Coming to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa is a great way to see the country, save up some money and experience a new working culture abroad.
Many people travelling to NZ for a Working Holiday choose to base themselves somewhere for a short period of time while they find work and save money – because you need money in order to be able to travel around this beautiful country, of course! However, it’s common knowledge that New Zealand is not the cheapest of countries to live and travel in, and there would be nothing worse than running out of money and having to go home early.
Luckily, jobs are varied and plentiful across the country: from fruit picking to office roles, from construction work to waiting tables, there is something for everyone. And once you’ve secured a job, the disciplined saving starts.
Having lived in Auckland for 4 and a half months, I can personally say that saving money hasn’t been as easy as I initially thought it would be, but it hasn’t been impossible either! I’ve tailored this post to my experience of saving money while living and working in Auckland in 2015, as many travellers choose to base themselves in the City of Sails, however much of this information can be applied to other large cities across the country.
1) Choose affordable accommodation
Every traveller’s biggest (and most important) expense doesn’t come cheap in Auckland unfortunately, but with a bit of shopping around you’ll be able to find something suitable. I called this section ‘affordable’ as opposed to ‘cheap’ because the cheapest option isn’t always the best one – it’s important to choose somewhere you know you’ll be happy and comfortable!
Hostels start at around $18-$20 NZD per night for a bed in a dormitory, while private double rooms start at around $60 per night. Hostels often offer weekly rates and discounts for long-term residents (usually staying longer than 2-4 weeks depending on the hostel) and their rates almost always drop in the low season. Plus, there are no hidden costs; the price per night usually includes power, water, use of the kitchen etc… though wifi sometimes costs extra (see more below.) Search on websites such as Hostelworld and Booking.com for hostels, but contact them directly about their rates before booking to see if they can offer a cheaper deal.
You could rent a room in a house share, meaning the rent and bills are split between a number of tenants. House shares are usually located in the suburbs rather than the city centre, but often work out reasonably affordable – think $100-$200 per week – and are a fantastic way to meet Kiwis! The best places to look for these are on Trademe and on Facebook groups.
Couch surfing is popular in NZ and is free, though I’m not sure if it would work for the long-term. I guess you can always ask your host!
AirBnB is a good shout for cheap accommodation in an apartment or house, often with the host or other travellers. Some hosts are happy to host long-term residents. Click here for money off your first booking.
Finally, taking out a lease on an apartment could actually work out pretty cheap, and is totally do-able, even if you are on a Working Holiday Visa. You have to pay a refundable bond (deposit) and non-refundable connection fee (for the power) up front, and you’re responsible for paying for the electricity and/or gas bills (cold water rates are usually included in the rent). Most leases are fixed-term (6/12 months), and you have to pay extra if you break the lease (move out before this). That said, with your own apartment, you have your own space and freedom. You can easily find estate agents’ websites with a quick search online, where you can browse their available properties. I think if you’re travelling with a partner or group of friends, this one is a great idea.
2) Cook your dinner instead of eating out
Coming to New Zealand after travelling around Southeast Asia, where you can buy street food for $2 a dish, we initially thought ‘how the hell are we going to afford to eat!?’ Dishes start from around $15 in a restaurant, which quickly adds up if you’re on a budget. Fast food is cheap, but it’s also gross – I don’t wanna get fat!
Fortunately, most hostels have fully-equipped kitchens, where you can cook your own food – as if you were in an apartment really. This is a concept that seemed very bizarre to us at first as we had never stayed in a hostel that has a kitchen for guests before, though we quickly realised it was a real godsend.
Similarly, it’s much cheaper to make your own lunch at your accommodation and take it with you to work than to eat out every day – grabbing a cheap sandwich for lunch can easily cost $7-10. It doesn’t seem that expensive, especially considering that’s only about £3.50 GBP, but when you’re on a budget the ‘cheap’ expenses here and there soon add up!
3) Know where to buy your groceries
Following on from this, finding the best places to buy your food is a real must-do. I already mentioned how fresh fruit and vegetables are infamously known for being expensive in New Zealand – especially if bought from the supermarket! Thankfully their price fluctuates depending on production and the season. Here’s some top tips to a cheap weekly shop:
- Eat what’s in season. Much of NZ’s produce comes from around the country, so if produce has to be imported from overseas it costs more.
- Avoid the Metro Countdown and Metro New World supermarkets. There’s less choice of products and I swear the prices are higher!
- Similarly, avoid convenience stores, which are known as dairies in NZ. Although convenient, the prices are hiked right up.
- Get your fresh produce from farmers markets. La Cigale French Market was our local every weekend.
- Try the Asian supermarkets. We like Tai Ping on Beach Road, Auckland, where you can (at the time of writing) buy huge brocollis for $1.48 each, apples for 98c per kg, and a range of really cheap Asian staple foods, like soy sauce and noodles.
