Personal Finance

Coronavirus + Money | How COVID-19 Has Affected Our Personal Finances

Hello friends,

I hope you are doing okay during these crazy times! Personally, I have been doing my best to stay sane and practise self-care while at home by doing more of the things I love: reading, writing, and taking online classes that excite me. (If you’re not from New Zealand, our country is currently in a 4 week lockdown, so everyone is staying at home, in our ‘bubbles’ – except for grocery shopping, essential services and enjoying local scenery).

Today, I want to share with you my thoughts & experiences on how COVID-19 has affected money and personal finances. I imagine that life looks very different for most of us at the moment, including how we handle our money and what our incomes & expenses look like. I hope this helps you if you’re looking for ideas – and the knowledge that you’re not alone.

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Money Mindset, Personal Finance

Are You Getting a Tax Refund / Bill? How I Worked Mine Out

If you haven’t read my first post on tax – how it works, why you got a refund, why you should pay your bill, plus FAQs, check it out here.

If you’re a sole trader (self-employed) or business with 30% or more decline in revenue due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for a COVID-19 wage subsidy. Here’s more info on financial support during COVID-19.

Hi everyone,

It’s nearly the end of the financial year! You know what that means – EOFY sales (yay!) and tax refunds – or bills.

Tonight, I worked out if I was getting a tax refund or a tax bill. In case you were curious, I thought I would share how I did it and how you can too – so that perhaps, you can either have a tax refund to look forward to, or prepare early in advance for a tax bill you’ll now be able to effortlessly pay off!

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Budgeting, Money Mindset, Personal Finance

You Don’t Need to Be Rich to Be Financially Stable

Hello friends,

Today I’d love to share with you one of my biggest money beliefs: that you don’t need to be rich to be financially stable.

Shortly after deciding to write this, I realised that being ‘financially stable’ is a very personal thing, and means different things to different people. So I asked friends, both in person and on Instagram: what does being financially stable mean to you?

The answers I got were fascinating:

Whereas to the people I asked in person, it was more or less “Not living paycheck to paycheck.”

What’s my answer? For me, I would say that I feel financially stable now, but that I sure didn’t before. But whyWhat has changed? Personally, I still look forward to payday and save up for big wants & needs (eg. diligently saving 40% of my income for our wedding last year; saving up for a new car & laptop this year because they’re both old).

And it comes down to this: I don’t lose sleep over money. When it comes to finances, I’m grateful to have peace of mind and not to worry much. Of course, it’s not that I can afford anything my heart desires, but that if something comes up – a goal, a dream, a passion I want to pursue – I feel confident knowing that it is achievable. 

So what makes me feel financially stable now? If my definition is not losing sleep over money, what has changed to allow me not to worry and stress about it anymore? After all, I’ve had my financial ups and downs. Working 3 jobs at 21? Up. Moving to a new city on my own? Down. Landing my first corporate job? Up. Quitting a toxic job and spending the next year restoring my mental health and doing volunteer work? Down.

Here’s why I believe that you can achieve financial stability, whether or not you consider yourself ‘rich’:

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Lifestyle, Money Mindset, Personal Finance

My Favourite Personal Finance Books

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Hello friends,

Today I’m excited to share with you my all-time favourite personal finance books!

Sure, I could talk about Rich Dad, Poor Dad or The Four Hour Work Week, like most people do, but I’d rather not. Rich Dad, Poor Dad is extremely vague, unhelpful, and dated, while The Four Hour Work Week was written by a fraud & sociopath. I mean, come on – at one point, while discussing how he outsources his work and exploits human labour, Tim Ferriss actually writes “I would tell you how to do this, but I don’t want to. I want to watch Family Guy. So the next part will be written by my virtual assistant.”

What the fuck?

(Not at the outsourcing; at the arrogance. He then shares the story of a man who uses his virtual assistant to talk to his wife on his behalf and help with their deep-seated marital problems.)

