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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: lucille on July 23, 2013, 04:08:28 PM

Title: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: lucille on July 23, 2013, 04:08:28 PM
Hi All

Would love to hear from any Mustachians who live or have lived in New Zealand. My husband and I live in NZ with our two sons and over the past few years we have been focussed on paying off debt (now done) and find the cost of living (particularly housing!!!) here very high. We are committed to staying in this country as it is where both our families are and we do love NZ and the lifestyle it offers.

Are there any Mustachians out there in NZ who can offer us some perspective that is specific to this country? How do you manage the high housing and food costs coupled with a relatively low wage economy? We would really like some encouragement that it is possible to save towards early retirement here.

Any advice much appreciated!
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: SouthLander on July 23, 2013, 04:52:51 PM
Hi Lucille,

I'm a young kiwi bloke fresh on the path to early FI with a long road ahead. While I don't have any wisdom of my own to share at this stage, I just wanted to chime and give some encouragement to you and your family :)
Firstly congratulations on being debt free! I guess that puts you well ahead on the path already eh?
My partner and I have recently bought a house because we were sick of renting after 5 years as students. We are currently getting by on one full time wage and one PhD scholarship and doing all we can to pay off our mortgage. We rent out the other 2 rooms in our house and while it sort of took the gloss off the initial "owning our first home together", it has been invaluable for the extra income (straight on the mortgage) it generates.
Regarding food costs, I am lucky enough to come from a commercial fishing family so we usually have a freezer full of fish - to supplement this I am planning on getting back into hunting to further stock up on meat. We also have enough room in the backyard to stagger planting of veggies such that we should always have something ready to harvest. We most often cook in bulk then freeze - mostly foods that can be eaten with rice/bread/pasta. We find this saves heaps on food bills as we plan ahead and find we only go to the supermarket about twice a month or so (not including milk!).
I realise that our situations are likely very different and not much of what I have said may apply to you and yours, but I think my point is that by applying the ideas (philosophy?) synthesised by MMM in his blog, and others on the forums, it is possible to live a mustachian life anywhere! It might take longer, or be a bit tougher, but as long as you are happy in NZ and enjoying your lifestyle while increasing your 'stache it is definitely possible :)

P.S. I'm very new to this blog (first post!). I've been reading a bit from other NZ users such as gooki ( who are pretty clued up and might be worth messaging for some ACTUAL advice.
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: orpheus on July 23, 2013, 05:21:41 PM
Yes New Zealand is an expensive place to live.
I always do a double take when they charge $5 for a red pepper (capsicum) at the supermarket.
We have managed to buy 3 properties in Queenstown which do really well.
How do we do it?
By living overseas and sending all the money back to pay off the mortgages. At one point we were getting 1.30% on the currency exchange.
Also we have been running resorts and have had zero expenses for 7 of the last 8 years. Except holidays and alcohol.
So been saving 70% or so for around 7 years.
Managed to get 725k equity on a portfolio of 1.85m so they now fully cover themselves and more.
So we are moving back to Queenstown in 2 months and will look to retire in the next 5 to 10 years depending a a few things going our way. If it takes us 10 years I will still only be 48!! So not to bad but still got some savings to do.

 I know people will say they cannot do what we have done but there are all sorts of ways to build up your stash!

Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: lucille on July 23, 2013, 07:09:15 PM
Thanks Southlander - have checked out Gooki's journal, it's great to hear his story as we are starting from very similar places, although I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to be mortgage free - one day for sure.

Orpheus - your comment about the capsicum made me laugh out loud, I always see really strange 'specials' advertised on bus shelters - like a cucumber and a lettuce for $5, what wonderful value for money. Queenstown is a wonderful spot, you are making incredible progress to be able to retire there so soon

I think one of the main things we need to do is leave Auckland, we are both a bit nervous about it as will need to find work elsewhere and my husband's family is here and they are a huge help to us with the kids. We have a house here (with a big mortgage) but could possible sell it and nearly be close to buying a place somewhere else outright, just a bit scared of cutting our ties to the city as once we leave it would be very difficult to come back
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: gooki on July 24, 2013, 01:45:31 AM
Food tips: Buy in season fruit/vegetables, or frozen. For meat go for quality, not quantity. Don't buy junk, if you want a treat, bake it yourself. Keep yer alcohol consumption in check (this can easily escalate to $50 a week/$2500 a year). As with the booze, keep the eating out in check.

