One Question Quiz

SocietyJanuary 9, 2024

The cost of being: A young public sector worker in Wellington


Summer reissue: As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a civil servant at the start of her career tells us where she spends and saves.

First published on June 13, 2023. Want to contribute? Send us an email briefly describing your situation at

Gender: Woman

Age: Mid-20s

Ethnicity: Pākehā

Rent per week: $460 (would be $360 but I’m subsidising my sister, who lives with me and is studying). It’s twice as expensive as my previous flat, but twice as nice, so it’s definitely worth it.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: About $130 a week (yikes). My supermarket trips are usually between $40 and $100, but I go more than once a week because the high price of one big trip makes me increasingly anxious (and it’s hard to carry heaps of groceries on the bus). It baffles me that I’m in an incredibly fortunate position yet still have to worry about affording food.

Eating out: $20 a week on average – usually cafes to meet up with friends.

Takeaways: About $50 a month (only about once a month).

Workday lunches: Maybe $20 a week. I usually take leftovers or make toast, but one or two days a week I’ll get chicken katsu or a pie.

Cafe coffees: None – I’d rather make tea or a milo myself.

Savings: $1100. I had more, but it was all used up when I moved flats last year.

I worry about money: More often than I used to. I get by well, but my spending account balance is always close to zero before each pay day and I worry that I won’t be able to save up enough for future goals. When I started full-time work last year I was amazed by how much money I had after years of scraping by on student loan payments, and I splurged a lot on nice things. But now I’m paying much more towards rent while putting lots of money away to pay off my student loan quickly.

Now that I have a long-term partner, too, I’m concerned about being able to save for a house and afford to raise a family in the future, which I previously never considered when it came to money.

‘My biggest edible indulgence? Fresh berries, fancy pasta, good ingredients in general.’ (Photo: Amanda Thompson)

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: Stable, lucky, adequate.

My biggest edible indulgence would be: Fresh berries, fancy pasta, good ingredients in general. My ancestors didn’t survive centuries of turnips and gruel for me to deny myself the pleasures of 21st-century food.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be: maybe $20 on average – I normally only drink once every couple of weeks.

I estimate in the past year the ballpark amount I spent on clothing (including sleepwear and underwear) was: $1000. I didn’t think it would be that high, but clothes are expensive! When it comes to clothes I tend to go on a spree every couple of years so I’m stocked up with good-quality outfits that will last a long time.

My most expensive clothing in the past year was: Possibly a $100+ nightgown (this was back when I had more disposable income).

My last pair of shoes cost: About $200 for nice work shoes.

My annual grooming/beauty expenditure is: $0 – I don’t wear makeup much and when I do it’s stuff I already own or gifts. I don’t do any typical beauty-related activities and I get my mum to trim my hair.

My exercise expenditure in a year is: About $900. I go to dancing and martial arts clubs, which add up to $24 a week. I’ve also been spending more on important medical things now that I can afford them, like dentist visits, which I’d been putting off due to the cost.

My last Friday night cost: About $50 for two drinks and a bottle of wine.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was: Books I didn’t enjoy/won’t read, but I like supporting local bookstores anyway.

My most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was: A new queen bed after several years of sleeping on a single (goodbye, savings).

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is: Anything that I can make myself rather than buying, like birthday presents or baking. Other than that, I’ll either buy something quality if I need it, or not buy it at all.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be: Thrifty, practical, considered, relatively indulgent.

I grew up in a house where money was: Sometimes tight, other times fine. As a kid I wasn’t aware of any major money woes, but I do know that we had to rely on relatives on occasion for emergency costs or big expenses. Things were probably more stressful than I realised, but my siblings and I were neither spoilt nor lacking for anything. I was encouraged to study whatever I wanted, but nevertheless my parents were pleased that I’ve ended up in a steady job. Still, I’m unsure whether I can stay in the same well-paid kind of work if I move out of the city one day.

The last time my Eftpos card was declined was: Travelling as an exchange student in 2019, when my account got hacked and everything in it was stolen. If my parents hadn’t been able to send me money, I’d have been stuck overseas.

In five years, in financial terms, I see myself: Having paid off my student loan and earning more, putting away money for big goals but still splurging on little things and gifts for people. No point saving for a rainy day and not enjoying the present!

My biggest financial low was: Buying a packet of chips and tissues in first year uni and having to put the chips back ‘cause I didn’t have enough coins.

I give money away to: Lots of places, every once in a while – Plunket, KidsCan, InsideOut, Wikipedia, emergency relief, office fundraisers, buskers on Cuba street… When I can, I’ll always support creatives by buying CDs and records and paying for movies at Aro Video too.

I may worry about money, and the antics of the mega-rich make me furious, but having been a student I’m always aware that lots of people are much worse off than me. Twenty dollars isn’t much for me now but a few years ago that was almost half my grocery bill, so I know that anything I can give to others will mean a lot.

Want to contribute? Send us an email briefly describing your situation at

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