October 2019 Net Worth And Trying Not To Buy Yet Another Party Dress

Here we go with how my finances are looking for the month of October. As always last month’s figures are in brackets for comparison. I break down my figures to both include and exclude my house equity. The latter figure is to show how I’m doing in my quest to reach mortgage neutrality.

Debts

Mortgage £82,712.71 (£83,459.58)

Assets

Cash £15,289.89 (£15,897.60)

Money in share save £13,804 (£13,304)

AVC’s £4,573.30 (£4,530.85)

Shares £33,128.09 (£30,833.00)

House £245,000 (£245,000) 

Total Assets £311,795.28 (£309,565.45)  

Net Worth including house equity

£311,795.28 – £82,712.71 = £229,082.57 (£226,105.87)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£66,795.28 – £82,712.71 = -£15,917.43 (-£18,894.13) 

I’m pretty happy with those figures I think. My cash figure seems to be getting a little bit lower every month. This seems to be an almost imperceptible creep down the way. With one thing and another it seems to have been quite an expensive year. House and car expenses have been quite high, as have general life costs. I guess that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  The good thing is that I’ve not needed to touch the £10k that I have in a cash ISA, but rather I’ve been using the surplus that I keep in my current accounts. So it could be worse, but I could do with a cheap few months. Seems unlikely with Christmas coming up and the fact that I’ve just booked a trip to Berlin with friends to run the half marathon over there next year. You have to live a bit though, so I’m not going to worry unduly about it.

My AVC’s seem to be faltering a bit, but I’m trying to ignore that and remind myself that this is the long game I’m playing, rather than get caught up in the month to month values. That’s the downside of a monthly catch up on what you’re worth. It’s great for keeping you motivated, but it can cause a certain amount of fixation on what’s happening to particular parts of your money.

Overall things seem to moving in the right direction. The big picture figures all seem to be doing rather nicely (helped by a healthy share price of the work ones that I own). I can see that I’m getting closer and closer to mortgage neutrality, which is something I’m really looking forward to. I’ve got a big birthday coming up next year and it would be lovely to get to the point where I could cash in enough assets to clear the mortgage if I was so inclined. There’s something about a birthday with a zero on the end of it that makes it even more important than normal to have FU money. I don’t think I’ll quite hit the sweet point of mortgage neutrality by the time I get to 50, but I won’t be far off it. Something to aim for anyway.

I’ve started playing around with some graphs showing how my figures have been doing this year, the first year that I formally started tracking what I’m worth. It’s interesting to see the upwards trajectory, despite a few dips over the months. Once we get to 2020 I’ll put out a summary of 2019 showing how I’ve done. It will be nice to have a record of where I started the year and how I got to the end point.  

So overall I’m feeling quite positive about my figures. I feel like I’m haemorrhaging money at the moment, so it’s good to see that things are still going in the right direction. I’ve got some potentially expensive times coming up. My boiler is a little temperamental at times. It doesn’t seem to cope all that well in very cold weather, which is inconvenient in a boiler to say the least! Last weekend it died a death and refused to come on, just when we needed it most. We don’t have an electric shower, so if the boiler isn’t working we have cold showers, which is a character building way to start the day. I’ve managed to coax it back to life, but I think I either need to accept that every few months we’ll have a couple of days without heating or hot water, or bite the bullet and replace it. For now I’m ignoring the issue and hoping that we’ll get another couple of years out of it. At some point I’ll need to address the issue though.

As I said I’ve booked a trip to Berlin with the girls for a bit of a running getaway. I’m very excited about this, but of course it all has to be paid for. Entry to the race, the all-important T-shirt (which you have to pay for separately!) and rental of the chip so you can get a time(I’ll never complain about the cost of entry in to the Great North Run again) comes to just shy of 100 Euros. It’ll be worth it though. This trip is to celebrate a couple of us turning 50 next year, and quite frankly I can’t think of a better way to mark my advancing age.

I was talking to someone at work this week about my finances. I was saying to him that I still can’t use my ensuite, as since the shower tray cracked and the subsequent leak I haven’t got it fixed. He thought I was crazy and should get it sorted before Christmas. I explained that what made most sense was completely doing out the bathroom, as already the loo won’t flush, the wet wall could do with replacing and the floor will need to be changed. I said that I would get it done, but just not immediately. I said that instead I’d spent £700 getting my main bathroom sorted so that we had a shower screen, new wet wall and the existing shower attached to the wall. He clearly thought I was crazy for having an ensuite there but not spending money on it to get it usable again.

Now I definitely will be getting the ensuite sorted, but the money isn’t there in the budget just now. Yes I could dip into my cash ISA money. It’s there for emergencies, and isn’t this an emergency? Well not really. We still have a bathroom that we can use. In our last house we only had one bathroom and we managed just fine. And in this house we also have the luxury of a downstairs loo, so there’s no crossing your legs if someone is in the shower. I’m pretty sure we can wait until next year to get the extra bathroom sorted.

The general consensus at work seems to be that I’m loaded but very tight with my money and won’t spend any of it. There is an acknowledgement that I am in such a relatively good financial position because I am careful with my money, and yet still I get some good natured ribbing for my reluctance to part with my hard earned cash. I’m not tight when it comes to collections for people at work, or paying my share when we’re out, just on spending unnecessarily on myself. I get told on the one hand that I have done so well as a single parent to get myself so financially sorted, but then the same people also tell me that I should spend more on myself. I do get where they’re coming from, but sometimes you can’t have it both ways. There’s only a finite amount of money coming in to the family coffers, so I can either save and invest it or spend it. I can’t really do both. Well I could, but that would slow my plans down, and quite frankly they’re going to take long enough to achieve as it is. I just smile, agree that I should treat myself more and carry on as I am.

I seem to be out of step with much of the world in this way of thinking though. The mind set seems to be I want it now and I deserve to not to have to wait. I think that’s one of the reasons why I like the FIRE movement so much and the idea that planning for the future sometimes means delaying your gratification. And realising that maybe the thing that you think you want/need is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Case in point, Christmas night out dresses. I have a Christmas ceilidh to go to next month with my running club. I found myself in Debenhams (my guilty pleasure) and suddenly I was perusing party dresses. I don’t need another going out dress, particularly as I don’t go out very often any more. Somehow though I was in the dressing room with a very fetching green number on twirling in front of the mirror. I tried very hard to remember what The Minimalists would say about this. I could definitely have done with Josh and Ryan on speed dial to talk me down from that dress. I remembered their rule about waiting for purchases, so I put it back and went home. I then went to my wardrobe and counted the twelve perfectly nice dresses that I already had that would be perfect for a Christmas night out. I’ve decided that next time I think I need a new dress I’ll just go shopping in my own wardrobe.

I’ll continue trying to not buy things unnecessarily, without depriving myself. I’ll spend money on experiences that will enhance mine and my family’s life, and try to avoid buying yet more unneeded party dresses, no matter how pretty they are or how nicely they’ll twirl around when I’m trying my best to follow the directions at the ceilidh. I love a wee ceilidh, even if I didn’t have the advantage of learning all the dances when I was at school. I usually get cut a bit of slack though, on account of me being a Sassenach. Going wrong and getting confused is all part of the fun, especially at Christmas time.