- Pak’n’Save prides itself on being New Zealand’s cheapest supermarket. Unfortunately there isn’t one in the CBD…
- If Countdown becomes your local supermarket, sign up for a Onecard. It’s free and you often get exclusive discounts (you can also earn a $15 voucher once you’ve collected 200 points – which means spending $2,000…)
4) Be savvy with your choice of transport
Public transport links in Auckland are pretty good, with trains, buses and ferries to the islands – the city centre is easily walkable though. When you compare the cost of fares to the UK, the prices are similar. Auckland’s AT Hop card costs $5 and saves you 20% on fares across bus links, trains and ferries – definitely worth it if you are using public transport to get to work.
You really don’t need a car in Auckland (especially since every driver here seems to think they’re on GTA…) and parking in the city can be quite pricey (think a dollar an hour… at least!). You can save on petrol by driving sensibly, checking your tyre pressure, and collecting fuel vouchers. Supermarkets offer 4c off per litre if you spend more than $40 in one transaction (easily done!) so save your receipts. You can also sign up for a free AA Smartfuel card online or at most petrol stations, and you collect savings by swiping it at participating retailers (clothes shops, pharmacies, other petrol stations) which you can then redeem on your petrol purchase!
5) Shop in second-hand stores (Op Shops)
To be honest I haven’t found clothes to be that expensive in New Zealand, especially compared with high street prices back at home. Understandably, you aren’t going to be splurging on clothes when you’re on a budget with your entire life in your backpack, but it’s good to know where you can buy work attire or the odd bits and pieces.
Personally, I don’t often shop in high street stores since most of them don’t condone fair trade or good working conditions in manufacture. Therefore, I recommend Op shops. ‘Op’ is an abbreviation of ‘opportunity’ and means secondhand, charity or thrift stores. It’s fun rooting through the clothes and finding a bargain! Here’s some of my favourites in Auckland:
- Paperbag Princess – 145 Karangahape Road (often shortened to ‘K’ Road)
- Thriftway – 153 K Road
- Cheap as Chips – 203 K Road
- Tatty’s – 47 High Street & 159 Ponsonby Road
- Recycle Boutique – 223-233 Queen Street
- Red Cross – 191 K Road
- There are also numerous Salvation Army stores around NZ which are amazing for everything from clothes to kitchen utensils!
6) Bite the bullet with beauty products
Cosmetics and toiletries aren’t particularly cheap in NZ, but make-up is SO expensive; the prices are just hiked up! I’ve been using Maybelline Dream Satin Mousse foundation on a daily basis for the past couple of years – you can buy it from Boots in the UK for £7.99. Here, it costs $29.99 – that’s about £15!!! I haven’t yet found an equivalent of Boots or Superdrug and there don’t seem to be as many budget brands of make-up about. I would advise girls visiting NZ to either bring extra make-up with you from home, or, like me, just stop wearing it when you run out!
Similarly, shampoo and conditioner is quite expensive. Perfume, deodorant, cleanser, moisturiser, and nail polish etc are also pricey and there just don’t seem to be as many cheaper alternative brands like in the UK. Be warned!
7) Watch your internet usage
Most mobile phone network providers offer a top-up and redeem option on plans with texts, minutes and data. The most popular providers are Spark, 2 Degrees, Vodafone and Skinny.
I currently use Spark’s $19 a month plan which includes 100 minutes, unlimited texts and 500mb data. Additionally, they offer 1GB of data at their wifi hotspots located across the country.
The way it works is as follows: top up $20, buy the $19 deal and enjoy the benefits for the month. Once the month is up, top up again (or you can set it to automatically top up for you). You can also purchase additional data/calls if required. This way you aren’t enrolled into a fixed-term contract and can opt out at any time – perfect for Working Holiday makers!
Wifi in New Zealand is always either expensive or limited, and if it’s free it usually doesn’t work. Even in hostels, you usually have to pay per MB you use, or you get a limited amount to use per day. Because the Internet and social media have become such a big part of our day-to-day lives, it’s handy to know where you can get some free wifi if need be:
- Auckland has a free public wifi network around the city called AKL On, which varies in speed and reliability, but it’s there if you need it.
- Many cafés offer free wifi with a purchase, but it’s usually limited: Gloria Jean’s cafés offer 250 MB while the Coffee Club only offers 50MB.
- Banks usually have free wifi in their branches, though I’ve never used it so cannot vouch for its reliability or if there is a limit.
- If you ever desperately need wifi in the CBD, go for a wander around the Warehouse for a bit, it’s free and unlimited.
As for setting up your own internet if you move into a flat, Slingshot costs $65 per month, Bigpipe costs $79, and others (Vodafone, Trustpower) do combo-deals for Internet, landlines and power. If you end up organising your own personal broadband, be sure to shop around before deciding on a provider.