He also boasts of his achievements & titles and how he gained them without actually earning them. It’s not about the journey for him; it’s all about the destination. At one point he encourages his readers to take notes from books on a certain topic, give a talk at a university, go to a Fortune 500 company and say that they’ve given a talk at the university, give a talk at the Fortune 500 company, and in doing so, be able to say, “I’m an expert who has given a talk on so-and-so at a Fortune 500 company.” You’re kidding me, right? You’re encouraging and empowering people… To be frauds?

Now that I’ve had a spontaneous intro rant, I’d love to share with you the books I did enjoy, as well as the real ways in which they’ve impacted my personal finance journey. Here are my 6 favourite personal finance books!

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Budgeting, Money Mindset, Personal Finance

My 2020 Personal Finance Goals | Savings, Debt, Travel

Hello friends, and Happy New Year!

I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing Christmas & New Year’s break. I spent a lot of mine getting reflective for 2020 – a fresh new year and new decade. What an amazing 10 years it’s been, personally, spiritually, and financially! Here are some of the experiences the last decade has brought me:

Graduating from university, moving to a new city and back, travelling + travelling solo, buying my first car (and only car to date), buying a house, working many jobs including those in insurance, tax & banking, creating extra income from side hustles, saving for a wedding, and of course, transforming my money mindset!

What are your favourite milestones from the last 10 years? I highly recommend writing a reverse bucket list – it’s perfect for celebrating all the amazing things you’ve achieved and experienced, while setting your intentions for the future.

Today, I’d like to share with you my 2020 money goals, and the checklist I created to make sure I was starting the new year right. From credit card debt to savings & investments, managing my income to funding my aspirations, I hope you’ll find some inspiration for your 2020 personal finances too!

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Personal Finance, Wedding

Creating Our Dream Wedding | Chapter 5

Sophia20

Hello friends, it’s been a while. Welcome to Chapter 5 of my wedding planning series, and the last before my fiancé and I get married. Yes, it’s less than 100 days out, and the next time I update this series with our final and complete wedding expenses in Chapter 6, I will be a Mrs!

My last update was in August, and it’s crazy how things have changed since then. I’d just updated you on my new job and new savings plan, but since then, as you may already know, both my fiancé and I have had another change (increase) in income.

Our income isn’t the only thing that’s changed. There’s one massive change I haven’t shared with you all; and the reason I’ve been quiet and avoided writing about my wedding for a few months.. We cancelled our wedding reception.

Phew! I wrote that with a huge sense of relief and joy.

Why did we cancel our wedding reception, and what are we doing now? Also importantly, what are we doing with all our wedding savings and the thousands of dollars we’d saved for the occasion?

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Lifestyle, Money Mindset, Personal Finance

What We Did With A $6K Pay Rise

Hello friends,

In September and October this year, my partner and I both received a pay rise in our respective jobs. As you may have guessed from the title, it was approximately $3000 each – a $6000 increase in our joint gross income. Hooray!

Today I’ll be sharing with you what we did with our extra income and how we chose to be mindful with this money.

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Personal Finance

I Have No Money and It’s All My Fault: A Brutally Honest Guide to Taxes

Hi friends,

It’s time.

I’ve been contemplating writing a blog post on income tax for so long, but put it off due to the fact that.. Well, I couldn’t write it with the same positive, optimistic tone of my usual blog posts. Why? Because it’s a rather confronting topic, where most people realise that everything is their fault.

If you’re a calm, humble person, you’ll accept and learn from it. You’ll even thank the person informing you for enlightening you of how income tax works.

If you’re not, you’ll throw a f**king fit and scream at the customer service officer at the other end of the phone as if they are personally responsible for your taxes and your tax bills.

Let’s start from the beginning. In the early years of my career, I used to receive a tax refund every year. But one year, I didn’t, so I asked my tax intermediary why.

“A tax refund every year isn’t guaranteed,” they told me. “It depends on if you have paid the right amount of tax throughout the year. If you have overpaid your taxes, that’s when you get a tax refund.”

I thanked them and moved on with my life.

(I now know that it’s likely when my income went over the $48,000 mark and made me no longer eligible for the IETC – Independent Earner’s Tax Credit. More on this later.)

