Construction cost calculator: “I googled how to make the most money the fastest”

In the series Account Statements, we introduce people who tell how much they earn, what they spend their money on – and how much they put aside each month. Here reports the 28-year-old Leon Frohbaum*, who works in New Zealand as a Quantity Surveyor. My job

Occupation: I live in New Zealand and have been working for a construction company for a year and a half. My job is to manage the budget. My profession is called Quantity Surveyor. This job does not exist in Germany. The best translation I’ve found is construction cost calculator. The other day someone said to me that I was the Money Man, the guy for the money. That actually hits it pretty well.

I have been involved in the construction projects of our company from the very beginning. For example, a potential customer comes up to us and says they need a warehouse and what requirements they should meet. Someone else from the company then creates a construction plan, with the help of which I calculate how expensive the hall will be. There is a lot to consider for this. For example, I have to calculate how much material we need and estimate how much working time we need. We then pass on the budget plan to the customers. As soon as everything is approved, my work begins properly. “I have to negotiate well.” Leon Frohbaum, Quantity Surveyor

Now it’s time to commission the subcontractors – for example, window manufacturers, plumbers or electricians. I always have to think about my budget. We also want to earn money with the order, which means that I have to buy the services more cheaply than we have stipulated in the budget. I have to pay close attention to the fact that the subcontractors do not misjudge themselves in their calculations. At the same time, unforeseen things always happen that cause additional costs. In a recent project, for example, it turned out that the building floor was not stable enough. So we had to dig the soil further than budgeted to refill the hole with special gravel. That cost about 7,000 New Zealand dollars extra, the equivalent of 4,200 euros. For something like that, I need a financial buffer. So before I hire the companies, I have to negotiate well.

When I do that, I make a lot of phone calls – sometimes I have 40 to 50 conversations a day. I always try to ask directly and nicely what people can do about the price. Then I say, “Every dollar helps.” Only recently, one of the subcontractors sent me a new offer, which was incredibly much cheaper. Then I performed a small victory dance at my desk. These are great successes, something like that is one of my favorite moments! From time to time, due to a lot of paper work with contracts and invoices, my work can be very monotonous, but I like to do it.

When I started the job, sometimes it wasn’t like that. I quickly had to work very independently and was responsible for a lot of money, the projects often involve several million dollars. And I have to enter every item in the budget and also check all the invoices. At that time, I woke up at night from time to time wondering if I had forgotten something. On average, we have 30 to 40 subcontractors in a project. It is not so easy to always keep track. I talked about it with colleagues, who calmed me down, and now I am more relaxed. “Because I didn’t have a plan anymore, I decided to stay in New Zealand.” Leon Frohbaum, Quantity Surveyor

Education: After graduating from high school, I actually only wanted to go to New Zealand for half a year to do work and travel there. The plan was for me to start a dual course of study at a large electronics company in my hometown in Bavaria. In the end, everything turned out differently because I didn’t pass the online test for applicants. I was still in New Zealand at the time and had sat down in a library for the test. The internet was gone again and again and I had to enter a new internet code every 30 minutes. The test went disastrously. Because I didn’t have a plan anyway, I decided to stay in New Zealand for a few more months. Then I met my current girlfriend. It was out of the question for us that she would come to Germany with her, because she already had two children at that time. In order to stay in New Zealand and get a work visa, I started working as a chef.

When it was clear after a few years that the relationship with my girlfriend would last and that my future lay in New Zealand, I wanted to develop professionally. I then googled how to make the most money the fastest and that’s how I came up with the profession of Quantity Surveyor. It was clear to me that I could not study for long. My girlfriend and I had two children to look after. To work as a Quantity Surveyor, a kind of construction diploma is sufficient, for which you study in New Zealand only two years. Unlike in Germany, the bachelor’s degree here comes after the diploma. The diploma is therefore a preliminary stage – but already entitles to practice the profession. In order to subsequently obtain the official bachelor’s degree, you only have to study for one year. I’m doing this on the side, with the support of my company. Because I want to make some progress in the company.

When I studied full-time, I continued to work as a chef for between 30 and 35 hours a week. I had a scholarship to study, but still had to pay about 8,000 New Zealand dollars myself. During the semester break, I tried to work as much as possible – often 60 hours a week – to save money. My girlfriend was very supportive during this time. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. For us, it has always been true that the money we earn is our common money. Then as now.

Shortly before the end of my studies, I lost my job as a chef. My girlfriend was heavily pregnant with our son at the time. So I wrote applications and said: If you want to hire me, I can start tomorrow. That’s how I got my first job as a Quantity Surveyor. I still work there today. Funnily enough, it was never important to me that the job fulfilled me – I just wanted to earn money. But now I kind of like the job. I like to go to work every day.

Working hours: According to the contract, I work 40 hours a week. In real terms, it’s more like 42 or 43. Overtime is not recorded. My boss says they keep working until the work is done. That’s okay – in the end, I sometimes gossip with a colleague for half an hour. That’s part of it for me. I also finish work on time at 4.30 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday because I have to pick up my son from kindergarten at 5 p.m. Accordingly, I usually start working around 7 o’clock. On Mondays or Fridays, my girlfriend picks up our son from kindergarten. It can be that I work until 6 p.m., when deadlines are due. This is often the case on Mondays. If possible, I take an hour’s lunch break. That’s important to me. On average, there are about two hours a week for the study, but most seminars take place online or as block lessons on the weekends. My earnings

Gross: I earn 70,000 New Zealand dollars a year. This is about 42,000 euros, i.e. about 3,500 euros gross per month. I started at $60,000 in January 2021, and since then I’ve already received two salary increases – with the second raise being a so-called inflation adjustment. In addition, my employer pays me the fees for my bachelor’s degree. I assume that the salary will increase a good deal with the degree and then further and further the longer I am there. I try very hard for the company, but it is also seen and rewarded. This is important to me because my goal is to bring my mother and her partner to New Zealand when they retire in ten to 15 years. In order for them to get a visa, I have to guarantee them with my salary: an average annual salary of about $52,000 per person. Including myself, I have to earn three times as much at that time so that the two can live here, just under 156,000 dollars per year, that would be almost 95,000 euros. But that’s quite realistic in my job.

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