Entertainment tips: Avoid SkyTV like the plague. Check out for Internets if you are a low or moderate user. As for cell phones, use them less. I spend about $40 a year on prepaid cards, my wife about $80.

Transport: Fuel efficient cars are cheap and plentiful, if you can drop down to one car, do it. You'll save $1,000 a year in WOF/registration an insurance. Then there's the reduced maintenance and fuel, so easily another $2,000 saved. Bikes are awesome, but I can understand that riding to work in Auckland isn't realistic for many.

Utilities/insurance: Shop around, and insure to the right level, and no more. A few calls could easily see another $1000 in you pocket.

Personal spending money: What worked for my wife and I was to pay our self a weekly allowance (started at $65 each a week, went up to $75 when we both had good jobs, and is now $40 a week), this covers our clothing, eating out, entertainment, hobbies. Basically everything that is for our own benefit and not that of our families. The remaining funds went to living essentials, debt repayment, investment. Oh and make damn sure you are paying off that credit card every month.

Retirement: Contribute 4% to Kiwisaver to get the 3% match. Make sure you are with a low fees provider (0.75% or less). Any spare cash, pay down that mortgage, and/or invest (shares, bonds, property).
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: gooki on July 24, 2013, 02:10:09 AM
I think one of the main things we need to do is leave Auckland, we are both a bit nervous about it as will need to find work elsewhere and my husband's family is here and they are a huge help to us with the kids. We have a house here (with a big mortgage) but could possible sell it and nearly be close to buying a place somewhere else outright, just a bit scared of cutting our ties to the city as once we leave it would be very difficult to come back

I don't know how much equity you could get out of your house if you sold. If you can pull out $250,000 there are some great places to move where you'd own outright. Combine that with government support for families (read working for families tax credit) a reduced income will not mean a lower quality of life. Even with one person working 37.5 hours a week on an average wage (say $50,000) or you both work part time for a total of $50,000 your take home pay will be approx $48,000. That should leave you with $20,000 a year to add to you stash. And plenty of time to spend with you kids/visit family.
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: nz on July 24, 2013, 03:00:44 AM
Get out f#%* out of Auckland !!!!
Gooki is right, take your equity out into the provinces and the quality of your life will soar. Ask yourself what the advantages of living in Auckland honest.......and ask yourself what the associated costs of Auckland are, especially housing and transport.
I 'retired' a few months ago, this would not have been possible had I lived in a major NZ city.
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: retiringsoon on July 26, 2013, 07:09:22 PM
Born and bred in NZ, I got out from its oppressive tax policy and moved to the US 5 years ago, and my wealth exploded. I knew this was the land of opportunity but its blown my mind how good it is and the primary difference is taxes.

I just did a calculation of $100k income, 2kids, standard deduction (terms used in US)

In California, high tax state - total taxes (fed and state) are about $15k. Less if you have a large mortgage, medical deductions, 401k deductions etc.
In NZ, NZD$125k (so about 100USD), taxes are about $32k. NZ has no deductions.

Sales tax here is about 8% on most consumer items but there are many exceptions, in NZ its 15% on everything including services. Property tax ("rates" in NZ) is higher here, but it doesnt make up the difference. Yup, no free health care, but the NZ health system is not great and i still have private coverage in NZ.

Add this on top of much higher salaries and cheaper living in the US, I cant imagine ever returning to NZ. I was back a few months ago and saw how my old friends lives have not progressed, its sad.

Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: kiwibeach on July 27, 2013, 01:29:24 AM
Hello, we are still working our way to FI, thought I was frugal til I started reading this blog.

