The True Cost of Love

It probably hasn’t escaped anybody’s attention that it’s been Valentine’s Day this week. Although with all the hype involved it seems like much more than a single day. Supermarkets all over the land have seen men desperately shopping for flowers and chocolates. Even the likes of Aldi have whacked their prices up on flowers in anticipation of the big day. I have a bit of an issue with the idea of throwing money at a day designed to show your love for someone. Although actually, was the whole point of Valentine’s Day originally that it was an anonymous way to show you were keen on someone? That seems to have gone out the window a bit now and it’s all about conspicuous consumption to demonstrate your love.

As this was my first Valentine’s Day in five years that I haven’t been a confirmed singleton, I wasn’t quite sure what the crack was in terms of what I should be doing. Some judicious enquiries at work amongst the guys in my team solicited the advice that as long as I got the boyfriend a card I was good to go. Apparently this particular holiday is all about the guy splashing the cash and the woman sitting back and enjoying the adoration. Hmmm. Not sure I’m crazy about the whole idea of that. I like to pay my way and am not all that keen on major discrepancies on spending based on gender.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. The boyfriend is a bit more imaginative that the average Joe (maybe my man picking abilities have improved with age). When I saw him last week he handed over two envelopes, one to be opened on Monday and one on Wednesday. These were not the usual red flashy envelopes, but ones recycled from other uses. Already he’s got brownie points from an environmental point of view, not to mention I’m totally intrigued and can’t wait to open them.

So 6am Monday when the alarm goes off I’m wide awake and ripping open that day’s envelope. Inside is a booklet he’s made up of the story of how we met. Cleverly he’s left out any Plenty of Fish references, but shown us having a hot chocolate up at Costa at the cinema. He’s even included a thought bubble of me hoping he wasn’t an axe murderer (much more of a genuine concern that you might think). Already he’s off to a fantastic start. When I get to work everyone wants to know what was in the envelope and there’s lots of chat about what might be in Wednesday’s envelope.

Tuesday I get home from work and I can’t figure out why there’s a beautiful plant on my doorstep. I literally walk right past it and go inside. It’s only when I talk to the kids about it that one of them suggests it could be for me from the boyfriend. Sure enough it is. So bonus points for a lovely plant, and bothering to drive out of his way to leave it at my front door.

Wednesday’s envelope has a book of coupons which he’s made up for me. Redeemable for home -made meals, bubble baths, support at one of my races etc etc. There was a very important disclaimer right at the back of the book. “Can’t be redeemed when the football is on”. That really made me laugh. It’s funny because it’s true.

Thursday I got an email through with a video card and he cooked for me on the night time. I didn’t even need to redeem a coupon for that! All in all it was a top week. I’m feeling somewhat bad that I just got him a card and baked him some Valentine’s cookies, but I think he’ll survive.

So the moral of this particular Valentine’s story is that there really isn’t any need to spend a fortune to show how much you care about someone. Let your actions and not your money do the talking. Coincidentally that’s really going to help with your FIRE aspirations too. So often in life I find that the best things in life really are free (or at the very least minimal cost).

I spent a lovely night in with the kids last night. We had games night, which was so much fun. We’re all majorly competitive, which can make playing games interesting to say the least. We do play Monopoly sometimes, but we have to lay out some pretty strict ground rules for ourselves, otherwise it ends badly. Total strops and meltdowns are not uncommon, and that’s just me. Last night was Kahoot, which was great fun. If you’ve not tried it I’d definitely recommend it. We hooked up a laptop to the TV and then you each use a phone or tablet. You select what sort of quizzes you want to do, load it up and off you go. We battle practically to the death. It’s so much fun. A totally free night’s entertainment. Well, some treats in the form of chocolate are usually required, but minimal cost anyway.      

I generally find that the things I seem to enjoy the most in life are either free or not got much cost involved. That’s not to say that I’m immune to the lure of spending. I’m a sucker for a nice sunny holiday, although I don’t think this necessarily has to break the bank. In terms of my day to day life though I’m pretty happy to live fairly frugally. I think I’ve been doing it so long that it just seems natural to me now.  

