SocietyApril 30, 2024

The cost of being: A ‘semi-unemployed’ house-sitter with dwindling savings


As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a burnt-out corporate escapee explains how she gets by ‘working as little as possible’.

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Gender: Female

Age: 31

Ethnicity: Pākehā

Role: Contractor in media/TV/communications – currently semi-unemployed and looking for work.

Salary/income/assets: My salary in the past year is probably $25K – I quit my corporate job paying $100K 18 months ago to recover from burnout. My goal was to work as little as possible for at least a year. I have about $18K left in savings and about $1,200 in shares. I don’t own a home.

My living location is: Suburban

Rent/mortgage per week: I don’t pay rent – my partner and I travel around the country and house sit.

Student loan or other debt payments per week: No debts.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: About $150-$200 shared between me and my partner.

Eating out: $50 – this is an average cost. I tend to spend more eating out when we’re house sitting in cities and there’s lots of places to go.

Takeaways: $30 – a cheeky Indian takeaway or a lunch.

Workday lunches: $0 since I’m not working.

Cafe coffees/snacks: $20 – maybe one cafe visit a week on average.

Savings: I have $18,000 in my savings account. This has slowly been dwindling since I quit my corporate job and started working part time as a contractor. When I’m not working, this is what I live on.

I worry about money: Sometimes.

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: Abundant, flexible, lucky.

My biggest edible indulgence would be… Good bread – I’ll travel to buy great bread and usually this is the first thing we scope out when we arrive at a new house sit.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be… $30 – a couple of pints or a few beers at home.

In a typical week my transport expenditure would be…$0 on public transport – I’m often house sitting in suburban or small town locations so will either cycle or drive. $40 on petrol – me and my partner share a car.

I estimate in the past year the ballpark amount I spent on my personal clothing (including sleepwear and underwear) was… Maybe $2,000? 🫣 This is definitely where I like to indulge. I love a good secondhand deal so a lot of what I buy is from op shops or reseller websites. Underwear is expensive – that’s my excuse.

My most expensive clothing in the past year was… $300 on new winter boots. This was actually a sensible purchase and they’ll last me a long while.

My last pair of shoes cost… $170 for new sandals.

My grooming/beauty expenditure in a year is about: Around $250. This is mainly haircuts (two a year) and sunscreen.

My exercise expenditure in a year is about: Maybe $200 on maintaining my bike and on gear for tramping.

My last Friday night cost… $0 – I had dinner with my friends at their place.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was… Clothes I bought in a moment of weakness that I haven’t really worn. This is one area where I’m really trying to change my habits. It’s a hangover from overworking – buying things online became an outlet for stress, and I’m slowly changing that pattern.

Most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was: $9,000 for a car. I decided to spend a bit more, I figure if I need to I can sell it on more easily than if I bought something older and cheaper.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is… Oat milk. I buy whatever is on special (but not Sanitarium because they are funding Israel and genocide.)

Five words to describe my financial personality would be: Blending fancy and frivolous with practical budgeting.

I grew up in a house where money was… Always talked about as a scarce resource. I grew up in a large family. We were actually quite comfortable (we always had food on the table and everything we needed) but my parents argued a lot about money and it felt like there was never enough. We didn’t eat out as a family when I was growing up and I always wanted to try it. Maybe that’s why I love it now.

The last time my Eftpos card was declined was… Last week – I’d been on holiday visiting friends and focusing on fun instead of my bank balance.

In five years, in financial terms, I see myself… Earning enough money to feel generous and comfortable, while balancing my work so I am happy and healthy. And…. winning the Lotto so I can buy a house!

I would love to have more money for… A house to live in – this is by far the hardest part of being a young person right now. I would dearly love to have my own home – or share a home with friends. I’d love to grow my own food and invest in community. It’s really hard to see others retiring with two, three, four, five properties that they see as their right and their retirement fund, while many of us have no clear path to having a stable place to live.

Describe your financial low: Five years ago when I left a relationship. I was overseas, I didn’t have much and I’d just finished studying. It was the first time I bought things on a loan and I spent the next year paying it all back.

I give money away to: When I’m working full time I give money to KidsCan. I always make sure I have some savings to help out a friend or family member if they needed it.

Keep going!