One Question Quiz
Design: Archi Banal
Design: Archi Banal

SocietyJanuary 16, 2024

The cost of being: A junior civil servant living in suburbia

Design: Archi Banal
Design: Archi Banal

As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a junior civil servant explains how she lives frugally, with the occasional splurge.

Gender: Female

Age: 26

Ethnicity: NZ Pākehā.

Role: Junior civil servant.

My living location is: Suburban.

Living situation/mortgage: I live with my partner and our elderly cat. Our mortgage runs us about $900 a week, plus budgeting for rates, insurance and utilities.

Student loan or other debt payments per week: $125 a week on my student loan, and $50 a week to my dad for my car payment. I don’t have a credit card or any other debt.

Any major upcoming costs? The cat is costing us a fortune in vet bills this year, and my partner and I are going overseas for a month.

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: Stable but skint. The cat is costing us a fortune at the moment.

Do you save? My partner and I bought our house late last year, using KiwiSaver and our savings. I have about $10,000 in my KiwiSaver now, and around $35,000 in savings which is off-setting part of our mortgage.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: About $180 for two adults.

Eating out: We budget $60 a week for entertainment, including eating out – but don’t normally use this except once a month for a puzzle night at the pub.

Takeaways: $50 a week. Again, this comes out of our entertainment budgeting – we’re a big fan of a pizza or Chinese night once a week.

Workday lunches: $0. As part of cost-cutting in preparation for home ownership, my partner and I pack each other’s lunch the night before. I also work from home a couple days a week, where I’ll cook something.

Cafe coffees and snacks: $30. My workplace is in close proximity to several excellent coffee shops, and often these win out over home-made iced coffee.

My biggest edible indulgence would be… almond croissants from a certain French café near my workplace. $8.50 a pop, but worth every dense, syrupy bite.

My alcohol expenditure is… $0-5. I don’t drink alcohol regularly but might partake in a cider once in a blue moon.

In the past year the ballpark amount I spent on clothing (including sleepwear and underwear) was… $300. I’m incredibly frugal when it comes to buying clothes aside from activewear – I definitely need new underwear and socks but keep putting it off!

My most expensive purchase in the past year was… a limited edition OLED Nintendo Switch and an accompanying video game for $750. Worth every penny especially when I look at cost-per-use.

My last pair of shoes cost… $280. They were Doc Martens Blaire sandals, for my summer work shoes.

My grooming/beauty expenditure is… about $250. I’m also very frugal with this, opting to go to the hairdresser once a year for a cut and colour.

My exercise expenditure in a year is… about $3,000, but this year is an outlier though. When we moved house, I cancelled my gym membership and have been building a home weightlifting gym in the garage, so I expected my ongoing costs to decrease significantly.

My last Friday night cost… $45. I shared a Hell pizza and sides with my partner, had a supermarket cider, and watched trashy medical dramas.

My most regrettable purchase in the past year was… Nothing. I overanalyse and justify everything I buy, to a fault.

My most indulgent purchase in the past year was… the aforementioned Nintendo Switch.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is… clothing. I’m super picky about what fabrics I purchase, and aim for natural fibres only. I also find I don’t like the way a lot of clothing fits, so I’m put off from looking despite my wardrobe desperately needing an update.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be… childish, anxious, planned, impulsive, frugal.

I grew up in a house where money was… a controversial topic, despite my parents earning well. I worked for my pocket money through household chores, and wasn’t allowed to have a job while I was still at school.

The last time my Eftpos card was declined was… last week at Chemist Warehouse – I don’t keep a lot of money in my spending account, so I’m less likely to spend it.

In five years I see myself… as more financially free, making a good dent in the mortgage, investing more, and hopefully feeling less guilty about spending money on myself.

My biggest financial low was… at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. I was a fresh graduate in a small, tight-knit industry that shut down and was heavily affected by the virus. As an independent contractor at the time, I was surviving off my savings and the Covid-19 government support payments.

I give money away to: No one.

I worry about money: Most days.

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

Read the previous Cost of Beings here.

Keep going!