a checked red an whicte background with dollar signs, a lump of butter, a tramping boot and a knee joint
(Image: Gabi Lardies)

SocietyApril 2, 2024

The cost of being: A frugal librarian who spends on tramping boots and olive oil

a checked red an whicte background with dollar signs, a lump of butter, a tramping boot and a knee joint
(Image: Gabi Lardies)

As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a librarian with three kids describes her budget, and the Kmart purchase she regrets the most.

Gender: Female

Age: 57

Ethnicity: Pākehā

Role: Librarian

Income: Modest public servant salary

My living location is: Suburban

Rent/mortgage per week: Mortgage free (very small house) – just rates and insurance costs.

Student loan or other debt payments per week: No

Any major upcoming costs: My youngest son is last year at school – I’ll be helping him with uni costs if he goes in that direction. Also knee replacements – they’re wrecked from a lifetime of careering down hills with a heavy pack.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: $150 per week for two.

Eating out: Very rarely – but when I do it’s a lot because I pay for some or all of my three kids and my partner. So maybe $600 twice a year.

Takeaways: A few times a year. Usually $20 for a Friday night kebab while driving out of town en route to the mountains.

Workday lunches: I take my lunch to work.

Cafe coffees/snacks: No.

Other food costs: I have a small but productive vege garden. I probably spend $140 year on seedlings, horse poo from the side of the road, blood and bone, and snail bait.

Savings: I put away about $3000 a month. When the kids were young I worked very part time, so I’ve been a long time coming to a decent income and any sort of KiwiSaver balance. I’m saving for a frugal but comfortable retirement and the aforementioned new knees.

I worry about money: Sometimes.

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: All good [and] penny-pinching. Luckily I have inexpensive tastes and have the luxury to enjoy the puzzles of frugality. An example of how I like to have fun: when I was 12 my friend and I challenged ourselves to live on $2 each for a weekend. We planned our menu, went shopping, and camped in the local hills – a tin of Russian fish and packet of superwines were involved.

My biggest edible indulgence would be: Fat – lots of butter and high quality olive oil and mayo.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be: $30 – mostly financing my youngest’s weekend party supplies.

In a typical week my transport expenditure would be: I bike a lot which is free, except I’m a few years overdue on a bike overhaul. I treat myself to a weekly return trip on the ferry, $20, and spend about $20 on bus fares. My partner and I go tramping a lot but we’ve recently bought an electric car and he mostly covers the cost of car charging.

I estimate in the past year the ballpark amount I spent on my personal clothing (including sleepwear and underwear) was: $500. I’m the lucky recipient of very nice hand-me-downs from stylish friends and colleagues.

My most expensive clothing in the past year was: A heavily reduced Kate Sylvester dress for work, $136.

My last pair of shoes cost: $270 for a pair of tramping boots.

My grooming/beauty expenditure includes: Hair cuts, waxing, cheap moisturiser.

And the annual cost would be about: $500

My exercise expenditure in a year is about: $400. There’s a free gym at work, and I swim in the sea. So just running shoes and tramping boots.

My last Friday night cost: $20 for a bottle of wine and a bar of chocolate to supplement a home-cooked dinner and the Great Kiwi Bake Off on TV.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was: A sports bra from Kmart – I sweat like a pig wearing it.

Most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was: An electric car. We squeaked in to get the clean car discount, two days before it was ditched.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is: Food, even though food is my biggest pleasure and what I spend most of my time thinking about. I volunteer at a restaurant where we create gourmet three course menus from rescued food – the chef there is an inspiration to me in creating deliciousness from ingredients at hand.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be: Inherently tight, minimalist, unmaterialistic (yes, that’s just four – must be the minimalist in me).

I grew up in a house where money was: There wasn’t much of it – one income and four kids. My parents were careful but not miserable. We were never made to feel there wasn’t enough. We had music lessons, camping holidays and trips to friends’ baches, but never ate out. Us kids all had multiple wage-earning jobs from a young age – paper rounds, milk rounds, house work, teaching piano, baby sitting – and we bought all our own clothes and sports equipment.

The last time my eftpos card was declined was: Last year – it was a bank hiccup but stressful none the less.

In five years, in financial terms, I see myself: Eyeing my savings to see how close retirement might be.

I would love to have more money for:: Treating my kids and extended family

Describe your financial low: Four years ago when I separated and didn’t have much work or a house. 

I give money away to: KidsCan and Everybody Eats.

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