I do wonder sometimes if I maybe take things a bit too far. It’s not that I never spend any money, but I do seem to spend an awful lot of time thinking about money and how long I’ve got to go until I’m financially independent. Spoiler alert, it’s going to take me a while. For someone who genuinely believes that money really isn’t important, I do seem to somewhat obsessively count and think about the money that I do have. I tell myself that it’s not money for its own sake that’s important to me, but rather the options that it gives me in my life. Knowing the size of the mortgage that I still have to pay off is definitely one of the reasons that I feel tethered to my current job. The thought of leaving is majorly appealing, apart from the financial aspects. I feel that my job’s relatively secure, comes with a cheap mortgage, a pension and sharesave schemes that sucker me in to staying.

The jury is still out on whether I’ve got the balance right between saving and spending. I feel that I’m still quite close to the start of my FIRE journey, and that if I spend money that I don’t need to then it will take me even longer to get to where I want to be. Saying that, it’s all a balancing act. My kids won’t be at home forever, so will I regret not spending more money on experiences for us to all do together whilst they’re still living in the house? Maybe. I do worry that I’ll look back and wish that we’d done more as a family. Saying that, they’re teenage boys, so dragging them out of the house is not always the easiest thing in the world, or necessarily what they want to do. I guess the key is to spend money on things that genuinely add value to our lives, but not wasting money on things that don’t. So when they were younger it was a bit of a standing joke that we were always at Pizza Hut. The thing was though that it was a pretty cheap meal out, but we always had such a fantastic time. We’d go early evening mid-week and spend hours there just hanging out and having such a good time. Now that same trip out isn’t so much fun, so we don’t go out for meals quite so much.   

I’ve recently had an increase in the maintenance money that I receive from the ex hubby. I’ve always been of the opinion that a good relationship with my kids’ dad is much more important than screwing as much out of him as I can. So I never went down the CSA route. We’ve been divorced for 13 years, and we’ve only increased the amount he pays me once during that time. Teenage boys are not cheap to feed to say the least, so I thought it was about time that we had a wee chat about the amount he pays me. He’s doing really well for himself, so I knew he could afford to pay more. He agreed immediately and suggested that he give me more than I’d asked for. Best ex-husband ever! So I now have a bit more to play with each month. Well actually, that’s not strictly speaking true. I’m now able to balance my budgets again after a gas and electricity hike in my monthly payment played havoc with my finances. Anyway, there is now going to be a small amount left over at the end of each month, but I’ve decided to spend this on fun money for the family rather than save it. Hardly a great demonstration of working towards FIRE, but a good decision all the same I think. We’ll spend the extra money on experiences as a family, which I think will be money well spent.

I’ve been thinking about this saving versus spending on experiences dilemma quite a bit recently. I work with someone who’s in her mid- twenties. She’s been talking for a while about a school friend of hers who is ill with cancer. It was awful to hear of someone so young being so ill, but she had a large group of close friends who were all trying to take the positives from it and doing lots of fundraising for a cancer charity. The treatment seemed to be going well and the friend was managing to still see her friends. Then suddenly the friend got an infection and passed away. It seems so shocking when it’s a person who’s so young. Suddenly the thought of squirrelling money away for the future seems a bit ridiculous. The future is promised to no one. Now saying that, I don’t believe that spending money to buy a whole load of stuff is the route to happiness. If I suddenly discovered I only had a year left to live, the last thing I would be doing is hitting the shops. But would I be splashing a bit more cash on going out with the kids and creating memories? You bet your life I would. So why would I not do that now? So now I just need to work out what sorts of things my teenage boys want to do. It’s not quite as easy as it used to be. Pizza Hut and the cinema used to be the height of happiness for them. Now it’s more likely to be Maths lectures and Doctor Who based events. Although there is always games night.    

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that whilst the best things in life are most definitely free, sometimes it might be worthwhile to spend a little bit of money on experiences that will enhance your life and create memories with your friends and family. We’re only here for a finite period of time, so we need to make the most of it. For me, living life to the full is not about wasting my time buying stuff that will clutter up my house, but rather about spending time with the people I love doing things that will make us happy and give us things to talk about when we’re doddering around the nursing home. And if in a rather happy coincidence many of those things turn out to be free or good value, then all the better for this trip that we’re on working towards FIRE.

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Where does all the time go?

