One Question Quiz
Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

SocietyJune 27, 2023

The cost of being: A retired couple living on the West Coast

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, an off-the-grid Coaster shares their spending habits. 

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Ages: 66 and 68

Ethnicity: NZ European

Role: Retired

My living location is: West Coast

Rent/Mortgage per week: We don’t have a mortgage, but rates and insurance cost about $60 a week

Student loan or other debt payments per week: $0

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: $<100 including toiletries and cleaning stuff. We grow most of our veges and we have a small freezer and take advantage of any markdowns or cheap deals on meat.

Eating out: $0

Takeaways: Maybe $15 a month for burger and chips.

Other food costs: Plants and seeds about $50 a year. We give away a lot of our produce, especially cucumbers and tomatoes in season, to local people and family.


We have about $25,000 in a savings account which reduces at all times and never increases. We haven’t found a way to add to our savings as we keep getting dramas with our vehicles. Now we dread every warrant check.

I worry about money: Day to day I can manage well, but those “unexpected” vehicles bills or other surprises are a real worry and stress. Last year they came to a total of $4,500.

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: Pretty good in the short term, but that can change if and when our vehicles clap out and need replaced.

My biggest edible indulgence would be… buying snacks which can’t be called essential… only when they are on special… eg cashew nuts.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be… We don’t drink.

In a typical week my transport expenditure would be… $100. Our big costs are fuel to visit our family, the closest of which lives three hours away, and for getting groceries or going to the doctor. We have older vehicles – a 2000 van and a 2006 ute – and wonder how or if we will replace them. And with what, as EVs are outside our price range and we haven’t got enough power to charge one. There is no access to public transport where we live. 

I estimate in the past year the ballpark amount I spent on my personal clothing (including sleepwear and underwear) was… $0. We haven’t bought clothing for a while except for the occasional op shop buy.

My last pair of shoes cost… $2 brand new from the op shop.

My grooming/beauty expenditure includes… shampoo and soap. And the annual cost would be about: $30

My exercise expenditure in a year is about: $0. We have exercycles to use in the rainy weather in the living room, otherwise we are busy in the vege garden.

My last Friday night cost… $9 for two soft drinks and a raffle at the Workingmen’s club.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was… a second hand tunnelhouse for winter veg, which was a massive effort to shift and reconstruct and the cover caused unnecessary hassles… it cost around $90.

Most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was… buying flowers through Interflora for a couple of relatives in good or bad circumstances overseas.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is… everything except health issues for myself or others.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be… a rainy day will come (for me or others, and it’s good to be able to help ourselves or others in hard times).

I grew up in a house where money was… spent entirely on himself by the breadwinner, with meagre housekeeping for the wife and very little food or anything else for the kids.

The last time my eftpos card was declined was… 1996 when I was briefly on a widow’s benefit and a glitch prevented my bank account being topped up.

In five years, in financial terms, I see myself… Long term we will not manage here, and we’ll need to consider what we do then as we’re not used to paying high bills for power and will not get enough from selling our property here to get into a retirement village if/when our health declines. We will have to change our circumstance.

I would love to have more money for… Helping our children into their own homes or for peace of mind for the future… but realistically on a day to day basis I cannot justify needing more money.

Describe your financial low… In 1983 my husband lost his business to his fellow directors through his own poor decisions we retreated to a bach in the Marlborough Sounds which had seen better days. We had a little money from selling our only vehicle, some chickens, a few vege plants and a goat, and lived on what we could grow or catch for a few years. With no income our savings had to make do.

I give money away to… Family and friends and neighbours in need… any local causes… not to organisations that swallow it up in overheads and overpaid managers.

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

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