Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

SocietySeptember 12, 2023

The cost of being: A relief teacher living in a small town

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a small-town relief teacher on the advantages of living communally.

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Gender: F

Age: 57

Ethnicity: Māori (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngai Te Rangi), Scottish, Cornish.

Role: Variable – relief teaching, a morning a week cleaning, freelance report writing. I earn on average about $500 a week. 

My living location is: Small town.

Rent/Mortgage per week: Three friends bought the house in 2013. Between one and three of us live there at any one time, plus one or two rent paying flatmates. We try to keep the rent as low as feasible. Mortgage and rates are about $550 a week.

Student loan or other debt payments per week: Student loan approximately $50,000. It will likely die with me eventually.

Any major upcoming costs: None. I’d like a car, but won’t buy a petrol model and electric is currently unaffordable. I borrow a housemate’s car when needed.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: $50 – we all pay into the kitty and eat communally, when home. We maintain a well-stocked larder, plus fruit and veg from the garden.

Eating out: Up to $50, very variable.

Takeaways: Occasional fish and chips or kebabs $10-20.

Workday lunches: $20

Cafe coffees/snacks: $20

Other food costs: $10 or so for garden costs – the neighbourhood is very community-focused, people swap produce loads, and lend and borrow equipment.


I worry about money: Sometimes

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: Moderate, sufficient, low expectations.

My biggest edible indulgence would be: Cheese.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be: $20-50, depending on what’s happening socially that week.

In a typical week my transport expenditure would be: $30 (trains, buses and petrol when I borrow a car).

I estimate in the past year the ballpark amount I spent on my personal clothing (including sleepwear and underwear) was: $200. I buy mostly secondhand, am given and give away a lot. I buy new undies and sneakers.

My most expensive clothing in the past year was: $150 for great quality second-hand dungarees. 

My last pair of shoes cost: $0 – my mum gave me her gumboots when she gave up her garden and moved into an apartment.

My grooming/beauty expenditure: $100 for basics, when needed. I cut my own hair and don’t do makeup much.

My exercise expenditure in a year is about: $80 sneakers from The Warehouse.

My last Friday night cost: $56 for movie, drinks and snacks.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was… A laptop for $1300. A slick-talking sales guy talked me into a posher version than good judgement justified. It hasn’t proved that satisfactory.

Most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was: Shouting my mum a holiday.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is: Domestic travel. I do this a lot for both work and pleasure. I share rides or hitchhike (which I love), camp and crash with mates. If only we had decent regional trains…

Five words to describe my financial personality would be: Negligent, irresponsible, communal, generous, mutual.

I grew up in a house where money was: Shared. 

The last time my eftpos card was declined was: A couple of years ago, a bank error.

In five years, in financial terms, I see myself: Same as now but with a lower mortgage.

I would love to have more money for: Donating, house repairs.

Describe your financial low: Early 90s in an Auckland warehouse on the dole living with 11 others in similar straits. We couldn’t always keep the power on and phone bills needed strategising. The place was freezing and had intermittent hot water.

I give money away to: International solidarity, women’s and LGBTQI+ causes, friends and whanau.

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

Read the previous Cost of Beings here.

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