Net Worth For April

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

Debts

Mortgage £87,696.45

Assets

Cash £17,028.49

Money in sharesave £10,804

AVC’s £3,937.57

Shares £35,360.54

House £228,000

Total Assets £295,130.60

Net Worth including house equity

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

Net Worth excluding house equity

£67,130.60 – £87,696.45 = -£20,565.85

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Update on April Goals and I May Set New Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matched Betting Is Finally Happenng

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March Net Worth – Better Late Than Never

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

Debts

Mortgage £88,340.18

Assets

Cash £17,407.98

Money in sharesave £10,304

AVC’s £3,729.43

Shares £34,827.09

House £228,000

Total Assets £294,268.50

Net Worth including house equity

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

Net Worth excluding house equity

£66,268.5 – £88,340.18 = -£22,071.68

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Year Marches on – Goals Update

So just as a wee reminder, here are the goals that I set myself for March and how I’ve done with them.

Run my local park run in under 27 minutes – not exactly an unqualified success this one. Not to put too fine a point on it, this was a big fat FAIL. There are a number of excuses reasons for this. To start with I work every second Saturday, so I’m limited to the number of parkruns I can do in the month. Then I was ill for a week, so missed one of my chances to run it. Then there was another event on at my local parkrun, so it was cancelled. I did run at another parkrun that week, it’s an easier course than my local one and I still didn’t  get under 27 minutes as I was too busy taking it easy having a social run chatting with my friend. I tried to bring it in under 27 minutes with a sprint finish, but I’d left it too late. It wouldn’t have counted anyway as it wasn’t my local.  To be perfectly honest my running is not going great at the moment, so I’m happy to just be getting out there and grinding the miles out rather than worrying too much about how fast I’m running. Considering 27 minutes is a minute slower than my fastest time, this should have been a realistic goal, but such is life.

Complete my 10 mile and 6 mile race – I’m happy to report that this goal is a total PASS. I like how I sneakily didn’t put any time targets in there, so all I had to do was turn up and do the miles. The 10 miler was a bit of a challenge with killer hills and gale force winds, but the buffet at the end more than made up for it! I loved, loved, loved the 6 mile trail race.

Get my weight down to 10 stone 9 pounds – the least said about this the better. I have been eating for Scotland this month. I had been avoiding the scales like the plague, so was pleasantly surprised to find that I was at 10 stone 11 pounds – so still a FAIL – but not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. I really need to get a grip on this. I don’t have a massive amount to lose, but even just a few pounds would help my running no end.

Research rates to switch my cash ISA and get the account changed over – PASS. All done. I’m happy with the rate I got. I had to send the form off to transfer it over a couple of times as there was some sort of issue with them finding my existing account, but I got there in the end. This is always a nice job to get done. It doesn’t take too long and you always feel good to get it ticked off your to do list.

Research low cost index trackers – PASS (SORT OF) I wouldn’t say I’m completely sorted on this one – but I did spend a bit of time looking in to this. As I’ll not be doing this until the new year when my next share save scheme matures I don’t think I need to have decided on the actual funds just now, but at least I’ve made a bit of a start on this. Probably one to revisit a bit later on in the year.

Finish reading the eBay book – PASS. I’ve finished reading this and have started selling some stuff on eBay. I had a bit of a false start with my eBay account being suspended after I listed only four DVD’s. I finally got to speak to a real person and got it sorted out and my account reinstated. They started grilling me about who my supplier was. I had to let them know that my supplier for now was my bookshelf and that I was hardly some sort of eBay mogul, but rather someone looking to make some extra cash from the rubbish lying about the house. I’m hardly making my fortune from this, but I’ve sold six DVD’s now and am going to list some more things shortly. I’ve learned a few lessons from my experience so far and am going to try to list things as Buy It Now with free postage as this seems to be the way that a lot of people like to buy, and are willing to pay a premium for this. I’ve also learned that it’s probably not a good idea to sell things belonging to your kids without telling them, even if it is things they’ve not looked at in years. If you do that and they discover what you’re up to then they tend to ask for half of your profit!

Figure out how to add pictures to my blog posts – PASS (I THINK) I haven’t actually done this yet, but I think I know what to do now.  I’ve done a wee pie chart to go with my net worth figures which I’m inordinately proud of due to my normally moronic IT skills. So if you see a pie chart in one of my posts then you’ll know I’ve achieved this particular goal. If not then feel free to throw virtual rotten tomatoes at me.

