It’s easy to spend everything you earn. But if you want to have enough money for those big goals, like buying a house, you need financial skills to get ahead.

A group of NZMA students, including MPTT Auckland trainees, went along to a financial literacy course called ‘Trade up your finances’ this month. Created by Sorted and run by Issac Liava’a, National Manager Pacific at Skills, the free weekly workshops covered all the tools trainees need to get on top of their money and plan for the future.

Find out the key tips our trainees learned, and how you can use them to make the most of your money.

1. Sort out your needs and your wants

Budgeting might sound complicated, but it’s easier than you might think.

The main thing is to know how much money is coming in (your wages), and how much you need to spend. That way, you can make sure there’s enough money for everything you need.

The trick is to work out the difference between what you want and what you need. ‘Needs’ are things you must have to live, like food, power, rent, or a car to get you to work.

‘Wants’ are things you could live without. For example, you might want a new T-shirt. But if you already have enough clothes, it’s not really something you need to spend money on right now – it’s just something you want. So, to get ahead financially, you could save money and wear the clothes you already have.

For 17-year-old carpentry trainee Jackline Lovo, the financial literacy course taught her how to save money for the future by spending less on her wants.

“It’s hard because I just want to be a normal teenager and spend all my money on partying and clothes and going out with friends. But I know one day, it’ll all be worth it if I save money now.

“One thing I do is leave my wallet at home when I go out, so I can’t spend more than I’d planned to spend.”

‘I want to make something of my life’

After dropping out of school at age 16, Jackline Lovo was packing broccolli and potatoes before she decided to learn a trade. “I realised the pay wasn’t good enough. I needed to earn more than minimum wage.”

She chose to learn construction at NZMA for the career options it will give her. “Especially in Auckland, it’s a good job and there’s a lot of opportunities. I want to work my way up and start a business of my own.”

The financial literacy course has inspired her to save money and get her finances sorted. “Coming here, I realised I didn’t know much about money. At the moment I stay with my mum, so I don’t have all the responsibilities of paying bills. So it’s good to do this course now so I’ll know what to do later on.”


Jackline Lovo
Jackline Lovo has started a savings account for her family after attending the course
2. Prepare for when things go wrong

Sometimes, things happen that you didn’t see coming. For example, your car could break down or you might lose your job.

To make sure those unexpected expenses don’t wipe out your savings or get you into debt, you need an emergency fund. This is money you’ve set aside to use when something big goes wrong. That way, you can sleep easy knowing you’re prepared.

Kamilo Joe Kaitapu, 19, says he’s now started an emergency fund as a result of taking the financial literacy course.

“I was already pretty good with my money. But I hadn’t thought about opening up an emergency savings account. I knew about saving money, but having emergency savings as well sounds more realistic.”

How much do you need in your emergency fund? Anything is better than nothing. So to start with, just make sure you put some money aside every time you get paid.

As a guide, you can work up to having enough to cover your basic expenses (like your rent or mortgage, food, power and water bill) for three months.

‘Carpentry gives me a secure future’

After leaving school at 16, Kamilo Joe Kaitapu started working in the trades. “I was working with my old man in construction, doing hard labour like being a hammerhand. It was good because I gained a mix of experience.”

To build his skills further and learn about customer service, he took a part-time job doing security at events. At the same time, he started studying construction at NZMA and was glad to have the chance to learn more about money at the financial literacy course. “I was already pretty good with my money, but it’s good to learn more. In my family, we struggled a lot with money and Auckland is expensive, so I try to provide for them as much as I can.” Besides becoming a certified tradie, Kamilo’s future goals include travelling to the USA and saving a house deposit.


Kamilo Kaitapu
Kamilo Joe Kaitapu learned how to spend on his needs, rather than his wants
3. Organise your bank accounts

If you keep all your money in one bank account, it’s hard to keep track of what you’ve saved and how much you’re spending. So, it’s a good idea to set up a few different bank accounts to organise your money. You can do this for free through online banking.

The accounts you’ll need depend on your goals and situation, but here are some examples:

  • Spending account – money for everyday spending and bills
  • Savings account – this could be general savings for the future, or money you’re saving for a particular goal, like a house deposit
  • Emergency fund – money you use only if there’s an emergency
  • Car – money for maintaining your car, like getting your registration and warrant of fitness

Carpentry trainee Tevita Latu, 19, says having his savings in a separate account helps him avoid spending it.

“Sometimes when things come up, I think about using my savings. But I have to choose not to use it.”

For Jackline, saving has now become a family effort. With four siblings in Auckland, she has started to teach them what she’s learned about money.

“Since starting this course, I’ve opened a savings account for my whole family, to help them save as well. They give me the money and I keep track of what everyone’s put in. I tell them, you need to own something that you can pass onto the next generation.”

‘You have to choose not to spend what you save’

Growing up in Tonga, Tevita Latu used to watch his uncle build houses. “I thought it was easy. But I found out you need to know how to do maths and be good at communication. It’s actually pretty hard, eh.” After taking the financial literacy course, Tevita is focused on spending on his needs rather than his wants. “I chose to do the course because at home mum and dad always struggled with money and paying the bills.” A priority for Tevita is helping his family out with money. “When it comes to helping my little brother, if he asks for money for school, I always give him some money.”


Tevita Latu
As part of the course, Tevita Latu learned to keep his savings in a separate account to help avoid spending it
4. Know your goals

To stay motivated to save, you need to know what you’re saving for. That’s where goals come in.

For example, a big goal for most trainees in the financial literacy course was to buy a house.

“In my family, we’ve always rented, but my dad’s parents had their own house,” says Kamilo. “For me growing up, my grandparents’ house was a really nice place to be and that’s where I have good memories. That’s how I want my own family to feel about my house.”

Trainees learned how to make their goals ‘SMART’:

  • Specific – This is about knowing exactly what you want to achieve. For example, instead of just saying you want to buy a house, you should specify the area where you want to buy that house.
  • Measurable – You should be able to know exactly when you’ve reached your goal. In the case of buying a house, you’ll know it’s yours when you’ve got the keys in your hand.
  • Achievable – You need to make sure your goal is possible to achieve. For example, buying a three-bedroom house in Onehunga might be achievable for your first home, but buying a brand-new mansion with a pool in the middle of Auckland isn’t doable for most people.
  • Realistic – This means the goal is within reach, given your situation. For example, if you’re currently studying and working part time, the amount you can realistically save for a house deposit is probably going to be lower than when you’re qualified and working full time.
  • Timely – This is where you set a clear timeline to reach your goal. For example, you might want to save your house deposit within the next five years.

By getting clear on exactly what you want and how and when you’ll achieve it, you’re much more likely to put in the effort that’s needed to reach your goal.

So use these tips to make the most of your money and build a great financial future. And if you need help or have a question, remember your MPTT Navigator is here to help you.