September And October Didn’t Quite Go According To Plan

Time’s marching on again, so time to see how I did on my combined September and October goals. This should be a quick update. I’ll just put a big fat fail next to all of them and we’ll say no more about the matter. I think the fact that I couldn’t actually remember what my goals were tells you all you need to know. Still, for the sake of being thorough, here goes.

  • Lose another 4 pounds. PASS. I’m going to give myself this one. I did definitely get down to 10 and a half stone. I think I even maintained it for a good few weeks. I am no longer using My Fitness Pal or weighing myself, which is a very bad sign. Oh well. I’m still a lot thinner than I was and as it feels like we’re hurtling towards Christmas at a fair rate of knots I’m not sure this is going to get much better for the time being.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep 2 nights a week and 7 hours a night 3 nights a week FAIL. Actually this is not nearly as bad as I thought it was. I just had a look at my sleep tracker and I’m getting more than seven hours pretty much every night. The nights when it’s closer to six and a half I feel dreadful the next day, so I tend not to repeat it. Considering six to six and a half hours was pretty much standard for me, this is definitely an improvement. I don’t see any eight hours in there, and considering how fantastic I feel the next day when I’ve slept that long that’s something I really should rectify.
  • Do yoga once a week. FAIL. I’ve maybe done this once or twice. I know how good it is for me, but I just find it a bit tedious. I know it will do wonders for my running, but I just don’t find it all that interesting.
  • Swim once a week. FAIL. I still haven’t slotted this in to my schedule. I love it when I go, so it’s ridiculous that I’m not doing it, but such is life.
  • Make a start on that book that I always meant to write. FAIL. I’ve done nothing on this. Well, that’s not quite true. I’ve written profiles for the main characters, but I’ve not got any further than that.

I think it’s fair to say that working on my goals the last month or so hasn’t been an unqualified success. I don’t know if they were goals that I wasn’t all that interested in, if I was just having a lazy spell, if life got in the way or more likely a combination of all those factors.

When I look back over the last couple of months I do feel that I achieved some things. Maybe not as much as I would have hoped, and definitely not in the areas that I thought I’d be working on, but we’ll take our victories where we can. Although I do seem to be somewhat self-sabotaging my weight loss at the moment, the fact remains that I lost a stone and I’m a lot trimmer than I was. The key now is going to be to find a balance that I can live with where I don’t feel like I’m deprived, but I’m also not scarfing chocolate down like it’s going out of fashion. I’m not really very good at moderation, so this is always a tough one for me to get right.

I ran the Great North Run again and was happy with my time. Due to injury it hadn’t looked likely that I would be able to start, but my knees held up and yet again I loved the race. I’m loving my running at the moment. I’m getting much more consistent with going to my running club, and I’m really working hard when I’m there. I’m hoping I’ll start to reap the rewards from this with improved times.

Work has been very full on. I got trained up on a new skill and I’ve now been signed off to take these different types of applications. It’s always a bit daunting going out of your comfort zone and feeling like a newbie again, but I’m definitely making good progress and getting the hang of the new type of work. When you’re so focussed at work on getting things right, it’s sometimes difficult to come home and work on things there too. Maybe that’s why I’ve been cutting myself some slack on my goals.

I’m still working away at my Spanish on Duolingo. I had a bit of a rough patch where I felt that I wasn’t making much progress. With hindsight that probably coincided with that very intense period at work where my brain was pretty much fried and probably couldn’t cope with learning a new language as well as work stuff. I’m really enjoying Spanish again and it feels that I’ve made a bit of a jump forward. I’m loving listening to the Duolingo Spanish podcasts and am currently looking for other intermediate level audio to listen to once I’ve finished all the Duolingo podcasts. I tried to watch The Big Bang in Spanish, but that was a step too far for me, and made me realise I still can only cope with listening to relatively slow Spanish!

So running and Spanish went pretty well. I did fantastic on my weight loss but I’m eating a fair amount of rubbish again. My sleeping isn’t as good as it could be, but it’s better than it was. I’ve been working hard at work and learning new skills. My friend came over from Germany to stay for a few days which was a lot of fun. I’ve watched quite a few films with one of the kids, including a cinema trip to watch The Shining (the original) which scared the hell out of me just like I knew it would. So some great times with friends and family, which is always important, even if it doesn’t appear in any of my goals. So although I failed in almost all of my goals, I’m going to take the positives from the last few months and run with that.

As far as goals for the rest of the year go, I think I’m going to be quite kind to myself. This is not the time of year to be locking yourself away working on solo projects. I think I’d rather set myself some realistic goals and meet them rather than be constantly feeling that I should be working at something that’s not going to happen just now. So here goes for what I’d like to achieve by the end of the year.

  • Go to running club twice a week. Continue to work hard and challenge myself so that I start to see improvements. It’s difficult to quantify what “work hard” means, but I’ll know if I’ve been taking it easy or not.
  • Watch at least one film every week with at least one of the kids. I have one kid who’s a film buff, and the other who’s not really all that fussed. We seem to be on a bit of a Kubrick watching kick just now, and are managing to get quite a few of his ticked off the list that has been drawn up for me by the teenage film expert in the house. I’m hoping to sneak a few Christmas films in there too.
  • Meet up with my parents in Edinburgh for the Christmas markets and generally a bit of a catch up. We’ve done this a few times now, but didn’t manage it last year. This is always a fun day out and a good opportunity to see each other over the festive period as I will be home in Scotland as always for Christmas and won’t make it down to England to visit till after the new year.
  • Keep my Duolingo streak going and get section 3 of the Spanish tree finished.
  • Get caught up on my volunteering debt with parkrun. You’re supposed to volunteer once for every 10 parkruns you do. I’d been very lax on this, but I’ve been trying to get caught up on that this year. I’ve done 66 parkruns now but only volunteered 5 times. I’ll try and get one more lot of volunteering done before the end of the year. I usually marshall, and it’s great fun cheering everybody on.
  • Do one new parkrun. This will give me 16 different parkruns that I’ve done. I’m aiming for 20 which will earn me the status of parkrun tourist. I’m also working my way through the alphabet, and am very excited that University of Stirling parkrun recently started up, giving me the opportunity to get a very elusive “U”. Finishing the alphabet is a bit more of a long term project for me though.

Actually, considering I wasn’t really going to bother with setting any goals I’ve got a fair few there. They’re all ones that I’m excited about achieving, which hopefully bodes well for a slightly more successful update than this one! I was going to put a parkrun PB in as one of my goals, but decided to avoid the pressure of that. Also it means I can just enjoy gadding about beautiful Scotland to notch up a different parkrun without worrying about how fast I’m running. I think I’ve got enough there to keep me out of mischief, but at the same time have a really lovely end to the year. Here’s hoping anyway.

September’s Net Worth

It’s almost time to do the October figures, so I’ll do a quick update on how September went as far as my net worth is concerned. As always last month’s figures are in brackets for comparison. I’ve included my net worth both including and excluding the house equity. The latter figure is to show how I’m doing in achieving mortgage neutrality.

