Esther of NZ Muse is a blogger focused on better living for twentysomethings. She was kind enough to speak with us about what you need to do in personal finance when you're just starting out.
What are some common misconceptions you see about personal finance?
That you have to be good with numbers. I am terrible with numbers. I hate maths and don't know how to use Excel. It doesn't matter.
What are some warning signs that you're taking on too much debt?
It's stressing you out, or you're struggling with the payments. I like the sleep test - are you losing sleep over it?
What tips do you have for someone constructing a budget for the first time?
Be realistic. Just because you know you should spend less on food or clothes doesn't mean you're going to change overnight. Maybe you set the bar low to start with, but make those budget categories realistic so the change is manageable. When you fail, pick yourself up and try again. And keep tweaking. Your budget is not static. This was my biggest epiphany - no two weeks or months are the same, and you can't expect the same budget to work!
If someone wants to travel frugally, what tips do you have for them?
Prioritize. You can have anything you want, but not everything. You might choose to travel to cheaper countries to stretch your dollar, or travel in shoulder/low season. Choose to stay in hostels so you can spend more on food, or vice versa. Move slower - the faster you travel around, the more you'll spend on a daily basis. Explore all your options - volunteer or hitchhike, couchsurf, house sit, house swap or Airbnb. Research your costs - check out BudgetYourTrip.com - and track your spending - I like the Trail Wallet app.
If you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of financial advice, what would it be and why?
Always track your spending. Knowledge is power.