I would second the advice to leave Auckland, especially if you are in central Auckland. We moved north of Auckland six years ago just before our eldest child started school. This enabled us to buy a bigger (non mustachian) house for about half the cost of central Auckland.
We are still within easy commuting distance to north shore, but with a considerably better lifestyle, more space, and if we need the facilities of Auckland - hospital , uni, art gallery, museum, they are close enough. Note, husband has 15 min commute that is the envy of his colleagues, many of whom travel over the bridge on a daily basis.
Disclosure: we don't have any family within driving distance, so we weren't leaving any family help behind.
We have also lived in Hamilton and rotorua, and have good friends who live there, oh the houses you can buy with Auckland equity, could end up mortgage free quickly in most of the rest of NZ,  and lots of other things are cheaper too, eg in rotorua a GP visit for an adult is $20.
We would definitely consider leaving here to go further from Auckland, it's been a topic of conversation for a while.
Other stuff:
PaknSave - always
, farmers markets for fruit and veges, I always thought I shopped seasonally, changing to a farmers market made me realise that I really didn't , the fruit, veges and eggs are so much nicer and cheaper.
Also recommend destitute gourmet cookbook, especially her meals under$10 one.
Check you are with the best electricity supplier for your situation.
Check out mutilate the mortgage blog, it's Aussie, but very applicable to NZ housing situation.
Agree with gooki about sky, although husband always pines a little when rugby tests are on.....
Good luck, where else in NZ interests you? what outdoor activities do you and your family enjoy?
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: lysistrata on July 27, 2013, 04:16:08 PM
Hi Lucile - I've been reading the blog and lurking on the boards for a long time, and your thread prompted me to make my first post. Everyone else's advice has been great!

My husband and I are also NZers, currently living in West Auckland, but we're in the process of building an off-grid home on four acres of land up on South Head. Even just that close to Auckland house and land prices drop off significantly.

I've always been extremely frugal - I'm the only person I know who came out of university WITH savings instead of debt. My husband worked low-paying factory jobs for 8 years before attending university, and he always spent everything he earned, but didn't go into debt (apart from student loan, which is interest free - one of the few financial bonuses of living in NZ!) so when we got married after university we had a positive net worth. I've always saved approx 50% of what I earned, but with my husband and his expensive hobbies on board, we're more like 30% now - still a lot better than many of our friends, hopefully going up a bit in future years as our earning potential increases and expenses go down.

The mortgage makes me a bit nervous, but because we bought smart I think (the land hadn't sold for 6 years, so we offered something ridiculously low and got it - for nearly $100k under value) and we are building the house ourselves (with help from my dad, who is a builder), our housing costs are significantly less than what we WOULD pay if we'd wanted to buy a fully-established lifestyle block closer to the city. The mortgage will be gone in 15 years, even accounting for the extension we plan on building (It's about the price of a "first home" in Auckland).

I am a writer and work from home, but my husband will still have to commute to the city. After the house is finished, he plans to look for other work options outside of the city. We are establishing an orchard and will grow and raise our own produce, lambs, chickens (eggs!) and other things. And being off grid we don't have a lot of household bills.

What do we do to save money?
- I pay the savings account FIRST whenever I receive money from salary or clients.
- we have an allocated budget each week (It's $100 each, but what happens is that I have $50 and husband has $80 (he pays a fee for studio practice room for his band) and the rest goes into savings. This pays for clothing, going out, occasional lunch out with colleagues, etc.
- I pay $50 every fortnight for a box of organic fruit and vege to be delivered. The box is 12kg and chocka full. That does the two of us nicely.
- I avoid processed food and make a lot of things from scratch. We do online shopping with countdown every 2 weeks (I can't drive - blind - and supermarkets make husband angry) and find we save money even with the delivery fee because it forces us to plan ahead. We always have food in the house so if we're driving past some takeaway place and husband says, "damn, I really want a burger," or whatever we can just go home and make one. I used to make a meal plan for every night, but now I find I can just look in the cupboard and understand what we need.
- I have a deep freeze - we buy organic meat from a friend with a farm up north - much cheaper and tastier than supermarket.
- Also, husband is one of those "must have meat every night" people, so I make a lot of stews and curries and things where the meat is more of an accessory to the veges. A big roast will feed us lunch and dinner for 3 days, so they're a great cost-effective treat.
- We have a huge group of close friends and spend a lot of our time with them, going to the beach or on bushwalks, having parties at each other's houses, BBQs, movie nights, etc. We all rarely go out to town together, unless it's to watch live music, and in our scene a live show is $10 on the door. So our entertainment is pretty cheap. We don't eat out much, either. With our move to the country we will see our friends less, but will be hosting lots of weekend camping trips on our land, so it'll be just as great.

