July’s Net Worth

It’s that time again. Time to step back and have a look at the bigger picture and see what I’m worth. In financial terms anyway. July was holiday month, which was lovely but probably not all that conducive to tightening of the old belt and keeping the finances in order. Life’s to be lived though, and to be honest we probably didn’t go all that crazy. As I put everything on the credit card and pay it off in full when the bill comes in, the holiday spending won’t really show until August’s figures in any case. So, without further ado, here’s my net worth for July, with June’s figures showing in brackets after for comparison.

Debts

Mortgage £84,843.68 (£85,539.21)

Assets

Cash £15,750.70 (£16,174.12)

Money in sharesave £12,304 (£11,804)

AVC’s £4,217.63 (£4,138.87)

Shares £27,982.60 (£32,684.43) YIKES!!!!!

House £245,000 (£245,000)

Total Assets £305,254.93 (£309,801.42)

Net Worth including house equity

£305,254.93 – £84,843.68 = £220,411.25 (£224,262.21)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£60,254.93 – £84,843.68 = -£24,588.75 (-£20,737.79)

Well that’s not gone quite as planned!

OK, so I’m going to try and take the positives from this. I’m a glass half full kind of girl, so it goes against the grain for me to be all doom and gloom. The things that I have any control over are going pretty well. Cash is very slightly down, but to be honest I’m amazed it stays relatively stable. I’ve had an expensive year, and I don’t think the cash figure has changed all that much. I’m still saving the full £500 a month in to my work’s sharesave scheme and I continue to overpay my mortgage. I know, I know, from a financial point of view it makes absolutely no sense. From a sleeping at night and feeling like I’m making progress perspective though it’s invaluable. The mortgage is coming down nicely, although more slowly than I would like. I probably need to give myself a bit more credit on that though, as I have paid off £15k in just over two years.

The rest. Well, what can I say? There’s not much to say really. Except I really hope Brexit gets sorted at some point, things settle down and the share price recovers. It reiterates what I’ve known for a long time that it’s madness to have all my shares in the company that I work for. I’m no longer reinvesting the dividends in more shares, instead I’ll put that money in index trackers. There’ll always be times when the market tanks, there’s nothing to be done about that except hold your nerve and hunker down. But I’m too vulnerable with absolutely no diversification.

My next sharesave matures in January and I’m going to take any profit and run and put the money in index trackers as fast as I can. Of course, since I’ve done my net worth figures for this month the share price is down even lower, so there might not be any profit to take if this keeps up. This is turning in to a bit of a depressing update, which is not what I want. I’m still in a pretty positive place. My Happy Path Fund is still over £60k (for now) and my mortgage is coming down nicely. I was really hoping to get mortgage neutral in the next year, but that’s looking a bit of a tricky ask now. Saying that, things often change quite quickly. As long as I keep doing my thing then I’m in a better position than I would be if I wasn’t on the road to FIRE.

Life’s good despite the state of my July Net Worth

So that’s not been the most upbeat of an update, which is a shame as I’m feeling really positive about life. That’s me finished my second week back at work after my holidays. I came back feeling really energised, full of ideas of what I wanted to change in my life and generally wanting to embrace life and make the most of opportunities that present themselves. Sometimes those sorts of feelings disappear quite quickly as the routine of working sets back in. I’m happy to report that hasn’t happened to me. Not yet anyway!

I’m remembering the good things that I like about my job and trying to focus on those, rather than getting sucked in to feeling ratty about the nonsense that goes on no matter where you work. I’m getting more sleep, which is definitely helping with my positive frame of mind. Going to bed earlier is also having the knock on effect of me getting up earlier, only five minutes after my first alarm goes off, rather than my normal twenty minutes of snoozing. I’m actually getting some things done in the morning before I go to work. And not boring domestic things. Things that are actually important to me, like doing my physio exercises for my knee and doing some Spanish studying. This is setting me up for the day nicely, as I feel that the day’s started well and the momentum keeps me going in that direction.

As I’m getting more sleep on a night time I’m no longer feeling the need to have a lunchtime sleep in my car. The knock on effects just keep on coming. So not only do I avoid coming back to my desk after a lunchtime snooze feeling all groggy, I’m even going out for a walk instead so am getting a bit of exercise and hitting the afternoon feeling all energised. I’m not saying that I never feel tired during the day, but things are definitely going in the right direction.

So I feel that my holiday has really done me some good. I’m feeling rested and refreshed. I’ve had a chance to think about some of the things that I want to change in my life. I think I’ve always known what I wanted my priorities to be, but I wasn’t always necessarily committing to doing anything about that. It’s all well and good saying something is a priority, but if you don’t build that into your day somewhere then nothing well get done about it. Now I feel that I’m addressing some of the issues that stopped me having my priorities in the right place. There’s still a long way to go, but I feel that I’m moving in the right direction.

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June Update, Goal Setting and an Epic Road Trip

The weeks and months are flying by. I’m long overdue a bit of a catch up on how I did on my June goals. I’ll not bother making excuses about why I haven’t updated how I got on or set goals for July. Suffice it to say I spent a fair chunk of July on holiday, spending time with the kids and having lots of lovely family time, rather than worrying too much about what I needed to achieve. So here’s a quick reminder on what my June goals were, along with how I did with them.

  • Get 7 hours sleep a night for at least 15 nights. PASS. I managed to do this 18 nights in June. I seem to be getting in to a bit of a better sleeping pattern. Honestly I’m still feeling quite tired most of the time, so I’m not entirely convinced seven hours a night is enough for me, but at least it’s a start.
  • Have 5 portions of fruit or veg a day for at least 15 days. PASS. Seventeen days in June I managed my five a day. I seem to be much more focussed on this now. I’m still eating a lot of rubbish, but at least I’m getting some vitamins now.
  • Do 15 days of Spanish on Duolingo. PASS. I’m going great guns on this one. I’m on a 70 day streak now and hopeful that this will just keep on going. I’ve also introduced German into the mix now which is messing with my mind. I’m definitely loving the language learning, so this is one I want to continue to plug away at.
  • Get promoted to the gold league on Duolingo. PASS. I totally smashed this one. The gold league is far away in my rear view mirror. I’ve been in the Ruby league for a good few weeks now, which is the top league.
  • Earn £100 on Matched Betting. FAIL. Oh well, it’s always good to leave something to work on for next month. Shame it was this one, but it really just wasn’t a focus for me in June. I made £43.73 profit once I’d covered the cost of my Oddsmonkey subscription. So it’s better than nothing, but it’s hardly going to get me to FIRE at this rate. I’m not too downhearted though as it seems to me that it’s quite likely matched betting will be something that I can dip in and out of as my mood and free time allows. I don’t mind spending time on it, and I am definitely still learning how to make the most of this income stream, so hopefully moving forward it is something I can improve on.

So overall not too bad a result for June. I’d kept my goals pretty basic. I realised that I needed to get the eating and sleeping stuff right to have energy for everything else that I want to do. I still wouldn’t say I’m quite where I need to be on that yet, but I’m definitely moving in the right direction.

August Goals

Now comes the tricky bit. Goal setting for August. I’ve got the Great North Run at the start of September, so I really need to start getting some miles in my legs. Unfortunately I’ve picked up another injury, so I’ve had to rest and am nowhere near where I want to be mileage wise.

My supposedly good knee gave up on me, so I was hobbling about with a decided lack of mobility. This happened right before our road trip, so the timing couldn’t have been worse. Any time I had to bend my knee I had a real problem. So stairs and changing gear were real issues. Just what you need on a road trip where you need to do all the driving! Luckily I was managing to walk about ok, and it gave me a small insight into what it must be like for people with a real disability. I was looking at the world slightly differently, searching for alternatives that wouldn’t mean me having to use stairs.

So for now I just have to be a bit careful. I’ve run through an injury before and have learned my lesson the hard way that continuing to run only extends your recovery time. So I’m being good and have rested and am now building the miles back up very gradually. I really need to make sure I do my physio exercises. They’re so boring, but so necessary. I have a race towards the end of August and two half marathons in September, so fingers crossed that I’m fit enough by then. It’s so frustrating that I had only just done my first long run training for the Great North Run when I got injured. But such is life. I maybe need to get myself a back-up hobby in case this body of mine doesn’t hold up to the rigours of running indefinitely.

So goal wise for August things are going to revolve around health and running.

  • Lose half a stone. This will help with my running no end, and it’s something I want to get really serious about.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep 2 nights a week and 7 hours a night 3 nights a week. The other 2 nights I’m not too worried about. I’ve got loads of sleep whilst I’ve been on holiday, and I’m definitely feeling better for it. This will be a tough one for me once I get back to work, but I really need to keep to this.
  • Do my physio exercises 5 days a week. This one is vital, so I need to stick to it.
  • Do cross training once a week – swimming, yoga or walking. This one should hopefully be ok to achieve, I just need to find a slot for it in my schedule.
  • Decide on where I’m going to put my dividend money when it gets paid next month. I’ve stopped them being automatically reinvested, and instead am going to put them in to index trackers. I just need to figure out the specifics on this.

So I think that’s probably enough to be working on. There’s no reason why I can’t achieve these. I’ve piled the weight on over the holidays, so I need to do something about that pronto. It’s got to the point where I can’t ignore it anymore. There are other things I’ll continue to work on, such as studying Spanish, but that’s pretty much a habit I’ve got established now, so doesn’t need too much thinking about. I’ll keep plugging away at the Matched Betting. July was a bit better for that, but I’m not too concerned about setting a specific goal around that. I’m happy to do as much as my free time dictates and that I have the inclination for.