Debts

Mortgage £83,459.58 (£84,107.72)  

Assets

Cash £15,897.60 (£16,157.39)

Money in sharesave £13,304 (£12,804)

AVC’s £4,530.85 (£4,486.86)

Shares £30,833.00 (£31,523.07)

House £245,000  (£245,000)

Total Assets £309,565.45 (£309,971.22)

Net Worth including house equity

£309,565.45 – £83,459.58 = £226,105.87 (£225,863.50)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£64,565.45 – £83,459.58 = -£18,894.13  (-£19,136.50)

Nothing to write home about, but nothing horrendous either. Cash and share values are down a bit. I feel that my cash reserves are getting a bit depleted. I haven’t touched my cash ISA, but I’ve needed to dip into the excess cash that I have in my various current accounts. Life’s just a bit expensive sometimes. I can’t even really remember what I’ve spent the money on, but I do know it’s not been anything extravagant. Continuing car and house expenses. My budgets are still balancing, but I do feel that I’ve been paying out a lot over the last few months.

Saying that, it’s nice to see that my net worth both including and excluding the house equity have improved. There’s not much I can do about the share price, but at least if I keep chipping away at the mortgage and saving each month then I’ll hopefully keep going in the right direction. I think the key is not to get too het up about the volatility of the market. It’s strange times that we’re living in, which is being reflected in the markets. As long as I continue to keep my expenses as low as I can, whilst spending on things that add value to my life (I’m thinking travel and experiences with friends and family rather than hitting the shops for the latest designer whatever) then I should continue to move toward my goal of reaching FIRE at some mythical point in the future.

I think the next focus for me needs to be building my AVC pot to a much better level. I’ve had confirmation from my pension that I can use my AVC fund to take the tax free lump sum from my defined benefits pension, rather than using the funds from the main fund and so reducing down my annual pension amount. So if I can get my AVC fund big enough I can get my tax free lump sum and the higher level of pension that I could expect if I didn’t take the cash. Sounds like a win win situation to me, so now just the small matter of saving enough in AVC’s to make this happen. I think my next pay rise will again be siphoned off straight away to AVC’s before I get used to the extra money in my pocket.

I don’t really know what my finances will look like over the next few years. This time next year one of the kids will have just gone off to university, and the other one will have either one or two years left at school, depending on whether he goes off to uni a year early or at the usual time. He’s banking on a general election brining in a Labour government and a subsequent abolition of tuition fees. He’s in the lucky position of having free tuition fees here in Scotland, but he’d like to go to an English university if he doesn’t need to pay fees. So he’s hedging his bets and waiting to see what happens in the mess that is our political system.

Anyway, either way for a good few years to come I’m going to have kids away at uni, but no doubt spending a good part of the year back home for the holidays (or half the year as us regular folks call it). So I’ll still have plenty of upkeep costs for them, but my maintenance, child benefit and tiny amount of working tax credit will have stopped. My plan was always to do the share saves whilst I had maintenance etc coming in, so that when that stopped I would be able to stop saving to make up the shortfall. Then I discovered FIRE and realised that if I ever want to retire then I need to keep saving and investing.   

So now I’m thinking that I really need to find a way to earn more money so that I can keep saving and working towards FIRE. No doubt there are areas of my life where I could reduce my spending, but whether I’m prepared to or not is another matter. After my recent experience of riding the buses, part of me did think that getting rid of the car might be the way to go. This was reinforced by the very first day that I was allowed to drive again I went out to Aldi and heard an ominous noise coming from the car. New brakes and discs and £200 later I was on the road again. It’s almost like the universe was taunting me with my decision to go back to the car. For now though, no car is a step too far for me.

Rather than cut my spending down further I do think that earning more might be more realistic. I’m working on that, but I’m not sure it’s going to be a quick thing to fix. Maybe it doesn’t need to be though. I’m exploring a few options at the moment, which is quite exciting. I don’t know if anything will come of these ideas, but if I don’t try then I’ll always be asking myself “what if?”

That’s about it for today. I was delighted to discover the extra hour this morning with the clocks having changed. My phone had changed automatically, so I was up at the right time to meet my friends for a run this morning. When I got back home from the run I couldn’t work out why I’d been out running for so long. Turns out I hadn’t changed my digital running watch, so I was an hour ahead of myself. Love a bonus hour like that. I’d love to say I’d done something really productive with that hour, but honestly I just wrote this blog post, which I was planning to do anyway. At least I still have a good bit of the day left to enjoy.

A Constant Striving For Improvement

I recently watched Eliud Kipchoge breaking the 2 hour mark for the marathon. It was an incredible thing to see. I stood in my lounge shouting encouragement and crying when he achieved his dream. The physical aspect of it is totally amazing. I was delighted when I managed to break the 2 hour mark for a half marathon, so the fact that he’s done that for a full marathon completely blows my mind. He clearly has a remarkable talent. The conditions were just right for him, with everything from the location, the pacers, his shoes and his fuelling all controlled as closely as possible. Ultimately though it was down to him. His belief that he could do it this time and pushing through the pain to succeed in his goal.

Listening to the commentators, they were talking about some of the things that make him such a great athlete. Clearly he has the innate talent to make him an incredible runner. That’s not enough though. He had a tough start in life, with hardship being an expected part of his life. Even now in his training camp the mantra is “run, eat, sleep, repeat.” That’s what’s needed to be the best. Even if I had the talent I don’t think that life would be for me. There’s too many things I want to achieve in my life to focus exclusively on one thing.

Apparently Eliud is a big believer in reading self-help books. He likes to think deeply about things and then applies this to his running. He doesn’t have a mental coach, which is a bit unusual for a top athlete, but rather he likes to read and apply what he’s learned to his sport. I must admit that I’m a big fan of books that help me to improve myself. I like to read books about setting and achieving goals and how to make changes to my life. Some of these types of books are a bit too pie in the sky for me, but as long as they’re offering practical advice that I can see how to implement in my own ife then I’m in.

The Need To Take Action

Of course the danger with these types of books is that you just read endlessly, nod sagely and do nothing about implementing the changes that are needed to change your life. I’ve definitely been guilty of this in the past, and although I do take action nowadays, I’m sure I could be doing more and making grander changes to get me to where I want to be much quicker. I think the key is to read enough to galvanise you into action, but not to spend all your time setting goals and reading about how to achieve them, rather than actually doing something about bringing about the change you want to see.

I like to think that I’m pretty good at reaching my goals once I’ve set my mind to them. For me the difficult thing is working out what I want to do in the first place. I have a spreadsheet set up with goals for the different aspects of my life. So I have separate tabs for health, running, work, learning, money and the house. The danger is that this just turns in to a massive To Do list. As long as these are all steps along the way to reaching an overarching goal, then that’s good, but sometimes these feel as though they are a little unconnected.

Streaking Is a Wonderful Thing!

