If all your friends are off buying homes, heading to Hawaii, earning over $100k or getting hand-outs from the Bank of Mum and Dad, don’t despair.

You may have credit-card debt and a student loan, so your own home seems a lifetime away. Or, you may just be struggling from pay-cheque to pay-cheque, feeling like you’re drowning in your own money problems. 

But a few small changes might help make a big difference. It’s never too late to make a change.

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Reduce bad debt

This is a big one and probably the hardest nut to crack. Borrowing on your credit card is one of the easiest things to do, and a habit oh-so-hard to break. And with interest, and potentially charges from missed payments, it’s an expensive habit too.

If your credit card debt is a few thousand dollars, make a plan to pay it off. Small steps you can achieve are better than having too much enthusiasm with your repayments, then borrowing it back again later.

If your credit card debt is well up there in the tens of thousands of dollars, and you have other debt such as personal or car loans, get some budgeting advice, or see a financial adviser.

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Start an emergency fund

It’s impossible to even look at having decent emergency savings in the bank when you’re drowning in debt. Once you’re in an okay spot with paying debt off, slowly get some money banked for an emergency. This could be an unexpected doctor’s bill, or maybe a car bill or unexpected family situation. Aim to have up to three months’ worth of expenses. But start small. Even having $500 spare in times of crisis is a great start!

Contribute to KiwiSaver

Contribute at least 3% to your KiwiSaver account. This will make sure you get any employer contributions, plus the government money of up to $521 every year. This money’s invested, so it will probably grow faster than a savings account over the long term, but remember, it can only be used for a first-home deposit, or retirement when you reach 65.

Address your issues

Money isn’t really a great thing to talk about with friends on a night out, and if you’re struggling, it’s even worse. I used to joke about how bad my finances were, but in reality, this was just a cover-up and I was extremely stressed about it.

Make a plan to take control of your spending – this includes tracking what you buy and starting a budget, and not spending everything you earn. Sorted has some great tools to help here.

Record what you spend

Many of us have no idea where our money goes. Sometimes, when you get paid, it’s there, and then, a while later, it’s mostly gone, with nothing really to show for it, and no idea what you bought.

Keeping a ‘spending diary’ for a couple of pay cycles is a great way to work out where you’re spending money. Print off your bank statements and work out how much you’re spending on essentials, food, transport, clothes, and treats. From there you can decide what to cut.

Ask for help

This can be one of the hardest things to do, but there are people who can help get you back on track. For years I ignored my parents, who were keen to offer advice, but I just didn’t want to listen.

I avoided any talk of money or my money problems. Then sometimes you reach a tipping point – perhaps when you reach your peak of feeling overwhelmed with your money, and realise you need support.

There are plenty of amazing resources out there, and great people more than happy to help you. There is no shame in asking for help, and usually, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. 

It's never too late to improve your spending habits and your personal money situation!

Learning to live within your means, and slowly getting some savings behind you can be so empowering.

Helpful resources 

  • Money Talks. If you’re in a pickle, free budgeting advice might be helpful.
  • Learn with JUNO – our collection of helpful articles covering KiwiSaver and all things money.
  • Sorted. The government’s website for all things personal finance.

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Published 25 October 2019

Story by Claire Connell, JUNO

Pie Funds Management Limited is the issuer of the JUNO KiwiSaver Scheme. You can read our Product Disclosure Statement here. This article is general in nature only and has not taken into account any particular person’s objectives or circumstances. It does not constitute financial advice. We recommend you speak with an independent financial adviser.