One Question Quiz
An e-bike, a figure doing yoga and an expensive tub of hummus
Image: Tina Tiller

SocietyApril 11, 2023

The cost of being: A single self-employed 30-something

An e-bike, a figure doing yoga and an expensive tub of hummus
Image: Tina Tiller

As part of a new series exploring how the cost of living is affecting New Zealanders, a single self-employed 30 something breaks down her budget.

Gender: Female

Age: 31

Ethnicity: NZ Pākehā

Role: Communications contractor for government, corporate and not-for-profit clients

My living location is: Urban

Rent/Mortgage per week

I pay $360 a week (half the rent of a $720 house shared with one flatmate).

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: $160 – being a vegetarian keeps the costs down, I eat a lot of rice and beans.

Eating out: $160

Takeaways: $0

Workday lunches: $0

Cafe coffees/snacks: $0

Other food costs: About $10 per week on protein powder.


I make sure 6% of every invoice I file goes into an aggressive index fund I opened when I went freelance. On top of this, I save $150 per week. I’ve saved $6.5k for an upcoming overseas holiday and I’m also saving a sum to tide me over the summer holidays when I’m not working – I have $5k but I’m aiming for $12k.

That’s probably more than I need for summer, but anything left over after summer is going into an emergency savings account, which is a high priority, as I’m not guaranteed a regular income. This should be the equivalent of three months’ total expenses, so I’m planning to save $18k.

I also have a KiwiSaver fund of about $80k — I might tap into this in the next few years for a house deposit (although I’m increasingly uninterested in home ownership). And I have another growth index fund at $15k, which was an inheritance.

One thing I’ve realised about saving is: it’s much easier when your income increases. That seems obvious but people talk about “lifestyle creep” (how your lifestyle improves with your income and you continue to spend every cent you earn). I’ve gone the other way, which has been empowering, I’m saving more than I ever have, and tracking my spending to the cent. 

I worry about money: Sometimes

Three words to describe my financial situation would be:




$10 a week to protein powder and $10 a week to hummus. (Image: Getty)

My biggest edible indulgence would be…

Obela hummus 1kg, $10

My alcohol expenditure per week is…

$0 to $100

My transport expenditure in a week is…

$25. I walk/e-bike everywhere and fill my car with petrol less than once a month. 

In the past year the ballpark amount I spent on clothing (including sleepwear and underwear) was…


My most expensive clothing item in the past year was…

A Kate Sylvester suit for $688.

My last pair of shoes cost…

$180 (Birkenstocks)

My grooming/beauty expenditure in a year is…

$4k for makeup, a haircut and colour every 3-4 months, fancy shampoo and conditioner, mani and pedicures a lot of the time, the VERY OCCASIONAL Brazilian wax, and a lot of skincare. I use the Clear Skincare range, it’s very niche and involves about 16 million steps morning and night.

My exercise expenditure in a year is…

$5k for yoga 3-5 times a week, F45 high intensity circuit training twice a week, exercise wear and running shoes.

My last Friday night cost…

$272.51, which is not typical! I got accidentally stuck with the dinner bill for a table of people.

Mani and pedicures are a frequent expense. (Image: Getty)

My most regrettable purchase in the last year was…

One of those stupid BondiBoost hairdryer-brush combo thingies, it’s so loud and big and cost $90.97. Also, linen sheets from Bed Threads ($390). Damn Instagram advertising.

My most indulgent purchase in the last year was…

A pedigree cat, $1500. Worth every penny.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is…

Sunglasses? Pit Vipers ($14.09) forever.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be…

Highly motivated to continually improve.

I grew up in a house where money was…

Not a finite resource. But coming from a privileged background made me crap with money and I’ve had to go on a crash course in the past couple of years to learn how to save and invest to support my future self. 

The last time my Eftpos card was declined was…

I can’t remember.

I would love to have more money for…

Investing. Frances Cook’s book (Your Money, Your Future) changed my life. 

My biggest financial low was…

Earlier this year when I was thinking of buying a home and thought I was going to have to get a mortgage. I was losing sleep over how constrained my options would be for the rest of my life. I realised that for people of my age, stage and circumstance, there are other, better ways to build wealth than home ownership.

I give money away to…

Friends who overspend on having me round for drinks. People hard on their luck in news stories. And the City Mission at Christmas.

In five years I see myself…

With a healthy investment portfolio, and able to take decent periods off work to travel (touch wood).

Keep going!