Smile – it’s only money

By: Daniel Hutchinson

Daniel Hutchinson
From The Hutch

 Before Grant and Jacinda had even popped their cheese rolls in the oven on Budget Day, the Team of One here at Hutch headquarters was doing its own sums.

As the shadow Finance Minister for the household, it’s my job to decide what new spending to approve and how much tax I should be charging my housemates.

I’ll be calling a meeting this weekend, so as not to overshadow the Government’s announcement, but the issues are much the same.

There will not be any cheese rolls at my announcement because that would require a three per cent increase in the food budget, and half of my constituents would disapprove of spending money on carbs.

Housing is on the agenda for several reasons – firstly, I’ve recently re-fixed the home loan and it’s more expensive.

There has been a lot of talk about the ridiculous increase in house prices over the last few years. Personally, it makes zero difference if the value of my house has doubled in three years, or whether it has dropped by $50k in the last two months. I’m not planning on moving any time soon and even if I do, I’d have to buy a similarly priced house somewhere else.

I would be more excited if the value of the home loan had halved, but that’s not the way it works, unless you are a first-home buyer.

Secondly, we have allocated funds to improve the insulation in the house.

Going under

I have a huge amount of respect for people who wriggle around under houses all day, having already done half the job myself.

The amount of dust that falls in your face from the exposed floorboards above as you slide around on your back in the dirt is quite horrendous. Then there’s the tight spaces, the spiders and a general feeling of despondency that the job will never be finished.

The last time I emerged from under the house I was wearing heavily fogged-up anti-fog safety glasses, overalls and an orange duck-bill surgical mask. It’s a good look, provided I suck in the stomach, otherwise it loses some of its lustre.

Sucking in the stomach is a common technique for improving one’s appearance, and under normal circumstance it saves months of hard work at the gym. However, it is a short-term fix and if you do it for practical reasons, like fitting under the water pipes, and then can’t hold the pose – well, then you’re just stuck.

So, as soon as I discovered my house was in a zone that qualifies for an insulation subsidy, I was on the phone to the skinny people.

However, it still costs money, so I raided the contingency fund.

Grin and bear it

The contingency fund is a fund for dental work, but it has never been used for that. It has been used for vehicle repairs, renovations and a raft of other things.

Then, right on cue, while we were spending some of our budget on supporting the hospitality industry last weekend, I bit down on a crunchy lamb crouton and broke a tooth.

What bugs me about the dental industry is the assumption that people have thousands of dollars set aside for emergencies.

I have yet to find a dentist that lets you pay a set amount in advance each week so that when you do tangle with a crouton, or you need some major maintenance, you have enough credit to pay for it.

No doubt the Government has announced something to do with dentistry in its budget, as it had signalled about $200 million in spending during four years – that’s $10 each, per year, so not really that exciting.

I would be quite happy if there was a scheme like KiwiSaver where you could save specifically for dental work. Most people don’t need a handout for dentistry, they just need a way of spreading the cost out over their lifetime and that’s where the Government could make a meaningful difference.

Otherwise, it inevitably gets sucked into other priorities.

The upshot of all this is that I now must plan a trip to Thailand where you can get a holiday and a programme of dental work done for the same price as a trip to the dentist here.

It’s going to make my carbon footprint bigger, but I planted a hedge recently so that should balance out.

At least I’ll have something to smile about.

daniel@thesun.co,nz