Something I’m really enjoying working on at the moment is improving my Spanish. I’m currently on a 143 day streak on Duolingo. I work on this twice a day, going through the tree and listening to the stories and podcasts. This is something that I love doing. I like to feel that I’m learning new things and improving my skills. But how is this going to help me in my life? I’m not planning on using it in my job and I don’t even have a holiday planned where it would come in useful. I suppose it’s possible that at some point in the future I might move back to Spain so keeping up with my Spanish keeps that open as an option for me. I’m not sure if that’s really why I’m doing it though. It’s fine if I’m just doing it for fun, but I didn’t really plan to spend so much time on this, I just started and got really into it.

Coding Is Messing With My Mind

Something new that I’ve started working on is coding. Again, it’s not something that I’ve consciously planned to do, but I suppose it was in the back of my mind. You know when opportunities just seem to present themselves and everything seems to come together almost as if it was meant to be. The kids are both into their coding, with one of them in the midst of building a game for his Computing project as part of his Higher course. The other kid wants to do this as a living, so there is a decent amount of computing/coding chat around the house. It’s maybe inevitable then that it would be on my radar at some level.

At work we have the opportunity to give back to the community with a day off work to volunteer. Most people go and do gardening or painting or something similar. In the past I’ve done that, but last year I went into a school to talk to the students about managing their money. It was a bit nerve racking, but I really enjoyed it. Don’t even get me started on how little so many of the kids knew about basic budgeting, saving and borrowing. Anyway this year I’ve been holding off on using my day looking for another interesting opportunity.

Finally a project was advertised to go in to schools to help kids with coding projects. It said it was suitable for complete beginners as the idea was you would work through the project first of all yourself and then guide the kids through it. The idea terrified me, so that immediately told me it was a great idea for me to apply for it. I’m going for my induction shortly to get all my vetting done and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in.

Meanwhile posters appeared where I work about drop in sessions to learn how to code. They will be once a week and you work away yourself on the freeCodeCamp website, but there’s someone there to talk things through with. Again I was terrified, so again a good reason to go along. Sometimes things just seem to come together and you just have to go with the flow. Probably if I hadn’t gone for the volunteering opportunity to teach the kids how to code then I wouldn’t have even noticed the drop in sessions that were on offer.

So I’ve been to that first coding session and to say I was bamboozled to start with would be the understatement of the century. I think I probably already knew that I would find it hard, but that’s no reason to give up. I worked away during my hour’s lunch break and made some progress. I then got home that night and worked away some more, this time with the assistance of my home grown computer experts. I’m on holiday this week, so that’s given me some time for some more practicing. It’s hard, but I’m really enjoying it. When the penny drops on a particular part and I get something to work I’m so pleased with myself.

So for now my plan is to keep working away at the free Code Camp curriculum. I’ve started with html and seem to be managing that without too many issues (well, you know, a bit of tearing out of my hair, but I’m getting there). I’ll just keep plugging away, use my lunch break once a week to go to the drop in sessions and keep practicing at home. Hopefully my vetting will come through quite quickly for getting in to the schools and I’ll manage to help the kids with some of the projects. Who knows where all this will lead? Not me anyway. Will this lead to a change in career? I have my doubts, but I suppose it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. The fact of the matter is though that I’m learning new things, expanding my horizons and peering into the future to see what might be possible. If I don’t try then I won’t know what I can do.

Get Out Of That Comfort Zone

I’m shocking at dealing with change. I retreat into myself and try and resist at all costs. Ironically though I get bored if things don’t change often enough. Although I want things to remain constant, I get incredibly frustrated when they do. I really need to force myself out of my comfort zone. Learning is what sustains me. I’ve always loved learning new things. Ideally I would be a student or on a training course for the rest of my life. Probably not the most practical plan, but lifelong learning is definitely the way to go for me.

This is partly down to loving learning, but also because I always want to be improving myself. I always feel that I have so much more potential than I’ve ever come close to achieving. It seems to me that there should be a switch inside myself that I could just put on that means I would understand so much more about the world. I know this switch doesn’t exist, but I sometimes feel that I’m so close to understanding things, but I just can’t get my head around them. Although I studied sciences up to O level, I’m much more on the social sciences side of things. I love language and my brain really struggles with the maths side of things. I do feel though that if I could just understand some basic maths concepts then lots more things would become clear to me.

It just so happens that I have two maths and science fiends living in my house with me. Both of them have those sorts of brains that revel in maths and science. One wants to study maths at university and the other computing.  I know all parents think their children are amazing, and I’m no exception, but just from an objective point of view my kids are good at this sort of stuff. Both of them have taken exams a year early and sailed through them and one of them is trying to get in to Cambridge to study maths. The other one wants to study computing, and would aim for Cambridge too but unless tuition fees get abolished he’s going to stay in Scotland (clearly my FIRE rantings have had some effect!) I have to say I can take absolutely no credit for the brains on these two. I’m not exactly dragging my knuckles on the ground, but I’m not in the same league as them. What can I say, clever men are my thing, which means you get clever kids when you procreate.

It would be ridiculous not to make use of these live in maths brains to get them to help me to understand some of this stuff. They won’t be living at home forever, so I might as well make the most of it now. So one of them is teaching me some algebra. I don’t quite know how this started, but suddenly I was solving equations on the blackboard. My house is a bit random in that we have blackboards around the place and both of them have a blackboard wall in their bedrooms.

One day I was walking home from work thinking about how big a pot I needed to accrue so that using the safe withdrawal rate I would have enough to top up my defined benefits pension. My sociology brain somehow realised that algebra would be able to help me with this. I burst through the door and got one of the kids to sit down with me and point me in the right direction to figure it out. I was insanely pleased with myself, and this has become a bit of a regular thing over the last week or so.

Part of this is that I just want to know how to do this stuff. To some people it just seems so easy, and I want it to be like that for me. Sadly it’s not, well not yet anyway. The other part is that I want my kids to be proud of me. I’m not saying that I’m some dummy, or even that intelligence is the only important thing in life, but I really want to be the best that I can be. What is it that they say? You are the sum of the five people you surround yourself with? Something like that anyway. Well at least two of those people are my kids, and they are pretty incredible, and I want to be like that too. They’re still only teenagers and yet they are so interested in learning things. I really don’t feel like I can have any credibility in the house if I’m not striving to improve. I realise that I should be the role model to my kids, and not the other way round, but honestly if I could be half as clever and interesting as they are then I’d be more than satisfied with myself.

On The Buses

We all know that cars are expensive, bad for the environment and can be crippling on the old finances. Every so often I’ll have a chat with myself about the fact that I probably could do without a car. This usually occurs to me around the time when my car has just needed some expensive repairs. I don’t really do guilt, but I have to admit that sometimes when I’m reading about people who have done away with their cars I feel like I could do so much better with my transport choices.

 On the face of it my life is set up perfectly to easily manage without a car. I live just over 3 miles from work, about 1.5 miles from the nearest town, there’s plenty of buses and trains to get me wherever I might want to go. I got the opportunity recently to put this to the test. I’ve been having a few health problems and the doctor wanted me to avoid driving for a month or so. So out of the blue I went from being a car person to a bus person. I have to admit that it was a bit of a shock to the system. This was partly down to the fact that it was such a sudden change. I went from driving everywhere one minute to either bussing or walking it the next.

