First home by 21? Not a problem

By Amelia Wade

New Zealanders are notoriously bad savers, with less than one-third of us saving for the mid- to long-term, according to a recent Financial Literacy survey. In the lead-up to Money Week, Amelia Wade talks to two young women at opposite ends of the country who bucked the trend and were able to buy houses just a few years out of their teens

Renee Wilkinson, 22, says sacrifices and creativity have enabled her to save for her goals. Photo / Greg Bowker
Renee Wilkinson, 22, says sacrifices and creativity have enabled her to save for her goals. Photo / Greg Bowker

Renee Wilkinson, 22, Auckland

Renee Wilkinson said saving for a first house isn't as hard as she thought - it just takes commitment.

The 22-year-old has been building her savings since she made a business card offering her services as a nanny and pinned it to the local community noticeboard.

At 17, she started nannying full-time and has been putting a lot of her pay cheque away since then.

And in February, Ms Wilkinson, then 21, and her new husband, Matt, a builder, were able to get their first home with an 8 per cent deposit and Mr Wilkinson's KiwiSaver account for $338,000 - a 1920s bungalow in Otahuhu. The area, while classified as central Auckland, is still up-and-coming so has more affordable houses than other more established suburbs. The value of their house has already risen $50,000 since they moved in.

"So in our long-term savings plan, it should definitely make some money."

Their mortgage payments are $900 a fortnight, which the couple easily meet because they watch their spending.

"We don't go out to eat at fancy restaurants or go away and stay at nice places - that would be nice to do, but if you want to save money, that doesn't really work. We also don't spend too much money on alcohol."

And with some more sacrifices, the couple were also able to pay for their wedding which they had about the same time as they bought their home.

"Getting married was always something really important to me, but I didn't want to spend too much money on it because that day goes by and you've spent thirty grand on it. So I just got quite creative with what I did. We just had a big afternoon tea - it was really nice and at the beach then we just took immediate family and close friends out for dinner."

Saving tips

• Save the same amount each week - no less but more if it's available.
• Have cash for spending money.
• Set goals with dates so you know by when they need to be achieved.


Ondine Grace, 21, Dunedin

It wasn't easy and she has been saving since she got her first job at a supermarket checkout, but Ondine Grace was able to buy her first home at 20.

To be fair, it was in Dunedin, which isn't experiencing the same housing crisis as Auckland or Christchurch but it's still an impressive achievement for someone just out of their teens.

At 16, while still at high school, she got her first job at New World and set up KiwiSaver and Whai Rawa accounts to help boost her saving efforts. Ms Grace said she was serious about buying a house early on and so put her mind to it.

All extra money was added to her savings and she religiously put $50 in her KiwiSaver account from each pay cheque as well as bigger lump sums.

That left her nothing over to have fun with, but that was a sacrifice she didn't mind making.

"I bought a lot of clothes at second-hand stores, but I was sort of used to that because my family wasn't very well off when I was younger. And the other thing was that I didn't feel like I really wanted to drink that much, so it helped not buying alcohol - that was definitely the big thing that helped me save. Alcohol is pretty expensive."

After high school, Ms Grace took a gap year to work out what she wanted to do instead of "wasting time and money for a year" at university. She upped her hours at New World and worked full-time, which also helped bolster the nest-egg for her deposit.

Even when she started studying languages at the University of Otago, Ms Grace managed to keep tucking money away by going out less than her friends. Having three years' worth of holiday pay stored up also helped.

And with a little help from her parents and a $21,000 deposit, she found a four-bedroom do-up for $182,000. She lives there with her boyfriend and four flatmates.

Saving tips

• Every dollar counts. At the end of the day, round your bank account to the nearest $10 or $5 and transfer the difference to your savings.
• Don't get your wages paid into your savings account. Instead get it paid to your everyday account so you can get the rewarding feeling of transferring money to your savings.
• Make sacrifices - set a goal and work out what you need to give up to reach it.

- NZ Herald

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