I’ve made a start writing this on my day off. I’m working the weekend, so I have a mid week day off. It’s useful, as I usually book in all my appointments that can’t be done at the weekend. Not all that exciting maybe, but definitely necessary. I’m not quite sure how I used to organise my life before I had every second Thursday off. Mind you, in my pre-kids life there probably wasn’t quite so much organising needed.

So my question is, where does all the time go? I only work seven hours a day. Add in a lunch break, which I very efficiently make use of by catching up on sleep in my car, but I’m still finished for the day by 4.00. I only live a fifteen minute drive away(let’s not get in to the fact that I almost certainly should be running or cycling to work rather than wasting money on petrol). I get home, catch up with the kids and make tea. One night a week I take one boy to his chess club and the other boy and I hit Aldi to get the food shopping done. I have running club two nights a week and see the boyfriend two nights. At the weekend there’s Park Run and a long run on a Sunday morning. I also go swimming on a Sunday night just to round the weekend off nicely.

Now these are all things that I enjoy doing. Well, maybe not quite so much the Aldi shopping, but you know a girl has to eat. I’m really trying to focus on my running just now, so I’m definitely not prepared to give any of that up. As I’ve only been seeing the boyfriend for four months it would seem a bit churlish to start curtailing date night. Time with the kids is really important to me, and as  they’re both teenagers I feel like you just have to catch them at the right moment when they want to chat. It’s not something you can really schedule in advance. I feel like I’m constantly chasing my tail and getting nowhere fast.

Prioritising is clearly the key, but actually doing something about that is another matter. I’ve started using the calendar on my phone to keep track of how I’m using my time and scheduling in the time to do things that are important to me. I’m finding that I’m frequently moving tasks that I don’t want to do to the following week. The fact that they’re not getting done is making me think they’re probably not a huge priority for me just now. Some of them are things that I know are important (like backing up photos), but that don’t necessarily need to be done this very second. The stupid thing is that when I do get around to doing these jobs they invariably don’t take that long, and I feel an immense sense of relief that they’re no longer on my To Do list.

I’ve got a box of flat pack furniture in the hall just now which is mocking me. I meant to put it in my phone to do today, but I must have forgotten. I can’t tell you how happy I felt this morning when I realised it wasn’t on my list. The games we play with ourselves.

I’m trying to build some efficiency habits in to my life. I think the more things that I can do on automatic pilot without needing my brain involved in the decision making process, the easier life will be. I’m starting small. So with two teenage boys in the house the amount of food preparation and clearing up is immense. I try to delegate some of this work. Try being the operative word. They can both cook, and are happy enough to cook or bake snacks for themselves. The bulk of the evening meal preparation falls on me though. The numbers of plates, cups, glasses and pans that we get through in a day is quite astounding. So the dishwasher needs to go on every day. Whether that actually happened or not used to be a bit hit and miss. Now it’s a rule that I need to put the dishwasher on before I go to bed. It’s the kids’ job to empty it, and I fill it and stick it on before I go upstairs at night. I know I have to do it, so there’s no internal argument about how I’m too tired and will do it tomorrow.

I make a salad up every night for my lunch at work the next day. It used to be that I would be on the couch thinking about going to bed and would remember that I still had to go and make my lunch up. Now I make it whilst I’m making the tea. There’s always a bit of waiting around whilst you’re cooking, so that’s my salad making time. It sounds like such a small thing, but honestly the difference it has made is incredible. I need to think of other small changes like this that will make my life easier and keep my brain freed up for more interesting decision making processes. 

As far as my finances are concerned I’ve managed to automate most of what I’m doing at the moment. I have my budgeting spreadsheets set up for the year, so I just input the figures every time I spend anything. It’s a good incentive to not spend much as I don’t want to have get my ancient laptop out and wait a million years for it to load up. My mortgage overpayments come out automatically straight after pay day and deductions come straight off my salary before I see it for buying shares. The next job is for me to do some research on index trackers as I want to start investing in those when my I get my payrise in April. Perhaps I should task myself with the research now, so I’ll maybe have got it done by the spring.

I got rid of Facebook from my life just before Christmas. I was finding that I was spending an inordinate amount of time scrolling for no particular reason. I’m not saying I’ll never go back to it again, but for me it’s definitely a great way to carve out some extra free time for more useful activities. I prefer to read blogs and listen to podcasts, that way I feel as though I’m learning things rather than just faffing about. Although I do think there is a danger that you can read and listen to lots of different things that really inspire you, but if you don’t actually take any action then you’re not any further forward.