Good luck with your situation! +1 to the advice to leave Auckland if you can - you won't regret it!
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: lucille on July 28, 2013, 01:45:35 AM
Thanks so much everyone for your really great replies. It is wonderful to hear from other people with experience of the NZ situation - my husband and I often find ourselves feeling very envious of cheap housing, food etc in the US after reading US personal finance blogs.

I feel like I want to offer a bit of our back story. I graduated with a big (36k student loan) but hey, what did I care, I was a lawyer and was obviously going to be incredibly rich (and maybe a little bit famous somehow) soon enough. When I finished uni I also had a 3000 overdraft and a 3500 loan from a wonderful overseas holiday to celebrate finishing my degrees because I really deserved a treat didn't I? I never even thought about saving any money bc I always just thought everything would sort itself out on its own one day.

When I was 29, because I really didn't have enough debt yet, I went back to study to be a chiropractor as I fancied earning lots of money and only having to work 3 or 4 days a week. Two years, 20k more debt and a big reality check later I quit - at this stage my student loan was 60k!!!! If I hadn't quit studying it would have been 100k by the time I was done.  By this time I'd met my husband, he studied in the US on a rugby scholarship so didn't have the big student loan I did and is also just naturally not inclined to spend much money. Before we get too excited about all that I should mention that he studied fine arts, really big earning potential with that one.

Anyways - great big financial hole, largely due to my student loan but also due to low paying 'creative' roles for people with fine arts degrees. We are now married with two boys, we've paid off about 75k debt in total which felt amazing and are now debt free but for our mortgage. Our pathway into personal finance was Dave Ramsey, I've read mixed opinions on him on this site but have to say that for people with NO idea about personal finance he was fantastic. My husband studied in Tennessee and used to hear DR on the radio there as Nashville is DR's home town. We also both love the phrase 'latte breath' that we picked up from him getting angry with people in debt buying coffees. We have now reached a more philosophical place with money, hence following MMM, and are trying to fight our capitalist, consumerist urges. We have family and friends who we care about who have suffered and continue to suffer by trying to live the great Auckland lifestyle of lovely house, nice clothes, lots of nights out etc.

I'm on parental leave from my job and feel like we are nearly as frugal as we can be although there's always room for improvement. We have a house on the Nth Shore with a big back yard and are working on establishing an orchard and vege garden and just recently got chickens - they are a lot of fun and I highly recommend them. Shop at Pak n save once a month, eat 90% vegetarian, local fruit and vege, reuseable nappies, hand me down clothes, old cars etc. I think we feel frustrated bc despite all this we just get by (will be different when I'm back at work). Also want to mention that our house is a small, run-down 70s house in an 'affordable' (ha ha) suburb - no lovely grey lynn villas or takapuna beach living for us. It has still proven a good investment nonetheless, we probably have about 200k equity in it at the moment, but very limited savings due to debt repayment and being on a single income.

We are pretty much set on Hawke's Bay as a place to move to as it has nice weather, beautiful coastline and countryside and a couple of reasonable sized centres to generate jobs, income etc. The goal would be to be as close to mortgage free as possible down there once we sold our place and then set up a small lifestyle block situation - think we would be looking at between 2000- 3000 m section, the great thing about HB is it has wonderful soil and climate for growing your own food. Although we would be moving away from family we would be closer to my family (wgtn and the wairarapa) and everyone loves a holiday in the HB.

