My Money Sorted is our series exploring people's experiences and views about money on their journey to living sorted. We spoke with Lucy, a freelancer and work-life balance coach who lives in Auckland. She started her money journey when she decided to work for herself instead of getting a graduate job. She has spent the last few years building her business, getting married, buying a home and figuring out what money means to her.

What is the best piece of money advice you’ve been given?

The best advice I’ve heard recently is that your day job won’t make you rich. You’ve got to get creative with different sources of income. When I was in university, I started freelance writing to pay for rent over summer. Money is money – money that you make in a side hustle can pay real bills and be put into real investments. It all adds up! And my freelance work eventually turned into working for myself full time.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I feel like I am a big spender – as in, I spend good money on big things that I care about, and not so many little purchases in between. For example, we spent a lot of money on our couch and bed and laptops because they are important to our daily quality of life, and then save in other ways (eg, second-hand desk, the bar stools I found on the side of the road, not doing a lot of online shopping). We notice that it is little purchases bought often that drain our spending and saving accounts, not the big ones.

How do you save?

We follow the basic Barefoot Investor bucket system. We have our big emergency savings account, which we put our side hustle money into. Having an emergency fund has meant we can close our overdraft and credit cards and not rely on them if something big comes up. We also have our short-term savings, which is about 10% of our weekly income (at a minimum), and investing is the next step for the long term!

What makes you feel Sorted when it comes to your money?

Two things have made a HUGE difference in our feelings of financial stability this year.

First, we raised the ‘zero’ line in our expenses account. We started at $100, so we would never get below $100 each week. Then we raised it to $200. And we’ve kept going up since. This meant that when things came up (eg, an emergency ultrasound), we had the buffer to pay for it without going into the red.

Next, we talk about money. EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. Every Wednesday night we sit down and talk about everything we’re saving for and what bills are going out that week. My husband and I are both self-employed, so it’s different every week – almost like figuring out a puzzle!

Have you had any big ‘aha moments’ about money?

Money is often a source of stress for people. Our life changed when we realised that money also pays for so many amazing things in life. We spent a few months building our buffers, closing the overdraft I had since university, and now we have more than enough money for expenses and spending on ourselves and the people around us. We have a great balance of enjoying life now and making sure we have financial security.

What were you taught about money as a child?

I was taught that money can show up in unexpected ways.

I was brought up in what you’d probably call middle-ish class New Zealand – we weren’t poor, but we weren’t extravagant, you know. Some weeks I’m sure my self-employed parents were worried how they would cover bills and look after five girls, but they always knew that somehow it would work out if they were creative and flexible. (My mum says she used a LOT of pasta in dishes some nights!)

Now that I am working for myself, I see that problem-solving comes through all the time – you just make do and come up with ideas for multiple streams of income.

When you think about your retirement, what do you see?

We have recently bought a house, and we are overwhelmed by what it means for our future. We never thought we would have a house – or if we did, we would have to move away from Auckland and family – so we are suddenly staring down our retirement plans.

Talking to my parents about their retirement, and going through the Barefoot Investor steps, having a house and starting to invest now in our 20s are our best chances at financial stability (for ourselves and future children).

We both know that the earlier we start, the easier it will be.

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