Who knew that years later, I’d find myself working for the national tax department, explaining people’s tax bills and tax refunds to them on a daily basis? I was recently very surprised to discover that even a friend who was an experienced chartered accountant didn’t understand their tax bill – saying “Why do I have it? I only have PAYE income.”

It’s not the fact that they said it. It’s the fact that they said it coming from a place where they were already assuming everything was IRD’s fault. Some people, on the other hand, open-mindedly and kindly ask, “I don’t get this – could you please help me understand?”

So here are some things I want to preface this blog with:

  • Stop complaining about the government. You’re not edgy.
  • Stop trying to put the blame on the government, or your Kiwisaver provider, or your bank, or your employer. Taking responsibility for your own finances is life-changing.
  • Stop thinking of the IRD as bad, greedy people. They are literally as neutral as you can get; and have no agenda at all. Tax intermediaries are not bad, greedy people either – but they definitely can be when they charge people to file income tax returns that are extremely easy to learn.
  • IRD doesn’t hate you. IRD doesn’t love you, either. Most people don’t realise that IRD doesn’t take people’s taxes – IRD only collects information about people’s taxes, and fixes them up at the end of each financial year. In fact, there’s a lot of things IRD wishes they could do, but can’t, because they themselves simply do what the government tells them to do. But if you had to say whether IRD was ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Definitely good. IRD’s policies are inherently lenient and compassionate.

(Or, if you asked me where IRD sits on an alignment chart, I’d say neutral good.)

Let’s get started!

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Personal Finance

Money Habits I Nailed in My 20’s

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Hi friends,

I’m glad a lot of you enjoyed Money Mistakes I Made in My 20’s!

Today, I’m back with another reflective post. After sharing my financial regrets, I’ll be sharing with you mindful money habits I’ve done right – from my teens to mid 20’s.

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Budgeting, Lifestyle, Money Mindset, Personal Finance

Money Mistakes I Made in My 20’s

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Hello friends,

Today I’ll be sharing with you some personal finance stories from my 20’s – or shall I say, my early 20’s!

This topic has often been on my mind, but I’ve always been a little hesitant. As a believer in the Law of Attraction – which encourages manifestation of your best life through thoughts, actions & beliefs grounded in positivity, gratitude, and living in the present – it has always felt unconducive to dwell on the past and on mistakes.

But, I believe reflecting on the past can be incredibly valuable. If you look back on your past self and dislike who you were, or where you were in life, it’s a sign that you’ve grown and become a better person since then. Your growth is what makes it possible for you to have that realisation. It’s the same with personal finances.

So, I’d like to introduce you to the hot mess I was in my early 20’s, and the freeing changes I’ve made since. You could even call it my own financial #glowup! Please note these are definitely not all overnight fixes; whether they’ve taken weeks, months, or years to improve upon, they are all things younger me could have done better over the last 8 years. By the way, do y’all like my cute 90’s inspired scrapbook collage?!

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Budgeting, Lifestyle, Personal Finance, Wedding

Creating Our Dream Wedding | Chapter 4

Wedding Invitations Ruby Chocolate

Hi friends,

Welcome to Chapter 4 of my wedding series!

Last month, I shared how my fiancé and I are managing our wedding finances. Today I’m excited to elaborate on this topic and why we’re creating a new budget, as well as other progress we’ve made with our upcoming wedding.

In July, we

  • created a new wedding budget / savings plan
  • customised and received our wedding invitations (!!!)
  • booked the videographer for our Queenstown ceremony
  • ordered my wedding reception dress

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Budgeting, Money Mindset, Personal Finance

How I Got 10% More of My Pay

Hi friends,

Recently, I discovered a way to get 10% more of my pay. Not to be confused with getting 10% more pay, I made a few simple changes over the last few months to get 10% more of what I already earn. Today I’d love to share with you how I did it, and how you can too.

