Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Money, Honey: Inside the Life and Budget of a Auckland HR Manager on $110,000 a Year

How much are we all earning? How does your profession add up? How are women your age spending their money? Is everyone in debt? And is the cost of living crisis biting everyone?

It’s time for some honest, candid conversations about money and budgets as we steer down a recession – so welcome to our new series ‘Money, Honey’, where we’ll be diving deep into the bank accounts of wahine across the country to truly get a sense of what’s going on in our piggybanks.

Up this week it’s second-year teacher Hailey – and click here for our previous instalments – Hailey, a 28-year-old teacher, Sarah, a 31-year-old account manager and Katie, a 34-year-old journalist.

Name: Jill

Age: 43

Location: Auckland

Living situation: I live with my fiancé, our 4-year-old son and two tween/teen step-daughters (from my husband’s previous marriage)

Job: HR Manager

Salary per year: $110,000

Any other income: I have a $5k annual car/parking/transport allowance and a $5k annual bonus I normally achieve

Take-home pay per week: $1,626

Investment returns: I Have just started a Sharsies account, but I only have $500 in it for now

My situation:

My fiancé and I bought a house a few months before Covid-19 hit, on the North Shore of Auckland. It’s a bit further out of town than when we were renting (my workplace is in the Auckland CBD), but it was a lot cheaper to live a longer drive away and is a five-minute drive from my future mother-in-law’s home. My family live in the south island so it is good to have her support, particularly as my son is often at home with some bug from daycare and she is retired and offers to help.

I got engaged to my partner of eight years, five years ago. He has two daughters who are with us on weekends and one week on, one week off during school holidays. They used to share a room, but now want their own rooms (the eldest is now a teenager), which meant it was a stretch getting a four-bedroom house.

We were planning on getting married quickly, but there has always been something more pressing to do with our money: a baby, a house etc. I’m not sure we will ever make it official now. I hope we still can!

My husband makes roughly the same amount as me and we split all our expenses. We have a shared bank account but also have separate accounts. My husband had owned a home previously with his ex-wife and was in a better situation financially when we got together, so he paid a significantly larger amount into the deposit on our home. Because we were not married, we looked at drawing up an agreement in case we separated, but decided against it. It was very expensive, and my partner reasoned that his daughters are more of his financial responsibility than mine and it is due to them that we got a larger house. I don’t feel entirely comfortable with this, as I feel we are a family, but it didn’t make sense to spend the money on it.

Weekly budget:

Rent/mortgage:  $1,250

Food: $400 (for the household)

Bills: $280 (for the household)

Childcare:  $300

Investments: N/A

Debt payments: N/A apart from our mortgage!

Spending: $300ish

Saving: $200ish

What’s inside your bank account?

Savings: $10l

Kiwisaver: $12,389 (I was able to use mine for the house)

How do you approach budgeting?

I wish I was better, but it’s similar to how I treat the gym: I won’t go for months and then I’ll go every day for three weeks and burn out! I won’t keep track of my spending for a while, and then I’ll watch every cent for a month. I need to be somewhere in the middle and more consistent. One of the mortgage rates we locked in (we split our mortgage across two) at 3% is coming up to redo in two months, and that is really putting a fire under my finace and I. We’re expecting our weekly mortgage payments to increase by somewhere between 50 – 100% at this rate. That’s a terrifying thought and would mean a big change in our spending habits. If I spend what I do now, it will suck up all my savings and I’ll still be short.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I am a spender at heart. Giving gifts is my way of showing love (my love language), which is a hard habit to break, especially with three kids. My fiance is a saver, which is helping me get on track but can also be a cause for conflict.

Do you have any debt, and what is it from?

I paid off my student loan, plus a rather large debt I incurred with an ex. Now all I have is the terrifying mortgage.

How has the cost-of-living crisis affected you and your spending?

I’ve started doing online click-and-collect grocery shopping. Otherwise, I get overwhelmed and make bad decisions at the supermarket. I can be more ruthless, and well-planned if I do it online. I would buy everything for a meal at the supermarket then find that an eggplant was $12 and not buy it (but then forget and keep everything else in my trolley and not be able to do much else with those ingredients). If I am struggling with it, I don’t know how other families are coping. It’s made me make more charity donations. I always put food in the bins outside and make cash donations (which isn’t helping our mortgage goals, but necessary in this current climate for the greater good).

What are your financial goals?

In the short-term: To stay on top of our mortgage. In the next five years we would like to take a family holiday overseas with the five of us and do up either our kitchen or bathroom. A long-term goal is to afford a wedding!

What’s the best thing you’ve bought in the last three months?

A Bissell Spot Cleaner. I got influenced by someone on Instagram, but it has already saved us a fortune in not having to buy a new couch or carpet. We have an elderly cat and a very messy four-year-old!

What’s the thing you regret buying the most in the last three months?

I bought tickets to go to see friends in Sydney, but I got Covid and couldn’t go (and couldn’t get a refund on the cheap flights and hotel I booked).

Aside from the big stuff (rent/mortgage, bills etc) what’s your biggest source of discretionary spending?

Our children. I know I spend too much. There are all the essentials for school/day care, food, clothing etc, but I often see things they’d like online on sale and buy them. I tell myself I’ll put them away for their birthday/Christmas, but I end up giving them to them early anyway. My justification is that I spent next-to-nothing on myself. I don’t drink, I don’t buy often buy new clothes, I don’t buy expensive skincare/make-up/cosmetic procedures. My partner and I go out for dinner once every month or so.

Do you worry about money?

Yes and no. Like I said, I’ll go a few months not worrying, then three months thinking and worrying about every dollar constantly, regretting the silly things I bought the months previously. I hope I’ll get better at it, but I know in a few months I won’t have the choice but to worry about it with our mortgage increasing!

How much money (honestly) do you think you’d spend on an average day?

On myself? Very little. I don’t drink coffee or go to the gym. I take my lunch to work most days. I just pay for parking ($25). I might occasionally buy a muffin in the mornings ($6). I spend a fair bit on everyone else though, in terms of food, clothing, putting a roof over their heads, doctors bills etc.

Where do you think it’s worth spending money, and where do you think you can save it?

I think it’s worth spending money on the children and on experiences that will enrich their lives. If there are things we can spend money on that mean that we get to spend more time with our kids, that’s important to me. If I have to turn down opportunities to make more money, but mean time away from our children, I do so.

I can also save money by cutting down on things for my children. They don’t really need any more things! A goal is to buy less on things and more on experiences.

Do you have any money-saving tips you’d like to share that work for you?

The click-and-collect I mentioned earlier. I’m a lot more ruthless about spending that way. During my strict spending months, I only allow myself to buy something (other than essentials) if I have slept on it. Twenty-four hours must have passed before I buy it so I know I really want it. Often I’ve already forgotten about it.

What’s the first and last thing you would cut from your spending if you had to make some savings? 

I’d cut out the streaming services. We have three, and we don’t watch much TV anyway. The last thing would be our clothes dryer, it has been our MVP during 2023.

If you’d like to contribute to a Money, Honey story (anonymously!) please email [email protected] – the more we talk about money, the more we demystify it!

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