Holidays are the Best

It’s been great being on holiday. I had a week off where the kids were away and I was just home alone. That gave me plenty of reflection time, which is always useful. The road trip around England and Wales was a lot of fun. We returned to places that we’d enjoyed before, and put some new places in the mix too. We had a chance for some culture, seeing Hamlet in a pop up theatre in York and some more Shakespeare in Stratford upon Avon. The weather was great too, which always helps. I even managed to fit in a catch up with a friend who lives down south.

I couldn’t help thinking whilst I was away that this could be how my life will look like once I reach FIRE. Taking time to visit places, see old friends, make time for some studying and generally just enjoying life. Saying that, I was glad to get home and sleep in my own bed again. I’m not sure I’d necessarily be wanting to travel all the time. Maybe slow travel would work for me so I had a chance to settle in to a place. As we were staying in budget hotels we didn’t have any cooking facilities, so we had to eat out a fair bit. I have to say it’s nice to be back to home cooked meals again, although we did have a couple of cracking meals out.

Time to Ponder

Being away definitely gave me time to think about changes that I want to make in my life. I’ve not really come to any definite conclusions, but I’m pretty sure I want to rejig things a little bit. I feel like I’m in a bit of a rut, and I need to mix things up a bit. I did that thing last year where you say yes to everything (within reason, I wouldn’t be doing anything illegal or morally ambiguous) and that worked pretty well for me. I think I’ll instigate that again. I’ve already started to say yes to some fun things. I’m going to see a couple of things at the festival. It’s ridiculous how close I live to Edinburgh and how little I take advantage of the fringe being on. I’m climbing a Munro next weekend too, which looks like a good (If quite long and tiring) day out.

So hopefully I’ll start to have a bit more fun in my life. I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the amount of experiences that we managed to have on our road trip without spending a fortune. We visited York, Cardiff, Stratford and Sheffield. We shared a family room which kept the costs down, but we also ate out every day. We had a couple of theatre visits and a live streaming of a concert at a lovely Picture House in Stratford. There were also plenty of free things on offer. So we walked the city walls in York, went to the (free and excellent) National Museum in Cardiff, saw some outdoor improvised Shakespeare, did some geocaching in Cardiff, with a phenomenal multi-cache that took us a return visit the next day to finish off and had  some lovely walks in Stratford.

I’m not Broke Yet

Despite the expense of the trip, the budgets are all still balancing, and the finances look ok. So maybe it’s time to loosen the purse strings just a little bit. It’s been lovely having some new experiences, and there’s no reason why that can’t continue now that we’re back home. I’m well and truly coming to the conclusion that you’re a long time dead, and you have to make the most of your time on this earth. I’m clearly a slow learner, as you’d have thought I’d have figured this out by now.

I’m also continuing to explore side hustles, trying to bring extra income in to my life to get me ever closer to my FIRE goal. I feel that I just need to open my mind a bit more to the possibilities that are out there. I guess that’s the good thing about going away and distancing yourself from your normal life. It really gives you the chance to examine your life and think about how differently you could have it set up. I honestly think that a portfolio career is the way to go. Not being too dependent on any one source of income has got to be a sound philosophy. If work goes belly up then you’ve got other income streams that could pick up the slack. I’m definitely nowhere near there yet, but my dividends are starting to grow, my Matched Betting is bringing a bit in (with the possibility of more I’m sure) and my mind is swirling with thoughts of what else I could do.

So all in all going away has been a really positive experience. We’ve had some lovely family time, it’s given me a chance to catch up on some sleep and most importantly it’s given me the space and time to start to see the possibilities that are all around me. As ever the challenge is going to be to keep the momentum going once I get back to work and the holiday is over.

Not So Glorious June Net Worth

It’s that fun time of the month again when I get to tot my figures up, see how my finances are doing and stare wistfully at a spreadsheet willing the figures to look as though I’m closer to FIRE than I actually am. I include my net worth with my house equity in the mix, even though realistically I’m always going to need a place to say, so it’s not like I can really put all of that towards my dream of a new life. Saying that, I’m now definitely at the point where if I was so inclined I could sell up and buy a perfectly nice house outright. I’m not so inclined at the moment, but never say never.

 I also include my net worth excluding the house equity, but including my mortgage. This is really so that I can track how I’m doing in my quest to become mortgage neutral. In my last house I got to the point where I could theoretically have liquidated my assets and paid off my mortgage. Sadly in my new house that is no longer the case. I’m working on it though. I reckon at some point next year I’ll hit that point again. This is a real biggie for me. I’m not sure why it bothers me so much, I just know that I like to be able to clear the mortgage if I want to. Clearly selling everything I have isn’t a route I’d be wanting to go down, but from a psychological point of view getting to that stage is important to me.

I’ve put last month’s figures in brackets so that I can see my progress or not as the case may be. I did my figures a week or so later than normal this month, which meant that my mortgage payment had gone out, which isn’t normally the case. I’m going to try and stick with this slightly later date for calculating my net worth moving forward, but for this month it makes the improvement in my mortgage balance look slightly more impressive than it actually is as it includes two months’ worth of payments.

Debts

Mortgage £85,539.21 (£87,050.51)

Assets

Cash £16,174.12 (£16,728.33)

Money in sharesave £11,804 (£11,304)

AVC’s £4,138.87 (£3,987.82)

Shares £32,684.43 (£32,759.19)

House £245,000 (£245,000)

Total Assets £309,801.42 (£309,779.34)

Net Worth including house equity

£309,801.42 – £85,539.21 = £224,262.21 (£222,728.83)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£64,801.42 – £85,539.21 = -£20,737.79 (-£22,271.17)

June’s Net Worth

So I’m really liking having last month’s figures there to see as it makes the whole comparison thing a whole lot easier. As I said, there’s two mortgage payments come off since I did last month’s figures, but also I made an additional overpayment of £220 from matched betting profits. I think this is going to be a bit of a balancing act of having enough cash to take advantage of matched betting offers that come along whilst not having more cash in the bank than I need to. It felt important to put my first lot of matched betting profit into an extra mortgage payment to motivate me to keep going with it. I have to say that it was a lovely feeling transferring that money and seeing my balance come down.

What’s interesting is that it feels like I’ve had a lot of expenses recently. We were away to Alton Towers with the cost of the hotel, passes and eating out to pay for. We’ve also had a few more meals out closer to home, as I was starting to feel that we weren’t doing a lot as a family. Time together definitely doesn’t need to involve spending money, but sometimes it’s nice to go and have a night out and not worry about spending a bit of extra cash. So I was a bit concerned about what the impact would be on the old finances, but actually looking at my figures it’s not looking too bad.

I’m managing to continue to overpay the mortgage, pay the maximum in to my work share save scheme, put some money into AVC’s, pay my credit card in full each month and avoid any non- mortgage debt.  Mind you I do have another doosey of a credit card bill getting paid this month and a family holiday at the end of the month which will involve plenty of petrol, eating out and generally spending money on holiday stuff. I’m going to try not to worry too much about the money side of things and focus on having a lovely time as a family. With a bit of luck the books will continue to balance and the general direction will be downwards for the mortgage and upwards for the net worth.

What’s quite nice to see in a way is that practically everything has gone down in value. I know that doesn’t sound like a good thing, but stick with me on this.  I have a wee bit less cash in my account and my shares are worth less.  On the face of it this doesn’t sound like a great thing (it really isn’t!) and yet despite this I’m closer to being mortgage neutral and my Happy Path fund at £64,801.42 is very slightly up on last month. (Although not as high as it was in April – but we’ll not mention that!) So the positives that I’m trying to take from this are that even if the markets don’t behave for me, which let’s be honest they aren’t always going to, then as long as I keep plugging away paying off the mortgage and investing then I’m going to continue to move in the right direction.

Trying Out A Post FIRE Life

I’ve had a nice little insight this week into what my post FIRE life might look like. I had a week’s holiday from work and the kids were away staying with my folks. So I had the week in the house on my own without needing to go to work. I had a lovely time to myself, pottering around and generally feeling very relaxed. I had a little bit of social interaction with a night at running club and a trip out to the cinema with friends. Apart from that though I was flying solo.

I’ve always known that I like my own company, but this week has really reinforced for me how much I crave time on my own. The kids were home for one night before they went off for two weeks with their dad. We really made the most of that one night, getting a carry out and having lots of fun with a games night in the house. We really appreciated the time that we had together, and the night was lots of fun. The rest of the week though I spent time Matched Betting, working away at my Spanish course and starting to learn a little bit of German. I had a massive long list of things that I wanted to get done. I got some things done, but not as much as I hoped. As always time just got away from me. Saying that I don’t feel like I wasted any time, rather that I just spent a bit more time than I had planned on Duolingo working away at my Spanish and German courses. It also made me realise how long things take to get done. It’s no wonder that my To Do list never gets finished when I’m trying to fit things around working full time.

