Sunday, March 3, 2024

Money, Honey: Inside the Life and Budget of an Auckland Journalist on $80,000 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 first, Auckland journalist Katie!

Name: Katie, 34

Location: Auckland

Living situation: With partner, no kids

Job: Journalist

Salary per year: $70,000

Extra money earned: $9500

Take-home pay per week: $1037

My situation:

Obviously being a journalist isn’t the most lucrative of career choices (if only I was good at maths at school) but hey, there’s more to life than money, right? Still, I’m grateful for what I bring in from my main gig, as well as a little bit of freelance work here and there. I love my job but she’s a long, hard climb to advance your salary, especially when newsrooms across the world are shrinking. Covid taught us all to not put all of our eggs into one basket, so having freelance gigs gives you a little more security. Plus I have no kids and live with my partner, which, as a former long-time single girl, is SO MUCH BLOODY EASIER than living by yourself. We’re lucky to live in a great suburb in Auckland but pay very reasonable rent – as soon as we saw our current place, we knew we had to snap it up instantly! Honestly, with the state of interest rates right now, i’m very thankful that we’re renting. Weirdly, it seems less stressful to me?

Weekly budget:

Rent/mortgage: $337.50 (split equally with my partner)

Food: $100

Bills: $100

Investments: N/A

Debt payments: N/A

Savings: A loose $300?

Spending: A loose $200?

What’s inside the bank account?

Savings: $12,290

Kiwisaver: $25,352

How do you approach budgeting?

Um, not with great discipline or gusto to be honest. I try my best to put more into savings every week than I spend and obvs bills are bills but look if Country Road is having a spend and save then that’s a LOT harder. But in the last few years I’ve gotten a lot better as the ‘big stuff’ in life looms closer, like houses and kids.

Are you a spender or a saver?

Obviously from that last question you’ll know I’m spender, but I purposely don’t have a credit card – don’t tempt the shopping gods – so I’m able keep a lid on spending money I don’t have. I occasionally use services like Afterpay for big-ticket items. Although I have the money, I prefer to pay things off in smaller amounts so I have cash reserves if something unexpected comes up.

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

No, and honestly that’s the thing I’m most proud about my financial situation – I owe nothing to anybody, not even a student loan (they day I paid off that bad boy was heaven).

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

I’m definitely much more mindful of spending right now because every time I go to the supermarket I get a new palpitation. My partner and I have definitely tightened out belts a bit in the supermarket department – we’ve actually found using My Food Bag helps us because it eliminates so many trips to the supermarket (where I may or may not have an impulse spending problem).

What are your financial goals?

Begin investing – I know I should, it’s just something I haven’t quite got around to yet, but I do see it as a step towards financial freedom and taking control of my money (and making it work for me). I’d also like to increase my savings to $20k within the year.

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

I bought this tote bag from July before I went on a three-week trip and honestly, I can’t harp on about it enough. It’s the perfect travel companion – the right size, right colour and it slips onto your luggage handle so you don’t have to carry it around.

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

Ironically I bought a candle lamp warmer after seeing a story on Capsule absolutely bagging them (reverse influencing?!) which I was initially jazzed about but it stopped working after three weeks. It’s really reinforced the idea of not buying cheap shit from overseas. Well, until I have the next midnight gin and think it’s a good idea again.

What (if anything) are you saving towards?

My partner and I have lots of travel planned in the next few years, so that – and probably a house at some point (I have no idea how though).

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

Traditionally it’s been clothes but since moving in together last year so much of my money has gone into our house. I’m forever seeing décor pieces I simply have to have and I’m always tweaking our shelves and walls. While I’m definitely trying to reign it in a little, having a welcoming, cosy and beautiful home is of huge importance to me, so I’m just trying to prioritise spending here.

Do you worry about money?

Shit yeah, doesn’t everyone!? I don’t work in an industry with a lot of job security, so that’s always in the back of my mind and it does motivate me to keep saving.

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

I work from home, which HUGELY helps my spending (until the aforementioned midnight gins happen). But if I’m out and about, there’ll be $5 on coffee, about $10 in parking (bloody Auckland) and I’ll grab sushi on the way home (well, does teriyaki chicken on rice count as sushi?).

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

I’m really learning to buy less but buy better. I’m trying to think about capsule wardrobes with less pieces, but better-quality options that go with everything else. I also prioritise good skincare, and I treat myself to a massage from the local Thai place about once a month because it is SO beneficial for both my physical and mental health.

I’m obsessed with candles – there’s always one lit around my house – and I’ve hunted out good supermarket options that are WAY cheaper (try Glow Lab!) as well as learning to make them myself.

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

Writing lists and meal planning before going to the supermarket is massive for me, as well as always having a few essentials on hand to be able to whip up a meal from scratch. A part from the usual staples, the things I always have are:

  • Frozen veggies
  • Frozen fruit (so much cheaper for smoothies and you can bake with it too)
  • English muffins
  • Those frozen chicken burger patties (chuck one in an English muffin with some cheese and you have a better version of a McMuffin! – I eat these literally ALL the time)
  • Frozen roast chicken
  • Canned chickpeas and lentils
  • Tortillas (last longer and you can use for wraps, pizzas, chips, etc)
  • Plain yoghurt (healthier than mayo and so good for so many dressings/sauces)
  • Lemons
  • A full spice range – you can turn something basic and boring into something great instantly

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

The first thing would be the little food and snacks out – I’d save my money for a nice dinner out, rather than takeaway coffees and sushi). Then, it’s always clothes. i know i don’t need them – instead i’ll pull everything out of my wardrobe and have a play around for new outfit combinations.

The last thing (well, in terms of fun stuff) would be my weekly bunch of flowers from the dairy. Every Sunday I pick up $12 posy of seasonal flowers for my work-from-home office and they never fail to pick me up and make me smile. I’m by myself a lot of the day, so having something cheerful to look at really helps me throughout the week – and for $12, that’s a cost I’m more than happy to wear.

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