A Week In New Zealand On A $108,000 Salary

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Today: a software developer working in IT who makes $108,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on iced coffee. Editor's note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
Occupation: Software Developer
Industry: IT
Age: 28
Location: It varies. During the time of this diary, I was in Japan and New Zealand.
Salary: $108,000
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $9,000 (gross)
Monthly Expenses
Housing: It varies. During the month of this diary, I spent about $2,055 on housing. Next month I'll be in Eastern Europe, where I'll be spending about $800.
Spotify: $9.99
Netflix: $12.99
Phone: It varies, but usually around $10.
Retirement Savings: $50 (I contribute the minimum to my government's retirement savings plan, so that I can get a tax credit. If I were a domestic employee, my employer would arrange this for me, but since I'm not, I have to do this myself.)
Investments: I put between $1,000 and $3,500 in a growth index fund every month, which is my main form of saving. I also have a savings account with a healthy emergency fund in it, but I don't currently contribute new money to that.
Money Set Aside For Taxes: $3,000 (I pay my taxes in my home country, New Zealand, at intervals throughout the year. I set aside money out of my paycheck for this.)

Day One

5 a.m. — Wake up and blearily check my emails to see if my coworkers have reviewed my code from yesterday. They have signed off on about half of what I submitted, so that's good. Today is my last day in Japan, where I've been for the past three months. My flight out is at 10 p.m., so I'm annoyed to be awake so early, but at least this will get me used to my next time zone. I'm heading home to New Zealand for the first time in a year to renew my passport, get a new visa for the country I want to base myself in next, and see friends and family. Shockingly, my belongings have not spontaneously packed themselves overnight. My Airbnb host has not told me what time I need to check out, so I'm going to assume 10 a.m. I reluctantly get up and enjoy what will be my last shower for quite a while.
6:30 a.m. — Apply skin care. I've been sampling Japanese skin care while I've been here, and the other day I stocked up on my favorite products. I resume packing my stuff while listening to my audiobook. Packing finished, I give the room one last sweep before heading out. I had planned to wait in my room until after rush hour, then take the subway to the central train station, but I want to leave now and get a coffee at my favorite place. I remember that Tokyo has Uber, and I hail one. It's expensive here, but I'm not brave enough to get a regular taxi because my Japanese sucks. $21
8 a.m. — At the train station, I drop off my luggage to be sent to the airport. I was going to have to pay for it to be stored during the day anyway, so I figure I might as well send it onward rather than lugging it around. Sadly, the service is more expensive than I anticipated — last month, I sent my bags a much larger distance for half the price! $44
8:15 a.m. — Coffee! Finally. I go to my favorite café in Shinjuku ($7). While I drink my coffee, I write my morning pages — three pages written longhand, usually just about whatever's on my mind. I keep getting distracted today, though, because there's drama happening online in a community that I'm a part of. I try not to get involved, but I have specific experience with the matter that's being debated and I have opinions. Sigh. I finish my coffee and wander to my favorite coworking spot just down the road from the café and get stuck in some work. I deploy my code that was signed off yesterday, review my coworkers' code, and fix a bug. The airline emails me — I've been upgraded to Premium Economy. Yay! I often upgrade flights if I'm flying for more than 12 hours. My flight time tonight is around 13 hours but with a stopover in Sydney, so I decided against paying for an upgrade. Lucky me, I got one anyway. $7
11:30 a.m. — My stomach is rumbling loudly, so I decide to have an early lunch. I walk down the road and get a burger. I know, I know. I swear I've eaten plenty of Japanese food over the past three months, though. $7
12 p.m. — I head back to the coworking space. Some of the other floors in the building are actually more like co-living spaces. They're decked out like your friend's fancy parents' lounge. I pay for five hours on the women's-only floor and expense it. Later in the afternoon, I try to nap. I've got a long flight tonight, and I don't sleep on planes usually. The space I'm in has comfy booths for napping, with blankets and pillows. I listen to my audiobook and doze. I'm not good at sleeping during the day. I'm not good at sleeping generally. ($35 expensed)
3:30 p.m. — I get up and refresh myself. The floor has a powder room with free skin-care products, so I indulge in that. I brush my teeth and hair and feel a bit more human. At 5, I head to the airport. I catch a train and then the monorail, which are covered by my train pass. I'm glad I don't have to deal with my luggage, since the trains are completely packed. When I get to the airport, I pick up my luggage and check in for my flight.
6 p.m. — Dinner at a random airport café. I get a Caesar salad, some fries, and a mango smoothie, which are all very average. I try to use up some random coins but end up using the last of my notes. $15
7 p.m. — I go through security, which is super chill compared to many Western airports. I don't have to remove anything from my bag — not even liquids. I get my tax-free shopping signed off by an official, then wander around for a bit. I pop into Uniqlo, thinking I can spend my last 500 yen on a pair of undies, but sadly I'm 20 yen short! I drop my change in a collection bucket for Unicef instead. $5
9:20 p.m. — Board my flight.
Daily Total: $99

