Following her inspiring blog on money insights, we chatted some more to Ana Tu’inukuafe about what helped her to reach her goal of buying a house.

Two years ago, at 31, my boyfriend and I reached our goal of owning our first home.

It’s really motivated me to help others to do the same – to build assets and stability together. It’s important to me that I use the advantages I’ve had to lift the living standards of everyone in my family and community.

To get started on our first home, basic money skills helped a lot

I learned the value of money at a young age. My parents taught me about living within my means, and I always understood that debt and a bad credit history would hurt me in the long run. This helped me to make good choices daily.

I generally stick to buying necessities, and only buying treats if I can afford it. I avoid signing up for hire purchases and contract stuff because I know that it can be a slippery slope and hard to get on top of.

I love the challenge of maximising my money. I love the hunt for a bargain. I always think about whether there’s a way to get the things I need for cheaper – I love Marketplace and looking for good quality stuff for a better price. That way, any extra could go towards our deposit.

I used my KiwiSaver for our first-home deposit

My parents also encouraged me to take full advantage of KiwiSaver. My dad told me to join, so I did! I also increased my KiwiSaver contributions when I could and made sure I was in the right fund for my situation while I was saving for a house.

Flipping the switch mentally on the benefits of home ownership

It was important for me to unpack the benefits of home ownership and not to just say ‘I want to own a home’ because that’s what you say.

It’s almost like a mental switch – if it’s a priority for you, and you really want it, you work hard to make it happen. Some of my friends talk about wanting to buy a house, but they struggle to get started and stay focused with saving because they have other priorities at the moment.

For me, I have always wanted to own my own home. When I was growing up, my mum and dad owned theirs and we would always have family over. I want to be able to do the same. My dream as the eldest is that my home will be a family home for the next generation.

Sacrifice and support to buy our home

I’m not going to lie – there was a huge amount of sacrifice for my family to own our own home. Growing up, we lived a very no-frills lifestyle, and it was sometimes hard to make payments.

Once we were in a position to, we began helping other families to do the same.

There was, and always is, struggle and sacrifice, but also collective effort and support to get ahead – the same goes for me and my situation now.

How we saved up our first-home deposit

My boyfriend and I both saved up in KiwiSaver for nine years. We had to get on the same page about the goal of owning a home, because we both needed to work really hard for it.

Mum offered to help us with our deposit, but it was really important to me (and to my brother too) that mum and dad were able to keep everything they’d worked hard for all of our lives. They’d given us the tools and abilities to do it on our own.

We want to make sure they are sorted for retirement, and extending their mortgage to help us may have impacted that.

It felt great to do it on our own, knowing that mum and dad are both living their best lives in mortgage-free homes.

Buying a first home can be scary

Having hard conversations was part of it too. A house is a huge purchase, and I was doing it with my partner, so we both had to be involved the whole way.

When you’re buying a home, it’s scary – it’s so much money. I was especially nervous when it came to reading the fine print.

I was worried about the risks too – what if we broke up? We had these tough conversations and continue to talk about it now. It can be hard, but it’s important.

Looking in the mirror and facing my debt

I also had to face up to some of my money habits and unconscious beliefs – I had to really look at everything, and no one wants to look in the mirror and see the bad bits, so that was challenging.

For example, I knew credit cards were not always a good thing, but I got trapped making just the minimum payments and that ended up costing me more. This went on until I decided to just save up and pay it all back and close it. That was a great day.

Building stability and wellbeing

Buying our first house felt great. I didn’t realise how much it would benefit me and my life until it happened.  

Uasi and I fought hard for the opportunity to own a home through making informed choices and having tough conversations. The dream of being a homeowner, despite the struggles in life, helped to keep us on the pathway to buying a home, and what this means is not lost on us with the opportunities it provides.

It always takes a village to move mountains and with our village (family) we were able to get here. That collective vision, strength and belonging are always our driver and motivator to excel for our betterment – because our families and people deserve it.

Ana Tu’inukuafe is the Relationship Specialist – Community at Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission. She coordinates and supports Sorted financial capability programmes for community groups and organisations, with a focus on Māori and Pasifika partnerships. These programmes help build stronger families and communities.


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