Money, Honey: Inside the Life and Budget of an Auckland Medical Secretary on $71,000 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 Beth, a 32-year-old medical secretary on $71,000 a year – and click here for our previous instalments!

Name: Beth

Location: Auckland

Living situation: Living with my partner in a home I own

Job: Medical secretary

Salary per year: $71,000

Any other income: Babysitting = approx $1-200/month depending how busy I am.

Take-home pay per week: $1,024.21

Investment returns: Minimal – have a Simplicity investment fund which currently has negative returns. It’s okay though as it’s a long-term thing!

My situation:

I live with my partner in a house that I own, having purchased it before we met. He pays a weekly rent, and we had lawyers draw up a contracting out agreement before moving in to ensure that we protected our individual assets. We pay for groceries and other household expenses out of a shared account but otherwise keep our finances separate for now.

I work as a secretary in a medical specialist office, and have been there for a couple of years now. I enjoy my work, as I feel that I get to help people through difficult times in their lives.

Weekly budget:

Rent/mortgage: $480, set aside $125/week for rates + body corp fees

Food: $100 groceries, $50-$100 dining out/cafes etc – could cut this down but don’t really want to!

Bills: $120 (water, power, internet, insurances, phone)

Childcare:  $0

Investments: $0

Debt payments: $125 – repaying a loan from my grandmother that went towards buying my house

Savings: $50

Spending: $100 on misc things like shopping, beauty appointments, goodness knows where else it goes.

Fitness: $30 a week

What’s inside your bank account? $373. When I get paid I automatically set money aside for rates + body corp fees which are paid quarterly and twice a year, debt repayment, money to the joint account for groceries and household expenses, and a bit of savings. The rest I can mostly just spend.

Savings: $3,000 emergency fund – trying to build this up to the ideal three months of expenses.

Kiwisaver: $19,000 – drained it to buy my house but pleasantly surprised how quickly it’s building back up.

Anything else: My partner pays $300 per week for rent and utility bills

How do you approach budgeting? With many spreadsheets! I like to automate things as much as possible but I do keep track of everything so I know how to budget it. My income isn’t the highest so I have to be careful, but I can also afford to do most things I want.

Are you a spender or a saver? By nature, I’m a spender. Even as a child I spent every cent of my pocket money whereas my brother saved it all. Thus I have to be organised.

Do you have any debt, and what is it from? My grandmother loaned me some money towards my first home, as otherwise it was going to be impossible to buy on a single income, and I’m making steady repayments.

How has the cost-of-living crisis affected you and your spending? I’m astounded every time I get to the supermarket checkout, that’s for sure. Won’t be going on any holidays any time soon, but otherwise we feel quite comfortable.

What are your financial goals? Pay off the remaining debt, save an emergency fund, and then save towards potential baby expenses in the next few years.

What’s the best thing you’ve bought in the last three months? A pair of ‘tummy taming’ work trousers from K&K, they really work!

What’s the thing you regret buying the most in the last three months? Henna eyebrow tinting, it really did not suit me and was also kind of expensive.

What (if anything) are you saving towards? I was saving towards upgrading my bathroom but that will be finished this week hopefully, so now just for a rainy day now.

Aside from the big stuff (rent/mortgage, bills etc) what’s your biggest source of discretionary spending? Dining out – I love a good coffee, nice dinner, fancy cocktail. We tend to go out for dinner at least once a week, I get lunch here and there, and same for coffees.

Do you worry about money? Not so much in terms of being able to pay the bills, but I worry about getting ahead in life, moving to a bigger home, having a family and that sort of thing. I have no idea how anyone survives on the minimal paid parental leave!

How much money (honestly) do you think you’d spend on an average day? $5-10. Most work days I spend $0-20 max, in the weekend I can easily spend $100+!

Where do you think it’s worth spending money, and where do you think you can save it? Good skincare is worth every penny.I don’t spend massive amounts on clothes, I find it hard to justify anything over $100.

Do you have any money-saving tips you’d like to share that work for you? Every now and then I will spend a couple of weeks trying to live off everything in the pantry/freezer/fridge. It’s a good opportunity to use up things that have been hanging around for a while, clear out space, and save some money.

What’s the first and last thing you would cut from your spending if you had to make some savings? Beauty services like eyebrow waxing, nails – I can do that at home if need be. Last thing would be fitness, I like yoga, boxing fitness classes etc and those are all super important for my health and mental wellbeing.

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