house, going out to look for baby clothes in preemie sizes. I had no time off at all to myself and never got to wrap things up at work in the way I’d planned.
I’m over halfway through my maternity leave now, which is crazy. Financially, it’s been way more stressful than expected (a long story for another post, another time). I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t battling a lot of resentment, given I’d done my part with planning and budgeting and carried all that out. It’s definitely put a bit of a damper on things.
That said, I’ve enjoyed being able to stay home and watch Spud grow. It’s also really fucking hard work sometimes, and I’m looking forward to sending him to daycare – I think he’s going to thrive on the stimulation. While, as I’ve said before, it’d be really nice to have the option to take a year off … personally, I don’t think I’d be cut out for it anyway. Lucky, that!
I don’t know about you but I never feel quite on top of my financial game coming into a new year, after the Christmas holidays followed by summer fun and New Year’s. Doesn’t help that two of our insurance bills come due around this time! Or, this year, that we have a new baby and the (very generous) paid leave from my job is about to end 👶
If you too need to get back into the swing of it for 2021, here are a few things that might help!
Track your net worth
Regularly tracking your net worth helps you see if you’re actually making progress overall. It gets addictive once you’re on a roll! Until the market turns, at which point it’s totally legit to take a break and turn a blind eye. (Tip: Sharesight can help with keeping track of your investments – I find it super handy.)
Shake up your budget
Budgets aren’t static. Yours is probably a little out of date. A new year is the best time to review and adjust your plan. Making tweaks isn’t a sign of failure, it’s smart! If you’re all sussed, maybe you need to challenge yourself more…
Pick one thing to cut back on
Personally I’m not into no-spend days (mainly because almost all of mine fall into that category anyway) but I am a fan of choosing one area to focus my savings on, whether that’s eating out, electricity, petrol, pet stuff, whatever. You could even tackle a different one every month.
Review your insurance policies
As in, make sure you know what you’re covered for! What are you actually paying for? Is it sufficient? You might need to increase or decrease your coverage, or you might want to adjust your excess to lower your premiums. Since redoing our kitchen, I desperately need to revisit and update our contents insurance cover.
Track your expenses
I used to do this religiously. Then I lost the inclination – and now, I don’t really have the time, either! But it’s still a really valuable thing to do once in awhile, especially if you need to do a bit of a reset. Tracking what you spend for a month can help you figure out your current baseline and set the foundation for a money cleanse.
Check your credit – and keep an eye on it
Monitoring your credit is just good hygiene. It’s part of ongoing maintenance. So pull your credit report today, and make a note in your calendar for the next time! It should be a box-checking exercise really, but every so often there’s a little surprise waiting and you need to be on top of those.
If you don’t already have a rainy day buffer, make this the year you get one! Even if you can only put away $20 a week, it’s committing to the regular contribution that counts and adds up. Cash is king.
Step up your debt repayment
Pay off one debt. Consolidate your debts. Refinance or apply for a balance transfer. Find a way to accelerate your debt journey – it’ll pay off both mentally and financially!
Do one thing to enhance your money making mojo
Love your job? There’s always room to keep learning and growing, whether in technical areas or in soft skills, that’ll make you more marketable.
If you’re due for a review, it’s the perfect time to take stock of your achievements and request a raise. The worst they can say is no.
Or maybe it’s time to take the next step. Do you know what you’re worth? Or what kind of employer you’re looking for, what salary, what title? The more focused you can be the better your chances of getting there.
We all gotta invest. Or our savings will shrink year after year and dwindle to nothing. Inflation’s a bitch. If you haven’t bitten the bullet yet, make this the year you take the leap. There are more options in NZ than ever and they all seem to start with S (Superlife, Sharesies, Simplicity, Smartshares…); here’s a good guide for newbies.
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.
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:
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.
For all the work I’ve been doing on money and mindset recently, I still struggle sometimes with it all.
The last few years have been awesome for my income growth and financial security.
And yet the thought keeps rearing its head: I don’t deserve this. How long can this last?
What I’m doing to counter these doubts:
Reminding myself there is room to grow
I know it’s possible to do so. Salary surveys and job listings out there prove it. As do people I’ve worked with who earn more. (Of course, this leads to another dangerous path that lies in the complete opposite direction – why don’t I already make that much?)
Remembering that me having less doesn’t make the world a better place somehow
The starving artist, nobility is poverty mindset dies hard, I guess. And it’s ridiculous. Me struggling would do nobody any good. I try to remember to give back by donating every month, as well as trying to somewhat regularly give blood, meet up with my mentee, and I’ve also recently joined a local nonprofit board. (Another trigger for imposter syndrome right there!)
Reviewing how far I’ve come
I’m horrible at tracking my accomplishments. But I recently updated my CV and LinkedIn (you don’t even want to know how long that took me) and when I’m feeling down on myself professionally, I look back at some of the stuff I’ve done for reassurance.
How do you cope when you feel like you don’t deserve what you’ve got?