The millennial money champion (well, not really) – how I survive with a monthly paycheck

Earlier in the year, I wrote an article for the YWCA blog.. Here’s the longer, less edited version with all my handy finance tips.

KimK

Three years into being paid monthly, you’d think I’d have it sorted by now…. I definitely don’t and still live on tuna and rice for about a week leading up to payday, but I have at least learned some tips and tricks to make it easier to manage on a monthly pay cycle, manage a budget and still save for a house (well, maybe a tap in the bathroom) and put money aside for travel.

We’ll call this Part 1 – if I was to share all my money hacks in one go, we’d probably be here all day. I never write anything too long, as I’m aware that millennials have the attention span of a goldfish, if we’re lucky. So, I hope this is interesting enough to pull you away from the YouTube clip of the cover of Duolipa (is this still relevant???) with a kazoo or, my personal favourite, reading the comments on your local community page.

#1 – The budget

When I think of budget, as most people, I don’t get excited and instead, a sense of unexplained anxiety creeps over me, reminding me of how I managed to spend double my entertainment allowance last month… Fortunately/unfortunately, budgets are absolutely crucial when you don’t earn millions of dollars to spend whatever you want on eating out every night because you cbf cooking. For most people, budgets are crucial to manage the spending and the saving.

The most important thing to consider with a budget is that it has to work for you. I use an Excel spreadsheet based off a template from the ever useful ‘How to grow the fu*k up and act like an adult’ here. This gives you a good foundation of categories you may be spending money on – great for beginners. I just use an enhanced version of this every month.

For the more tech savvy, there is a myriad of budgeting apps. Not going to lie, I haven’t actually used any of them… I’ve tried to download a couple of different ones, but they didn’t work for me at all. But hey, worth a try? Check out some of the recommended ones from Investopedia (sounds legit). Some banks also have good budgeting apps/budgeting tips too and I’m even told that you can get your own financial advisor.

#2- Sticking to said budget

This is undoubtedly the most difficult part of budgeting. You’ve set aside $80 a week for ‘entertainment’ (this is my actual entertainment amount), but there’s brunch to pay for, movies to go to and your friend has just invited you to dinner at the Grill… There’s no way you’re going to be able to do all of these things on your weekly budget. So do you:
a) Say no because you’re super disciplined
b) Put it on your credit card because that doesn’t actually count
c) Borrow from something unimportant in your budget like ‘petrol’, or ‘food’?

Obviously the best answer is a, but this is much easier said than done and temptation is always going to be there. I have a couple of suggestions here. Firstly, create separate bank accounts under your main bank account and name them. Currently I have beauty, food, entertainment, petrol, rent and savings. I have trained myself not to borrow between these accounts and its going surprisingly well. I get paid monthly, so if I overspend on food one week, traditionally I spend less the next week and it seems to work out well. Plus, I never run out of money for petrol, or rent.

Secondly, take out your entertainment budget in cash. I found entertainment was the hardest thing to stick to – I spend a lot of unnecessary money on coffee and gluten free muffins… Having cash in my wallet means I have a finite amount I can spend, reduces temptation to overspend and gives me greater visibility about how much money I have left without logging into my banking app and seeing how much money I’ve spent… Well worth a try!

We’ve only covered budgeting and you’ve already been reading for at least two minutes, which I’m aware is taking valuable attention away from the rest of the apps you’ve got open, so I’ll leave it here for now. Give the budgeting apps a go, be gentle on yourself and remember that it may take several tries to find a system of money managing that works for you. Stay tuned for the next part of my money smart series and we’ll delve into credit card fees, savings accounts and general fun things to stop you from being permanently poor.

Until next time – the modern millennial. *I’m not expert in money, or savings, but I have made a lot of mistakes when it comes to budgets and spending!

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I’m back from hibernation!

My WordPress site tells me that I am yet to write a blog post this year… And it’s June. Which is fairly embarrassing given my endless goals to write at least once every two weeks… Safe to say that I definitely took on a bit too much when I decided to keep working my job, start studying my Masters of Management and become a Brownie leader. Which has taught me a fuck tonne about time management, balance and learning my limits of how much I can achieve without turning into a zombie/grumpy crazy lady at my flatmates for not doing the dishes.