So I was busy all week with a lovely mixture of things. I thought I would get out for some walks, but that didn’t happen. I also didn’t feel the slightest need to get the decorating done that I had planned. Oh well, maybe next time. The point is though that I also didn’t feel the need to sit around mindlessly watching the telly. I was busy all the time, but not in a rushed way. I had the luxury of taking my time and allowing my day to unfold naturally. I also treat myself to one episode a day re-watching Peaky Blinders in preparation of the new series starting next month. So I think this has shown me that once I reach FIRE I’ll not be short of ways to amuse myself.

Yet Another Mid Life Crisis?

Having lots of free time to think has also allowed me to consider my life and changes that I want to make. I’m hitting the bit 5-0 next year, and it’s making me take stock of my life and consider if I’m really happy. I feel that I’ve got lots of the basics right. My family life is great, if sometimes a bit chaotic. I’ve got some great friends and a lovely extended family. I’ve not got a significant other, but I’m used to that and I’m not entirely sure I’m all that fussed about doing anything about that. My running is a huge thing in my life. I love the social aspect of it, and I’ve met some great friends through this hobby. It’s one of the things that makes me really happy, and as long as I manage to stay injury free I’m hoping to keep doing this until I’m on my last legs.

The one part of my life that I’ve never really got sorted is work. Whilst I have an alright job that pays the bills ok, I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m passionate about it. I’m going through a spell just now where I absolutely hate it. I’m not sure this is particularly about the job itself, as that hasn’t changed significantly, but more about my frame of mind. I feel as though I’m counting down until I can pack in my job, and this is not exactly the most positive way to live your life. Whilst I am committed to reaching FIRE, I think there must be a way to balance this with enjoying your job and making the most of opportunities that come your way.

I had a really strong urge the other day to hand my notice in. I was at the cinema watching Yesterday (great film by the way) and it was all about a person following their dreams. As the film finished this feeling just came over me that I should quit my job. I felt very calm about it, but also convinced that it was what I wanted to do. Luckily?? I managed to talk myself down. As I don’t have a clearly defined dream that I want to follow, I would be quitting without an alternative plan in place. It would somewhat force my hand though and mean that I would have to make some decisions about how I wanted my life to go.

Now clearly from my Net Worth figures above, leaving work would not be a smart move. I’ve got a base rate mortgage through work, I’m saving into Share Save schemes and I have a pension that I could do with some more years of service to increase the value for when I do pull the plug on work. I do have an exit plan. Kind of. Admittedly it’s not exactly imminent, but it’s more defined that it was before I discovered FIRE. Now saying that, I do have emergency money, so I am definitely in a position to be able to walk in on Monday and hand over my resignation letter. I would be able to live for quite a while off my emergency fund before I’d start running into problems. Of course if I do that then if there is an actual emergency then I would have spent my contingency money.

I’ve come up with an embryo of a plan. I figure that if something as innocuous as going to the cinema can lead to a total revaluation of my life and make me want to pack it all in and move to a hippy commune (well maybe nothing quite that extreme, but definitely have me questioning my life choices thus far and thinking seriously about shaking things up), then it’s quite likely that I need to implement some changes in my life.

So I’ve had a bit of a look at my pension forecasts and been pleasantly surprised. I already knew that if I retire at 60 I can either get £10K a year or £7K a year and a £50K lump sum. I requested a calculation for leaving at 55 and I can either get £6,900 a year or £6,100 and a £40K lump sum. I’ll turn 55 in six years’ time. So that’s leaves me six years to get my mortgage small enough to be able to be cleared by the lump sum. Six years to establish enough extra income from something that doesn’t involve being in an office seven hours a day and with all the nonsense that goes along with that. Six years to build my investments sufficiently to give me enough extra to pay my bills and allow me to have a good life.

Six years is a good period of time. It’s long enough for me to do any training that I need to avail myself of. Time for me to establish a business, buy a property, increase my investments……………….. Basically enough time for me to design the life that I want and work out how I’m going to pay for it. The challenge is going to be to actually do something about this. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day grind and not implement the changes that you need to make to improve your situation. I need to just get on with it. Action conquers fear as they say.

I May Be Worth Less Than I Was Last Month

So this is the first month since I started properly recording my figures that I’m worse off than I was the month before. I might as well get used to this, as I don’t imagine market volatility is going to disappear any time soon. I’ve used a higher Zoopla based house value for the first time this month. I’m not quite sure how good I feel about that, but I guess just keep using my purchase price from two years ago isn’t much better. The higher house value figure has bumped up my total assets figure from the month before.  For the net worth excluding the house equity, which is the one that really matters to me, I’m down. I need to learn to deal with that though, and see it as an opportunity to buy shares at a lower price.  I’m working on that state of mind, but I wouldn’t say I’m quite there yet.

Debts

Mortgage £87,050.51

Assets

Cash £16,728.33

Money in sharesave £11,304

AVC’s £3,987.82

Shares £32,759.19

House £245,000

Total Assets £309,779.34

Net Worth including house equity

£309,779.34 – £87,050.51 = £222,728.83

Net Worth excluding house equity

£64,779.34 – £87,050.51 = -£22,271.17

So despite things not going in the right direction, I still have almost £65K in my Happy Path fund. I’m actually pretty happy with that. I’ve decided to start trying to appreciate what I’ve already achieved, rather than looking mournfully at my spreadsheets thinking about how long I’ve still got to go till I achieve my freedom. In terms of other people’s figures mine look pretty pitiful. But I’ve never really been one for comparing myself to other people. This is my journey that I’m on. It’s never going to look exactly (or even much at all) like other peoples.

I started late and with not all that much income coming in, so it was always going to be a bit of a struggle for me. When I think back to fourteen years ago when I was newly divorced and moving in to a new house with a two and a four year old, I think I’d be pretty happy with the point that I’ve now reached. I was working part time, only earning about £17K a year and had just taken out a £100K mortgage. I had childcare to pay for, and quite frankly I don’t know how I balanced the books and made it all work. I did though.

I’ve come a long way since then. I’m now working full time and bringing in a bigger salary. I’ve been able to buy a bigger house thanks to overpaying my last mortgage and maxing out my work sharesave schemes. Quite frankly there was never a lot of cash to splash around, and I just kept that same money philosophy when I got a better job. We have our Alton Towers trips away now and the odd meal out, but apart from that our spending hasn’t changed all that much.

At work I’m in the same office as the old department that I used to work in. When I start early in the morning it’s really quiet in there and I can hear the phone calls that I used to have to take. Short servicing calls that suck the life out of your soul. I moan about my job from time to time, but when I hear those colleagues taking those calls and having to deal with those mundane enquiries I count my blessings. I used to be counting down until it was time for my next break. Sometimes I would have to put a post it over the clock to stop me checking it every few minutes. Now don’t get me wrong, I needed that job and the hours that I was able to work to allow me to fit in with my childcare. But honestly it nearly finished me off. I could not go back to that. Luckily, unless something goes badly wrong, I won’t have to.

Now saying that, there are a few people in that department that really seem to love their job. They mostly seem to be slightly older people, probably in their sixties I would think. They seem to get a real kick out of talking to customers. They’ve all been there a long time, but they don’t seem to have got jaded at all. I sometimes try and figure out what their secret is. It’s funny how two people can do the exact same job but experience it completely differently. I guess that’s down to your attitude. I know when I come in to work feeling stressed and not wanting to be there then I have a totally different day to when I come in with my positive head on. It really is all about your mental attitude.

The people I’m thinking about who love their job seem to work part time, so maybe that’s the secret. I know one of them is a carer for his disabled wife, so it may be that work is a change for him and a chance to get out of the house. For the most part I get the impression that work is something they enjoy doing, rather than something they have to do. I might be wrong, but maybe they have FU money.

In my department we’ve had a couple of departures recently. They’re doing shift reviews at the moment to try and standardise our working hours. We’re open till 8.00pm – but quite a few of us are on fixed day time shifts. They’ve now said that everybody will have to do at least 1 week out of 8 with an 8.00 finish. I can live with that, so I’ve agreed to the change. Apparently not everyone felt so accommodating. Within about a week of news coming out about these changes then two people had put their notice in. One of them had managed to find another job to go to, but the other just quit with no back up plan. I know he has plenty of investments stashed away. He’s a pretty private guy, but from what I know about his past I’m pretty sure he’s financially independent or at the very least well on the way. It was great to see FIRE in action.

They’re recruiting for new staff as we’re expanding. We’re bursting at the seams already, so there really is nowhere for any new people to sit. We already hot desk, but they literally have no room for any more bodies. So they are offering home working. We would need to work from home 4 days out of 5. I initially thought this would be great, but on reflection I don’t think it would be good for me. I think I would miss the social interaction. I think I would get a lot more done, but I would miss the banter. I only have a 15 minute each way commute, so that’s not a big deal for me. All the benefits that people talk about for working from home don’t really seem to apply to my job. As I take inbound calls I need to be logged on and all the stats are monitored, so there’s no just popping to the shops to get milk. I’m struggling to think of any big benefits to me in the job that I do.

I’m not sure if I’m just being naïve, but I thought that there would be some expenses covered for home working. The business needs people to work from home as they would have to get another building if we didn’t take them up on this. Now I get that some people would be delighted to work from home, and if you have a long commute then you’re quids in, but at the same time it’s definitely a plus for the company too. So they’re going to provide a laptop, keyboard and mouse. They’ll also put a privacy screen in so that customers can’t tell that you’re at home when you’re doing a video interview with them. Apart from that though we’ve to cover everything else. So we just use our own broadband and pay for electricity and heating. We even have to provide our own desk and chair. Now I don’t imagine I’d be using that much extra electricity, but working at home in Scotland in the winter I would definitely need my heating on all day, and that’s going to get expensive. Is this normal? Or would companies normally compensate you for your increased expenses?