Work out how to add links to the blog – PASS. This is almost certainly a work in progress, but at least I’ve managed to include links to blogs that I follow and put in an archive. As this blog develops I’ll hopefully add in other links, such as books that I’ve read, but for now I’m happy with the start I’ve made.

Re-watch Game of Thrones ready for the new series starting. A bit of a ridiculous one I know, but realistically I know it’s something I’ll be spending a fair chunk of my time doing, so I might as well be honest about it. I tend not to watch a lot of TV, but I do like a nice box set and usually have one on the go for when I need to sit quietly and relax. Rather predictably this is a PASS. Rather helped by a week off on the sick where I had no energy to do anything other than lie on the couch feeling sorry for myself and watch TV. I have to admit that by the end of the week I was at saturation point with GOT, and had to switch it off before I went crazy. I’m trying not to start another box set just now with summer (hopefully) coming soon and being able to spend more time outside.

So that has been a bit of a mixed bag. Running wise I failed on the parkrun target, but I did complete my two races. I didn’t get to where I wanted to be weight wise, but I’m not as fat as I probably should be considering how much chocolate I’m eating just now. In terms of FIRE I’ve successfully moved my cash ISA over to a better rate now that my bonus period has finished and I’ve made a start on researching low cost index trackers. I’ve made a very tentative start on developing a side hustle. The eBay book is read and I’ve managed to sell a few things, with hopefully a few lessons learned and a bit of a plan starting to develop as to how I can move that forward. As far as the blog is concerned I’ve manged to add a blog roll and got an Archive added in. And yes, I’ve spent rather a lot of my time rewatching Game of Thrones in time for the new series starting. It’s all about balance in life don’t you know!

So what should I be working on for April? I’ve got a week off work this month, so hopefully I might get time to be a wee bit productive. I’m not sure how successful I’ll be on the goals that I missed this month, but I think they might go back in there to try and focus my mind a bit. I’ve a few other ideas of things I want to be working on too. So here goes. Drum roll please.

April Goals

Get down to under 27 minutes for my local park run. Sounds familiar I know. One of the guys from my running group has offered to pace me round, and I really need to take him up on that.

Get my weight to 10 stone 9 pounds. We’ve got easter in April, so I have no idea if I will do this, a girl can but try, but you know, chocolate mmmmmm.

Start Matched Betting. I’ve been watching videos on this and following online tutorials. I thought I had it sussed, but the more detail it goes into the more confused I am getting. Part of me thinks I need to do some more research on this as I don’t want to mess up and lose money. In reality though I probably just need to get on with it. It will either suit me down to the ground, or will drive me completely crazy and stress me out. To be honest it could go either way. I’m actually terrified to start as at the moment it seems like this amazing thing that could really help pay more to my mortgage. I’m worried that when I start it might not work for me and my hopes will be dashed. I guess there’s only one way to find out.

Read at least one book. I love reading, but go through spells where I read loads, and then times when I don’t read for ages. I’m finding since finishing Game of Thrones and not starting another box set I’m reading a lot more, so hopefully this will be an easy one for me. 

List some more items on Ebay, using the Buy it now method this time. Hopefully I’ll make a bit more cash doing it this way, which will encourage me to list some more things. I’m sticking to DVD’s just now as my youngest has a stash of the plastic envelopes to post these out in. I have a pile of books in my room that I’ve pulled off the bookshelves and that I’m reasonably happy to part with, so I just need to look at the best way to post these out and get them listed too.  

So I think that’s probably enough to be getting on with. A couple of familiar goals and some new stuff to work on. I seem to be making some small progress in the right direction. I’m quite excited about developing side hustles. I need to make sure I actually get on with it rather than just keep reading up about things. I seem to be somewhat paralysed with nerves on the Matched Betting front just now, so if this time next month I’ve at least given that a go then I’ll feel that’s been a productive month. I’ll build on my eBay start and hopefully start to get somewhere with that.

I’ve got all my net worth figures done, but I think I’ll keep that for another post as this one has probably gone on long enough. The figures look good, but this is an expensive time of year with absolutely every car related expense coming out in the one month. I very sneakily did my net worth when the share price was high, my bonus had just been paid and I hadn’t yet had to empty my bank account to pay for car expenses. Anyway, I’ll keep all that for the next post and sign off just now. Let me know about any goals that you’re working on as I love to hear about the plans that people have. As the sign in my lounge says “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” I’m pretty sure that most of us in the FIRE community are in the making it happen camp.