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — Sydney time. My flight was fine. The food was good, and I managed to doze for most of it. I think I even got a bit of actual sleep! I was seated by a bulkhead, so I had a little extra room, too. For once, going through the transit gate in Sydney is a breeze. I'm still salty about the time I missed a connection because I was stuck in transit in Sydney, so I'll have to update my views and be nicer about this airport. I get an iced coffee at a café and check in with work and a couple of friends. $5
10:20 a.m. — I decide to top up my New Zealand SIM card so that I can use it straight after I land in NZ. I get a package with a lot of data, because I plan on working in cafés a lot while I'm in town and most cafés don't offer free Wi-Fi. $30
12:15 p.m. — I board my next flight. Due to some confusion and mix-ups in seating, I get moved a couple of times. The middle-aged man next to me invades my space. I watch The Favourite. It's not for me...I thought there were a lot of odd choices in cinematography and dialogue. It's like they were trying to be a little anachronistic, but they didn't lean all the way into it like Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.
5:30 p.m. — I'm home for the first time in a year! Pick up my rental car, which takes ages and turns out to be more expensive than what I was quoted. I won't use this company again. $300
7 p.m. — I drive 90 minutes north to my Nanna's house. I'm staying with her for a few days while I go to a conference. My cat is here! She comes to cuddle me. I'm so happy — I haven't seen her in a year! I heat up some dinner and relax for a while.
10:30 p.m. — Bedtime! I don't manage to fall asleep for several hours, though. I just doze to my audiobook.
Daily Total: $335

Day Three

9 a.m. — Jet lag sucks. I get up and shower and dress. A little later in the morning, my mum arrives. She lives another hour or so north of Nanna's, so she's come down for brunch. We talk for a while and then head out to eat. Our relationship is...not good, but we make it through the meal together. Mum pays this time.
1 p.m. — Mum brought a few packages of mine that I had delivered to her house. New headphones and some summer sandals, which turn out to be the wrong size (though the box has the correct size label). I arrange to return them on Monday. I work a little on a presentation I'm giving at the conference.
3 p.m. — Head to the conference venue, which is not far from Nanna's. I'm excited. I've been wanting to go to this for years, but it's strictly invite-only and I've never been cool enough for an invite before. I know at least 10 people going, so at least I'll definitely have some friends. I register and then grab a beer and chat with fellow attendees.
6:30 p.m. — Dinnertime! I've already had some fantastic discussions. Everyone here is smart, welcoming, empathetic, and interesting. I love it. After dinner, we gather in the main hall to propose session topics and vote on which ones will make it into the final program.
10 p.m. — Chats and beers! I have some awesome discussions. My heart and brain are so full. Just after midnight I head home, absolutely buzzing. I don't get to sleep for a long time.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — Jet lag still sucks. I make coffee and put it in my to-go cup, then head back to the conference. I have a busy morning full of interesting discussions. There are politicians and public servants in attendance, as well as technologists, educators, archivists, activists, and journalists.
1 p.m. — It's lunchtime and the food is delicious. I talk with people around my table, then excuse myself to work a little more on my presentation. When I speak at conferences, I'm usually a lot more prepared, but since this is a short talk, I'm feeling fairly okay to wing it. I need to format some slides, though, and send them through to the organizer.
2:30 p.m. — I attend afternoon sessions, and it's mostly a blur! I'm glad I bought that Japanese sunscreen. The New Zealand sun is very strong due to our crappy ozone hole, and it's summer. I'm also glad to be back in a place where bare feet are totally acceptable in almost all situations. I haven't worn shoes since I got here.
6:30 p.m. — It's dinnertime, and I somehow pick the right table and end up in a great discussion with a member of Parliament and some interesting visitors from overseas. We talk New Zealand politics and try and explain our system to the visitors. We have elections coming up in 2020, so the member of Parliament talks a bit about campaign strategy.
8 p.m. — It's time for presentations. I'm up, and it goes really well. Afterward, people disperse into different activities. I go to a room where people are playing a game of Dueling DJs. No DJ skills required! Two people face off and are given a prompt, like “one-hit wonders” or “songs about the moon,” and must choose a song based on that theme. The songs play and the crowd decides on the favorites. It's a lot of fun! I hang out with my friends and enjoy some ridiculous tunes. I head home just after midnight and try to put my buzzing brain to rest.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