Has Driving Everywhere Made Me Soft?

Now I didn’t pass my driving test until I was 30, so it’s not like I’m not used to public transport. Also when I was growing up mum didn’t drive, and as she was the one taking us everywhere during the week that meant we did plenty of walking and we were on first name terms with the bus drivers. But in the last 19 years or so I’ve barely been on a bus. Getting to the airport or going through to Edinburgh for the day are pretty much the only times I go on public transport nowadays. Well, not anymore.

I have to say it’s a lot easier nowadays to plan your trip via bus than it was back in the day. There’s a bus app (of course there is) and you can pay via contactless on the bus if you haven’t already paid online. So far so good. I start work at 8.00 am so need to be there for about 7.45 to give me time to get logged on etc. I normally leave by car at 7.30 and this works like a dream. I went online to work out when I would need to leave using public transport.

There’s a bus stop just a couple of minute walk from my house which would take me to the bus station so that I could catch the bus up to work. From there the buses are frequent and quick, so as long as I was on a bus heading for work by about 7.30 I would be fine and dandy. That meant just getting to the station for 7.30. The way it worked out I would need to be at the bus stop for about 6.55 and then have about 15 minutes hanging about at the station. Not horrendous, but I decided I’d rather leave 5 minutes earlier and walk into town. That way I was getting a 30 minute walk and at least felt that I was gaining something from not having the car.

Coming home I would just wander to the bus stop right outside of work and wait ten minutes or so to get a bus into town. I didn’t even bother working out what time the bus was up to my part of town. I was happy to walk the thirty minutes home, even when it was chucking it down (I do live in Scotland after all!)  Without even needing to think about it I suddenly had an hour’s exercise built into my day. I was still walking on a lunchtime as well (just as well I’d implemented that a while ago and stopped the lunchtime napping in my now non-existent car), so all in all I was walking for an hour and a half a day without needing any motivation to get myself out there.

Any Down Sides To This No Car Malarkey?

That was all really positive. Ok, so my alarm was going off fifteen minutes earlier in the morning and although I still made time for my physio exercises for my knee, my Duolingo Spanish had to wait till I got home on a night time. Also I didn’t really have much time to speak to the kids before I went out the door. One of them was up, but the other one was still in bed. I don’t normally have much time with them anyway, but I would normally be able to have a quick chat and touch base with them. No time for that on my bus schedule. So a couple of negative points, but all in all I loved the extra walking and the thinking time that it gave me.

I felt a bit like I was there observing on the bus, rather than being a part of it all. I’m sure in time it would just become business as usual for me, but so far it doesn’t feel quite natural yet. In my head I knew that lots of people took the bus, but I had almost forgotten about that world existing. It was nice to be reminded that it’s there, and that not everyone is cossetted in their own little car world.

I have to admit there have been a few times when I would have killed to have the car back in use. One Saturday after work I was stood at the bus stop waiting. I had finished work 15 minutes ago and if I’d had the car I would have already been home. I then had to stop at the shops to get some food for the weekend and then carry it up the road in the lashing rain. I should have waited for a bus, but the rain was so heavy and by the time the bus was due I would be home already if I just kept walking. That was a pretty miserable walk home.

There’s A Lot Of Good In The World

I have to say though that people have gone out of their way to help me. One of the weeks my colleague was on the same shift as me, so she altered her route to work to bring me in and then take me home afterwards. I also had one of my friends staying with me for a couple of days and she got up early to take me to work. I’m not a big one for asking for help (that’s probably the understatement of the century!) but people have been really kind in offering to help me out. My eldest has been going to Aldi once a week on his way home from school and lugging the shopping all the way home. I have to say getting the shopping is much easier with a car. When I first got a car that was the best thing for me, not having to carry heavy shopping bags on and off the bus. I think if I continued to be reliant on buses I might need to go back to online food shopping deliveries. If only Aldi delivered.

How Have The Kids Coped?

There’s been a bit of an impact on the kids as well. They’re fairly self-reliant, they walk to and from school and don’t really need me to get them too many places. One of them goes to a labour party meeting once a month and I would normally drop him off on the way to my running club. That couldn’t happen this time, but he checked out the bus timetable and got himself there and back without any problems. The other one goes to a chess club and he decided to give it a miss whilst I was out of action. I’m sure if it continued he’d start making his own way there, but for now he’s definitely missed out.

Too Lazy to Run To Running Club

I have to admit my running has definitely been impacted by the lack of driving. I would normally be at a couple of running clubs a week, and I’m sorry to say I haven’t been once since I’ve been without the car. There are a couple of reasons for this. Initially I wasn’t feeling great, so the thought of going out running wasn’t all that appealing. Also the longer days caused by a longer commute time meant I was more tired and had less time to do things in the evening.  Honestly though the thought of working out how to get to the various meeting points via bus and yet more walking or running before and after a hard running session was more than I wanted to deal with. I could no doubt have got lifts from friends, but it just seemed easier to give it a miss instead. I could of course have just gone out running myself, but I took it easy and just enjoyed all the walking I was doing.

Also I was supposed to be down south this weekend visiting the folks. I was going down early on the Saturday to tick off one of the borders parkruns in my quest to become a parkrun tourist.  I’m pretty sure it would have been nigh on impossible to get to the borders for a 9.30 start for parkrun.  I know I could have got the train to Newcastle, but with three tickets to pay for I don’t think this would have been all that cheap. So we didn’t go. Not the end of the world, but a bit disappointing. I know if we didn’t have a car we could hire one, but would we? You’ve definitely got more flexibility with a car sitting there, and it’s easier planning trips away when you’ve got a car.

Money, Money, Money

Now to the all important aspect of all of this. How did the costs compare of public transport compared to going by car. Now clearly this is not really a fair comparison at the moment. If I didn’t have a car at all then I wouldn’t have tax, insurance, MOT, servicing, repair bills etc etc etc. As my car is actually still sitting rather sadly on my drive, I still have all those costs to pay for.  For now though let’s just look at the petrol vs bus pass costs. I bought a weekly pass to cover the area that I needed on the bus. This cost me £12.70 for the week. Petrol wise I only need to fill up once a month unless I do any big trips. So it would typically cost me £60 for the month. With a very rough calculation I make that about £660 a year for the bus and £720 annually for petrol. If that was the only difference in cost then it would be a no brainer. The extra flexibility you get from having a car is well worth the £70 more in petrol.

As we well know though, petrol is only the half of it. Never mind the cost of buying the thing in the first place, the ongoing costs are not to be ignored. I budget £50 a month for car costs, and that hasn’t even come close this year. The money from the two free months on the council tax had to go towards the car, as did £500 of my bonus. When you look at it like that it seems like a bit of a no brainer for me. It’s only been a few weeks, but already I’ve got my life working pretty well without a car. I’m sure I’d get even more organised, and maybe even finally get my bike sorted out and make more use of that.