The Lottery of Life

I was driving to work the other day thinking about all the productive things I wanted to get done once the working day was over and done with. Suddenly I started to think about what would happen if I won a life changing amount on the lottery. Now I’d be quite surprised if that happened, on the basis that I don’t actually do the lottery. I used to play with husband number one when it first started. I remember watching the lottery show as they drew the numbers. It was a double roll over, so we were excitedly watching thinking this could be the answer to our lack of money problems. We watched with increasing excitement as the first four numbers out were ours. We were going to be rich beyond our wildest dreams. Or maybe not. Four numbers was as far as it went. A measly eighty pounds or so came our way. That was it for me. The joy of the lottery was ruined. I was never interested in a bit of extra cash to splash. I wanted to have my life changed. So I haven’t played the lottery since that day.

Anyway, let’s run with the lottery winning scenario. Or it could be an inheritance or some other unexpected windfall. It happens all the time in the films, but I guess it must happen in real life too. On face value it sounds fantastic. We’re all working away towards FIRE, trying not to get too obsessive about it, but probably failing miserably. You try to make sure you savour every moment of life as it’s all about the journey, not just about the final destination (which let’s be honest, ultimately is death, so probably not a great thing to focus too much on). But anyway, we’re all working away trying to grow our income, spend less than we earn and invest the difference. We look for ways to cut our costs and develop side hustles to bring in extra cash. We read blogs and listen to podcasts to get ideas from other people who are on their way to FIRE, and try and emulate those who’ve already hit their magical number and are living the dream.

So on the face of it suddenly coming in to a big dollop of cash that gets us to FIRE is a wonderful thing. No longer will we have to scrimp and save (although actually I think this becomes an ingrained habit that would be pretty difficult to be able or want to break) and we’ll be able to walk down the happy path to early retirement. But thinking about it seriously I’m honestly not sure how I would feel about that. I really like to work for things, and striving to achieve something is usually more rewarding than the actual moment of getting what you want. Maybe I’m just not quite enough of a stop and smell the roses type of girl. Maybe that’s something for me to work on. By the time I get towards the point where I’m about to achieve a goal I’m already planning the next thing that I want to work towards.

So if I was handed FIRE on a plate would I feel cheated of the achievement of reaching there by my own endeavours? It’s possible. I think there would most likely be a significant period of readjustment involved. Although actually thinking about it, I wonder if that is likely to happen even if you’ve got to FIRE through your own volition. It must be a little strange to be working away getting your finances to a point where you can choose your own work situation and then get to where you’re just needing to maintain your money and in fact are having to spend it to support yourself. No matter how much you’ve managed to accumulate I imagine it must go against the grain to be dipping in to your money. Clearly that’s what it’s there for, but still it can’t be an easy shift of mind set. 

I can’t quite make my mind up if reaching FIRE is going to be this euphoric moment, with a metaphorical throwing things in the air and skipping off in to the sunset, or if there will be a bit more soul searching involved and quite frankly a period of depression whilst adjusting to the new frame of mind needed to enjoy your new found freedom. Maybe a mixture of the two. Maybe a halfway house is a good way to try and smooth the transition. I’ve been thinking about this route quite a bit recently, and what FIRE can realistically look like for me.

I think I’m pretty much at the point where I’m fairly certain I’ll be fine to retire at 60. I think I need a new acronym to describe my quest. Financial Independence retire a tiny bit earlier than some of the population(FIRATBETSOTP – catchy eh?) So this is hardly ground breaking, but it’s a better position than I was in before I stumbled upon FIRE – so that’s all to the good. My plan now is to be able to change my life around the time I’m 55 (so just over 6 years away). If I can get the bulk of my mortgage paid off by then (it’s quite a big ask, but I’m really going for it) I’ll be in a much better position to be able to reduce the income that I need to live off. My current thinking is that maybe part time working at that point might work quite well for me. A four or even better a three day working week sounds pretty civilised to me. That would give me time to adjust to a life that didn’t revolve so completely around work.

