ondine grace sorted2

Ondine Grace has to pinch herself sometimes when she realises that she bought her first home in Dunedin at just 20 years old. Her friends are astounded.

Looking back, Ondine’s financial journey started young. Money was something that was discussed in the Grace household when Ondine was growing up. She knew ‘what things cost’ and learned the power of saving early.

The launch of KiwiSaver when Ondine was 16 years old started her on the road to saving to buy a house. Her parents encouraged her to sign up when they saw the benefits for first-home buyers.

At first, while still studying, Ondine saved small amounts of money from part-time work at the local New World supermarket.

When she began working full time as a client manager for an online language learning website, she started saving seriously. Ondine committed 8% of her pay plus $50 a week to KiwiSaver. Her employer also made contributions.

Ondine had done the sums and worked out that if she saved hard and used the KiwiSaver first-home subsidy and withdrawal options she could buy her first home in her early 20s.


The goal of buying a house was very motivating and Ondine looked constantly for ways to ratchet up her savings. She lived with her parents and avoided drinking alcohol, which saved a lot of money.

Ondine would also check her bank account every few days to see if there was a spare few dollars to transfer to her savings.  ‘Every cent counts,’ says Ondine. ‘Most people think saving one or two dollars isn’t worth it.’ Even she was surprised how quickly the savings mounted up.

As well as saving into KiwiSaver, Ondine opened a savings account with Whai Rawa, a personal savings scheme for Ngāi Tahu whānau. She saved $4,800 into that account, which grew to $7,000 thanks to matched savings, annual distributions and accumulated earnings.

Including the KiwiSaver and Whai Rawa money, Ondine built up a $22,000 deposit in four years.  In July 2012 she realised her dream and bought a $182,000 four-bedroom Dunedin house.

Ondine says that having access to Whai Rawa sped up her savings. Without it, however, she still would have been able to buy a house – it just would have taken 12 months longer.  Her parents were also willing to stand as guarantors on the property. Not all young homebuyers have parents who can do that.

Ondine still has a few tough financial years ahead of her.  ‘The mortgage is about half of my pay and I also have to pay [renovation and utility] bills,’ she says. ‘After that I have about $100 to spend for two weeks.’

Her plan is to finish renovating the house, move in and collect rent from flatmates, which will ease the pressure on her pay packet. The rent will enable Ondine to pay down the mortgage faster – hopefully whittling it down to nothing by the time she is 30 or 35 years old.

As well as hard work, Ondine has some fun planned. That includes travelling to Europe for an OE in three or four years’ time.



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Comments (5)

  • Anonymous

    9:58am | 2 Jul 2017

    The point that's being missed is it's about determination and regular savings plus thinking laterally about how to make a bit more that can be added to the savings. Everyone's circumstances are different and depending where you live yes it can be harder especially nowadays. Now it takes creative thinking and hard work and yes some of us will rent for longer. Developing a savings mentality is key

  • Riwa Wahitapu Addis

    8:57pm | 24 May 2017

    Awesome job! Taught early the value of money... I personally find this story very inspiring and it's never too late.

  • anonymous

    10:19am | 1 May 2017

    Yep nice story but how about myself. Living in Auckland on the North Shore, renting, in a low- average income job. I have 2 kids in primary school, living week about with my ex-husband. So buying in where-in-the-world-is-that where houses may be costing less is great but not when you have shared care with your ex, then you are kinda stuck where he is. So how do you buy a house even with a deposit but you dont qualify for a mortgage for an Auckland home. What if the bank would loan you enough to buy somewhere in the country in the middle of nowwhere. I dont want a luxury home, just any house would do as long as its nice enough to live in.

  • anonymous

    7:22pm | 15 Oct 2016

    Yeah a little outdated much? A $182,000 house that would probably be more like $500,000 now. How about we do an example of an average NZer situation? With current house prices? For the majority of people who don't have access to tribal whanau funds?

  • anonymous

    2:24am | 20 Jul 2016

    admirable, but she still lived at home with mummy and daddy to get that deposit. Not everyone has that privilege.