SocietyOctober 24, 2023

The cost of being: Two secondary school teachers in South Auckland with a toddler


As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a reader explains how she and her husband get by with a child, a mortgage, and only one full-time salary.

Gender: Female

Age: 29

Ethnicity: Pākehā

Role: Part-time secondary school teacher, two days per week. My husband is a full-time secondary school teacher. We have one 17-month-old.

My living location is: South Auckland.

Rent/mortgage per week: Our mortgage is $550 per week.

Student loan or other debt payments: Between us we have about $6000 student loan remaining. We also have a car loan at $130 per week. Our other big money-sinks are the insurances for both cars, our house and contents, and our health insurance.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: Roughly $220, but I only do a supermarket shop once every 10 days or so. It varies, since I don’t buy meat or cleaning products every time.

Eating out: $0. We only “go out” to eat once every few months.

Takeaways: $40

Workday lunches: (if not from home) $0. We always make enough dinner for leftovers.

Cafe coffees/snacks: $30. We do like barista coffees, especially on weekends.

Savings: We have about $6000 in savings right now. We saved away a lot of my Paid Parental Leave in 2022 to cover the rest of the year I took off for our child. Now that I work part time, we can start to build our savings back little by little. All my husband’s income goes towards our various bills, while mine covers what’s left, plus discretionary spending and savings.

We also have our Kiwisavers, but we already used them to buy our house, so that money will just sit there until our retirement (assuming that “retirement” as a concept will still exist), or until our capitalist system goes supernova – whichever comes first.

I worry about money: Sometimes.

Three words to describe our financial situation would be: Careful, steady, static.

My biggest edible indulgence would be: Flat whites. We do get them a lot. My husband also loves Granny Smith apples, so we get them in every shop regardless of price/kg.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be: $0

In a typical week my transport expenditure would be: $180 on petrol between our two cars, but we don’t need to refill every single week. Neither of us use public transport.

Lifestyle costs

I estimate in the past year the ballpark amount I spent on my personal clothing was: $100 maybe, for each of us. We don’t tend to buy that much clothing, and I get gifted clothing fairly often. We’ve definitely spent a lot more on baby clothes.

My most expensive clothing in the past year was: $60 for a shacket on clearance from North Beach.

My last pair of shoes cost: $27 for a pair of white Nike sneakers from the Dressmart outlet.

My annual grooming/beauty expenditure would be: Less than $100 all up for the year? I buy the big 1L bottle of Cetaphil body wash from Chemist Warehouse and it seems to last forever. I cut my husband’s hair, and my mum cuts my hair. I hardly ever wear makeup. (I don’t even want to think about the expiry dates.)

My exercise expenditure in a year is about: $200 for running shoes for my husband. I do workouts at home.

My last Friday night cost: $0. We watch Youtube and play video games and drink tea.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was: I can’t think of anything major, but I bought my son one of those handheld water ring toys a couple of weeks ago for $4. We left the shop and he immediately chucked it on the ground where it cracked and leaked everywhere, so it went straight in the bin.

Most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was: $900 on a PS5. We traded in the old PS4 so we made a bit of that money back, though.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is: Buying things just for myself. I find it very easy to talk myself out of things that I want, whereas I love buying little gifts for my husband and my son just ‘cause.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be: Bang for buck. Bargain hunter.

I grew up in a house where money was: Mysterious. My dad was the sole income earner. We never wanted for anything, but in hindsight I think we lived a bit beyond our means. We didn’t talk about money.

The last time my eftpos card was declined was: A month ago maybe? But I keep money in several accounts, so it was just a matter of transferring some over on my banking app.

In five years, in financial terms, I see myself: Roughly the same as now. We plan to have another child, and I want to work part-time at the most until they’re school-age, so I don’t see us being much better off. Hopefully we won’t be too much worse off, though.

I would love to have more money for: A holiday overseas. We haven’t been since pre-Covid.

Describe your financial low: The six months between my Paid Parental Leave payments ending and me starting part-time work when my son turned one. At no point were we really struggling, but it was quite disconcerting to see our savings get lower and lower without regenerating, even though we’d saved money away specifically for this purpose.

I give money away to: Church and family.

Want to contribute? Send us an email briefly describing your situation at costofbeing@thespinoff.co.nz

Read the previous Cost of Beings here.

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