Anyway, either way I don’t think I’m going to put in for it. Especially as I don’t have a partner I think the social part of work is particularly important to me. Which is now making me worry about FIRE. If I don’t think I am going to be able to cope with the social isolation of working for home then how the hell am I going to cope with no work at all? I suppose I won’t be tethered to the house in the same way that I would be if I was working.

I think the key when I do finally pull the plug on working is to make sure I get out of the house enough. I have hermit like tendencies, and have to be dragged kicking and screaming out in to the real world sometimes. I enjoy it when I’m out, and I most definitely need the social interaction, but I don’t always have the inclination to go out and be social. At least I have my running clubs now, which give me a much needed social structure. I just have to hope I don’t get injured, as so much of my socialising revolves around running.

One of the managers was saying that she thought home working would suit me down the ground, and she also said that she thought I’d never retire as I would never want to stop working. My immediate thought was that she’d got me all wrong, but the more I thought about it the more sense it made from her perspective. I can’t be bothered with all the office politics and just want to get on with the job in hand. From that point of view home working would be perfect.

As far as never retiring is concerned, that’s definitely not right, but I know where she’s coming from. Although I want to stop working, I don’t want to sit about the house watching telly and painting my nails. I need to have a purpose to my life and feel that I’m achieving my goals. But those goals don’t need to be provided through the structure of work. I already set myself goals that have absolutely nothing to do with my working life, and that won’t change come FIRE. In fact it just means that I’ll have all the more time to work towards ever more stretching goals.

I’ve already started looking at Open University courses that look really interesting. I always fancied doing a modern languages degree, and FIRE would give me the time and mental energy to work on something like that. I’m already working on improving my Spanish skills, and think I might add German in to the mix at some point. I’m not sure languages are necessarily a natural fit for me, as I find them quite difficult, but I do enjoy the learning process and I enjoy the fact that they have such practical applications. That’s definitely something for me to think about.

So I think now is the time for me to start designing what I want my ideal post FIRE life to look like. My son was saying to me the other day that I shouldn’t wait for FIRE to do all the things that I want to with my life. “You might never reach FIRE mum”. He’s absolutely right. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, and finding what you’re passionate about now means that come FIRE time you’ve got those interests in place and the time to spend on them.

Update on May Goals

I’ve been somewhat dreading writing this post. I think it’s fair to say that yet again things haven’t gone quite according to plan. I’m sure there have been some successes this month, but I’m struggling to think of many of them just now. Sometimes though you have to adapt to what’s going on in your life. Inevitably life throws up some challenges, and things that you thought were going to be a priority for the month end up being relegated to not even getting a look in whilst other things absolutely have to move up the pecking order. May has definitely been a month like that for me.

This month it’s become apparent that things have gone slightly awry in family life. For reasons that I won’t go into it’s been much more important than usual that I spend time with the kids. It’s not that this isn’t usually important, but with two teenagers there’s a lot of shut doors and catching them when they’re in the mood for talking rather than just snarling at you. I’ve now allocated an hour a night with one of the kids where we go out for a walk, get some exercise and have a chance to touch base. It’s working well, but with a busy life already some things have had to give to allow time for this.  Of course this now means that I’m feeling guilty (not usually something I believe in) for not spending this same sort of time with the other teenager. I really could do with a good few extra hours in the day.

On the plus side I’m remembering how much I love to walk. When I got back into my running a few years ago I pretty much stopped walking as I felt like I’d had my exercise already. I had forgotten how good walking is for letting you think about things and make plans. Running is great for clearing your mind, but quite frankly when I’m running I’m too busy thinking about how much my body hurts to do any life planning. I always thought that when I reached FIRE I’d spend much more time walking and exploring my local area. Apparently you don’t need to be retired before you do that. Who knew! I’m also finding that as walking is becoming a much more regular thing for me I am using the car a bit less, as I’m walking rather than taking the car on shorter journeys.

So anyway, enough of the excuses. Let’s get down to the serious business of letting you know how I’ve done against my May goals. Here’s a quick reminder of what they were.

Get my local park run time down to 25.50 which would be a PB. FAIL. I came fairly close to this one. I only did my local parkrun once this month, as for the other Saturday where I wasn’t working I was away so did a bit of parkrun tourism. So I managed to get down to 26.10 for my local parkrun, which I was really pleased with, but I didn’t quite have enough to give to get a PB. Not a bad effort though, and shows that I’m getting closer to that elusive PB.

Get my weight down to ten and a half stone, and keep it there till the end of the month. FAIL. Well theoretically I can’t actually say if this was a pass or a fail as I didn’t get on the scales the whole month. I think that probably tells you all you need to know about the rubbish I was/am eating. I’m so annoyed with myself, but quite frankly other things were more important this month. And food is always a comfort thing for me, so I’ve been indulging myself.

Start using my fruit and veg tracker again and have at least five fruit and veg portions a day for at least 20 days out of the month. FAIL. See above. Unless chocolate has suddenly become one of my five a day then there was no point in me using my fruit and veg tracker. This I think I can fix fairly easily. I have lots of good food habits along with my bad ones, so it shouldn’t take too much of a shift in focus to get back to eating five a day.

Get at least seven hours sleep a night during May. FAIL. Bit of a common theme here. I’ve been trying to carve a bit of the day out just for myself, and unfortunately the only time for that was late at night. I’m exhausted all the time, so I really need to fix this pronto.

Continue Matched Betting and make £200 profit by the end of May. PASS. Finally one that I’ve achieved. I’ve made back the money that I lost by messing up my first bet, I’ve covered two month’s worth of Oddsmonkey subscriptions and had a clear profit of £212.76. I got myself in to a nice little habit of coming home from work and going straight on the laptop for a bit of matched betting. The challenge is going to be keeping this going as I move on to the reload offers.

Read at least two books. PASS. I read two Laurie Lee books and a biography of his life.

So I could be generous and say that I had mixed results, but realistically it was pretty disastrous. Saying that, you have to be able to be flexible in life and react to changes in your life. I suppose I could say that as this is a FIRE blog then the one real money related goal I had was a pass. I’m really pleased with getting going with the Matched Betting, and just need to keep the momentum going on that.

I really need to start looking after myself a bit more. I’m not going to worry about my weight for a bit and instead focus on reintroducing some healthy habits back into my life. So sleep and healthy foods are what I’m going to try and bring back into my life. I’m not going to worry too much about the rubbish that I’m still eating at this stage. I can work on that later, but for now sleep and healthy food alongside the rubbish is the way forward.

I’m also getting back into Spanish after a very long break. I’m using Duolingo and am absolutely loving it. The competitive format really suits me, with points being awarded, league tables and challenges. So I want to keep working on this and progress through the different levels, so I’m going to incorporate this into one of my goals.

So for June I’m going to try and keep things simple.

  • Get 7 hours sleep a night for at least 15 nights. This should be realistic. I’ve made a good start to the month, so let’s hope I can keep this going.
  • Have 5 portions of fruit or veg a day for at least 15 days. I’ve started using my tracker again, so that is focussing my mind. I was being so good at this earlier in the year I don’t understand how it all went wrong, but this should be a really easy one for me to crack.
  • Do 15 days of Spanish on Duolingo. I’m on a 14 day streak since I started, so really I want to keep doing it every day, but I’m going to keep this easy and if I do more then that’s  all to the good.
  • Get promoted to the gold league on Duolingo. The top 15 in each league get promoted at the end of every week. You basically just have to put the time in to get the points. This should be easy enough, but again it will depend on how much time I have available to dedicate to it.  
  • Earn £100 on Matched Betting. This seems like a bit of a backward one as I earned £200 last month. But I’ve worked my way through a lot of the relatively lucrative introductory offers, so I’m on to the reload offers now. I’m not sure how time consuming it will be to make much from these, so I’m setting the bar fairly low in the hopes that I can surpass it.

I think that’s enough for June. I’m not putting any running ones in there this time. There’s three months till my next half marathon so I need to start upping the mileage a bit rather than worrying too much about fast times. My knees are a bit niggly too, so I’m going to try and concentrate on staying injury free. There’s lots of other things that I want to be working on, but I need to be realistic. There’s no point setting myself unrealistic goals and getting discouraged when I fail to achieve them. I’m going back to basics and then I’ll build from there.

