Written Interview Series

Property Girl


As part of this month’s (August 2012) focus on all things property related, we have women from the 10thousandgirl community sharing their property journeys. Here is our first one!

Name: Jo
Do I have to?

Tell us a little about yourself (personal, professional, fun, family) so we can get to know you a little better!
I’m a self-employed PR and communication import from the UK, a Hello Kitty enthusiast. Love exercising outdoors.

When did you buy?
My first, July 2009, my second, May 2011.

Did you buy alone or with someone else?
By myself – very happily. I read articles about whether girls should buy alone or not, such nonsense, of course they should, every wants/needs a home and everyone needs financial security at any point in their life, if they can afford it.

When did you first think you wanted to buy?
Like most people, I had lofty ideas of self-employment, first property and marriage by 30. Ha, try telling your life how your life is going to pan out…

How did you know property was for you?
I’m a relentless researcher, I put exactly the time it takes to find what I want. So, when I do, it’s usually the right side of perfect based on research, realigning according to needs, wants and price.

I’d been looking longer than most, probably eight or nine months, so when I found it, it was an easy & quick sales process, and most importantly, it felt like home when the minute I walked in to the viewing. It was a top floor sunny haven that when I closed the door, the rest of the world disappeared. Also useful was that I could go to viewings in office hours when many can’t, that way, I got to move quickly and secure the deal.

I’d come from renting a great property in terms of location, price and size – right on Bondi Beach, but it was ground floor and dark. I’d had a peeping Tom and I didn’t realise how much I appreciated moving into a sunny top floor safe haven. I still appreciate it three years on, and have that nice feeling of ‘home’ every time I walk in.

When did you get serious and start taking the steps to buy?
As an import, with no family or experience of buying in Australia, let alone Sydney’s unique, expensive and competitive Eastern Suburbs, I attended a one day course on first-time property buying through the Eastern Suburbs Community College. It turns out to have been the best $130 odd dollars I’ve ever spent as far as wealth management and creating a home are concerned.

Who did you talk to during the buying process (professionals/family/friends)?
I asked the guy taking the course, Scott Durrant of Successful Ways (property coach, buyer’s agent, mortgage broker, and other financial/property services) what else he did beyond teaching – that’s what was great, he imparted his knowledge without selling his other services. There was instant trust there as a result.

What questions did you ask?
Subtly, reason for the sale, how many in the block, planned works, owner/tenant occupation, strata fees, company title vs strata, how long it had been on the market.

I worked with Scott as my property coach, I’d go and trawl every Saturday and report back. People who are in property love talking about it, they don’t get tired of the questions. He’d help me with the next set of questions to ask the agent and filter the good properties from the bad.

What other research did you do?
Pavement pounding – I went and looked at everything in my price range and certain specifications, just to be sure, it helps narrow the criteria for what you will and won’t compromise on.

How did you save for the deposit?
It’s kind of a weirdly bad story with a good outcome. I went through a really tough few years in my personal life, I’d quit a very well-paid job to start a business in a completely new area, my boyfriend dumped me shortly after, a parent (in the UK) had cancer, a sibling (here in Aus) went through quite a serious situation so I threw the new business idea aside, focused on family and keeping myself sane, started freelancing and eventually grew a good set of clients. During the three or so years, I was quite isolated as a result and this pot of money kind of grew itself. Almost accidentally. Good things do come from bad!

Also, somehow, I’ve never had a credit card and have been debt-free since paying off my student loan in my late 20s so I was lucky not to have the mental drain that I understand debt can be.

It’s daunting but just get saving, sooner rather than later, and establish a budget and plans. I’d allocate myself a certain amount of cash each week, no card payment allowed. When you realise how much you fork out on rent and socialising along the way, it’s sickening.

Did you buy as a home or for an investment?
Both – always as home to live in for a few years, and always with the intention it would be a good investment in the longer-term.

Where did you buy?
Bellevue Hill, near Bondi in Sydney’s East.

What was the most difficult or challenging thing during the process?
Wondering if the deposit pot was ever going to reach the magic number!

Giving up those gorgeous Saturday mornings to do the mad dash between apartment showing times for eight or nine months, have your hopes raised and dashed when somehow, they weren’t quite right. You start wondering where you need to compromise.

What was the most fun or rewarding thing during the process?
Always the potential of what I was going to discover …but the most rewarding thing was that I found a beautiful home with great rental and sale potential, at what could almost be described as a bargain (for Eastern Suburbs prices).

What was the most important thing when looking at the mortgage?
Take advice, shop around, consider offsets, consider whether you’re cautious or risky to decide on fixed vs variable.

