When Himanshu and Kalyani Redhu decided to buy their first home in Auckland they knew that million-dollar homes or suburbs such as Ponsonby and Remuera weren't for them.
Starting with no deposit and no family help, they saved $130,000 over four years. They started their savings journey aged 31 and were the poster children for an event run by AMP graduates to share life hacks for buying a first home.
The four graduates were given a broad brief to come up with a business idea that could be useful for clients of the financial planning company. The outcome was an event: "Life hacks to buying your first home" run by millennials for millennials.
The graduates are just starting out on their first-home-buying journey. They realised that in a world dominated by Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat where information is bite-sized and neatly packaged for mass consumption, nobody wants to read or hear lengthy and complicated financial jargon. So they hatched the idea for an interactive event.
The young audience at the event was given fictional money to spend at a home auction and heard from speakers including Redhu and a real estate agent.
Himanshu, who also works at AMP, but in human resources, was the embodiment of some of the advice that his slightly younger colleagues had come to independently.
As well as being realistic in their expectations, the Redhus started from scratch with a plan of how to reach their home-ownership goal.
A budgeting exercise showed that they'd been frittering away about 15 per cent of their income. But the starting point wasn't that fritter factor.
"We worked it back from what we were earning to what we wanted to save," says Himanshu.
They put a set sum of money away each payday and then lived within the rest of the money, which did mean having to forgo some luxuries they'd taken for granted.
They put a set sum of money away each payday and then lived within the rest of the money, which did mean having to forgo some luxuries they'd previously taken for granted.
"We didn't see it as a compromise," Himanshu says. "We saw it as getting the best value for money."
The Redhus used their AMP KiwiSaver accounts for saving most of the deposit and were able to maximise their HomeStart grant.
"We knew the million-dollar house was not for us," the now 35-year-old says. "We were realistic around what we could afford."
The couple and their young son were living in Onehunga, but realised they needed to move further out to achieve their home ownership dream and chose Takanini where houses were cheaper.
The non-negotiables in their search were living near a railway line for commuting and being in a house that didn't need major renovations. In the end they bought a modern three-bedroom town house $656,000.
The family has put down roots in Takanini in the months since moving in and may well remain even when they're ready for the next rung of the ladder.
One lesson from the AMP event is that first-home buyers shouldn't give up before they start saving. They may assume that saving a deposit is an impossible dream, or be told that by others. First home buyers such as the Redhus can make it happen.
First-home buyers also need to be patient and bide their time, but keep saving. No property market has ever gone up forever. Real estate prices go in cycles in relation to earnings and sooner or later property will become relatively cheaper to what it is now in Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown and a few other centres.
As well as avoiding fritter on the proverbial coffee and smashed avocados, there are many other ways to save money. One could be flatting with others instead of renting your own place. Swallow your pride and live in a flat-share so you have a greater proportion of your income to save.
It's not unusual for Kiwis to flat right into their 30s now, says Daniel Coulson, national residential manager Bayleys.
Then, when you buy your first place, take a business approach to the equation, Coulson says. Get as many bedrooms as you can afford and bring in flatmates.
You might, for example buy a three-bedroom flat instead of trying to buy a standalone home.
"By letting their remaining rooms at the current market rate, which in Auckland ranges from $100 to $300 depending on the suburb, the house-buyer could pass on the burden of their mortgage bill to their housemates," he says.
After five years you can probably move into a detached home. In the meantime your flatmates have paid much of your mortgage. Other options include international students or Airbnb room rentals.