9 a.m. — Sooo tired. I miss most of the first session of the day. I make a coffee and head to the venue. I manage to catch the tail end of the session, but I am feeling completely knackered.
12 p.m. — I attend my favorite session of the day, where I get to talk to some developers of an emerging technology.
1 p.m. — We have lunch, then wrap up the conference. It was such an amazing time, I feel like I need several months to process all the thoughts and discussions I had over the weekend. I made some friends and contacts, I was surprised by some things, and I have a lot to think about. For now, though, I head back to Nanna's to spend a lazy afternoon cuddling my cat.
4 p.m. — I spend some time with Nanna, fixing her computer and helping her with a few things. I type up some of her committee meeting notes and help her email them out. While I'm doing that, Nanna goes out to pick up some Chinese takeout for dinner. We eat dinner while watching the news. Ahhh, terrestrial TV, what a strange thing.
8 p.m. — I practice my German for a while. I lived in Germany last year, and I want to continue with my German study because I'm heading back to Europe next month. I have some proficiency in German, Spanish, and French, and I'd like to continue to improve at all three. I go to bed at 9:30, completely exhausted.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — Yay, I'm starting to wake up at a more reasonable hour! I'm excited because I'm flying home to Wellington this afternoon. I shower, dress, make a coffee, and drink it while packing my things. Weirdly, my bag seems heavier and more unwieldy this time around, though I have the same amount of stuff.
10 a.m. — I help Nanna with her computer again, and then Mum arrives for brunch. We go to a nearby café. I have avocado on toast with a side salad, but the meal tastes weird. I also have a ginger beer. Mum and Nanna each get a quiche and a coffee. I pay for everyone. $30
12 p.m. — I've had enough of dealing with my family, so I decide to head out early. I've been evasive about what time my flight leaves. I take the scenic route and visit some old haunts from when I was a teenager to see what's changed. Moving away from this city nine years ago was definitely a good decision for me. I stop in at a mall and buy some summer shoes to wear while I'm here. Half of my possessions are at a friend's house in Europe, but I mostly packed for winter when I left for Japan. It's a bit strange to be carrying around thermals and boots in the New Zealand summer, but here we are. $50
2 p.m. — I'm busting to pee and hungry as well, so I stop in at a KFC on the way to the airport. I get a meal and eat it in my car while listening to my audiobook. $7
3 p.m. — I need to return the shoes that didn't fit. They came from Sweden, and the shipping company has a branch near the airport. Technically, I'm returning the shoes outside of the designated return window, because I ordered them earlier in the year and they were just sitting unopened at my mum's house. I drop off the shoes, then I send an email to the team explaining why I'm returning them outside the return time window and hope that they'll help me. The shipping is prepaid (thanks, Swedish Hasbeens, for making life easy).
3:30 p.m. — I fill the gas tank of my rental car. Then I drop it off and take the shuttle to the airport. I'm early, but I don't mind. I practice German and mess around on the internet. I try to read my book, but I'm finding it really hard to focus at the moment. Jet lag, plus the conference and my excitement to go home have all turned my brain upside down. $35
5:30 p.m. — I board my flight. On this flight they serve wine, crackers, and cheese, and I am so ready for it. It's a peaceful one-hour flight with nice views down onto my homeland. When we land, I collect my bag and then order an Uber. I'm staying with a friend and his house isn't on the bus route, so this is the easiest option. $12
7 p.m. — I give my friend a huge hug, and he serves me some dinner that he's made. After we eat, he puts his three-year-old to bed and we hang out and catch up. It's so awesome to see him and so good to be home. I go to bed at 10, already dreaming about my first Wellington coffee in the morning.
Daily Total: $134