Who or what was the most helpful?
I keep saying it, but seriously, Scott Durrant at Successful Ways was invaluable & patient. I’d research the properties, go and view, report back, and he would help me evaluate each one, and how to negotiate with the agent. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend doing a course, or working with him.

What has it been like after the purchase?
So painless that I did it again! Scott helped me work out that there was enough equity in my property to buy again. I went through the process a lot quicker this time, probably helped by the fact that I wasn’t going to live in it so could make an impartial good decision. That said, it’s great and I would consider living in it if I ever had to! It’s a one bedder with sunroom, study, terrace, lock-up garage in a small block just back from the beach in Bronte. It’s rented out, I cover some of the mortgage each month, which with my existing mortgage is something not everyone could manage I guess but I’m doing the hard yards now for the future.

Do you have any other property related goals?
Well, I’m currently looking to buy my third actually for a business idea, and ultimately would like property in New York and London in the not too distant future, also part of a business & property strategy I’m currently looking at.

I’m essentially using well-bought property as part of my superannuation / retirement strategy.

Any tips you would give other 10thousandgirls who are thinking about buying?
-Work out what you will and won’t compromise on, garage, balcony, light, two rooms etc – I compromised on the location, I had my heart set on Bondi but realistically, the quality, and the quality vs price quality just wasn’t there. Especially when you’re competing with couples and their dual income, and often rich couples with parental backing.

I knew that without the beach on my doorstep, I needed a balcony. I also personally prefer the art deco blocks vs the new builds, because they’re better quality and won’t crack in ten years.

-Check on the hidden costs and don’t pretend they’re not there – sinking funds, insurances etc, strata fees. Older blocks don’t tend to have as high strata fees to cover lifts, pools, concierge etc. do the reports, get the advice.

-It took me a long time to get my head out of Bondi and look at surrounding suburbs. Best thing I did. I almost bought a lemon right on Bondi Beach, thankfully, Scott and his team had done the research to show that insurances for the awnings over tourist cafes hadn’t been paid for a while, so if anything happened to them, I and other owners would have been liable.

-Buy with head and heart, not just heart. It’s easy to say but only by spending a good period of time researching will you come to a happy medium.

Thanks Jo for sharing your story and your tips!

Nadine Zrinzo, Bright Conferences Interview: An organised woman


When the call went out asking for women into organisation went out, Nadine Zrinzo answered! She’s taken part in our 10thousandgirl written interview series and shares her experiences and how she stays on top of a busy life. Thank you Nadine!

Name: Nadine Zrinzo
State: Queensland
Conference Director

10TG: So Nadine, tell us a little bit about yourself!
Where to start – I grew up in Malta (a tiny island in the Mediterranean), moved to London after uni and a few years after that hoped on a plane to sunny Brissie, which is where I call home at the moment. Most of my day is dedicated to Bright Conferences, which is a conference management company I set up and run. The rest gets shared between friends, family, yoga, food and general life tasks!

10TG: How and why did you start your business Bright Conferences?
I was always one who loved managing people and projects, even when I was at school. One thing led to another and one day I got the opportunity to freelance on some events so I took the leap. Eventually the freelancing got turned into a proper business, which is when Bright Conferences was born.

Bright Conferences is constantly morphing and I love playing with new projects and testing ideas out. We run a number of activities, some are client based i.e. we plan, create and execute conferences on behalf of our clients whilst others are our projects such as Bright Learning which focuses on fun adult courses.

10TG: You’re a very busy woman, how do you manage to stay organised?
Lists! I have lists for everything, each project at work and my personal life at times. It helps me stay on top of what needs doing and it means that I do not get stressed out trying to remember things. I love investing in good stationery (pens & notebooks), which makes the process of organising and planning a bit more pleasant!

10TG: What are some tools, systems or resources that help you manage your projects/personal life?
Aside from the lists mentioned above, I love drawing and mapping out tasks. I am quite a visual person so mind maps, arrows, colours – all help me with any planning.

For the bigger work projects I use software such as ConceptDraw  Project, which helps me build Gantt charts and other project management charts. Excel is also a good simple tool to use when you need to draw up plans or lists quickly.

10TG: How do you organise your different tasks to keep the business successful?
Towards the end of the week, I outline the tasks, per project that need to happen during the next week. It is generally a brain dump though I tend to refer to project plans for the bigger conferences or events we are working on.

Once I have the list, I then go through it and write down how long I estimate every task will take, and when it needs to get done by.

This allows me to estimate how many hours I need to spend on each project per day and gives me the flexibility to move things around if one day is too packed or I need time off. It also means that when I get to work on Monday I know exactly what I need to be doing and get stuck right in it!