So now it comes to the crucial question. Will I ditch the car? I’m writing this on a Monday morning. I’m on holiday this week and today is the day that I’m allowed to start driving again. I don’t feel a desperate need to get back in the car immediately, but I also haven’t renewed my bus pass. I could very easily keep on with what I’ve been doing and leave the car sitting there on the drive. Or I could have car free weeks. There’s something to be said for that. I think making use of the bus has shown me how much I like the extra walking that I’m doing. It’s also really given me an appreciation of the flexibility and freedom that a car gives you.

You know what though? I just don’t want to get rid of it. Not yet anyway. I like the freedom that it gives me. Maybe when I reach FIRE and have got more time in my day it will be less of an issue. Saying that, I still want to be able to jump in the car on a Saturday morning and be a parkrun tourist. There’s places I want to go that aren’t served by public transport. If I was in a couple I think I might well think of getting rid of one of the cars. As long as I had a car for weekends and holidays I think I would be ok with that. But no car at all? I think that might be a step too far for me just now. Sometimes it’s not all about the money.  

August 2019 Net Worth Figures

Last month was not so great for the net worth figures, so let’s see how we’ve done for the month of August. As always I have put the previous month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I show my figures including my house equity, which is always a nice figure to see, even though I know that I’ll always need somewhere to live, so it’s not a true reflection of what I have to live on. I also show the figure excluding the house equity but including the mortgage. Although this seems counter-intuitive, as without the house you wouldn’t have the mortgage, I include it to show how I’m doing in my quest to become mortgage neutral.

Debts

Mortgage £84,107.72 (£84,843.68)

Assets

Cash £16,157.39 (£15,750.70)

Money in sharesave £12,804 (£12,304)

AVC’s £4,486.86 (£4,217.63)

Shares £31,523.07 (£27,982.60)

House £245,000  (£245,000)

Total Assets £309,971.22 (£305,254.93)

Net Worth including house equity

£309,971.22 – £84,107.72 = £225,863.50 (£220,411.25)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£64,971.22 – £84,107.72 =  -£19,136.50 (-£24,588.75)

It’s nice to see a bit of a bounce back of the shares that I own. Last month was a bit of a tricky month, with a big drop in the value of my shares. It’s satisfying to see that this has only been a temporary setback (here’s hoping!) and that things seem to be on the up again.

I’m very happy to dip under the twenty grand mark in terms of how far from being mortgage neutral I am. This continues to be a two pronged attack from me. I’m throwing as much as I can afford towards the mortgage to bring it down and also saving as much as possible to increase my assets. This is a really important target for me. I didn’t formally track my net worth in my last house, but I would periodically do a back of an envelope calculation, and was always delighted to know that my non-house assets totalled more than my mortgage. Psychologically there’s something very comforting about knowing that you could cash things in and pay off what you owe.

Then I decided that I wanted a bigger house for myself and my boys to enjoy now, and to have enough space for them to keep coming home to visit when they fly the nest. I’ve gone back and forwards on this decision about whether it was the right thing to do. We were probably ok where we were, but I’m such a homebody, that I really appreciate the extra space that we have now. And the thing is that I have an asset here that I can sell. There’s no saying that I have to stay put as and when my situation changes. I’ll definitely feel more comfortable though when I’m mortgage neutral.

Pensions, Pensions, It’s All About The Pensions

It’s nice to see my AVC contributions growing there. I don’t pay a lot towards this, it was basically just a pay rise that I got a year ago that I decided to put into AVC’s before I got used to having the money. As I’ve got a defined benefits pension that I don’t need to pay into, I’m in a reasonably good position. Saying that, because the company screwed us over big time as far as this pension is concerned, it’s nowhere near as good as it should/needs to be. So my plan is to try to enhance this pension with AVC contributions and shares.

I was blindly paying AVC’s without much thought having gone into it. This month I decided I needed to do a bit of research, so I’ve been ploughing through some rather heavy documents figuring out what charges I’m paying, looking at how I’ve got my money invested and what my options are when I do finally pull the trigger on work. I was pleasantly surprised on the charges side of things and I already knew that I needed to diversify the investments as it’s all UK based at the moment.

My plan on the pension side of things is to rejig the investments a bit to get a bit of diversity in there and to contact the pension company to ensure that my understanding of what happens to my AVC pot when I retire is correct. It looks as though I can put my AVC balance towards my cash free lump sum on my main pension, so that I’m not taking as much cash out of that side of things and so keep my pension income as high as possible.

I’ve Finally Embraced Index Trackers

I’ve opened up a Vanguard index tracker ISA this month and have put in the money I received from my dividend payments. At just over £600 it’s not a massive amount, but it’s a start. The next two sharesaves that mature I’m buying and immediately selling to get my money along with the profit, and that’s going straight into the index trackers too.

Water, Water Everywhere But None Of It Covered On The Home Insurance

I’ve got a bit of an expensive time coming up. I’ve had some home emergencies this month, with a leaking toilet downstairs and then a more serious problem with the ensuite shower developing a crack in the shower tray and water coming through the kitchen ceiling. Luckily I realised the ceiling was sagging ominously, so managed to poke to a couple of holes in it to avoid total collapse. I seem to have got to it just in time.

I thought I might be covered on the home insurance, but it seems not. There’s a £500 excess for water escape anyway, so it probably didn’t make much sense to claim. I’m not great at DIY, so I got my handyman round to have a look for me. The ensuite basically needs a fair amount of work to get it fit to use again. As the toilet in there is such a shocking design it can’t cope with a single sheet of toilet roll, there’s an argument to be made for starting from scratch with it. I’d keep the shower and shower screen, as they are fantastic, but other than that it’s basically a new bathroom that’s needed.

I’m not wanting to shell out for that just now, but we do need a bathroom that we can all use, as up till this point we’d all been making use of the ensuite as the shower in there is amazing. The plan that I’ve come up with is for him to sort out my main bathroom. Just now it’s only tiled half way and only has a hand held shower and no shower screen. He’s going to take off the tiles, put up wetwall, attach the shower to the wall and put up a shower screen. Total cost under £700. He’s also shaved a little bit off the bottom of the downstairs loo door which would no longer shut because of the leak. That means we can now use it again, and we’re just going to live with slightly wobbly floor tiles that have lifted because of the escaping water.

At some point I will get the ensuite done properly, but in the meantime at least we’ll have a fully functioning main bathroom. Oh, and at some point I’ll get something done about the kitchen ceiling. I’ve got a dehumidifier going to dry it out, but actually it doesn’t seem too bad, and I might even get away with just paining over it. Disaster averted. I always meant to get the main bathroom done at some point anyway, so this has at least forced my hand. Hopefully this won’t impact on my figures too much for next month. These things happen when you’re a home owner, and at least I have the money there to make use of.

Generally speaking I’m really happy with the figures for this month. They’ve definitely perked up a bit since July. There are still changes that I need to make to my finances, but I know what they are and I just need to wait for the right time as far as the share price is concerned. A little bit of tweaking to do with my pension, but nothing too drastic. I seem to have things fairly well automated, which for me is probably the key to being consistent. If things happen automatically with my money without me being involved then all I need to do is set and forget. That’s the plan anyway.