I have resolved to write more – I know, I know… I’m open to suggestions, but am pretty keen to get started on a work/life balance series that I’m sure you’ll all find useful. I’ve learned a fair bit about myself in the last six months, so my first post back will be a nice overview of what I’ve learned from substantial over commitment.

  1. You absolutely cannot do everything. Unless you’re some kind of super human. And if you do everything, you definitely won’t do it all well. Pick your priorities and pour your energy into those. Take it from me – if you spread yourself too thin, like a layer of jam on toast, the thinner you go, the less tasty your toast will be. (What an excellent analogy right?)
  2. Manage your time and energy wisely. I read a book – the Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson – which highlights the importance of focusing on where you spend your time and energy. If it’s not going to bring you a good return of happiness, or a sense of achievement, don’t stress it. There’s enough to worry about. Also related to time management – have some sort of organisation system. I bought a whiteboard from (can you guess?) Kmart, which allows me to plan out what I’m doing for the week and sits on my desk with important deadlines and reminders. 10/10 recommend.
  3. Look after number 1. One of the hardest lessons I learned was that it’s okay to say no sometimes. It’s okay to skip going out for drinks with your friends when you’re tired and have a bath. I try to have one night of ‘me time’ a week and although I only actually do this about once a month, I feel so much more refreshed when I do. Part of this too is eating healthy and exercising. Pretty basic, but when you’re busy, it’s really important to look after your mental and physical health.
  4. Remember it’s okay to have fun sometimes! I’ve spent most of my weekends for the last three months studying and writing assignments and most weeks I’m lucky if I finish my readings, go to the supermarket and finish washing… Sometimes I forgot to have fun. Taking a night off to go out with my friends – or go to Sydney, didn’t kill me and definitely didn’t affect my results either.

There are many more things I’ve learned, but those are the highlights of my life so far. Stay tuned for my work/professional series and whatever else I feel like posting. Ciao for now!

Modern millennial #financetips

After a full two years of being paid monthly, I still haven’t figured out the knack of budgeting without spending two weeks in what I call ‘treat yo’self mode’ then the next two weeks in ‘can beans on toast for dinner’ mode. I recently read a blog post on financial books that didn’t sound like ‘an hour with the accountant’ and have finally decided to take control of my financial life.

I haven’t finished the book yet (I’m still halfway through and trying to navigate myself through American finance terms – what the fuck is a 401k?!), but I thought I’d save you the effort of actually reading the book and give you a nice summary in a handy bulletted list (aren’t I nice?). So here some handy tips, which to be honest, seem kind of common-sensical, but really aren’t as well practiced as I thought (you’re not alone!).

  1. The first handy dandy finance tip does seem pretty obvious, but relates to the fact that millennials are kinda lazy: shop around! I chose my bank account truthfully because my dad was with that bank and any payments he made would be instant (yes, classic #bankofdad millennial story). I opened my savings account with a different bank because my grandfather used that bank. These are okay reasons to go with a bank, but don’t really give you any insight into bank fees, interest gained or how a bank can help you achieve your finance goals (do you have finance goals?). Moral of the story here – take the time to do your research. Don’t go with a bank because they have a cute app, or hand out free elephants when you sign up for a new account. Find out what it can do for you and go from there.
  2. The credit card. I got a credit card for 100% the wrong reasons (although I told my parents it was too make small purchases and pay them back). At the time, I thought I was being amazingly savvy. I’d read up on how credit cards can help you build credit (if you don’t max them out and pay them back on time…) and I even took the time to read the boring terms and conditions. Except, I had no idea what they meant or really what a credit card is for. So going back to the previous point on shopping around, take the time to find a credit card that will actually do things for you: your credit card should make you money, not cost you in fees. And it shouldn’t be used as a day-to-day transaction card.
  3. Saving. So it seems that saving for Fiji, or shoes, or a new laptop aren’t supposed to be the same account as your ‘I’m going to get old one day or need a house or something when they run out of avocado’ fund. I’ve read a couple of things on saving recently. Obviously, save as much money as you can but most places seem to say 20-25% of your income is a pretty reasonable amount. Remember what you’re saving for. You should have a separate holiday fund, house fund and around $1000 minimum saved for ‘a rainy day’ – basically when you find out that your car needs an entire new set of tires to pass its WOF. Throwback to an earlier post – I recommend opening a bank account with a separate branch as an online-only account for serious savings. Remember to shop around for the best interest rate (there are helpful websites for this like this one)
  4. Budgeting. The bane of my existence. There are many tools and apps out there designed to help you manage your money better. Or better yet, you can go with a bank like BNZ that has a cute app where you can drag money across (but definitely don’t choose a bank because you can set a cat as your savings account icon). I still budget the old fashioned way with a good old excel spreadsheet and what’s called a ‘zero sum‘ budget – where I allocate every dollar of my paycheck to a certain category. This is a good way to do it if you’re a Finance 101 student such as myself and helps to ensure you always have money for rent and food. If you’re a bit more proficient with money you can loosely allocate money to things, but chances are, if you’re reading this you’re probably not… Another thing to try (this is on my to do list) is the cash entertainment budget. Each week you get out the money allocated to entertainment in cash and that’s your limit for the week. Try and see what works for you.