I find that work just seems to suck all the energy out of me. I get home absolutely drained and with not much energy to want to do much. That’s not quite true actually. The will is there, but the energy is sadly lacking. I know I don’t get enough sleep, and I am working on that, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get quite as much sleep as my body would like. It’s a balance isn’t it? There’s lots of things I want to do with my life, but there are finite resources in terms of time and energy. It’s trying to find the balance to get the things done that need to be done, and making the time for the things that will move you in the right direction for where you want your life to be.

I sometimes think I would be better off working part time like I used to do. My working week is 35 hours, but I used to just work 30. You don’t lose that much in terms of the money, and you don’t need to take a lunch break, so I could be finished for the day by 2.00. That would give me a couple of extra hours in the day to try and get some more things done. Maybe that would give me the opportunity to work on a side hustle. I love the idea of a portfolio career. Not being dependent on one employer for all your income seems really sensible to me. I love the idea of being financially independent, and not having to work for The Man is incredibly appealing to me. I can’t help feeling though that maybe the way to go is to keep some sort of fairly stable income from employment and try to build some side sources of income. I think I would enjoy my work a lot more if I didn’t feel quite so tethered to it and if it wasn’t draining me of all my energy.

So maybe that’s something that I want to try to work towards. If I could get myself in a position where I had developed some sort of a side hustle that brought me in enough that I could afford to reduce my hours at work. Realistically I will need/want to keep some sort of work going even when my pension kicks in at 60. I think that balance is really what I’m after. I am hoping that my dividend income will grow over the years to plug the shortfall in my pension. Whilst I’m waiting for that to happen though some additional income would allow me to hopefully get closer to FIRE and give me the confidence that I could earn enough income later in life to allow me to do what I want with my life.   

So I’ll keep plugging away trying to make better use of my time. I’m sure developing better habits is the way to go. Reducing the number of decisions I need to make in a day will allow me to make the right choices when it really counts. No doubt I’ll keep rescheduling things on my To Do list, but as long as I’m moving in the right direction I think I can probably live with that.

Net worth

I’ve got around to updating my figures for my net worth. I’m actually doing a little bit better than I thought I was. It’s really easy to feel that you’re banging away doing not much, but actually the things that I’m doing are having an effect.

So here are my figures.

Debts

Mortgage £89,432

Assets

Cash £15,404

Money in sharesave £9,304

AVC’s £3,278

Shares £31,206.

House £228,000

Total £287,192

Net Worth including house equity

£287,192-£89,432 = £197,760

Net Worth excluding house equity

£59,192-£89,432 = -£30,240

So with the house value included I’m pretty happy with those figures. I can almost taste that elusive £200K figure. Realistically though I’m going to need somewhere to live, so unless I can find a comfy cardboard box to call home then I definitely haven’t got £197,760 to play with. Saying that I live in a fairly large 4 bedroom detached house which I bought last year. Once the kids move out then I won’t need that much space, but whether I would actually sell up and buy something smaller is another matter. I want to have enough space for the kids to come back to stay whenever they want to.

Without the house equity included it’s not looking quite so rosy in the sassenach saving world, but that’s ok, I can work on that. I’m aggressively overpaying my mortgage(well as much as my single income household budget will allow). I reckon within 3 years I should be able to get to the point where I’ve grown my assets and paid off enough of the mortgage that I no longer have a negative figure when I exclude the house equity. That will be a happy day. In the meantime I’ll continue to overpay the mortgage, keep contributing £500 a month to my work sharesave scheme and keep working with my budgets to keep my spending under control and ensure that I have enough left over to invest. When my sharesaves mature the plan is to take the money with the profit I’ve hopefully made and invest in some low cost index trackers.

All the shares I own are with the company I work for, so I think the key message for 2019 is that I need to diversify. About £20k of the shares are in an ISA, so I’ll probably keep those. Also some of the shares I need to keep for a number of years as there were conditions whereby I got free shares and it will be tax and NI free, but only if I don’t sell too quickly. But once the share price is a bit more favourable then I’ll offload some shares and stick the money in trackers.