It all started when I made a mindful habit of reading my payslips. One day, I realised that there was a large discrepancy between my gross income and my take-home (net) income – specificially that I was receiving about 74% of my salary in my weekly pay. To give you an idea, here’s the same percentage based on different salaries:

If your salary is $52,000, making your gross weekly salary $1000, you would be receiving a net weekly salary of $740.

If your salary is $60,000, making your gross weekly salary $1154, you would be receiving a net weekly salary of $854.

If your salary is $45,000, making your gross weekly salary $865, you would be receiving a net weekly salary of $640.

Quite a difference, isn’t there?

With some easy steps, I managed to close the gap and lessen the difference between what I ‘earn’ and what I receive. I’d like to make a small disclaimer and highlight that these were personal decisions. With that, here are the steps I took.

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Lifestyle, Personal Finance, Wedding

Creating Our Dream Wedding | Chapter 2

Hi friends,

Welcome to Chapter Two of my wedding series!

May was an expensive and eventful month, one full of wedding accomplishments. Some of these include:

  • paying off our honeymoon
  • booking our florals, lighting, decor, and photography
  • ordering my wedding dress

…And attending two amazing wedding shows!

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Budgeting, Lifestyle, Money Mindset, Personal Finance

When Shit Happens

A few weeks ago, my colleague & friend Lucius asked me, “Hey Sophia, you know your personal finance blog.. What about when shit happens?”

My response: “When shit happens? Do you mean like having money for an emergency fund?” He said yes.

So I told him I’d thought about writing about this, and the times I’d had to use mine (a brief period of unemployment, taking my car to get fixed at the expensive Mini Garage, etc). However, I was currently in a strange position as I had a large emergency fund that I was planning to use as my soon-to-be wedding fund and therefore, may soon need to start fresh. I offered, “You’re welcome to write a guest blog if you like!”

So here is the result, my friends. Please note that we have different opinions on our job, where I get to round out my financial experience in insurance, banking and tax; where we work in a tall building in my favourite suburb overlooking the Sky Tower & city skyline on one side and the majestic Mt Rangitoto & ocean on the other; where the pay is average but having a few other income streams makes it manageable; and where the job itself can be challenging (also, but less often, rewarding) but our team is amazing to work with. That being said, his thoughts are also completely true, valid, and hilarious. Enough of my rambling – enjoy!

Hello to all of Sophia’s readers. As you all might have guessed I have the fortunate “privilege” of working in a dead-end, shitty job wishing that some random shitstain would just throw you off the top floor of the excrement filled building… Motherfucker! A call centre job is not only career suicide, it presents you with constant and elevated stress due to dealing with the very dregs of society, being monitored like criminals by management, and more importantly, shit-all pay. With the cost of living only going up and the value of the dollar diminishing every year; our standard of living has been worse than it’s ever been.

Being more tight-fisted, finances has become a certain necessity for some and a daily struggle for many. Indulging in luxuries once in a blue moon could shove you into paupacy for a few weeks, while a catastrophic event like a car crash or medical condition could tumble you headfirst into financial ruin… And this is exactly why Sophia has invited me to be a guest blogger: to tell you how to prepare when the metaphorical shit/excrement/faeces/turd hits the fan.

Accidents happen, life is shit and shit happens; moral of the story is shit! Personally, when shit happens to me, it happens all at once. Not only did I crash my vehicle (my fault), the garage door malfunctioned, vehicle tyres needed urgent replacing and I had already pre-ordered re-enactment equipment that needed to be paid off that week. Fortunately, I was able to and am still able to pay these off and multiple times over should I need to. You can budget wisely and save to prematurely prepare for said unforeseeable event(s) that would put many ordinary civilians into crippling debt. I call it: managing micro-transactions.

Sun Tzu (shitstain) once said that the leadership of many is the same as leadership of a few; it is only a matter of organisation. Believe it or not, the management of micro-transactions can make the difference between having a safety net to fall back on or hanging yourself with your neighbour’s extension cord that you had to “borrow” due to financial depression. Saving a small sum on hundreds of small transactions can be much more effective than saving on big ones; the key point is to live within your means. I’m not here to tell you about how to manage your fixed costs, but to educate you wretched shits by how you can save over the long term by breakdown down your variable costs. Let me give you a few examples:

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Budgeting, Lifestyle, Personal Finance, Wedding

Creating Our Dream Wedding | Chapter 1

 

Hi friends,

WELCOME TO CHAPTER ONE OF MY BLOG’S WEDDING SERIES!