So, halfway through the book, these are my top tips so far. Basically the main point is to do your research and not blindly enter in to bank contracts because they put you in the draw for a Samsung TV. Finances might not be the most exciting topic in the world, but they’re an essential part of life, you may as well get savvy now. And buy all the avocados.

My thoughts on ‘the Block’

There have been many posts in the almost 7 days since the Block auction was broadcast live on TV, leaving many on the edges of their seats and shocking viewers with the underwhelming result (yes, I know, I should go write for the Herald – until then, here we are). I found the entire event depressing. As a millennial imminently aware of the housing crisis, I was shocked at the prices of what I’d call a typically family home in the suburb I grew up in and where my mother bought her first house (for ~$55k!!!). It really hit home just how grim the current situation is.

People accuse millennials of being selfish, indulgent – somehow the reason we can’t buy a house is because we’re spending $18 a week on smashed avo’s on toast. In light of the impending election, I thought it was worth writing a post on what it’s like being a millennial in the depressing reality that is the current state of affairs. (Spoiler alert, it’s pretty shit).

There was a show not to long ago about ‘who really owns NZ’, which, to be honest, felt like a xenophobic white man complaining about how immigrants are buying NZ land and taking over. That’s not the issue, the issue is demand versus supply in Auckland. And, in fact, we need immigrants, to fill the labour shortage. There are simply too many people who want to live in Auckland.

30 years ago, when my mother bought her first house, she got given a subsidy to buy a house that was worth just over 3.5 times her salary. For me to buy a house now, with 0 subsidy would cost be at least 10 times my salary – for a shack in Hamilton. Awesome.

Anyway, back to the heart of this post – the Block. What I found particularly hard to watch was the price of houses, being purchased by (what I presume were – correct me if I’m wrong) foreign investors, because no one in New Zealand can afford the reserve. I know that we can’t change the current cost of houses and I don’t want those with houses to lose the value of their property. What we need is to develop other areas and spread the wealth around the country so we’re not all bidding for Ling and Zing’s house in central Northcote.

I write this from Whangapoua, a beautiful but sleepy town in the Coromandel that is only inhabited (mostly) for 6 months of the year (see stunning image below #jelly). I’d love to live here. But I can’t. What events am I going to run in Whangapoua? Who would utilise my communications skills that I spent three years honing at uni and piled on the student debt for? Therein lies the issue for the modern millennial – even if we don’t want to live in the cities there are few opportunities for my skills outside of city centres.

I don’t want to accept that I will be renting all my life, never achieving the kiwi dream of home ownership unless I greatly reduce my spending and basically become a hermit. I don’t want to be endowed with so much debt that I feel unable to travel or buy the extra latte… I don’t want it all, but I want the quality of life that my parent’s generation were offered. And I want to be able to do it out of Auckland.