August Goals Update

So here’s our Graham with a quick reminder of my goals for August and how I did against them

  • Lose half a stone. PASS To say I’m delighted with this one would be the understatement of the century. I’ve lost ten pounds. Now admittedly a lot of that was weight that I’d put on over the summer, so I’m still heavier than I would like to be, but still, ten pounds is not to be sniffed at. The key to this has been putting My Fitness Pal on my phone. I’m tracking everything that I’m eating, and my god the change in my portion sizes as a result has been incredible. Even just things like my bowl of bran flakes that I have when I get in from work. 30 grams is the recommended amount. I dread to think how much I was having before, at least 3 times that amount I would think. I pretty much weigh everything now. It’s getting a lot easier now that I have some regular meals saved in the app, so one click adds them for me. I love as well that it links up to Map My Run and gives me extra calories for the day based on the walking and running that I’ve done. The day I did the Great North Run it gave me an extra 1500 calories to use. Let me tell you that after running a half marathon I used every single one of those extra calories. Ravenous doesn’t even come close to it.  

So I reckon that I’m probably at the stage now where I’ve lost the easy initial weight. The greedy fat that shouldn’t really have been there. Looking at my eating during the day I’ve realised how much of a snacker I am. That’s ok though, as I’ve just replaced my old massive snacks with smaller more healthy ones. I also love as well that you start afresh each day. So in the past I would eat rubbish, think that I’d blown it so I might as well give up. Now I get my allocation of calories for the day each morning, so no matter what I did yesterday, I can stick to the right amount of food today.  The key now is going to be to sustain this when it gets harder to lose weight. I’ve also downloaded an NHS app with 12 weekly charts which you fill in each day with the number of calories you’ve eaten and put your weight at the start and the end of the week. I’m three weeks into that now, so if I can sustain that through the whole 12 weeks I should be fairly close to where I want to be.

  • 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. FAIL I can’t in all good conscience put this as a pass when I look back over my sleep tracker. I’m not doing too badly, but I could be doing better. Most weeks I’m probably averaging about 7.5 hours sleep a night. I’m definitely not being consistent at getting 8 hours, which is ridiculous as I know how much better I feel when I get more sleep. I seem to have stopped doing that stupid thing of staying up really late at the weekend, despite the fact that I’m getting up early the next morning to run. So that’s definitely a positive. I also no longer make it a habit to only get 6 hours sleep a night. I’m not saying it never happens, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. So I’ve made some improvement on this one, but there’s still a ways to go. What has changed is that I’m not napping nearly so much now. I’m still walking every lunchtime at work rather than sleeping. And if I am tired when I come in from work I’ll often just lay down on the couch for 5 minutes and recharge my batteries but don’t actually fall asleep. I’m taking this as a good sign that my body is less exhausted than it was.
  • Do my physio exercises 5 days a week. PASS This is just what I do now.  Every day without fail. It’s the first thing I do when I get up in the morning. I’m now down to only having to run with a support on one knee rather than both of them. I managed the Great North Run without any twinges and successfully made it up a Munro without my knees giving out. I think I’m always going to have to be careful, but hopefully incorporating my exercises into my morning routine will keep injuries at bay.
  • Do cross training once a week – swimming, yoga or walking. PASS I feel I could do better with this one, but as I’m walking every week day lunchtime this is most definitely a pass. I’ve done yoga a few times in the house, but I haven’t got a set time when I do it, which means it’s a bit hit or miss. I need to build that into my routine, maybe a certain day when I get back from my run. I really need to put swimming back in my life too. I’m annoying myself with this one as I love swimming when I’m doing it, but I can never be bothered going. When I was seeing that guy earlier in the year I would meet him without fail at the baths 4.30 on a Sunday and we would swim. There’s absolutely no reason why I can’t start doing that again.  
  • Decide on where I’m going to put my dividend money when it gets paid next month. PASS The dividend has been paid, I’ve opened up a Vanguard ISA, decided on some index trackers that I’m happy with and transferred my first lot of money over. At some point I’m going to sell some shares and put more into this ISA, but I’m just waiting for an improvement in the share price. I’m not sure with all the Brexit uncertainty that now is the time for me to be offloading finance related shares. I’ve got a share save scheme maturing in January and I’ll be taking the profit from that and popping that into these index trackers too.

So overall I’m happy with how I’ve done. The weight loss is great, I just need to sustain that now. Sleeping is still a bit of a mixed bag, but I’m definitely still moving in the right direction. My physio exercises are just part and parcel of my morning routine now, as automatic as cleaning my teeth. I’m walking regularly, and really enjoying it, although I’m sure I’d benefit from yoga and swimming in the mix too. I’ve finally got around to sorting myself out with some index trackers. Very little in there at the moment, but it’s all ready to go as and when I get more money for investing.

So What’s Next?

So time to set some more goals for myself. As I’m so far through September already I think I’ll set combined goals for September and October. That way I’ll hopefully be able to make a bit more progress.

  • Lose another 4 pounds. Based on how I’ve been doing so far this should be an easy one. Saying that, I’m sure the weight loss will be slowing down. I’ve lost the easy weight so far, so four pounds is a manageable amount. This will bring me down to ten and a half stone, which is a reasonable weight for my height. When I get to that point I can reassess and see if I want to go any lower.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep 2 nights a week and 7 hours a night 3 nights a week. Exactly the same as my last attempt to get more sleep. Let’s see how I get on this time
  • Do yoga once a week. I think if I just schedule this in then I should be fine to achieve this. I’ll do it after my Sunday morning run. That will help me to cool down and remind me that I need to do it. I just need to persuade myself that when I get home I want to stretch rather than put my feet up.
  • Swim once a week. Again, this is one that I need to build into my schedule. Sunday night always used to work well for me, so I think I’ll go back to that again.
  • Make a start on that book that I always meant to write. I’ve come up with a bit of an idea. I don’t know if it will be any good or not, but I suppose there’s only one way to find out. It’s fiction, but there’s some research I need to do to help with the setting of the story. I want to have this background research finished by the end of October, have a slightly more detailed idea of the plot and to have written profiles for the four main characters. Just typing that out is scary. I’ve thought for so long that I would like to write a book, well let’s be honest, doesn’t everyone think that?  I’ve had a couple of false starts in the past, but I think now might be the time to actually go for it. To commit to at least seeing what I can do.

That’s enough for me to be working on for now. I’ll build on my successes over the summer, keep my good habits going and try and bring some new things in to my routines. I’m still working away at my Spanish on Duolingo, with a 119 day streak now. I can’t help but think that if I can work on my book every day for the next 119 days I would have a fair amount of work done on it. Again it’s going to be building time into my already quite full schedule to allow me to achieve my goals. This working for a living certainly gets in the way of spending time on your goals. I’ll get there though, it’s only a matter of time.