The same goes for what I’m able to achieve in my time off. I was out walking and talking to one of the kids about the things I had on my To Do list for over the weekend. He asked me if I didn’t think I was maybe being a bit ambitious about the things that I could get done, and that it would actually discourage me from starting anything. He was absolutely right. Now the things on my To Do list all needed doing, but that didn’t mean that I had time to do them all. So I moved some things in my phone calendar to my next day off to stop myself feeling quite so overwhelmed. When I review my weekend I can see that I did get quite a lot done. So the things I completed were

  • Cleaned the bathrooms
  • Had two hour long walks
  • Messaged my friend to support her with man trouble
  • Volunteered at parkrun and had a great time cheering people on as a marshal
  • Did my money – checking transactions on my statement and making sure my budgets all balanced
  • Did some matched betting
  • Sorted out my paperwork – chucking out a whole load that wasn’t needed and filing what I had to keep
  • Cleared out my emails and moved them in to the relevant folders
  • Listened to two podcasts
  • Renewed my running club membership
  • Went on a 7 mile run with friends
  • Watched 2 episodes of Gogglebox (I gave this up a few months ago as I felt I could make better use of my time. Turns out the amount that it makes me laugh makes it a really valuable way to spend my time, so I’ve reintroduced it)
  • Renewed my working tax credits claim
  • Phoned my best friend
  • Cut the grass
  • Did the washing
  • Fixed my wirly gig so I could hang out my washing
  • Made a delicious lasagne
  • Did a few hours Spanish on Duolingo
  • Wrote a blog post

Some of the many things I didn’t get done

  • Phone my sister to find out about the date she was going on
  • Research activities for our summer road trip
  • Do as much matched betting as I’d hoped to
  • Go geocaching with the kids
  • Go swimming
  • Play a game with the kids
  • Watch Gentleman Jack (This will have to be watched on the iplayer as it’s far too good to miss)

So looking at my list it’s actually amazing how much I did get done, but I feel like I’ve been really unproductive. So maybe I need to stop beating myself up so much and give myself some credit for what I do achieve. I like to feel like I’m making progress towards achieving my ambitions, but this can lead to feeling that you can never just relax. Life shouldn’t always be about doing, but also about just being present and enjoying the moment. That’s definitely something for me to work on. Maybe I should set myself a goal around that!

Thrills And Spills

I’m writing this in a budget hotel 15 minutes away from Alton Towers. We’re here for our annual trip that has somehow turned in to a twice a year extravaganza. Well, when it’s the same price to go for two days as it is for the whole season it would be rude not to take advantage. They’ve totally suckered us in with their marketing ploy, but I’m glad to make use of it, even if it does mean a couple of long trips down south. Once your kids get to be teenagers you have to make the most of things that they still want to do with you, and Alton Towers still comes in to that category thank goodness.

Saying that, this trip is most definitely done with a budget in mind. No rip off Alton Towers hotel for us. Let’s be honest, it’s all about the rollercoasters, so by the end of the day we’re totally exhausted and don’t really care where we rest our heads. So every year we book a family room in the same cheap hotel, visit the nearby Aldi to stock up on snacks and have a grand old time together. There’s no avoiding the petrol costs – Scotland to Derbyshire is not the shortest trip in the world. On the way down we fit in a stopover with my folks to break the journey and have a bit of a catch up, so at least the petrol cost is split between seeing the folks and a family trip away. And on the way home we always stop at Tebay – “the service station with the ducks”. This not only gives me as the only driver a break, but gives us a chance to stock up on Kendal mint cake. Another vital family tradition.

I’ve never been the bravest when it comes to height and speed, so a theme park isn’t a natural fit for me. I’ve always managed the majority of the rollercoasters, although partly so the kids didn’t have to go on unaccompanied. I’m finding though that with each trip I’m going on less and less. I just don’t seem to have the same wish to spend the day feeling terrified. I’m not sure if it’s an age thing, but I’m definitely turning into a bit of a baby. Luckily the kids are happy to go on the bigger rides without me, and they’ll keep me company on the tamer coasters.

I sometimes worry that this is a bit of a theme with me getting more cautious about things the older I get. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I would have thought at not quite 50 I should still be in the bold phase of my life. For that matter I’d like to always be courageous with my choices, but I am a bit of a worrier, and I definitely have a tendency to overthink things. I’m sure when I was younger I worried less and was much more inclined to just go with the flow. When there was something I wanted I figured out how to make it happen and just went for it. Nowadays I think I’m much more likely to consider the negatives. Partly it’s to do with having more to lose I think.

When I was in my early twenties I wanted to move to Spain. I didn’t own a house, I had nobody dependant on me and I was free to do what I wanted. So I hatched a plan and got a job in Spain. Nowadays I don’t think I would be as likely to throw caution to the wind. I’d be thinking about what I would be giving up in terms of my benefits at work and what could go wrong. I was quite sensible and I lined up a job before I moved to Spain, but that ended up falling through at the last minute after I’d given notice on my UK job. So I moved to Spain anyway and found a job out there in a completely different part of Spain to where I’d planned. It was a bit nerve racking landing in Spain with no job or place to live, but it tuned out just great.

Now saying that, I’d been working for BT for two years at the time. I gave up a pension with them and the chance to work my way up a large company. I ended up working for them when I came back from Spain a year later, but by that stage they were no longer recruiting for permanent contracts. So I ended up working through an agency. So I no longer got a pension, share save options, sick pay etc etc. So my work situation sucked for a while. But would I have given up my year in Spain? Not in a million years.

 Of course nowadays I have two kids who rely on me to bring home the bacon. The whole single parent thing really makes you conscious that the choices you make can have a major impact on the people who depend on you. Maybe that’s a bit of an excuse though, as honestly I’ve got us in a great position as far as the finances are concerned. I might still have a fair way to go towards FIRE, but I know I could weather a good few financial storms if I needed to.

So maybe what I need to start doing is being a bit braver in the small things in life and then expand that out so that I am being much more courageous when it comes to the bigger picture. I only learned to drive when I was 30 and I wouldn’t say I was a particularly confident driver. I quite like pootling about when I know where I’m going and I have the radio blasting out some good music. Long journeys for a long time filled me with dread. I love being a passenger, but doing the driving was something that I was really scared about. The first time we drove to Alton Towers I was a nervous wreck. When I drove down the other day I really enjoyed the journey. I was chatting away to the kids and the journey flew by. So I guess doing the journey quite a few times over the last few years has got me a bit more comfortable with motorway driving and made me realise that I can follow instructions from my phone about which way to go, and if we do get a wee bit lost and take the slightly scenic route it’s really not the end of the world.

So I figure that I need to do some things that take me out of my comfort zone, and that way I’ll worry less and get used to having new experiences. The thing is that I always feel amazing when I’ve done new things, like I could take on the world. So I need to work on expanding my comfort zone and making myself do things that scare me. Last year was great for that sort of thing for me, with lots going on at work that were outside my usual skill set. I felt really alive and engaged, and when things went back to its normal monotony it was quite difficult to deal with.

At the moment though I seem to be finding change really difficult. I am resisting even the smallest change, and I’m not really sure why. So I think I need to buck up my ideas a bit, realise that not only is change inevitable, but that it’s often a good thing that should be welcomed. I can’t expect or even want things to carry on in the same old way forever. Change just for change’s sake is not great, and I think this is sometimes why I’m so resistant, particularly in a work context. I think maybe though it’s time to shake things up a bit and to see what happens when I stretch myself and look to make some changes.

So I’ll have a bit of a think about how I can challenge myself. After all we only get one shot at this life. I can’t ask for my money back because I didn’t make the most of things. It’s scary to think about how fast time has gone. It really doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was graduating from university, but that was more than a quarter of a century ago. If I’m not careful then life will have passed me by and I’ll be left with regrets about the things that I haven’t done with my life. I don’t think that’s to do with spending money necessarily. Sometimes you need to splash a bit of cash to enjoy experiences that you can have fun looking back on when you’re in the nursing home.

Mostly though it’s about spending your time doing things that you love with the most important people in your life. But it’s also sometimes about doing things that seem difficult at the time. Having an easy life and avoiding discomfort can seem like a great way to organise your life, but in the long run it can be a bit dull and lead to dissatisfaction. Being out of your comfort zone is how you grow, and at the end of the day that’s really what life is all about.

Net Worth For April

Yet again I did my net worth figures really early and then did absolutely nothing about getting them out in the world. I get really excited when pay day comes around in terms of what that will do to my figures, and want to work my net worth out before my credit card bill gets cleared in full. It’s ridiculous really as in the grand scheme of things it all evens itself out. Maybe when I come to do May’s figures I’ll wait until May is actually done and dusted and then get the figures out quickly. Maybe! So without further ado, here’s my numbers for April.

Debts

Mortgage £87,696.45

Assets

Cash £17,028.49

Money in sharesave £10,804

AVC’s £3,937.57

Shares £35,360.54

House £228,000

Total Assets £295,130.60

Net Worth including house equity

£295,130.60 – £87,696.45 = £207,434.15

Net Worth excluding house equity

£67,130.60 – £87,696.45 = -£20,565.85

A few things have occurred to me about my net worth figures. The first is that I just use the price that I paid for the house as the house value. A quick look at Zoopla shows that actually they say it’s worth £245k instead of the £228k figure that I’m using. Now I could change that, adjusting it each month depending on what Zoopla has to say. Here in Scotland house prices seem to be relatively stable (well outside of Edinburgh and other major hot spots), so the Zoopla figure might not jump around all that much. Saying that, I’ve not intention of moving any time soon, and I don’t really give too much credence to my net worth figure including the house equity, as unless I sell up and buy somewhere much smaller then as an asset it’s not all that much use. As a lovely home to bring my kids up in though it’s invaluable. I’ll see what Zoopla say next month when I come to do my figures. If the value has stayed the same I might just use the higher figure and stick with that.

The other major thing that’s sticking out to me when I work out my figures is my pension. So I include the AVC’s that I choose to pay into, but I don’t have anything in there at all to reflect my defined benefits pension. If I can stick work out till I’m 60 then that will be worth £10k a year to me, so really that has to show up in my net worth somewhere. Even if I was to leave work now that pension would still be sitting there waiting for me and worth about £5k a year at 60. I’ve been doing a bit of reading up on this, and I really think I need to start including some sort of a figure in there for the pension. So even if I used the current figure of £5k a year, if I was to receive that for 25 years then that’s worth £125k. And quite frankly I’m planning on living till I’m 100 – so that’s a very conservative estimate! I need to have that showing somewhere.