I’ve included my AVC’s in my figures, but not my defined benefits pension. If I stay with the company and retire at 60(in just under 12 years) then I’ll get about £10K a year. It should be much more, but the company pretty well screwed us on that a good few years ago. The salary that your pension was based on got capped, so basically any pay rises don’t have an impact on your pension. At the time I was in a lower grade job and working part time so it’s had a huge impact on the amount of pension I’ll get when I retire. I realise I’m lucky to have a pension, especially as this scheme isn’t available to people who joined the company later, but still. It is what it is. I try not to think too much about it as it annoys me. I just need to sort my finances and be glad that I’ve got something there in terms of a pension.

I’ve just updated all my budget spreadsheets for the year end, moving over the final figures to the 2019 spreadsheets. Overall I’m pretty happy with how my budgeting went in 2018. I’ve gone over on a few areas of spending. I had an expensive couple of months with the car, but then it is 8 years old now, so I guess that’s to be expected. Also my petrol and entertainment budgets went a wee bit over, but I know why that happened.

After five years of being completely and utterly singe I bit the bullet and tried out internet dating. To say I was sceptical was the understatement of the century, but as one of my friends famously said to me “Men aren’t just going to come knocking on your door to ask you out”. Apparently I had to put myself out there a bit. Who knew? So four months ago I decided to go for it. One Sunday night I stuck a profile up and waited to see what would happen. I didn’t even bother looking at any profiles, I rather lazily just waited for people to contact me. My rather haphazard plan worked pretty well. I got a few messages through. Plenty of the expected dross. Any that said “hi sexy, want to chat?” got dingied straight away. Luckily there were enough normal people on there too. Sky Running guy was the most interesting, and we were soon messaging away. I was quite enjoying myself when he totally freaked me out by suggesting we meet up. Did he not know I wanted to take things slowly? Anyway we met for a safe hot chocolate at Costa at the cinema. I was actually so terrified I was shaking and could barely string a sentence together. I can’t remember all that much about that date. It can’t have been that bad though, as that was followed up with another date for crazy golf and a meal. Four months later we’re still dating and having a great time. I’m not sure frugality and dating are natural bed partners necessarily. You kind of have to do the whole going out on dates thing. Saying that, we’re not exactly splashing the cash all the time, although it has been nice going to a few different events that I probably wouldn’t have gone to on my own or with the kids. Also he lives an hour’s round trip away, so I’m spending more on petrol than I used to. All in all though I think it’s money well spent. It’s always a balance in life isn’t it? I want to be financially independent, but not at all costs. I want to enjoy the journey too.

So overall I’m fairly happy with my current finances. I’m not on a massive salary, but I’m managing to budget well enough to live within my means, overpay my mortgage and save each month. I’m keeping the wolf from the door in single parenthood land, so I think I’m doing alright for myself and my boys. I need to rejig my investments so I haven’t got all my financial eggs in one basket, so that’s a job for this year. I’ll be getting a small payrise in April of about an extra £50 or £60 a month, so if my budgets are all still balancing then I think I might try investing in some index trackers. That will let me dip my toe in the water and get comfortable, so hopefully when my share save money comes through I’ll be happy to stick that in trackers too. Watch this space.

Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. Time to sort out my life and make lots of unrealistic resolutions. Actually that’s not really how I roll. Although I do seem to have yet again become a professional chocolate eater over the Christmas period, so pretty soon I’m going to have to do something about the tightness of my jeans by either eating a bit less and running a bit more, or buying new jeans. Hopefully not the latter option.

The last few years I’ve tried to make positive rather than negative resolutions. So last year was all about trying to get more sleep. Considering how much I love to sleep this should be a really easy one for me. I’ve even put an app on my phone that gets very passive aggressive with me when I’m ignoring it’s entreaties for me to go to bed yet again. And yet still every work lunchtime finds me in my car with the seat right back having a 20 minute power nap. I’m getting a bit better I think. I’m probably getting closer to 7 hours a night rather than the 6 hours it used to be. Maybe this year will be when I get to a solid 8 hours a night. I’m sure I could make much more progress on my goals if I wasn’t so exhausted all the time.

