How Much did I spend – Working Holiday New Zealand

Okay, this is it.

I’ve done the sums and.. the truth hurts but.. my high spending is kind of expected given that I embarked on this working holiday experience after working in the corporate life for 7+ years which means that I do have the spending power and bringing money home was definitely not on the agenda.

In case you’re wondering, I used an app called ‘Ahorro’ and manually update my expenses daily. Most of the time, I key in my expenses right after I make the payment so I won’t forget it. Furthermore, New Zealand is quite a cashless country and I make 99% of my purchases via PayWave (Debit Card) or EFTPOS (direct bank debit), thus if there’s any expenditure I’ve left out, it wouldn’t be too difficult for me to check my ANZ banking app.

Accommodation

At 27%, rental forms the bulk of my expenditure for my entire 38 weeks.

I had 2 weeks of HelpX (work exchange for accommodation) and 2 weeks of travel which means that the average rent I paid during this period was $178/week. You can use this slightly high number as a ball plug figure for conservative expenditure planning.

In New Zealand, rental is paid weekly and you can either pay for a bed space in a sharehouse or for a room. The weekly rent that I have paid ranges from $85/week (cheapest in Motueka) to $230/week + bills (most expensive in Wanaka; but I had my own room).

When I travel (not including my 12-day family trip), I usually opt for hostels (80% of the time) and the rest would be in AirBnBs or homestay listings found on other websites. The price for hostels ranges between $22 to $45 (I think it was the new YHA Lake Tekapo hostel).

For more information with regards to looking for accommodation in New Zealand, I have done up a post: https://www.flyhoneystars.com/2019/11/19/looking-for-accommodation-in-new-zealand/

Food Purchases & Groceries

At $3,195.11, this is a rather alarming number as it would have meant that I spent $89/week solely on food purchases which includes everything that was not cooked. If I were to add the amount spent on groceries, it would have meant that I spent $153/week on food which means $22/day just for food. However, there’s a huge disclaimer that I did spend quite a bit of money on alcohol – mainly on ciders and wine. With regards to my food purchases, I admit that I kind of led a rather luxurious life (or perhaps maintained my Singapore lifestyle) where I go for cafe brunches and eat out on my days off. A usual meal outside would cost about $20 and somewhere fancy; I did pay $45 for a dinner at Te Anau for a lamb steak. Apart from alcohol, the most dangerous expense of it all was my frequent indulgence in coffee (usually Latte) which ranges from $4 to $6 per cup.

For groceries, I am guilty of not choosing the cheapest option. I’ve never bought the cheapest bread ($0.99 – $1.19). Most times, I bought the $1.59 option which was pretty decent but I also like to indulge in the fresh bakes at $2.49 and the luxurious and delicious fancy brands (linseed and nuts etc.) which cost $3.49 – $3.99. For rice, I opted for Japanese rice at $3.50/kg after I tried the house brand and found it really hard to eat it. Eggs and Milk was the staples that we had to buy on a frequent basis. I usually buy the mixed grade caged eggs at $3.49/dozen while milk cost about $2.40/L. If I do get to dig the receipts, I’m pretty sure the most frivolous expenditure was on alcohol, potato chips and chocolates.

If you are curious about grocery prices in New Zealand, I wrote about it here: https://www.flyhoneystars.com/2019/07/19/new-zealand-grocery-shopping-prices/

Shopping

Although I feel that I lived quite a minimalist life in New Zealand, every time I had to pack up and move, I get a huge shock at the number of items I have. Now that I am back at home, looking at the amount of things I have hoarded across the years, I don’t think I bought a lot of things in New Zealand but.. sadly, the numbers show otherwise; I have.. over bought in New Zealand.

Nailing down on my expenditure, I realised that I’ve bought 4 pairs of shoes. The first pair was a $65 waterproof hiking shoes that I had to buy after my Timberland boots got stolen in a ski resort. Sadly, the shoe fell apart (like the soles tore from the constant ladder climbing) and I had to buy $99 macpac waterproof hoiking shoes that was 3 sizes bigger because I was desperate. I needed that pair of shoes for my work in the vineyards as my usual sneakers would be soaked from the morning dew. I had wet feet for a few days before I had time to shop for new shoes. The third pair of shoes, I bought a pair of timberlands (well, to replace the stolen ones) after I was given a 30% online voucher to purchase it. The last pair was some adidias sneakers which was going at 50% off at the outlet shop in my last week in Auckland. I got to admit that the last pair was kind of like a thoughtless purchase as I wanted to buy more stuff home.