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Wake up, feeling okay. I have the day off work today, but my boss needs to talk and it sounds kinda serious. I'm nervous. He's not online yet, so I get up, shower, and go out to get a coffee. I walk down the road to my favorite coffee place. My city is famous for its coffee, and I have missed it immensely. $4
9 a.m. — Boss is online and we video chat. I am being made redundant! My boss makes it clear that it's not related to performance or anything about me — it's about the direction he's decided to take the business in, which requires less developer resource. Two of us are being let go. In all honesty, I understand. It's a bit of a surprise, but I have a job until the end of the month and then three months’ severance pay, so I'm not panicked. I'm actually excited to start looking for new work. The technical work for this job recently has felt quite rote. At my previous job, I handled a lot of hard and interesting technical challenges, and I want to look for that sort of work again.
10 a.m. — Okay, I am reeling somewhat. I'm meeting a friend for lunch a bit later, so I decide to go into town a bit early. I'm getting antsy sitting around the house. I fish out my old bus pass and hope it still has money on it. It does! I catch the bus and immediately run into an old flatmate of mine. This is what we call a “Wellington moment.” We catch up.
10:20 a.m. — Get my passport photo taken at a pharmacy. It's ugly, but that's life with passports. A big part of the reason I'm home is to get a new passport and apply for a new visa. You can take passport photos on your own camera for free, but you risk having your photo rejected because you've done something wrong. I don't have time for my passport application to be rejected and resubmitted, so I get a pro to take the photo. $18
10:40 a.m. — Head to the café where I'm meeting my friend and have another coffee. This is a mistake. A year away from Wellington and I've forgotten just how strong we make them here and how much my tolerance has gone down. I have the shakes. I'm brainstorming ideas for what I want to do. I can live off my savings for two years if I absolutely have to, which is an extremely comforting thought. I do marvel at that immense privilege, so much. I don't come from an affluent background, so the idea of not living paycheck-to-paycheck is still new to me. I know I'll have offers as soon as I put word out that I'm looking for a job, so I'm more concerned about finding the right position. I feel like a conceited asshole saying that, but the reality is that although it's hard for juniors to get jobs, once you're an experienced developer, you become sought after. $3
12 p.m. — My friend arrives and we order some lunch. I get the day's special, which is an open beef sandwich with salad. So delicious! My friend is a game developer, and we talk about career switches in the IT industry. After lunch, I go to the public library and work on my CV/write copy for my personal website, which I'll need to update. $19
2:30 p.m. — I drop by the supermarket and buy beers, micellar water, and plasters for the blister on my heel. My city is also famous for its beers, and I've been looking forward to having a few while I'm here. I catch the bus home. $28
3 p.m. — Attempt to renew my passport online. I've completely forgotten some security information, and it's not in my password manager because I set up my online account seven years ago and haven't used it since. I phone the agency and get put on hold. While I'm on hold, I put away all the kids' toys in the living room. Finally, I get through to a human! The person on the phone is great and gets me all sorted out. I finish my online application. The fee only just increased last week, but I couldn't renew before the fee raise because I needed my passport to travel. $150
5 p.m. — My friend arrives home and then leaves again to get his daughter from daycare. She has a playdate tonight, and while my friend is out, the kid and their parent arrive. I show them in and get the kid some water. My friend arrives home, and I get beers for the adults. The kids are fed snacks and the adults have intermittent conversation while toddler chaos ensues. The visiting kid's other parent offers to bring over dinner. Yay! She's Japanese, so she's made some delicious karaage. My friend cooks up some vegetables to accompany that. We have some more beers and chat. After dinner, the kid and their parents leave, and my friend puts his kid to bed.
9 p.m. — My friend and I catch up on our days, and he commiserates with me about my job situation. I'm starting to feel sad about it, and he gives me a hug. We watch an episode of Silicon Valley before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $222
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