Young Money: Haunted by the ghost of mismanaged finances past


One of a series of blogs from real people sharing real experiences, observations and advice about being good with money. 

Matiu Workman is a 26-year-old journalism graduate who has covered sport for three years. He’s also spent time as a general reporter in the Cook Islands. He currently works in the online news media industry.

 December 20, 2010 is a day I will never forget. University was over and, after what felt like an absolute eternity, I’d got my first pay cheque as a full-time employee on a monthly wage.

As a 22-year-old, seeing my bank balance inflate from $5 to $2000 was pretty eye-opening and amazing. Sounds great, right?

It should have been, but what happened next was indicative of the financial mismanagement that had plagued me for years. 

I’d heard of people in the past who had ‘blown their first pay cheque’ and it was something I was determined to avoid.

But that went out the window. Within an hour, my wallet was filled with receipts for some pricey top-of-the-line headphones, new clothes - heck, even the latest pair of flashy running shoes were snapped up, despite the fact I’d never run in my life. I’d got caught in the emotional spend that comes so easily with monthly pay.

Having spent up large while living out some sort of bizarre Richie Rich fantasy for all of three days, I did some calculations and realised that I didn’t have enough money to pay rent for a couple of weeks ahead of my next pay cheque.

I could hear the bell tolling inside my head - it was time to make the agonising and scary phone call to the ‘Bank of Parents’ to bail me out.

It wasn’t the first time I’d sought a loan from them, to be fair. As a university student living in a different city to my parents, a bulging student loan that encompassed both my academic fees and living costs meant I was struggling most weeks despite the occasional casual job.

It was during my studies that I developed a dangerous habit - planning how to spend my money before it even arrived in my bank account. It sounds logical and a bit like budgeting, but what it creates is a dependency that is hard to shake. It wasn’t budgeting, it was buying in advance.

There are a couple of perspectives people should seriously consider before making that next ‘big’ purchase as they eye up their next pay cheque. The first is lifestyle - I should have thought about what steps needed to be taken to ensure I wasn’t living beyond my means. The second is a mind-set issue - emotional decision-making with finances was something I needed to address and replace with sound budgeting advice.

My biggest solution for the latter is simple. If it’s an absolute need spurred on by reason, go for it. If it’s a ‘want’ fuelled by emotion, give it another two or three days to think over. You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll opt not to go through with the purchase.

When it comes to my own financial mismanagement, I still have the occasional incident - that expensive breakfast this morning was right up there - but I’ve found that when you’re able to identify the poor purchases, you’ll go some way to avoiding them in the future.

As for the clothes, headphones and silly trainers, well, they didn’t last as long as I’d hoped. Within a year all of these purchases had faded, leaving me shaking my head almost as much as my mother did.

If you are studying or training and want to know how BNZ can help you manage your money, read more about our tertiary benefits for students and apprentices.

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Young Money: Dad was right
Young Money: The art of managing money - tales from a teen
Young Money: The stuggle is real - when to save and when to splurge
Young Money: Fortune favours the thrifty
Young Money: Own it, don’t loan it
Young Money: Big cities on small budgets