10TG: What are some tips that could help others stay organised while juggling multiple professional and personal projects?
Separate your professional and personal tasks and make sure you give yourself enough time to do both. Divide your days into projects – one or two per day – and stick to the timelines you set for yourself.

I love the half day per project approach as it gives you enough time to get immersed into it, however not enough to get bored.

10TG: What are you learning about yourself through your experiences?
Everything changes, all the time and so do we. What worked yesterday isn’t necessarily going to work tomorrow so it is very important to be aware of what you are doing and whether it is effective both personally and at work.

One learning point I keep having to remind myself is to listen to my gut (or sixth sense), as it will often tell you whether you are on the right path or not.

10TG: What are some of your short term goals?
My focus at the moment is on a new project we are launching called Bright Learning. It consists of a series of short, fun courses for adults and is running in Brisbane – www.brightlearning.com.au. So the short term goal there is to get Bright Learning up and running and to eventually grow it into a sustainable business.

10TG: What are some of your long term goals?
It might be a cliché but my long term goal is just to build a life I am happy leading and that extends to all aspects, whether they are financial, personal development, family or friend related.

10TG: Is there anything else you would like to bring to the attention of the 10thousandgirl community?
Everything worth doing takes time, practice and a lot of hard work. It is very rare (in any business) to become successful overnight. Even the people you think have done it, have generally been struggling for years. A bit of luck always helps, however you need to be actually doing something for the luck to happen.

10TG: What is the best financial tip you’ve ever received?
Always work to a budget – otherwise you just don’t know how much you are spending and on what. This also applies to your personal finances.

10TG: Are there any resources related to organisation/time management you’d like to share?
There are plenty of tools around that can help you get organised particularly if you look at any of the App Stores. Tools such as Time Doctor, Wunderlist, Project, ConceptDraw Project, Excel – the best thing to do is work out what you need first, then go out and look for it!

Find out more or connect with Nadine:

Web: www.brightconferences.com.au or www.brightlearning.com.au

Baby Steps Thru Debt Interview: One Family’s Journey


As part of this month’s focus on Debt, we’ve interviewed a woman who is documenting her financial journey to becoming debt-free. Enjoy the share!

Name: Tanya Euler
State: Queensland
Occupation: Owner of Artifex Marketing Studio

10TG: So Tanya, tell us a little bit about yourself!
TE: I have been self-employed as a graphic/website designer and marketing consultant for small businesses for the past 10 years. I am a mum to two young girls 10 and 8 and have been involved in a range of business and community non-profit groups. I opted to pull out of full time work and become self-employed once we started a family; primarily for the lifestyle options it gave us and to be available for the children whenever needed.

I love working from home and love my work, however the reduced income has been an issue for us at times. I have often contemplated returning to full-time work, now that the girls are both at school, to help boost our earnings, but then the additional costs that this would create (eg need for childcare, extra fuel consumption, clothing etc) have always led me to stay where I am.

10TG: What was the reasoning to start your blog Baby Steps Thru Debt?
TE: I simply reached a point where I had had enough of not being able to pay off our credit card. In talking with family and friends I could see so many struggled through the same thing (basically a case of spending more than we earn). I knew for sure that other people were struggling through the same issues and so the concept of Baby Steps Thru Debt was born.

Before I started, I had a sense that we would be successful in beating our debt, and wouldn’t it be great to have a record of those wins and losses along the way. So when we did reach the finish line, the history and the stories would be there for others to learn from. The plan was to simply journal my way through as I moved from a credit to cash way of living and beat down the lingering credit card & loan debts; to share the pains and successes; and hopefully others might follow the journey and learn, share, experience but ultimately IMPROVE their own situation.

10TG: What are you learning about yourself through this journey?
TE: My eyes have been opened to how blessed we really are. I am thankful for the debt that we have, because it could be a whole lot bigger.

I have also learned how much of an influence we are on our children, often unknowingly. I can see great improvement in my daughters own spending/saving habits as they have seen us change ours.

10TG: When did you realise you wanted to focus on moving away from debt?
TE: In late 2010 I finally decided ENOUGH! It just didn’t make sense to me to be living on a credit card that we can’t pay back. We aren’t big spenders, we don’t spend needlessly, eat out or go away often – but we still couldn’t stay above the line. I have seen so many around me living in the same manner (by credit and not cash) and it just didn’t make sense to me. Why do we do it and how can we stop?

I also noticed my children did not have a good grasp of saving, spending, giving and an understanding of what lay behind the “swiping of the plastic card.” So I really wanted to practice better money management for them to learn from.