Two years ago I had some great resolutions. I had already got back into running after a 20 year plus hiatus, I was training regularly and had done quite a few races, including some half marathons and one full marathon. I was loving it, but felt that I really needed to find some people to run with. So I decided in the new year that I wanted to start doing Parkrun and to join a running club. I have to say they were the most beneficial resolutions I have ever made. I work every second Saturday, but when I’m not working, 9.30 will find me at my local Parkrun. On Christmas day I completed my 45th Parkrun, so I’m within sprinting distance of my 50 milestone when I’ll qualify for my free Tshirt. My kids give me a row when everywhere I go I try to recruit people to Parkrun, but seriously give it a go. It’s so friendly and inclusive (and free!) A 5km run is a lovely way to kickstart the weekend. I also joined my local Jog Scotland group. Again it’s really friendly and caters for all abilities. I’ve made some great friends through both Parkrun and Jog Scotland, and I now have some brilliant friends to run with. We’re usually so busy chatting that we barely notice the running. I really want to join another running club too that will give me access to some more intensive training sessions, so that’s a resolution for this year. I’ve been putting it off as I’m not sure I’m good enough, but I guess I’ll only start improving when I get out of my comfort zone. There’s also a really scary 5km vertical run up a mountain in September that even just the thought of is seriously terrifying me. That’s probably a really good sign that I should go for it. When they mention danger of serious injury and death in the terms and conditions then you know it’s a properly hard core race.

I’m a great believer that you can only really focus on a couple of areas of your life at one time. I usually find that when one thing is going really well my concentration slips in other areas. The trouble is there’s always so many things I’m keen to work on. I did loads of extra things above and beyond my actual job title at work in 2018, so I’m really hoping that will be reflected in my performance rating for the year, which will directly influence my bonus and payrise. I really need to decide once and for all what I want to do work wise. There’s some very compelling arguments to be made for staying with the same company. I think that’s why I’ve hung around so long. I’m managing to do enough things that really interest me but that aren’t actually anything to do with my job title to keep myself interested enough to stick around. I go back and forwards on staying with the same company but looking for an internal move. The problem I have with that is I have great working hours of 8-4(although I could do without the weekend working) and it’s 15 minutes from home to desk. The thought of potentially brutal shifts and an expensive (in terms of both time and money) commute really puts me off. I go through spells of looking, but then get lazy. Also I’m well thought of in my current department and work with a great bunch of people, which again makes me reluctant to leave. I think at the very least I need to explore the possibilities and see about earning some more money this year.

Finance wise I want to get my head down and keep overpaying my mortgage. I think the easiest way to organise your finances is to automate your plans so that you don’t have to make a conscious decision every month about what to do with your money. The old adage of pay yourself first has got a lot of merit to it. My sharesaves come off before I see any of my money, and my mortgage overpayment comes out like clockwork shortly after payday each month. I’ve got my budgets all set up, and it’s that time of year again to get all my budgeting spreadsheets ready to go again. I like to get myself hunkered down for a few hours and organise my finances for the year to come. It’s one of my favourite things about the new year.

There’ll likely be a few changes to the finances coming up this year. Maths Boy is hoping to head off to university this year if he gets his first choice of university. He’ll only be 16, so he may wait another year if he doesn’t get in where he wants to. I’ve definitely got mixed feelings about him heading out into the world at such a young age, but what can you do? I’m not quite sure how that’s going to impact my finances. I get maintenance for him and his brother from their dad, but I never went down the CSA route. I didn’t want to be screwing him for every penny I could, so we just agreed to an amount. I have to say we’ve managed to be incredibly amicable, which was what I wanted for the kids. I’ve missed out on a lot of money that I could have had from him over the years as he’s done incredibly well for himself in the years since we split, but for me that’s much less important than being able to still get on with the father of my children. I can’t quite work out if I’ll be better off when the kids leave home in terms of fewer costs, or if losing maintenance payments, child benefit and a small amount of child tax credits will make things more difficult. Time will tell.

I need to sit down and work out my net worth again, as it’s a while since I’ve done that. The kids are away this weekend and I’m not working, so maybe I’ll get a bit productive and have a good hard look at my finances. I’m already looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings. I’ll focus on deciding what I’m going to do with my work situation, join a new running club and hope to reap the benefits from that. I need to be averaging 7 hours sleep a night so I’ve got enough energy for everything I want to do. Oh, and of course see how I get on with this blog. Lots to do and probably not enough hours in the day, but I’ll do my best. There’s lots to look forward to and lots of work to be done to try and get myself a bit closer to FIRE. 