The most expensive item from my $2k expenditure was my 3-in-1 Kathmandu Jacket. Despite the price, it was a rather worthed-it purchase as I bought it few weeks after I arrived as the jackets I brought from home were not warm enough to battle the cold. I wore my jacket from winter till spring and even use it occasionally in summer, whenever it got too windy.

The rest of the items that I bought were very miscellaneous like a pair of sunnies, track pants for work, a pair of snow pants, cap, socks, clothes, insect repellant etc. And somehow or another, all these added up to $2k :/

Travel

Unlike most of my usual holidays, I spent very little in this ‘travel’ category and the spending only went up in my final six weeks where I was no longer working. The good thing about New Zealand is that there are many free attractions to visit. Most hikes and tracks are free of charge and you will be rewarded with an instagram moment at every corner (provided there’s good weather). Also, the pricey activities like skydiving and bungy jumping were not on my bucket’s list and I wasn’t keen on them either. The only expensive activity that I wanted to try, heli-hike, was canceled due to bad weather so.. I didn’t manage to see the alps from the top.

So what are the activities that I did? In order of decreasing prices.

  1. First-timer Ski Lessons + Rental + clothing @ Mt. Hutt; $201
  2. Glacier Explorers Boat @ Mt. Cook; $170
  3. Black Water Tubing + Cave Exploration @ Charleston; $166.50
  4. Whale Watching @ Kaikoura; $142.50
  5. Maori Village + Dinner @ Makai; $140
  6. Fishing @ Kaikoura; $110
  7. Hobbiton @ Matamata; $84

Note: In addition to the above, I also went for Milford and Doubtful Sound, together with the TSS Earnslaw and Te Anau glow worm experience but I did not have to pay for it as it was part of my employee’s benefit.

I really do not enjoy paying money for touristy stuff but there was one activity whcih made me think otherwise; or perhaps it was what the guide told us. It was the whale watching activity in Kaikoura. That was my second time in Kaikoura and I wasn’t too keen on forking out $142.50 for a 2-hour boat experience where I could see whales (or perhaps just their tails) at 95% chance. It was just gonna be like 1 minute of excitement right? Was it worth all that cash? In the end, I went for the tour because I had nothing else better to do and I didn’t want to waste the afternoon just stoning in my hostel. Okay so what was the comment that changed my mind? The guide was sharing with us how by paying $150 for this trip, we are creating economic value to these whales where in the past, their only value was on the plate and for their oil. Till today, whaling is not banned in countries like Russia and Japan. We, as tourists, need to send a strong message to the other countries (that have not banned whaling) that these mammals can be valuable alive, not dead as food on the table.

So.. the next time you need to make peace with parting with your money, think about how much your money has contributed to the environment or the people on the whole.

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For the part of cars, I’ve previously did a write-up on the expenses in this post: https://www.flyhoneystars.com/2020/01/05/my-love-hate-relationship-with-car-ownership-in-new-zealand/

With regards to the $1.8k spent on fuel and transport.. it seems a little high but it is quite understandable given that the places in New Zealand are located quite far apart. I’ve driven 6,000km through my 6-months car ownership, I had to drive or take a friend’s car to work all the time. Most of the time, I need to drive between 20 to 30 mins each way to work and all these are all $$$. Furthermore, when I was stuck in central otago, most of my days off were spent driving to places that were one to few hours away.

Lastly, I had a category ‘Others’ which chalked up more than $1,000. I had a closer look on the itemized bills and found stuff like $280 for visa extension, $126.50 for insurance extension and my two thai massages I’ve done. The first one was because I was aching so badly from my first job and the second was from my aching body after my snowboard attempt. Also, it includes my movie indulgences (pricing range from $12 to $16), yoga lessons, handphone bills and a $50 haircut to snip off my frizzy fine hair.

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Now that I have somewhat justified or perhaps clarified my spending through the 9 months, it seems like I need to earn more than $2,400/month to lead a decent life in New Zealand. Maybe this was why the NZ government requires us to bring at least $2,250 when we enter the country with this visa. I guess they wanted us to have a one month buffer before we manage to find a job.

How much do you spend per month in your country? I am pretty curious about my own expenditure in Singapore and I guess it is not too late for me to start keeping track..

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