I’ve tried adding it in to my net worth figures, and it certainly makes my little pie chart look a lot more balanced than it has been up to this point. I couldn’t help feeling that adding it in was cheating though. I can’t quite work out why I feel like that, as this is definitely money that I’ll have access to. I think I might feel wrong about adding this in because as it’s a non-contributory pension I somehow don’t feel like I’ve earned the right to include it. I definitely have though, as there’s been lots of blood, sweat and tears involved over the last 18 years of working there. If anybody has any thoughts on how to handle this please let me know below. All suggestions gratefully received.

Things seem to be going generally in the right direction. I’m getting close to being only £20k away from being able to clear the mortgage if I cashed everything in. I’ve got enough equity in the house that if I needed/wanted to I could sell up and buy myself a decent house outright and be happily mortgage free. The mortgage is still a lot bigger than I would like it to be. It definitely feels that it’s weighing me down a lot. I’m delighted that I should be able to make an additional overpayment to the mortgage at the end of this month as a result of me finally getting the hang of and getting on with matched betting. Let’s hope my money making continues with matched betting and that allows me to keep chipping away at the mortgage. I know it doesn’t make sense for me to be clearing my mortgage as quickly as I can when I’m only paying base rate interest, but it’s good for my soul to be getting rid of it. Money shouldn’t be an emotional thing, but sometimes it is, and for me being rid of my mortgage is something I really want to achieve sooner rather than later.

So the same things still apply to my finances as ever. To say I need to rejig my investments is the understatement of the century. My next job is to change my instructions on my shares so that the dividends no longer get automatically reinvested in new shares. Instead I’ll take the dividend money and invest in index trackers. This year and next year I have sharesaves maturing, so I’ll buy and immediately sell and again put that money in index trackers. Then I’ll keep an eye on the share price (as though I’m not already obsessively checking it every few hours at work!) and when it’s at a decent level I’ll offload the shares that are available for me to sell and which aren’t in an ISA. That will still leave me too many of my work shares in the ISA, but at least I’ll be a bit more balanced and I will work on moving things around a bit more in the future.

It was pay day the other day, and this got me thinking how different people who are striving for FIRE are to the rest of the population. Now don’t get me wrong, I look forward to pay day. Well actually not pay day itself, the couple of days before when the payslips are available. I like to plug my pay and sharesave figures into my spreadsheets and see the figures go up the way. The actual money in the bank does nothing for me. I’m not planning on spending it anyway, or as little as possible, so what does it matter if I’ve been paid? I moved teams a few months ago and my boss asked me a week or so after pay day if I’d got paid ok with the team change on the system. I had to tell him that I had no idea as I hadn’t actually checked my bank account. My bank account gets checked twice a month, once when the statement comes in to make sure all the transactions are correct and once when I’m doing my net worth figures. I don’t think he could quite believe that I had no idea if I’d been paid or not. Most people are waiting for the money to hit the account so that they can get spending. My equivalent is “brilliant, more money saved and more money towards the mortgage”.

There seems to have been a bit of an explosion of holiday booking in the office recently. There’s also been lots of chat about opening interest free credit cards to pay for these holidays. We’re all reasonably well paid (well, you know, none of us have to worry about higher rate tax, but we’re not exactly minimum wage either) and we all got a bonus last month. Despite this, people are taking out credit cards to pay for far flung holidays. Now I like a holiday as much as the next person, but I’m certainly not going in to debt to pay for a fortnight in paradise.

Now bear in mind that I’ve worked with most of these people for five years now. We were a brand new department set up so we all started at the same time. Most of us came from within the same organisation and had come from a call centre role.  So basically for most of us our salaries have pretty much doubled in half a decade. So we’ve been used to living on a pretty low wage, got a big bump up in the salary and had some steady increases ever since. And yet still most people are spending on credit cards and juggling from one pay day to the next. OK, so five years is quite a long time. During that time as a department we’ve seen marriages, divorces, births, deaths and everything in between. Peoples’ lives have changed dramatically. But if they’d stayed in their previous jobs I’m pretty sure they would have been doing that same limp from one pay day to the next. So where has that huge increase in the salary gone?

Inevitably people have bought bigger houses (guilty as charged!), upgraded their cars, upgraded their significant others(!), gone on fancier holidays and generally spent money on unnecessary rubbish. It’s really got me thinking though. What if we didn’t do that whole lifestyle inflation thing? What if we just kept living like we were when we first started working? Now when I got my first job straight out of uni I was back living with mum and dad to try and pay my debts off, so I’m not sure I fancy going down that route again. But still, it’s something to think about. No matter how much you try and resist the insidious creep of lifestyle inflation, it somehow gets its grip on you.

I was speaking to a customer the other day that epitomised this whole increase in spending inclination for me. I was taking her income details and she was on about £35K a year, so about £3.5k more than me. She was more or less my age too so already I was thinking about the similarities between us and starting to compare our finances. Don’t judge me, the days drag sometimes so I have to do something to keep me amused. Then we start to talk about her husband and he’s on £120k a year. Suddenly not quite so similar after all.

But you know what, despite their income being five times mine, my finances were in a much better place than theirs. They were on an interest only mortgage, with their only way of paying it off being to sell the house a bit further down the line. They had massive credit card debts and rather predictably a huge overdraft. No savings, obviously. It beggars belief that a couple with such a great income could have made such bad decisions to find themselves in such a situation. Except she didn’t think there was an issue. Despite being just one paycheck away from financial disaster she honestly thought that was a normal position to be in. I’d like to say that this is the exception, but sadly I talk to people like this all the time. I want to shout down the phone at them to explore FIRE, as they could be there in no time. Instead I chat politely and agree that it’s difficult to find any spare money to put in savings. Unbelievable.

So not too much lifestyle inflation for me. I’ll continue to overpay my mortgage, keep my costs under control as best I can and keep investing. Trying to increase my income will continue to be vital for my FIRE success. I’m delighted with how I’m getting on with Matched Betting. I’ve got myself into a little routine of sitting down with the laptop when I get in from work and making myself some money. I quite enjoy doing it, and whilst I don’t think I’ll be retiring from my day job any time soon, it will hopefully continue to boost the coffers and bring me that bit closer to Financial Independence and skipping down the happy path to early retirement. Here’s hoping anyway.

Update on April Goals and I May Set New Goals

So it’s time to see how I got on working towards the goals that I set myself for April. Here’s a bit of a reminder about what I was hoping to achieve during the month.

Get down to under 27 minutes for my local park run.  PASS. I’m really happy with this one. Considering I had this as one of my goals for March too when I miserably failed to achieve it, this is doubly sweet. With working alternate Saturdays I only have two chances in the month to do parkrun, and in April for one of those Saturdays I was down south and so not doing my local course. So that only left one opportunity to get under 27 minutes. I’m delighted that I managed to do it in 26.23. I was really going for it and I was determined to get under that 27 minute mark. It’s still a little bit off my PB, but it was by far my best time in well over a year. It just goes to show what you can do when you put your mind to it. I’d been doing a bit more training, but not enough to really make a significant difference. The crucial thing was my attitude. I went for it from the get go and was focussed on my time all the way around.

Get my weight to 10 stone 9 pounds. PASS/FAIL. I’m not quite sure how to judge this one. I did get down to 10 stone 8 and a half pounds, so technically this should be a pass. But then Easter happened. And then reduced price Easter eggs happened. It wasn’t pretty. Tasty, but a touch unhealthy. So I haven’t got back on the scales, but I am pretty confident in predicting that I am no longer under 10 stone 9 pounds. I think I need to be a bit more specific about future goals in terms of maintaining a specific weight.

 Start Matched Betting. PASS. Finally I’ve got going on this one. A bit of a mixed bag in term of how successful I was, but I seem to have got the hang of it now and am making some good progress on this one.

Read at least one book. PASS. I’ve smashed this one out of the water. I have deliberately made sure not to start any new boxsets and this is definitely having an impact on the amount that I’m reading. Also the fact that I’ve almost completely come off the dreaded Facebook means I’m reading on my breaks at work, in the evening and in bed before I go to sleep. So I actually ended up reading five books – a couple of trashy quick reads and three old favourites.

I read Second Chance by Jane Green which was an easy read and pretty entertaining. Next up was The Real Thing by Catherine Alliott. This was definitely a ‘put your brain in neutral whilst you read’ book, but sometimes that’s just what’s needed. Writing that has just prompted me to pull it off the shelf ready to get rid of it. Next up was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This one is a real feast for the senses. My mum got it for me for Christmas a few years ago. I’ve got the hardback version with black edged pages, which feels really special to be reading. The story is great and I got even more from it reading it a second time.  Freedom by Jonathan Franzen is another one that was a gift and that I’ve read before. I couldn’t really remember the beginning part of it, but the further I got in to it the more I started to remember. It’s another good read and a nice long book with plenty to get your teeth in to. The last one I finished in April was an old favourite, Family Life by Elisabeth Luard. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read this book. It’s autobiographical, based on the author’s family life funnily enough. They lived in a number of different places, so it’s a really interesting read and you really feel like you get to know the family. There’s a real sting in the tail with this book, so it’s one that I always dread reading in a sense as I know the heart wrenching sob inducing part is coming at the end. It hasn’t stopped me reading it over the years though as it’s such a feel good book.