About Me

I’m a 48 year old single mum living in Scotland who moved here back in 2000. The details are a bit blurry in my memory, but there was definitely a man involved. One marriage, two children and one divorce later, the man is most definitely an ex now, but the love affair with Scotland continues. This is home for me now. Divorce is hard on the finances, there’s no doubt about that. We split when the kids were tiny, so it was a long hard slog juggling childcare, working part time and paying the bills. I’ve worked in financial services for the same company since I moved up here, but not in a high paying sort of job. Five years ago I managed to manoeuvre myself into a job with that same company working full time and earning a lot more than I had been. Saying that, my salary now has only just nudged over the £30k mark, so we’re most definitely not talking big bucks here.

 My main focus for a lot of years was paying as much of my mortgage off as I could. When I took out my first post-divorce mortgage back in 2006 interest rates were a lot higher than they are now. I’m lucky enough to have a base rate staff mortgage, which is great, but it does somewhat suck you in and make you very reluctant to leave. As interest rates dropped, I just kept paying the same amount to my mortgage and I loved checking my balance and seeing it coming down. I was torn about what to do with the house. We just about had enough room where we were, and if we stayed put the mortgage would have been cleared by the time I was in my mid-fifties. I really wanted more space though. I’m pretty sure my kids are going to be living far away from here when they fly the nest. Maths Boy has already applied to mostly English universities, despite my dire warnings of student debt if he goes south of the border. To be fair, his dream is studying in Cambridge, and I don’t want to be the one to rain on his parade. Coding Boy thinks his future lies over the water in America. Whatever happens, they both have really clear ideas about what they want to do with their lives and careers, and Scotland doesn’t seem to feature all that much in those dreams. So, I wanted a big enough house for them to be able to come home to stay whenever they wanted. I’ve got that now, but unfortunately I’ve also got the mortgage to go with it. I’m overpaying again, but effectively I’ve started my mortgage afresh. Even at the current low interest rates I’m going to be 62 before I’m done with it.

I’ve become a bit obsessed with FIRE blogs over the last few years. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time reading them and feeling that I should be doing more to sort my finances. I’ve got budgets set up for everything with a corresponding spreadsheet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m most definitely not a Mr Money Moustache, but I do alright with the money I have coming in. At the end of the day you have to live a bit too. Time just seems to keep ticking away though and I don’t seem to get much closer to FIRE. I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than trimming the fat any more, what I really need to do is increase my income. That’s easier said than done though.

 I go round and round in circles trying to work out what to do for the best. I know I need to get my mortgage paid off and increase my pension and passive income so that I can afford to retire at some point. I have a defined benefits pension, which unfortunately got capped when I was working part time and earning £10k less than I am now. So basically me going full time and getting a pay rise hasn’t helped my pension any.

 At 60 my pension will be about £10,000 a year. I’ve worked out that without a mortgage or any work related costs I can live on about £15,000 a year. Of course I need to take inflation into account, but when I’m retired I won’t have two teenagers eating me out of house and home. I’ve got about £1500 a year coming in from dividends just now, which I reinvest. Rather foolishly though that all comes from shares in the company I work for. The plan is to change that. In 2020 and 2021 I have Share Save plans maturing, and I’ll just take the money from them and invest it in something else. Index trackers seem to be the sensible route to go down.  Most of the shares I own just now are in ISA’s, so I’ll probably just leave those well alone.  Any not safe from tax I’ll sell (when share prices are not quite so dire) and either pay off some more of the mortgage or put the money into index trackers.  At this stage my goal is to retire at 60. Not exactly early, but much better than it could be. The dream scenario is to quit my job in my fifties, but I think that’s going to be a tough ask. The key is going to be to increase what I’m earning. I think you can only reduce your expenses so far. I definitely could cut costs, but the question is would I want to. I don’t want to look back on my life and think that I’ve not spent money on experiences that could have enhanced my life. I think that Minimalism has a lot to offer in this regards. For me it’s all about the people and experiences in my life, not about the stuff. Saying that, I really want to be financially independent and have the choice about what I want to do work wise.  Having a separate source of flexible income that I could continue when I retire from the traditional 9-5 grind is the way to go. Watch this space as they say.