It sounds fancy and official, but really, it’s a practical and sentimental record of our wedding planning journey – a diary to share my inspirations, reflect on in the future with sweet nostalgia, and of course, keep ourselves mindful with money. I’m excited to share with you every part of this journey – of creating our dream wedding that will be both magical and money-conscious.

This month, we:

  • went to a gorgeous wedding open day
  • started making a financial plan for funding our big day
  • started requesting quotes on florals, lighting, photography & more
  • booked our wedding venue!

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Budgeting, Homeownership, Lifestyle, Personal Finance

The Cost of Owning a Home | My Personal Experience

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Hi friends,

It’s been a while! I want to thank you all for the incredibly positive, warm and supportive feedback I received on my last post, How I Save Money on an Inconsistent Income. It means a lot to me to know that I’ve helped and inspired some of you with your own finances!

Today I’d like to share with you all the costs & expenses I’ve come across as a homeowner. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, so this is tailored to my personal expenses – after all, my house is no luxury beachfront villa; it’s a modest, free-standing house in a safe and sensibly priced suburb. I thought it would be interesting to share what I pay for now that I own a home vs. when I was renting, and hope it will be helpful to both other homeowners and future homeowners with my transparency.

What do you think of when you think of buying a house? Personally, I think it’s so easy to simply think of the purchase price and mortgage payments – plus mortgage protection if you want that peace of mind. I obviously knew there was going to be more, but now that it’s been two years, I truly have a fuller picture to share with you all.

But first, some background..

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Budgeting, Money Mindset, Personal Finance

How I Save Money on an Inconsistent Income

Hi friends,

Today I’d like to share with you how I save money on an inconsistent income. Just a few years ago, I’d rely on $1400 to hit my bank account every fortnight – and it did, each and every fortnight without fail. Even then, my income regularly fluctuated because I volunteered for so much overtime and, twice a year, received a performance bonus – but it was positively inconsistent in that I could always rely on at least that amount or more. It was blissfully easy to budget.

Fast forward to 2019, and I’m sure those of you who are freelancers, self-employed, contractors, or run a side business can relate to earning a wildly inconsistent income. It started in 2018, when I had six sources of income, one of them being a part-time job that would give me 21 hours one week, 4 hours the next; another being photography, where one month I’d shoot two events and others where I’d shoot none.

Here’s a snapshot of my income now:

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Lifestyle, Money Mindset, Personal Finance

My 2018 Money Wins + 2019 Goals

Hello friends, and Happy New Year!!!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday season and feeling rested, refreshed, and inspired for the year to come! This time of the year always calls for reflection and aspiration, so today I’m sharing with you my 2018 money wins – the best things I did for myself financially. I’ll also share with you my financial goals for the year to come.

2018

Money Win No.1 I did a 0% balance transfer
I shared a little about this in How I’m Paying Off My Debt Faster | 3 Easy Ways. Instead of letting the interest-free period on my credit card balance pass and consider it sorted if I met the minimum payments, I said “no thanks” to 25.99% interest and transferred it to my bank. More than just the benefit of having tons of time to pay off the balance, the peace of mind I had made it easily one of the best financial decisions I made last year.

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Budgeting, Personal Finance

How I Saved $232 a Month While Looking for a Job | One Year Update

Hi friends,

A year ago, I wrote a blog called ‘How I Saved $232 a Month While Looking for a Job. It was well received, and I was especially delighted to hear from others who could relate to my situation of saving money through big life changes (whether or not they were job related)!

The six expenses I cut or reduced were:

  • Spotify Premium
  • LinkedIn Premium
  • Mobile phone data
  • My gym membership
  • Office 365
  • My mortgage payments

Of these I have four updates to share, so today I’d like to share with you how I’m doing one year on.

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