I’ve hatched a bit of a plan to read all of the books on my bookshelves again. I did this once when I was in my early twenties, and it took me a while then. The intervening years certainly haven’t made that task any shorter. I reckon that if I read a couple of books a week it will take me at least five years to get through all my books. Hopefully it will prompt me to get rid of any that I don’t fancy reading again, and it will certainly give me something to do when I’m working towards FIRE! That’s not a goal by the way. That’s a bit too long term for me, and I don’t want to start thinking of reading as a chore that I need to do.

List some more items on Ebay, using the Buy it now method this time. PASS. I definitely listed some DVD’s on Ebay using Buy it now, and they sold. I have to be honest though that my interest in eBay has waned somewhat since I started with the old Matched Betting. I made almost nothing with Ebay, and ok so I actually lost money with MB, but in the grand scheme of things Matched Betting is definitely the way to go.

So actually looking at how I got on with my goals for April I think I did pretty well. With the exception of my weight, where I achieved my goal but then sabotaged myself with excessive Easter egg eating, it was a success across the board with the goals that I’d set myself. It’s funny because when I think about April it doesn’t really feel like things went all that well. I think I probably coasted along for a fair part of the month and then pulled it out of the bag right at the end. Even my parkrun time was done right at the arse end of the month.

I think the issue might be that things that I’d got a grip on are starting to slip again. So my sleeping patterns are absolutely shocking at the moment, and I’m back to feeling constantly exhausted. I had got to the point where I was more or less getting seven hours sleep a night and feeling much better for it. I was making sure that I ate five portions of fruit and veg a day and generally looking after myself. Maybe I got a bit complacent. I’ve stopped using my fruit and veg tracker and I ignore the entreaties from my sleep tracker to go to bed.

In my defence (there is no defence) I finished with the guy that I had been seeing and I’ve taken that as a bit of an excuse to go off the rails. It was absolutely the right decision for me to make, but still you have to be a bit nice to yourself when these things happen. Although maybe eating crap and not sleeping enough is not being that nice to myself. So I think maybe it could be time to have a word with myself and get my health under control. I’ve already started trying to focus a bit more on my running, so eating and sleeping better can only help with that.

So it’s time to think about what I want to achieve in May. I think there’ll be some common themes in here, but as we’ve seen from my shocking self-sabotage in terms of my health, I need to keep my focus on the important areas of my life. So without further ado, this is what I want to do in May.

Get my local park run time down to 25.50 which would be a PB. This is going to be a challenging one for me. I’ll be able to do two parkruns this month, but the first one is on a day I have a charity running challenge at lunchtime, so I really need to take it easy at parkrun that day. So we’ll see how I get on. I’ve got some good training sessions coming up with my running club which should help with this goal.

Get my weight down to ten and a half stone, and keep it there till the end of the month. This should be realistic for me. It will really depend if I can get my head in the right place. I’ve of the mind set just now of eating all the food that exists in the world. That needs to change.

Start using my fruit and veg tracker again and have at least five fruit and veg portions a day for at least 20 days out of the month. I was easily achieving this previously, so I’m hoping this will be a habit that is relatively easy to reintroduce.

Get at least seven hours sleep a night during May. I’m not entirely convinced about how successful I’m going to be with this one, but it honestly can’t go any worse than it did in April. This is actually a really important goal for me. If I’m going to have sufficient energy to achieve my goals then I need to be getting enough sleep.

Continue Matched Betting and make £200 profit by the end of May. I’m hoping that this is more than realistic. By the end of today I will have made back the money I lost from my stupid mistake on my first bet and also covered the cost of my OddsMonkey subscription. So if I keep on as I’m doing just now then £200 should be more than achievable. I’m hoping for more than this moving forward, but I don’t want to put pressure on myself. If I make more then fantastic, if not then it’s all extra cash. It’s all getting allocated to mortgage overpayments so that I don’t get used to the extra money coming in. No lifestyle inflation for me.

Read at least two books. Hopefully I’ll read more than this, but I’ll make this a nice achievable one as I’ve got quite a few other things that are tough for me to work on.

So I think that’s more than enough for me to be working on. Many of my goals are back to basics for me. Sleep and what I’m eating are crucial for me to feel good enough to pursue my dreams. If I can get those things right then I’ll be in a good place to achieve my other more stretching goals. The parkrun PB target is going to be a tough one, but there’s no reason why I can’t achieve this if I really go for it. If I get my fruit and veg eating back on track I should be able to lose the Easter egg weight and get to where I want to be. 

In terms of FIRE I think that Matched Betting is the key to this whole thing. Most of my spending, saving and investing is all automated and happens without me needing to think too much about it. I’m sure there are more things that I could be doing, but just for now I’m reasonably happy with my level of spending, I’ve got some tweaks I need to make later in the year with my investments, but for now I think things are ticking along quite nicely. So what I really need to do is increase my income and hammer away at my mortgage, as that is the thing that is really dragging me down. It will be interesting to see what my profit for Matched Betting looks like after a full month. I’ll let you know how I get on, and if anyone has any hints and tips for me then feel free to comment below. All suggestions gratefully received!

Matched Betting Is Finally Happenng

So after much prevarication, I have finally stopped being so pathetic and given Matched Betting a go. I had a week’s holiday, so had thought that this would be a good time for me to get cracking with it. I honestly think I was putting it off for so long because it seems that this is going to be the thing that’s going to be key for me in reaching FIRE, and I was afraid to start in case that turned out not to be the case. I’ve pretty much got myself to a point where I will have my mortgage paid off by the time I’m 60 and should have enough with my defined benefit pension and dividends to live reasonably well until the state pension kicks in to top things up for me. Really though I don’t want to be working until I’m 60. If I could get myself to the point where I could afford to cut back on my working around the age of 55 then I think that would do me just fine. So that gives me just over six years to get my mortgage paid off so that I can afford to live on a lot less than I do at the moment. I figure if I can make about £400 a month on top of my salary then I’ll be rid of my mortgage in seven years, so not quite on target, but that gives me something to work towards.

So how did I get on with Matched Betting then? Well honestly, it was a bit of a rocky start. I heeded some advice and set up a separate email address and bank account. The latter was particularly important as my bank is also my employer, and whilst I’m sure they’re not allowed to be poking around in my bank account, I’d rather avoid any questioning around my newly developed betting hobby! I signed up to OddsMonkey, as I was pretty sure I was going to need a fair amount of support to get going with this. I have to say OddsMonkey is working well for me, and it’s definitely something I’m going to continue to subscribe to. For £17.99 a month I would say it’s money well spent.

So I was really nervous to get started, but realised that I just needed to get on with it. So I followed the tutorials to the letter on OddsMonkey, it really does talk you through things step by step. I was able to get use TopCashback when setting one of the bookie accounts up, so that was a nice little bonus. So I managed to do some qualifying bets without too many problems. It takes a bit of time to register for the accounts, but you know it’s effectively just putting your personal details in to a form. Not exactly riveting stuff, but if it’s going to bring some cash in for me I’m happy to tap away.

The problem came when I was looking at different events to compare the odds and ended up with multiple tabs open on my laptop. I then inadvertently managed to back and lay different races. I was finding it a bit difficult to navigate my way around the different websites to check what I’d bet on, so I ended up thinking I’d done everything ok, but actually I hadn’t. So rather than gaining twenty odd pounds I ended up being £82 down. You know when you just can’t believe how stupid you’ve been? There was part of me that just wanted to chuck it all at that point and say that this wasn’t for me. This was exactly what I was afraid would happen, and I’d been proved right.

I then had a bit of a word with myself and realised that yes I’d made a stupid mistake, but it wasn’t the end of the world and that I was pretty sure I could make the money back. I know myself pretty well I think and it always takes me a while to learn new things. I’m always worried about making mistakes and ironically this makes my brain freeze and I mess up. I always get there in the end though, and once I’ve got something I’m usually pretty good at it.

So I’ve pressed on. I’ve now successfully managed to make my first lot of profit of £24 (well, you know obviously I’m still down the 80 odd quid – but I’ll just keep chipping away at that)  so I’m pretty happy with that. I’ve got more qualifying bets settling today, so once the free bets are credited I’ll get some more bets placed. I’m quietly confident that before too long I’ll have made back the money I lost and covered the OddsMonkey subscription and can start thinking about putting the profit towards extra mortgage payments.

I’ve spent a bit of time getting myself organised to hopefully avoid any more cock ups. I’ve set myself a spreadsheet up where I can keep track of the bets that I’ve placed and what the special offers are. And the key learning I’ve taken from the whole experience has been not to have multiple tabs open. So the process I now follow is:

  • Go into OddsMonkey and check the OddsMatcher.
  • Click the event information button and use the calculator to work out the amount I need to      lay and how much the liability will be.
  • From there I click the link to take me directly to the bookie site and also the exchange site.
  • Set up the bets on both the bookmaker site and the exchange site, double checking that I am both backing and laying the same event and team
  • Make sure I have enough money deposited in both accounts
  • Confirm both the bets.
  • I then go straight to my spreadsheet and log the details.
  • One final check of the open bets in the bookie and exchange sites gives me confidence that I have in fact done things properly!

