Create a budget to help save money
For many of us, leaving home and going flatting is our first taste of real independence. But as great as that is, it’s also the first time we get to find out just how expensive the cost of living can be. Things like rent, power, food, and transport can make a serious dent in your bank account in no time at all. Here’s our guide to sorting flat finances and staying on top of things.
Make a plan
The better prepared you are, the easier it’ll be to stay on top of things financially, so it’s worth taking a moment to sit down and write out a list of all the typical costs you’re likely to be facing when you go flatting.
Obviously some of these costs will vary depending on whether you’re moving into an existing flat share or if you’re setting up a brand new flat with a bunch of friends.
Moving into an existing flat share will help ease the initial shock as much of the legwork is already done and you can just slot in and learn how it’s done. But if it’s a new flat and everyone involved is new to flatting, the to-do list can be daunting. On the whole, there are three parts to all this - sorting out the flat, sorting out the ongoing costs, and then sorting out systems to ensure everyone pays their share. Let’s start with the flat.
Signing up for a flat
When you sign up for a flat, there are more upfront costs than you might realise. Even if the weekly rental looks affordable at first, remember that’s just the start, there’s also the bond, rent in advance, and usually a letting fee. The exact amount varies, but it usually works in multiples of the weekly rent amount.
The bond is usually two or four weeks worth of rent. This money gets lodged with the Department of Building and Housing and will be refunded to you when you move out...unless you’ve damaged the flat, of course. In this case the landlord can take some or all of the bond to fund repairs.
This one isn’t refundable and is usually equivalent to one week’s rent plus GST. The fee goes to the letting agent who has secured the tenancy for you.
Rent in advance
A landlord can ask for 1 or 2 weeks’ rent in advance. This depends on whether the tenant will pay weekly (1 week in advance) or fortnightly (2 weeks in advance). So you’ll most likely need to stump up for the first week or two before you can move in.
When all this is added up, and before you even think about getting the power on, remember, you’re going to need roughly seven weeks worth of rent just to get in the door.
Tip: The Tenancy Services website is a great place to school up on all the ins-and-outs of renting. They have guides and tools, and plenty of information about your rights and obligations as a tenant.
Ongoing living costs
Once you’ve sorted a place to live the next step is getting the power on followed by furnishing the place, putting food in the pantry, paying insurance, and hooking up the internet.
The best way of approaching this is to ensure everyone’s names are attached to all the bills. This shared approach means everyone is legally responsible and thus more likely to pull their weight financially if they know their own credit rating is on the line.
Tip: First time flatters often underestimate exactly how many things there are to pay for out of your own pocket each month, so here’s a list of what you need to keep in mind:
- Pay TV
- Insurances (home, contents, car, income….)
- Eating out
- KiwiSaver & other savings accounts
Keeping track of all the money
Many flatters run a single bank account that everyone puts enough money into each week to cover rent and bills.
Make the most of technology
Keeping track of who’s paid what can get messy. Often things work best if one person is in charge of keeping track of the finances so that the bills get paid on time and all the flatmates are contributing their share each week. This is where your bank can help. By setting up a ‘flat account’ that all the money goes into (and out of) it means, not only is it much easier to pay the bills, but there’s also an indisputable record of who has paid what and when.
Internet and mobile banking
Internet banking and mobile banking mean flat accounts have come a long way in recent years. Online banking and mobile apps make it simple to see at a glance, from anywhere, who has paid their share and how much money is in the joint account ready to cover the bills. Drag-and-drop banking like BNZ’s YouMoney lets you create up to 25 accounts - you could have one for power, one for food, one for internet and so on. You can even personalise your various accounts and payees with images and photos to make it even easier to see where the money is moving.
The good news is, your bank has seen all of this before and will be able to walk you through getting your flat up and running in no time.