So, I’m not sure how much change a blog post can affect, but if the Internet is good for anything, it’s for providing a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but I hope by the time I’m thirty, I will be at least able to plant some strawberries (or maybe some tarragon?) in a garden that belongs to me. And I look forward to seeing a season of the Block in another part of New Zealand.

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From where this blog post comes from today- Whangapoua Beach #summeriscoming

 

 

Finding the perfect flatmate (do they even exist?)

Unless you’re a super wealthy millennial who forfeited the avocado on toast brunch dates (I prefer pancakes anyway), or have comfortably nestled into your parent’s garage, an inevitable part of living in New Zealand is going flatting. I think my mother, who never actually had to flat (#throwback to housing subsidies for new home buyers!) is inwardly repulsed by the idea of living with complete strangers. I’ll admit, it’s not the greatest idea, but when your friends aren’t quite ready to leave the basement, what other choice have you got?

So here’s another fun blog post, essentially part of the SEJ Guide to Adulting (in a bookstore near you…in about 5 years) on how not to end up co-habiting with weirdos/axe murderers/people who leave the toilet seat up (is there anything worse?!). I’ve done my fair share of flat hunting and flatmate acquiring, so here’s my top list of what to look out for in flats and flatmates.

  1. Starting with a personal favourite of mine – and this could go either way – Cleaning rosters. This really depends on the level of OCD you require in your fellow flatmates. I tried and failed with a cleaning roster in my old flat, but I strongly recommend asking about this one; it’ll tell you a lot about the people who live there. If you’re big on organisation and cleaning, this will tell you that you’re about to flat with some great people who are ridiculously organised. But, on the flipside, it means they’re unlikely to be relaxed and if you’re looking for a chill flat, avoid one with a cleaning roster. Similarly, you will want to check if they’re clean and tidy, which is amazingly deceptive in flatmate interviews, but use your best judgement.
  2. Friends & partner policy. This one is an interesting one. I’ve seen a fair few flats advertised that say ‘no sleepovers’ or ‘no friends after 10pm’. For me, these types are worse than the cleaning roster implementers and are to be avoided at all cost. Unless you’re a hermit that’s looking for other hermits to avoid external human life with, then, by all means – go forth.
  3. Cooking restrictions. Again, another interesting one. I’m an avid cooker/part time baker and don’t like to have restrictions imposed on me on how much cooking I’m allowed to do – ads that say ‘light cooking’ are immediate red flags for me. Shared cooking between flatmates also isn’t up my alley – so many problems. For example, what happens on the nights I cook with my friends/partner/cat/Jamie Oliver cut out? Or what happens if you’ve got one flatmate that just cooks terrible food and you consistently deliver Master Chef quality dishes? How is that equal? You’ll also want to check the cooking of your future flatmates – I’m not a big fan of the curry /no extraction lovers, so just another one to be aware of in your lengthy interrogation of a new recruit.
  4. Hobbies. This is a good one, as I am a fan of the flatmate you never see/one that has interesting stories from their various hobbies. Basically no hobbies = always home. If they’re at home playing loud music (particularly during my allocated quiet yoga time), then they’re not going to gel well with me. Flatmates with a good array of hobbies e.g. sports and crochet enthusiasts will make for good co-habitants. Shared interests are also ideal and hobbies tell you a lot about an individual.
  5. Filling the gaps – this one mainly pertains to finding new flatmates. As a ‘knowledge worker’, I have little to no practical skills, which means simple things like a broken dishwasher become a mammoth task. A great tip is to finds new flatmates that have skills you so desperately lack- so for me, a tradie who’s clued up with a hammer is a winner to fix the something I will eventually break. Surprisingly, physicists also make for great flatmates (despite their also lack of practical skills, typically) because they can bring some great banter. And communications people are just great all round (I do disclose a bit of bias here). So, find what you’re missing and recruit!
  6.  Assessing life stages. This is pretty straight forward, but I’d recommend avoiding people who are in a completely different life stage to yourself and your fellow flat fam. I tended to avoid students in my old flat because it wasn’t the quiet and productive study environment conducive for a student’s performance. Similarly, I’d recommend avoiding people who are in their late fifties (for example), if you’re a flat of mid 20’s professionals, as they’re unlikely to want to bond over a Friday night game of vodka Monopoly (yes it exists and yes it’s a good time). First time flattees are also good to avoid, unless you’re feeling generous and willing to teach Dishwasher Tetris 101 (again).

