Monday, March 31, 2008

Fascinating Finances: Dorothy of Oz

I mean Oz as in Australia, and of course her name isn't really Dorothy, but the latest object of my financial fascination is a wacky Australian girl who's visiting New York. I met her at a party this past weekend and was one of several people who formed a rapt audience for her stories.
Dorothy is a journalist who managed to take a month off from her job in Sydney to come to New York. She found a free place to stay, but otherwise, it sounded like she'd been living the high life throughout her visit!
As a journalist, I don't imagine she'd make much more money than I do, but some of her New York activities have included dinners at many expensive restaurants including the River Cafe, lots of nights out at bars where whole bottles of champagne were consumed, a couple of weekend ski trips, the purchase of a new ipod (an extra Nano, since she already had just bought one of the larger ones), a digital camera, $300 Prada sneakers, some jewelry, some more jewelry as gifts for people back home, and who knows what else. I know the exchange rate is working well for Australians these days, but damn!
She also talked about having an 8-hour layover in Los Angeles on her way home. She'd booked herself into a hotel so she could have a massage and a facial and hang out in the spa to pass the time!
It sounded like her day to day life in Australia was no different-- lots of partying, clothes, having someone clean her apartment, taking lots of weekend trips. Maybe some of these things don't actually cost her much money, but it sounded like a pretty nice life, and I couldn't help wondering how she could afford it! Dorothy was a lot of fun to talk to, and did not seem like she was telling all these stories in a bragging, pretentious kind of way-- like other Australians I've met, she just has that sense of grabbing onto life and hanging on for the ride, and being a great storyteller about it all afterwards!
Dorothy had such a great time in New York that she wants to move back. She met lots of people here and has some leads for jobs. She told us she thought she'd go back to Australia and work for a few months to make up for all the money she'd spent on this trip, then rent out her flat in Sydney (which she owns). She'd make a bit of a profit renting out the apartment, which she thought would help her manage to pay rent in New York while she scraped together enough money to live on from doing freelance work and bartending and whatever else she'd have to do to make it. She said she saw the apartment in Sydney as a kind of safety net to fall back on, but admitted she hated thinking about finances, and was the type of person who would hand her accountant a shopping bag full of receipts every year and just beg him to make sense of it all for her.

I'm not quite sure how Dorothy manages to keep everything together, but she sure made spending money look fun!


Anonymous said...

That's why they jokingly call Aus "the 51st State of America" ... having lived in both places I can tell you it's (partly) true. Only problem, houses in Aus are now about 3 times the equivalent price of those in the US ... poor Aussies!

Anonymous said...

I'm an Aussie living in New York. I own an apartment in Sydney which, unlike Dorothy, I am making a loss on as a rental/investment. Plus I rent an office and apartment in NYC. BUT, Sydney is more expensive than New York. Period. Everything costs $$ in Sydney unlike in New York, where you can enjoy yourself for little or no money [museums, concerts, screenings etc].

I've also noticed that Australians also don't really think about long-term finances as much as they do here. There are also two types of Australian travelers - those who frequently go on long jaunts where lots of money is spent and the other extreme - the annual backpacker.

Anonymous said...

Well, this assumes that Dorothy isn't in a mountain of debt. Anyone can SPEND money. But not everyone can MANAGE money.

Anonymous said...

Australia is just like the USA. Lots of folks, including my sister's family, caught up in real estate get rich quick schemes and/or I need the latest/greatest gadget or the biggest house. One kick in the nether regions for Australian's is the lack of some significant tax deductions (no mortgage deduction, church giving is out, ...). Then there is the 10% GST (like sales tax for American's) to contedt with.

When visiting family in Melbourne in Oct 2007, I was astounded at the cost of electronics. Simple 802.11g wireless routers were selling for Aud$100+. In the 90's I know that Aus had some really restrictive import rules that legally blocked people other than authorized dealers from importing/selling goods (I believe that the term in parallel importing) so there is a lack of competion and a smallish population to sell to.

Well I am glad that I got out of Australia 10+ years ago.

Western Mass.

PS: Like the Boston Red Sox, the Geelong Cats, AFL football, were always full of promise but never delivered. Also like the Red Sox, the Cats may have turned the corner. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I had a life like that for a few years ('02-'06) and mainly financed it with credit cards, thinking I had the rest of my life to pay it back. Good thing I came to my senses 2 years ago and cut up the cards and signed up with a consumer credit counseling service who arranged a plan for me to pay it all back. It costs me $800/month and I won't be debt-free till 2012. But still, I really enjoyed those years and have some great memories of living a glam life.

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