There are a good few free things to do in Auckland: the Art Gallery, the various volcanic Mounts (Eden, Victoria, One Tree Hill), the Museum (free for Auckland residents). But once you’ve exhausted the tourist spots, it can be difficult to find cheap activities.
For deals on everything from activities to beauty treatments, event tickets to meals, transport to haircuts, days out to accommodation (weekend apartments, baches)… here are a few useful websites for finding a good deal in Auckland, as well as across the country:
- Trademe.co.nz – the NZ equivalent to Gumtree, eBay or Craigslist. The best place to buy and sell online – so you can sell all those clothes you’ve bought!
- Bookme.co.nz – for deals on activities, meals, beauty treatments
- Groupon.co.nz – for deals on just about everything
- Grabone.co.nz – mainly for deals on days out and activities, but for a bit of everything else too.
Like eating out in restaurants, drinking in New Zealand is expensive. While you can buy a decent bottle of red wine in the supermarket for around $10, you’ll pay the same amount for a the cheapest glass on the menu in a bar.
Keep an eye out for Happy Hour deals and BYOs (Bring Your Own – usually only wine is allowed and you have to pay a corkage fee, which is around $5 per person). We really recommend Satya, an Indian restaurant on K Road – corkage is $4 and the food is great! There’s some good info on these here.
10) Don’t settle for a poorly-paid job
Easier said than done, but try to find a reasonably well-paid job. The minimum wage is $14.75 in NZ, but many employers will start at higher rates than that. In our experience, there didn’t appear to be any discrimination against travellers on Working Holiday Visas. Check out my post on how to write a NZ style CV for more information on job-hunting in New Zealand.
- Bar and hospitality work – This is a great option if you have previous experience – or even if you dont, but are willing to learn! The wages aren’t enormous but you can make a fair amount on tips. Touristy areas and bigger cities are a good place to look for these jobs. Auckland is brimming with places to eat and drink!
- Office/admin work – Big cities are your best bet for stable 9-5 office roles, and in our experience, they are best found through recruitment agencies or on Seek and Trade Me.
- Skilled workers – If you are lucky enough to have a skill (hairdressing, construction, beauty etc), you’ll be sure to find something in Auckland.
- Working for Accommodation – Since there are plenty of hostels in the city, you could find work in exchange for accommodation, which is handy though it won’t allow you to save money unfortunately!
Jobs can be found on the websites listed above, on backpackerboard.co.nz, and in store windows as well as through recruitment agencies. Push for a higher wage if you can, or keep looking until you find something you’re happy with and that you know you’ll be able to save money doing. Have a read of this post for more info.
How we managed to save over $5,000 (each) in 4 months
To avoid being vague on how much money we saved up while working in Auckland, I thought it would be better to be honest. If you are numerically minded, you can see in figures how we managed to save up. James and I were fairly lucky; we each managed to save around $5,000 (give or take a few hundred) in our four months living and working in Auckland.
Our combined weekly income was around $1,280. Once our necessary weekly outgoings were deducted, we still each managed to save around half of our weekly wages. Our weekly expenditures cost on average:
- Rent (in our own apartment, leased through Impression Real Estate) – $350
- Internet ($79 a month, unlimited plan with Bigpipe) – $20
- Power (Provided by the real estate company) – $25
- Mobile phones (we both used Spark’s $9/month deal without data while we lived in Auckland) – $5
- Food (fruit & veg from the local farmers market, groceries from Countdown) – $120
- Misc (going out, transport, clothing etc.) – $75
The following factors certainly helped:
- We looked for jobs that paid a good wage. Temping often (but not always) means higher rate + holiday pay. As neither of us have a skill or trade, we looked for roles we had previous work experience in (office/ data-entry/ admin/ insurance roles). Having a good CV definitely helps with this.
- We sought accommodation in the city, so we wouldn’t spend money on transport to get to work. This meant higher rent, but less expenditure on buses (and we kept fit by walking everywhere).
- We chose cheap deals on our phone plans & internet provider.
- We bought value or home brand products from the supermarket.
- We bought groceries at Asian supermarkets and La Cigale farmer’s market.
- We swapped weekends out drinking for day treks in the Waitakere Ranges.
- We bought what we needed, not what we wanted – although I do wish I’d bought those $30 jeans in Recycle Boutique!
- I sold a few things I no longer needed on Trade Me (I’ve probably only made about $20 but every little helps!)
- Please note we did not make any income from elsewhere while living in Auckland.
I hope this post goes to show that although it might be difficult, saving money on a working holiday visa in Auckland is definitely possible with hard work and a bit of discipline! If we can do it, anyone can.
Have you travelled to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa? What are your best money-saving tips? Please share them in the comments below!
Thanks for reading,
All information is true and correct based on our time living and working in Auckland from 9th May 2015 to 3rd October 2015. All opinions are my own. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which help to run this blog.