So there you have it, 6 (this could have been 60 – count your blessings) fantastic tips of what to look out for when you’re choosing the place you will spend a majority of your downtime. Choosing the right flat is important and can be challenging, but your flatmates can become life-long friends (or so I’m told). This post has been all about the people – but there is undoubtedly a post coming on choosing the actual flat itself – and why TradeMe/Facebook photos are super deceptive. Stay tuned!

 

Modern dating 101

I haven’t written a dating post (or in fact, any post) for a while, so I thought I would jump on and write a comprehensive assessment of all your dating options as a millennial in 2017. So much choice, lucky you.

You’d think that in the era of modern dating, with so many options, it would be a lot easier to find the love of your life. I mean, statistically, you’re a lot more likely to find ‘the one’, when you have access to a much greater dating pool, but it’s also a lot more challenging to weed out the creepy men who are just wanting to know the colour of your underwear (yes, I am unfortunately speaking from experience). So, here you go, this is the #sejoverview of your current dating options when you’re a single pringle wanting to mingle.

#TINDER

I’ve written quite a few posts on ye olde Tinder, but it’s 100% worth mentioning again. It’s easily accessible and has the great feature where you can filter out people based on their age and location. Such advancement we’ve made in the world today. It’s fabulous for seeing some of the world’s most fabulous pick up lines – the most recent personal favourites of mine have been gifs. Why present a witty quip, when you can send a picture of a rolling seal? What an art form. You get what you pay for with this one (yes I have a free account), but you can’t expect too much when you’re judging people based on what they look like (I am a sucker for a man in a suit). So the verdict on Tinder is a definite quantity over quality, but you may find the odd gem.

#BUMBLE

This one will be incredibly short, as I don’t actually have a Bumble account. Apparently this is better than Tinder but again, yet to be proven. I couldn’t be bothered having 2 dating apps on my phone and after finding out that women have to do the talking on this one, I was instantly turned off. No, I don’t think it’s empowering. Men apparently think it’s great. You only have 24 hours to reply to a message, so this one requires some serious commitment and let’s face it, if you wanted commitment, you prooobbabbbllyy wouldn’t be trying to hook up with someone via an app…

#DATING WEBSITE e.g. Elite Singles

For research purposes, I did actually make an account on Elite Singles. However, I don’t actually think there is anything elite about this website. I didn’t exactly invest a lot of time in this one, but I found the website to be clunky, confusing and convoluted (the trifactor of C’s). I went on the website once, found that it matched me with a dairy owner in Mt Roskill and a plumber in Red Beach. No offense to either profession, but not quite what I was hoping for. I immediately lost interest, but boy did Elite Singles play the clingy ex – sending me emails every couple of days telling me I had a match. I did not return. Verdict – eehhhhhhhh not my recommendation, I honestly think Tinder works better than this website (which by the way, doesn’t supply photos or info for free users).

#THE HOUSE PARTY

I’m a big fan of the house party vibe, which works exceedingly well in a flatting situation where your flatmates bring their hot friends over. My top tip here is try and get hot people to move in when you’re filling up your flat (like attracts like, you see). Then, all you need to do is strategically plan a house warming party and ta dah, you have your optimal moment. I will warn you against getting too drunk when you’re trying this play, as it’s really not a good look when you crash out at 11pm (absolutely not speaking from experience here). House parties are a lot quieter than a bar, for example, which makes it a lot easier to have a conversation and find out if this person is worth your time and attention (which is, as we know, invaluable – if you can’t give more than 10 seconds to tweet, how are you going to spend 10 minutes on a conversation?). Verdict – house parties are a great way to meet people/potential datees.