The real catalyst however, was after I had just saved up a large sum of money with the hopes of using it for a holiday. I “realised” the credit card debt had to go first, so I used the saved money to pay off that debt. Within a couple of months or so the card was heading back into unpaid territory. My sense of accomplishment of saving all that money was so short lived, the frustration of more debt was coming back – the cycle had to stop!

10TG: How has this changed your everyday life and that of your family?
TE: We have become much smarter with how we spend our money and prioritise the material things in life. We weren’t wasteful spenders, so we didn’t have a lot of areas where we could cut back our spending. Instead it became a case of being a little smarter whenever and wherever we did spend.

I would say that the biggest changes have occurred in our grocery shopping.  There are 10 or so things we have changed in the way we shop for groceries and these have helped us reduce our weekly spend considerably.

I also now always ask myself before I buy – “is it a need or a want, will it add value to my/our life, and if I buy this, will it lead to me spending more money?”. If it is a want that won’t add any real value or purpose and will result in more spending – then the answer is always “don’t buy”!

10TG: What can people do to start their journey out of debt?
TE: The first step must be a conscious decision to make a change. We can spend weeks, months, years complaining or worrying about our financial state, but that won’t change anything. First of all, decide that you are going to stop doing/spending as you have been and commit to change.

After that decision was made I found the best way to really start our journey was to pick 1-2 key areas where change could be easy to implement. For us, it was setting a strict limit at the grocery line and sticking to it (always) and not using a credit card to pay for it.  Then look at what you do with your money and build on those areas.

And finally, get the support of those around you. Start the journey with a friend who is also struggling with debt or if you have a partner, make sure you are on the same page and have the same goals – that support will do wonders.

10TG: What are some tips to start to tackle debt?

  1. Small steps, baby steps: Pay off smaller debts first. The sense of achievement when a debt is paid (no matter how much it was) is a great motivator to tackle the bigger ones.
  2. Know where your money comes from and goes: Spending time to track every dollar in and out really does help you make better decisions about where you need to make change.
  3. Find ways to stay motivated that work for you: I have found setting small saving goals and setting small debt pay-off goals help me stay on track for the bigger ones.

10TG: What is the good (joy) and the not so good (pain) of this journey?
TE: I have found a real sense of satisfaction and ownership after 8 months of paying cash and not credit for the majority of our everyday expenses. We are still paying off the existing debt on our credit card, but not seeing it grow higher and higher over this time (as would normally be the case) has been awesome.

The not so good part of the journey is the “doing without” at times. For instance, I really wanted to go to an upcoming concert (there is a post about this on my blog). In the past, I would have dropped the $300 spontaneously without a thought. However, this time I went through the thought process of “is it a need or want”, “is it really going to add value to my life”, “will it cause me to spend even more money” > the result being to not go. There is that sense of missing out, but I am still satisfied that the best decision was made.

10TG: What are some of your short term goals?

  1. To get rid of the credit card debt, and eventually the credit card.
  2. To lose weight/improve fitness (of course). But this has really aligned with my journey, as one of the strategies was to start baking instead of buying – this has resulted in money saved and healthier eating.
  3. To increase our income and a career change for hubby.

10TG: What are some of your long term goals?
TE: An overseas holiday for the family – it seems very far in the distance and almost out of reach, but I guess that is what long-term is about.

10TG: Is there anything else you would like to bring to the attention of the 10thousandgirl community?
TE: I am concerned about today’s children and what they are learning from us “grown ups” when it comes to the way we manage our money. So I would really urge parents to sit back and look at what they are unknowingly teaching their children. Do they want their children to go through these same struggles – most likely on a bigger scale by then? If not, commit to change now.

10TG: What is the best financial tip you’ve ever received?
TE: Where possible, pay small and regular amounts to an upcoming bill rather than waiting for it to come to you. I now pay small, regular amounts to my phone and electricity providers, so now when the bill arrives; I typically only owe a small amount OR have credit owing to me. Not having a huge $100 – $400 bill to pay out in one hit has been great, and paying these smaller, regular amounts is better for managing our cash flow. It has also helped limit those weeks when all the big bills seem to arrive at once.

10TG: Are there any resources related to debt you’d like to share?
TE: When I first started on this journey, I stumbled across www.daveramsey.com and www.mytotalmoneymakeover.com. The teachings on these websites totally aligned with my “new way of thinking” so I would highly recommend them.

I also discovered this website www.kidsmoney.com.au a couple of years ago, but only recently bought the moneyboxes for my daughters. They have been great tools for my kids – who now save, give and invest their money.

Find out more about Tanya and Baby Steps Thru Debt:
Blog – www.babystepsthrudebt.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/babystepsthrudebt

We hope you’ve been inspired by Tanya’s story. Have you taken baby steps, or even giant steps through debt? Share your story with us or in the comments section below.

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