SocietyMarch 12, 2024

The cost of being: A woman whose severe health condition impacts her budget


As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, an endometriosis sufferer explains how the disease affects her finances.

Gender: Female

Age: 37

Ethnicity: NZ European

Role: Part-time healthcare administrator working four days a week, I used to be a massage therapist but four years ago I got diagnosed with severe endometriosis and I had to change my role to something less physical. My husband is a full-time self-employed musician and owner of a music school.

The cost of living with this disease is expensive. I have chosen the private medical system since I have medical insurance and due to the long wait times people with endometriosis in the public system have to suffer. I didn’t want to be another statistic on the waitlist as this has already severely impacted my quality of life. This disease forces me to budget.

My living location is: Suburban Hawke’s Bay.

Rent/mortgage per week: With a small mortgage we roughly pay $600 a week which includes mortgage, rates and insurance.

Student loan or other debt payments per week: I have a student loan, $75 a fortnight gets deducted from my pay. I don’t classify this as a debt payment but we pay $87 a fortnight for private medical insurance for the two of us. We have 80% cover for doctors, specialists and surgeries, scans etc. In the period of March 2021 to March 2023, my husband claimed $56, I claimed $48,000 but because he is in his 40s, his premium is $10 more than mine a fortnight.

Any major upcoming costs: My husband is heading to Europe next month to play at a music festival. I was meant to be going too but financially, due to my two surgeries last year and because I have used all my work sick and annual leave for the surgeries, we decided only he will go.

Over the last four years I have had to have four surgeries, all due to endometriosis, at a total cost so far of $128,000. My 20% portion of the surgical costs has been around $25,000 over the four years, averaging $6,400 a year. This also means I have saved the public health system $128,000 – and I would probably still be waiting due to the long wait periods as endometriosis (and generally speaking women’s health) is not deemed as urgent.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: Around $170-$220 a week.

Eating out and takeaways: Once a week for takeaways – depending what we feel like, it will range from $20-$50.

Workday lunches: I will make enough dinner to take the leftovers for lunch. 

Cafe coffees/snacks: Around $40 as there is a great coffee machine at work, so my cafe coffees are generally on a weekend. My husband is out and about for work so he stops at his fav cafe once or twice a week.

Savings: We live off my husband’s salary which covers our daily outgoings, groceries, mortgage and bills. A little bit of my income tops up our mortgage and rates account. The remainder goes into savings and into a medical account to help cover my appointments such as acupuncture, massage, pelvic floor physio, dietitian, supplements, medication, specialists’ fees and surgical bills.

I worry about money: Always, because of my history of surgeries and the ongoing cost of living with endometriosis.

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: Careful, aware, flexible.

My biggest edible indulgence would be… A salmon and cream cheese bagel.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be… Around surgeries I stop drinking alcohol. I’ll put a good bottle of rosé or red in the groceries each week depending what’s on special around the $15-$20 price point, as the husband enjoys a glass or two some nights.

In a typical week my transport expenditure would be… $50 a week in petrol. My husband’s business covers his petrol.

My most expensive clothing in the past year was… Lorna Jane Maternity shorts, $95. Even though I’m not pregnant, the bloating I can get looks like a seven-month-pregnant belly and these shorts are sooo comfy. They are totally worth the price and the embarrassment of being asked when I am due or if I want to try a maternity bra when I purchase them in store.

My last pair of shoes cost… $80 to wear for a wedding.

My grooming/beauty expenditure includes: I used to get my hair coloured with foils but since my diagnosis and my ongoing costs, that was the first thing I stopped. I get my hair cut once every 10 to 12 weeks at $85 a time. I treat myself to a facial a few times a year.

My exercise expenditure in a year is about: We pay $7 a week each for our gym membership, I try to swim once a week and use a concession card to bring the cost down. I do a lot of walking and my husband runs a lot so we generally each get a new pair of Asics each year.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was… I spent $54 on a pack of silicone tape to help my scars heal. The strip was super thick and would get caught on my clothing and come off. I purchased another brand that was $30 and the silicone strips are way better, they stay on and are fading my scars nicely.

Most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was: A facial, my skin was looking terrible from all the recent medication. It was expensive but worth every cent to get healthy glowing skin again.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is: Clothing, I will always hunt for a sale. Why pay full price if you don’t have too?.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be: Do I need this now?

I grew up in a house where money… Talked about, budgeted and saved. My parents worked hard and saved well, lived within their means and utilised the family bach for holidays. They had medical insurance for the family and when my siblings and I got our first official jobs after studying we took over our own policy and it was drilled into us to keep it going and not cancel it.

The last time my Eftpos card was declined was… A few months ago on the day my husband pays himself and he had forgotten.

In five years, in financial terms, I see myself… Probably budgeting for another surgery, however, I really hope I can get back into full-time work and I also hope to have the book I am writing about my endo journey published.

I would love to have more money for… An island getaway.

Describe your financial low: Delaying the island holiday and upgrading my car due to ongoing medical costs at the moment.

I give money away to… Buskers.

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