#TOWN

I have never once met anyone of value in town, but let my bias stop you from getting out of your shell and dancing the night away with some interesting (and potentially attractive) lad or lass. I have 2 good friends who met in town and are now married, so keep this option open. It does help if you’re an extrovert and willing to meet people, but some extra liquid courage never goes amiss. Town is also a fantastic place to test out some weird pick up lines on people you may never see again. Featuring the #HPpickuplines; “Are you a Snitch? Because you’re by far the greatest catch here.”, or “I may not be the boy who lived, but I can still be your chosen one.” (Gold!). This also helps weed out the weirdos who haven’t read Harry Potter… Verdict on town – very very hit and miss, always bring a wing man/woman.

#NETWORKING EVENTS

We finish this list (it is getting rather long, phew!), with a personal favourite of mine – the networking event. Who said networking events had to be for making business connections (I mean that’s what they write in the advertising copy, but really, any opportunity eh?). This is a sure fire way to meet up and coming young professionals like yourself. My tip for such a situation is to be the one that fills the silence. I was recently in a lift with a bunch of young professionals and it was awkwardly quiet, cue SEJ with a witty comment; “goodness it’s like human tetris in here” – I will now forever be known as the girl who made the awkward lift moment…a whole lot more awkward #sorrynotsorry. Verdict on this one – always maintain professionalism; feel free to add them on LinkedIn, but slowly make your move in a professional and quiet way. Go networking!

There you have it, a great overview of all (well a good selection of) the different platforms you can meet the weird and wonderful partners that this world has to offer. Cast your net wide and test out those Harry Potter pick up lines.

Why I cheated Junk-free June

I decided to do junk free June last year because I wanted to clean up my diet and eat healthier; my main motivation was to lose weight and kick start a healthy lifestyle. I decided to do it this year because I felt I needed the challenge of eating ridiculously clean, but somehow forgot how hard it was last year (kudos to everyone who actually went 30 days without eating junk).

Three days into junk free June, I was visiting my mum for dinner and told her that I wouldn’t eat what she made, because it wasn’t junk free. Cue a lecture about how I didn’t need to lose weight etc. etc. I didn’t embark on JFJ because I wanted to lose weight (well, 2 kg would be nice…), but because I wanted to eat healthier and cut out the 3pm brownie cravings.

Mum’s lecture got me thinking about my relationship with food. Ever since I moved out of home, I’ve been incredibly health conscious, I guess because I thought it was the right thing to do. I’m already gluten free (not a choice), so I don’t really eat pizza and all the delicious carby things anyway, but for a good 6 months, I refused to eat potatoes and still refuse to eat white rice.

I’m not overweight, I’m not unhealthy, but, for some reason, I am paranoid about what food I eat. I can’t eat a brownie without feeling incredibly guilty and even feel bad ordering a mochaccino instead of a flat white. It took mum’s lecture to make me realise that my relationship with food was actually really unhealthy. No one, especially no one my age, should feel guilty about eating bad food every so often.

Junk free June was great in theory, but it made me feel terrible about wanting to eat pasta for dinner or a macaroon with my coffee. I decided it was time to rethink my relationship with food. I’m a big advocate of the 80:20 principle – if you eat healthy 80% of the time, it’s okay to pig out 20% of the time (within reason). So, that’s what I started to do and this is when my indiscretions on the diet of junk free June started to become (slightly) more frequent. Half a brownie one week and a macaroon the next, was technically breaking the rules, but an important learning curve in my realisation that I don’t have to give up the food I love all the time.

There are too many articles, podcasts and blogs out there that all give conflicting information about what you should eat, what junk food is and what it means to ‘be healthy’. I got 5 minutes into a podcast about how bad grains are when I turned it off – I need my morning oats! I guess the moral of this blog post is that you need to do what’s best for you and eating healthy and clean doesn’t have to mean giving up Sunday morning pancakes with your family.

Yes, I cheated on junk free June, but, no I don’t feel bad about it. I’m learning to balance the healthy and the sugary delicious foods and define what healthy means for me. If you take anything from this blog post, it’s that radical programs don’t really work and you’ve probably heard this a million times, but repetition is key – so, do what’s best for you. And if you’re brave enough to do JFJ, build in some flexibility. One macaroon won’t kill you.