I really appreciate you all taking the time to comment and what a relief to hear your wonderful stories of how you make it work here in NZ.
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: nz on July 28, 2013, 02:21:18 AM
Sounds like you have a plan. I'm a few years ahead of you and am living on 2 acres right on the edge of New Plymouth, complete with chickens, bees,pigs, big vege garden, small orchard and a little plant nursery they generates a bit of pocket money. We also raise a few calves with the neighbours and this provides a freezer full of meat every year. Have a wet-back  so that's heat, hot water and the occaisonal meal.
It is a great lifestyle but it is also a lot of work. Don't under estimate the work!!!!
As well as the house and land, you will also have to factor in the infrastructure eg sheds, fences,gates etc.......doesn't have to be done all at once of course........but you'll be glad of those high fences when the chickens escape and threaten your silver beet crop which the pigs were looking forward to.

My suggestion is to focus on one or two new skills a year ,eg bees , and build up your knowledge gradually.
Good luck with the plan ....and don't leave it too late because your kids will  miss out on the best of times.
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: KiwiChocoholic on August 06, 2013, 03:52:41 AM
Hi! I've just discovered Mustachianism (by name at least) and am glad to see some other Kiwis here. :-) My husband and I are living the corporate life in Wellington (good money, challenging jobs but keen to create future options for ourselves by reaching FI) and it's heartening to see the sensible ways of you folk, compared to some of our friends and colleagues.

We have a big (but not stupidly big!) hunk of mortgage for our (sensible, smallish) house and another on a small rental property (bought that several years ago, our house is a recent acquisition), plus my husband has just under two years left to pay off his student loan. Currently we save just on 50% of our after-tax income, not counting compulsory mortgage payments (so I guess a wee bit more if you count the equity we're paying down). But planning to start a family soon so the income will take a hit when that happens... Will need to refine the Mustachian habits to make living on a single income work!

I find it interesting talking about the cost of housing - the media so often has complainypants stories I have taken to ignoring them (and I know Wellington prices are a bit extreme, but for us at least the earning potential balances that) - but I hadn't realised until I started reading MMM/these forums how cheap housing can be in the US! Still, lots of things to love about NZ...

Nice to "meet" you all!
Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: Mr Mark on August 06, 2013, 08:01:07 PM

I too am a kiwi who now lives in the USA, and there really is no better place for income-taxes/cost of living, especially if you have good skills and a typical kiwi attitude! I just love the States.

I also have investments in nz, but missed the housing boom, and so can no longer see buying property there. I think current house prices are an accident waiting to happen were i to get in now...

If you want a more rural, real place that's cheaper, try Gisborne area and NE of there maybe? And go for a lower declared income approach with sweat equity?

Good luck. Gooki is on the ball, and actually lives in nz, so I'd always tend to defer to him!

Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: Scrooge McDuck on October 07, 2013, 09:45:55 PM
Reading through these posts I agree with most points on high COL but no one seems to have mentioned the advantages we have in NZ over other countries. These make it easier to reach FI in my opinion;

- stable government
- ease of doing business and not overly litigious (people aren't trying to sue each other all the time)
- consistently increasing property market over the long term (
- small city sizes makes for smaller commutes
- temperate climate makes it easier to bike/walk to most places and better for your health
- free health care for the most part (ACC is amazing!!)
- minimum wage and comprehensive welfare system
- high quality meat and fresh produce
- good education and many free tertiary options (e.g. SIT)
- less inequality (believe it or not - the more equal a society is the better it is for everyone:

Title: Re: Mustachianism in New Zealand??
Post by: nz on October 07, 2013, 11:36:43 PM
Scrooge- I agree with your list and would add our relatively low population.
I agree also with the notion that our temperate climate is an advantage but for different reasons that you mentioned. For me, temperate climate means food and lots of it. It also means low heating/cooling costs