I’ve already had an email through from one of the bookies offering me a follow up offer, so I’ve just done the qualifying bet for that today. It’s taking up a fair bit of my time, but I think that’s mostly because I’m double and triple checking everything now. I’m sure it will become much more second nature for me. But honestly I’m not minding the time that I’m spending on it. Saying that, when the sun was shining last weekend I was out on the sun lounger rather than on the laptop, but considering I live in Scotland I’m not sure that’s going to curtail my Matched Betting activities all that much. We had hailstones today for goodness sake!

So I’m really happy that I’ve made a start on Matched Betting. It will be interesting to see how I get on with it moving forward. I’ve still got plenty of the sign up offers to do, so hopefully there’s plenty of profit to be made from those. I think it probably is something that I can just fit around my normal life when I’m just pottering around the house. I’m a bit of a home body, so I quite like just faffing about the house, so I can’t see any reason why I can’t just grab the laptop every once in a while and make some money. Hopefully I’ll get in the habit of doing a little bit every day, although to be honest I’m not sure how much I’ll be doing on nights where I have running clubs. I guess though as I get quicker at it I’ll just be able to grab a few minutes here and there to place some bets.

So I feel like I’ve made some real progress in my journey towards FIRE. Although I’m actually a little bit worse off financially, I’ve got the potential there to make a great difference to my finances. I’ve been focussing a lot more on the income growing mind set since I started the Matched Betting rather than just sitting starring at my net worth figures and hoping that they’ll miraculously improve.

It’s useful to track your figures, and it certainly is motivating to see your situation improving. It gives you something to aim for and keeps your mind on keeping your expenses as low as possible. At the same time though I don’t want to become obsessed with my net worth and how long I’ve got to go until I reach FIRE. I want to be out in the world living my life to the fullest. I want to enjoy spending time with my friends and family and experiencing all that the world has to offer.  So my plan is to keep monitoring my expenses, bring in extra income from Matched Betting, get my mortgage cleared as quickly as possible, keep investing and most importantly live the most fabulous version of my life.

March Net Worth – Better Late Than Never

So considering how many weeks ago I worked out my net worth for March, I’ve been particularly tardy in posting. I did the figures nice and early to take advantage of my bonus getting paid and actually staying in my bank account before I have to pay most of it out on the car. I also wanted to take advantage of a bump in the share price, although actually that seems to have stayed up anyway despite the ups and downs as a result of the Brexit chaos. So anyway, here goes with my net worth for last month.

Debts

Mortgage £88,340.18

Assets

Cash £17,407.98

Money in sharesave £10,304

AVC’s £3,729.43

Shares £34,827.09

House £228,000

Total Assets £294,268.50

Net Worth including house equity

£294,268.50 – £88,340.18 = £205,928.32

Net Worth excluding house equity

£66,268.5 – £88,340.18 = -£22,071.68

Scary when you see it like that how much of what I have is tied up in my house.


So overall I’m pretty happy with those figures. Saying that, I have a LOT of car expenses this month, which will punch a hole in those figures somewhat. I think the number that’s pleasing me the most at the moment is the net worth excluding the house equity. Although it’s a negative number it’s definitely going in the right direction. I reckon with some hard work I can probably bring that figure down to zero in the next two years.  It’s good to know that if I wanted or needed to stay where I was house wise then I could liquidate everything else and not be a million miles away from being at break-even point. Well, you know, what’s £22k between friends? Not that I’m going to do that, obviously, but still, it’s good to know that things are going the way I want them to.

If I can weather the storm of the car Armageddon, then I should have another good month coming up in May when it’s time for the dividends to be paid. And then in January my next share save will be maturing and netting me a tidy little profit. So I’m hoping that things will continue to improve. I’m on holiday this week as the kids are on their Easter holidays, so at some point I will hopefully man up a bit, get over myself and get cracking with Matched Betting. I really am being pathetic about it, and that needs to stop now.

I’ve had a bit of a wake-up call this month in terms of how much I really want to reach FIRE. I knew it was important to me, but I had a moment recently where I was rushing home to check my spreadsheets to see if I could afford to give up work. If you’ve been paying attention to my net worth you’ll know that no checking was really required, I can’t afford to tell them to go to hell and flounce out the door. Well, I could certainly afford to support myself for a period of time whilst I sorted out an alternative source of income, but I certainly am nowhere near FIRE yet.

The reason for all of this consternation was a chat from the powers that be in relation to the shifts that I work. I have a lovely 8-4 shift along with a not so lovely alternate Saturday working pattern. Other people in the department work till 8.00 at night on a rotating shift pattern. When I was offered the job 5 years ago I told them I could only accept it if I could get a set daytime shift. They were happy to accept that and so all was well. Now bear in mind that I’ve worked for this company for 18 years, and during that time I’ve worked all sorts of shifts, including a constant 10.00 at night finish. So I kind of feel that I’ve done my time on the rubbish shifts. Not to mention the fact that I have two boys to bring up, and quite frankly leaving them to fend for themselves doesn’t exactly float my boat.

So I’m in limbo at the moment where they’ve asked me to go away and think about what sort of flexibility I can offer the business. And if I offer nothing suitable they’re going to give me eight week’s notice and put me on a variable shift. If I don’t agree I can find another job. Nice. Chances are it’s not quite as black and white as they’re making out, but who knows. It’s fair to say I’ve been spitting feathers at work and it’s focussed my mind even more on FIRE.

Something that is being talked about at work at the moment is the possibility of us getting offered home working for at least part of the time. They’ve trialled it in another department and it seems to be working pretty well. They’ve not gone into any detail yet as it’s not officially on offer, but the rumour is that they’re looking for about a third of us to take them up on it. We’re crammed in to our current office building, and as our department is looking to expand shortly we’re pretty soon going to run out of space. Parking is an ongoing issue too, so obviously having people away from the office would help with that too.

When I was younger I always thought that working from home would be an absolute dream for me. Then I went through a stage where I thought I would find it far too isolating. Particularly when the kids were little, going to work was one of the few times I actually got to spend time with adults. Now I’m not quite sure what I think about it. My initial thought was that it wasn’t for me. As I don’t live with a partner I definitely enjoy the social aspects of work, although to be honest we’re often so busy that I can go whole days with barely even getting a chance to say hello to my team. I’ve got more social interaction now too with my various running groups, so maybe it wouldn’t be such an issue. I only have a 15 minute commute each way, so that’s not a factor particularly, but it would be nice just to commute to the spare room. I’m definitely more productive in a quieter environment, so I’m sure I’d get more done at home. Maybe it would give me more time to work on side hustles too. It’s definitely food for thought.

 I’ll be interesting to see what they are actually proposing. There are rumours that it will only be available for people prepared to work the later shifts. Also I would need to see if there was any compensation on offer for the extra costs you incur when working from home, such as heating costs etc. When I mentioned this at work everyone was saying that the business were doing you a favour so you would just have to cover these costs yourself. Well I can see that there’s a benefit to the individual, but the business isn’t doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They’re running out of space and they don’t want to have to take on another building.  It’s definitely something interesting to think about. Maybe I wouldn’t mind quite so much having to work a bit later at night if I was doing it in the comfort of my own home. We’ll see.

I was away down south for the weekend visiting the folks which was lovely, so today is the first day of my holiday where I am at home. I went to bed quite late, but was quite smug in the fact that I didn’t need to set my alarm until 8.00 to give me enough time to drop the car at the garage. I was thinking how good it was that I could go to bed at midnight and still get eight hours sleep. Of course all that happened is that I woke up at my usual 6am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I’m now completely exhausted and not wanting to do anything except loll about.

So I really hope that this isn’t the way that things will go when I reach FIRE. I imagine that I’ll settle into some sort of a routine, and hopefully my body will figure out that it doesn’t need to ping awake at 6am. Or if it doesn’t, I will actually get smart enough to go to bed at a reasonable time. I’m sitting here right now thinking that I’m sure there’s lots of things that I should be doing, but I feel like I’m at a bit of a loose end. I’ll probably feel a lot better when I get started with Matched Betting. I feel as though it’s hanging over me somewhat, taunting me to get started. Action conquers fear as they say, so I just need to actually do something about it and I’ll feel much better.

So plans for this week off are to get started with Matched Betting, get some more things listed on eBay, get a few jobs done about the house, get some running done and spend some time doing nice things with the kids when they’re not revising. The eBay is slow to say the least, but I’ve sold another couple of things, and whilst I think it’s safe to say that I’m probably not going to make my fortune from this, I’m quite enjoying it and it doesn’t eat into my free time too much. I think that whilst I’m still working and trying to build up some alternative sources of income the key is going to be to find things that I don’t mind doing in the evenings and the weekends. I don’t mind working, in fact I actually quite enjoy it, it’s the enforced aspect of work that I don’t like. I don’t want to always be in the office and quite frankly putting up with all the nonsense that goes along with doing your actual job.

So I think that’s about it from me. Rather than sitting here faffing about I’m going to take some action and try my hand at a wee bit of Matched Betting. How bad can it be really? I guess the worse that can happen is that I mess up and lose a bit of cash. It’s not like I’m staking the house or anything. So I’ll keep you posted on how I get on. Feel free to shout at me if my next post is still saying that I really need to get started with Matched Betting. Did anyone else feel like this when they started trying to bring in extra sources of income, or is it just me?