The Power Of A Good Start To Your Day

I returned from my holiday feeling refreshed and re-engergised, ready to make some changes to my life. Sometimes it isn’t the grand gestures that make all the difference, but rather it’s the little things that have such an impact on my day. I had a lot of time when I was away to assess my life and how I want things to be. I’ve not made any massive decisions, but what I have managed to change is my mind set.

Are there things that I would like to change about my life? Absolutely. Do I know exactly what I want those changes to be? If I’m honest, then not really. What I do know is that I have I seem to have a lot of the basics covered without really realising it. I’ve got great kids who will be spreading their wings before I know it and making their way in the world. Over the last couple of years I’ve developed a lovely group of friends and my social life is in a much better place than it used to be. Even the elephant in the room of the way I make a living is not nearly so terrible as it could be. It’s not necessarily my dream job, and I’d rather not be tethered to my desk for 35 hours a week, but all in all things could be a lot worse. The salary isn’t out of this world, but it’s a lot more than I used to make. We’re recruiting yet again, which I’m taking as a good sign that failing a post Brexit total meltdown I won’t be out of a job any time soon. The benefits are great, with a base rate mortgage that certainly isn’t to be sniffed at.

I know I would definitely love to have more control over my time. Moving towards FIRE is only going to help with this. Whilst I’m not going to be in a position to quit any time soon, I definitely have some freedom money if I choose to use it. I was talking to one of my friends about the fact that something available where I work is the chance to take a few months of unpaid leave. I definitely have enough in the bank to be able to take advantage of that. Whether I’d want to deplete my funds like that is another matter, but it’s a nice option to have in the background if I’ve got something outside of work that I want to pursue. So if I ever get around to that book that I’m sure I have in me, maybe that would be a way to get it kick started.

Positive Mental Attitude Is The Way To Go

In the meantime I’m trying to make the most of life. I’ve gone back to work with a much more positive attitude than I had before my break. The thing is, when I’ve got my positive head on I quite like my job. I basically talk to people about their finances all day long, so what’s not to love? So I’m now just taking it one customer at a time and seeing what I can do to help them with their financial lives. I’m not saying I’m in work heaven, but I’m definitely appreciating my job a lot more than I was before.

Sleep Glorious Sleep

My rediscovered positive mental attitude is making a massive difference. As it the fact that I’m finally getting a decent amount of sleep again. I’m not quite sure at what point I started to think that six hours sleep was enough for me. It’s most definitely not. I’ve always needed a lot of sleep and I get grumpy when I don’t get it, as I’m sure my children would agree. Anyone who’s read my goal setting posts won’t be particularly surprised to hear me talking about sleep yet again. I’ve been banging on about it for months now.

I was trying to get seven hours sleep a night and feeling a bit better for it. I’m now trying to get eight hours shut eye and definitely getting the benefit from that. Now trying and actually getting eight hours a night are two different matters, but I’m getting much closer to managing this. 9.30 sees me starting to faff about and get ready for bed. I’m still not always asleep for ten, but I’m not far off it most nights. With a 6 am alarm call that gives me my magic eight hours. Crucially, even at the weekend now I’m still going to bed pretty early to get my eight hours plus in. As I’m usually up fairly early to run it’s no good me staying up late on the grounds that it’s the weekend. That just makes me too tired to enjoy my time off.

Now I’m not saying I never feel tired now, but I can definitely feel the difference the next day when I’ve only had seven hours rather than eight. And with six hours I’m pretty much dead on my feet. I now walk a couple of miles on a lunchtime rather than sleeping in the car. And whilst I’m not saying I never have a post work power nap nowadays, they are the exception rather than the rule. I feel that I have time to do things on a night time now, as I’m not constantly battling exhaustion.

I have my work set up very well arranged. Once I had my kids I realised I was no longer prepared to sit in traffic jams to and from work. I changed my work location and I’m now only a 15 minute drive from the office. I’ve got a lovely 8-4 shift, so most days I’m home by 4.30. So with a 9.30 bedtime I have five hours every night to do what I want. It never used to feel like it, but five hours is quite a long time. Of course there are things to do. Jobs about the house, spending time with the kids, cooking tea, making the next day’s lunch up, running clubs etc etc. Still though plenty of time to get some serious stuff done.

Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail

To free up some more time I’ve put a cooking rota in place. No reason when there’s me and two teenagers in the house that I should be the only one providing food. The key to my whole week now is Sunday. At some point the three of us have a chat about what meals we’re having the next week and who’s cooking what. This basically writes the shopping list too, as we now know what food we need to buy on the Monday night Aldi shop. I then make up my snacks for the working week ahead, which means each night I only have to make my lunchtime salad up, rather than rushing around chopping up fruit etc to keep me sustained throughout the working day.

Each night before I go to bed I do a couple of tiny things that seem to make all the difference to how my morning goes. I set out my breakfast stuff in the kitchen. It takes no time to do, but when I come down in the morning I love how organised I’ve been and it just seems to make my morning run that much more smoothly. I also set up my laptop with the headphones in ready for my morning studying.

Changing The Habits Of A Lifetime

Previously my alarm would go off at 6am, 6.05, 6.15 and 6.20. I’ve done this for the last 30 years. I always wake up and have twenty minutes listening to the radio before I drag myself out of bed. Not any more. I still have five minutes listening to the radio up until 6.05, then I get straight up. I don’t know how easy this is going to be come the pitch black winter mornings, but so far it’s working like a dream. I get my phone to read me the news headlines for 15 minutes whilst I do my physio exercise for my knee. Then it’s shower time and then downstairs for breakfast. Once I’ve eaten I do ten minutes or so on Duolingo working on my Spanish. I always make sure I’ve done enough to keep my streak going, even though I know I’ll be doing more when I get home from work. Then it’s time to leave for work at 7.30. By the time I get to work I already feel like I’ve achieved some things and I’m on a roll.

In the grand scheme of things I’m still not doing a lot in the morning, but it feels like I’m being really productive and sets me up nicely for a good day. In an ideal world I would make even more time in the morning to achieve things. I’m already starting to think that if I could get up even just twenty minutes sooner I would also have time to do some yoga. I don’t think I’m quite ready to commit to a 5.40 am alarm call and the even earlier bed time, but it’s interesting that after such a short period of time my mind is already starting to think like that.

So all in all things are going very well. My holiday gave me plenty of thinking time and to realise that if I could just get the basics right then my life could be fantastic. I’ve decided to say yes to more things in life. When opportunities present themselves I am just going to go for it. Case in point was a recent trip to Edinburgh to see some shows at the fringe. A friend was organising a day out in Edinburgh and asked if I wanted to come along. She was meeting up with some of her friends who were coming up for the weekend. In the past my introversion would have made me think “oh, spending the day with people I don’t know, I don’t think so”. Instead I just said “that sounds like fun, yes please”. It turned out to be a spectacular day. The sun shone gloriously, the shows were excellent, I spent time with one of my good friends, got to know some acquaintances much better and met some lovely new people. I think I’m going to like this saying yes to things philosophy.

The plan then is to keep sleeping enough, stick with my morning routine, maintain my positive mental attitude, make the most of my evenings and say yes to things so that I can have a fantastic life. Sounds like a decent plan to me

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.

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.