Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

SocietyMarch 19, 2024

The cost of being: Two Auckland teachers in debt from a failed business

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a teacher explains why he and his partner are in frugal mode – and how they’re making it work.

Gender: Male

Age: 35

Ethnicity: Pākehā

Role: I am an intermediate school teacher and my partner is a head of department at a local secondary school.

Salary/income/assets: $205k per year between us before tax.

My living location is: Urban (central Auckland).

Rent/mortgage per week: $500 rent – we live in a small two-bedroom flat that my parents own and cut us a very good deal on.

Student loan or other debt payments per week: We tried to start a business in 2020 which failed. Between us we have $90,000 in personal loan debt from that adventure. I have paid off my student loan and my partner has about $20,000 left on hers.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: $200 for the two of us.

Eating out and takeaways: We eat out about once a month and spend around $50 a week on takeaways.

Workday lunches: Nothing – leftovers from dinner the night before.

Cafe coffees/snacks: Nil.

Other food costs: $80 for dog food for our ravenous husky x border collie.

Savings: We have about $90,000 in our combined KiwiSaver accounts at the moment and just had to empty our emergency savings account this week.

I worry about money: Always, multiple times a day, and in my sleep.

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: Finding our feet.

My biggest edible indulgence would be… Dairy-free Magnums.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be… Nil – stopped drinking at the start of this year.

In a typical week my transport expenditure would be… Nil – we own an electric car and an e-bike which we charge at home on an off peak plan overnight.

I estimate in the past year the ballpark amount I spent on my personal clothing (including sleepwear and underwear) was… $400.

My most expensive clothing in the past year was… New pair of New Balance shoes.

My last pair of shoes cost… $189.

My grooming/beauty expenditure includes: Shaving cream and razors – $20 per month probably.

My exercise expenditure in a year is about: $300 for running shoes, $50 for a running top and shorts from Kmart, $200 for football team membership fees.

My last Friday night cost… I returned from supervising school camp so was in bed by 7.30pm, so nothing.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was… Forgot to update our calendar about a counselling appointment which we missed and still had to pay for.

Most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was: I bought a new e-bike to get to work after selling our car. I love it but it was expensive.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is: is… Hah, just ONE? Everywhere.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be: Worried, anxious, scared, frugal, strict.

I grew up in a house where money… Secretive and revered. My parents’ approach was to drill into us that the only thing to do with money is to save it. I feel guilty every time I spend any money and it’s not pleasant.

The last time my Eftpos card was declined was… Years ago, probably when I was just starting out as a teacher.

In five years, in financial terms, I see myself… More stable – out of debt and working towards owning our own home.

I would love to have more money for… Holidays and weekend adventures.

Describe your financial low: Right now – we have a budget and 50% of our income is going to pay off debt. We took a risk and it didn’t work out. We are incredibly lucky to have even been able to try and we knew this might be an option so we are just putting our heads down and working for the next couple of years.

Keep going!