Budgeting, Lifestyle, Money Mindset, Personal Finance, Wedding

Life, Love & Money: An Update

Hello friends,

It feels good to write again after 3 months of working through some shit. And while it is by no means over (is the journey of personal growth ever complete?), today I am back, I am inspired, and I would love to share with you a life update as well as some exciting news & money wins!

Our wedding

As you may know, my fiancé and I were meant to get married in a mountaintop ceremony in Queenstown on 26th March 2020, on our four year anniversary. We flew to Queenstown on the 23rd, during Level 2, and with our incredible luck, the Level 3 & Level 4 lockdown was announced during our flight. We found out just as we landed and businesses all around us closed – including our wedding company, who offered to reschedule.

But while we were initially disappointed, we spent a very lovely 4.5 days down there, enjoying our hotel’s delicious restaurant & room service food, books, movies, TV, video games, and a board game (Fog of Love) all with an absolutely stunning view. Most of all, we enjoyed the time with each other, and learnt that even 4.5 days of being stuck in the same hotel together can be really enjoyable with the right person!

Since then, a lot of people have asked us, ‘So what’s happening with your wedding now?’, and we finally have an answer (given that all goes well, of course!).

We will be getting married this November, in late spring! Our choice of hotel this time is the beautiful Kamana Lakehouse, where we’ve opted for a room with a view of The Remarkables.

A huge bonus is that they have their own private hot tubs overlooking Lake Wakatipu, so we’ll be enjoying a relaxing spa experience there rather than at the famous Onsen Hot Pools. (Not natural hot springs, but still.) For comparison, we received a $150 refund from Onsen Hot Pools for our cancelled reservation, while the cheapest package for 2 adults at the moment is $126 for an hour. Kamana Soak is priced at $100 for an hour. We’ll also be saving the cost & inconvenience of transport, which I’m stoked about.

I can’t wait, and fingers crossed we will all stay safe and healthy enough to prevent a 3rd lockdown & travel ban!

Shopping & spending

I closed my Afterpay and Laybuy! Yay!

I’ve read a lot of social commentary on the effects of Afterpay, Laybuy, and other ‘Buy now, pay later’ schemes, and the way they encourage instant gratification, mindless consumption, and the normalisation of debt. And I agree. When I really stop to question my spending habits, I have found that I’ve purchased more than I otherwise would when paying via one of these options. Just like banks & finance companies break down the total cost of something into smaller amounts to make it seem more justifiable and manageable, the same tactic is applied by companies like Afterpay and Laybuy.

And the thing is, I didn’t necessarily need to use them. I did it when I was encouraging myself to spread out the payments in order to delay them, in order to maximise interest in my savings account.

But with woefully low interest rates (BNZ’s Rapid Save is now 0.50% when it used to be 2.20%; Kiwibank’s Notice Saver is 1.40% for 90 days when it used to be 3.25%), how much extra interest am I really earning, and is it worth the extra effort?

I write a new budget every fortnight, tailored to that coming fortnight’s expenses: a special event, a birthday gift for a friend, a half-yearly bill, and the specific Afterpay and Laybuy payments coming out within the next 14 days.

Closing my accounts has saved me time and effort logging into each app and keeping track of payments, and on top of that, I’m already spending more consciously. My virtual trolleys have been reduced down to what I truly want and need and am happy to pay for, in full – with cash, not credit.

If you’re in the same boat, why not try closing your accounts (for Afterpay / for Laybuy) – or, if it helps, deleting the auto login details from your phone or browser? Businesses make online shopping & checkout as easy as possible for a reason – to encourage you to think less and buy more. The more seamless the experience is, and the less resistance & steps in the checkout process, the more likely we are to buy, and the more we will buy.

Just like the key to creating good habits, like exercising, is to make it easy for yourself – like putting your workout gear right next to your bed for when you wake up in the morning – make excessive shopping hard for yourself. Your bank account will thank you for it!

Our honeymoon + holiday

We had dreams of a Japanese honeymoon, full of cherry blossoms, hearty food, ancient temples and modern cityscapes; but of course, our April 2020 trip had to be cancelled by Topdeck.

We used the credit towards a holiday to India early 2021 – which they’ve also just cancelled. I was sad – am sad – but of course, I’m not a #covidiot, and keeping as much of the entire world population safe, healthy and alive as possible is of course an infinitely higher priority than my travel plans.

Topdeck offered us some options: extend our credit until 31st December 2022, or permission to sell or gift our credit to someone else. I decided to ask for a refund.

And guess what? After politely pushing back and insisting on it, we got it! We got $11,000 back from Topdeck!

$400 has remained on our Topdeck accounts as travel credit for the future – whether that will be Japan in the springtime, India during Holi & Diwali, or anywhere else in the world we may long to see.

It’s the little things

Can you believe we actually had 2 & a half months between New Zealand’s two lockdowns? It feels like a distant memory now, as if we’ve been staying at home forever.

After the first lockdown, I got my wish. My work kindly allowed staff to work from home one day a week! This has not only helped me save on 2 hours of commute time per week (104 hours per year! What you could do with that time), but it has also helped with so much more.

One day a week, I get to work peacefully, bathed in sunshine (not something I get at the office); have lunch breaks in my own front yard and sometimes with my fiancé; save on makeup & haircare (office: contacts & straightened hair; home: glasses & natural curls); and I’ve saved a considerable amount of fuel.

I recently went through my bank transactions to see how often I’ve fueled up my car (a Mini Cooper). And guess what? I found that pre-lockdown, I spent $50 on fuel every 6-7 days. Post-lockdown, I spent $50 on fuel every 8-10 days. That means my fuel is lasting me approximately a third longer than before. Hooray!

At home, we’re still doing Hello Fresh. During lockdown, the 3 of us briefly upgraded our subscription to 4 meals for 4 people, costing $159.99 weekly. Now that things have settled down a bit, we’ve gone for 3 meals for 4 people, costing $129.99 weekly. It’s nice to take a break from cooking and support local food businesses from time to time.

Lastly…

I had a wonderful and inexpensive lockdown birthday last week. Blessed with bright, sunny weather that lasted all day, my fiancé and I went to my favourite local cafe and bought six desserts, along with a veggie bagel, fried chicken, cosy Earl Grey & hot chocolate. We drove to our local park and enjoyed a spontaneous outdoor brunch, surrounded by nature and soaking up the cheerful vibes from couples taking walks around the park and children laughing on the playground.

It was bliss. And instead of one birthday cake, I got to try a little bit of all the desserts we shared: raspberry jam & cream doughnut, coconut, pineapple & passionfruit cake, orange & almond cake, butterscotch mascarpone doughnut, and more! (We spent $76 all up, with the desserts lasting us three days).

We spent the rest of the day reading, playing video games, and watching movies, while I also treated myself to a dreamy vanilla-scented shower with the cutest birthday cake body wash.

It was the perfect reminder that you don’t need a life full of luxury & riches to be happy. Sitting in the park under the warmth of the sun, listening to the swaying trees and talking with my love, my heart felt contented and full. In the chaos of our global pandemic, maybe we can discover happiness, peace, and simplicity despite it all.

Stay safe & well!

Love,

Sophia

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