I think I’m pretty good at making use of my free time just now. I have a nice mixture of running, family time, friends, FIRE stuff, boxsets, cooking etc etc. Quite frankly there just aren’t enough hours in the week. Part time work and then eventually no time work will free up plenty of extra time for me to expand the time I spend doing things that I love. Thinking about that timeline though it’s quite likely that around the time I would be hoping to reduce my working hours is probably the time I’m quite likely to be experiencing empty nest syndrome with the kids leaving home. Although I often crave more time to myself, I imagine having the house to myself is going to be pretty tough to deal with. So that’s going to be an extra dynamic to contend with.

I do think that easing yourself out of the workplace is probably not a bad idea. Maybe not quite as dramatic as going in to work one day and handing your notice in just because you can, but maybe a slightly healthier way to do it. I remember when my dad retired a few years ago there was a definite period of adjustment for him. It can be tough to go from a full on working life being constantly busy, to suddenly having all the time to do what you want. Saying that, now when I speak to my folks they’re always out and about doing things and seem to have lots of projects on the go.

As well as dealing with how to fill your time post FIRE, I guess there will also be an element of your identity being tied up with your work to a certain extent. I would hope that us FIRE folks are in a slightly better position than others in this respect. We know that we have an end goal in mind and that work is a means to an end. Now saying that, we still have to actually be present at work and it’s easy to get caught up in all the nonsense that happens. Office politics anyone? No, I can’t be bothered with it either, but it is so easy to get sucked in to that rubbish.

Work has always been an important part of my life. I wouldn’t say I’ve particularly enjoyed the jobs that I’ve had over the years, but I’ve always taken pride in doing my jobs well and being a hard worker. I’d like to think that I’m professional and conscientious, and that’s very much a part of how I think of myself as a person. If I’m no longer working do I just lose that part of my identity? I’m guessing not. I would imagine that part of your personality just carries on with whatever projects you decide to fill your post FIRE life with.

When I was heading out for lunch the other day at work I overheard a conversation in the corridor. There had obviously been some sort of team training session going on where they’d been asking people about why they come to work. One of them said to the other “Am I allowed to say that I’m just here for the money?” I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have been a massive shock to the person running the session to hear that money is a motivating factor in getting people to work in the morning. The majority of people have bills to pay and work is the way that we get the money to keep the wolf from the door. But it got me thinking. What is it that motivates me to keep coming in to work day after day, year after year?

So yes, money is definitely a factor. But I don’t have to work where I do or in that same job within that organisation. There must be more to it than the cold hard cash. And of course there is. So for me other monetary factors come in to play. So I’ve got my salary that I need to come to work to earn. But also I have my staff mortgage that is a massive factor in me keeping working for the same company. I love seeing my mortgage balance come down, and it wouldn’t be coming down nearly so quickly if I didn’t have such a beneficial mortgage rate.

The company share save schemes are a big thing for me too. I throw the maximum amount in to those and obsessively check the share price to see what I’m worth. I’ve talked before about how I have too much tied up with the company I work for, and I’m going to address that.  With the discount that gets applied to the share option price it’s definitely worth taking advantage of for me. So moving forward I hope to keep participating in the scheme, cash the shares in as soon as the scheme matures and invest the whole lot (including a hopefully sizeable profit) in low cost index tracker funds.

I also have my defined benefit pension scheme that keeps me locked in to the company. Although it’s not nearly as good as it could have been had it not been capped a number of years ago when my salary and working hours weren’t where they are now, it’s still worth £10k a year if I can stick it out to 60. The good thing too is that because it’s capped at what I was earning years ago, if I was to go part time further down the line I don’t think it would impact what I would get in the future too much. I need to check that out a bit more, but I reckon that could potentially work in my favour if I do want to go part time at 55.

So these perks of working for this particular company are what keep me where I am. Already a lot of these benefits are being phased out for people who joined later, so I imagine if I moved to another company I’m less likely to get these sorts of deals. Also, after 18 years working for the same company the thought of moving is somewhat terrifying. Although if they offered voluntary redundancy on the current terms I worked out that I’d get about £45k. I reckon I could face a bit of fear of the unknown for that sort of a pay-out.

So there are lots of financial reasons why I get out of bed in the morning. Of course other factors come in to play too. When the alarm goes off at 6 am I might not be delighted at the prospect of getting up, but I know I have customers that I don’t want to let down and colleagues that I don’t want to leave in the lurch by not turning up. In the longer term though I reckon I won’t feel any compunction in waving goodbye to those colleagues and leaving them to get on with it. After all, it’s their choice to fritter away their salary rather than investing for the future. Harsh maybe, but everybody makes choices in life that impact their future. For me a future without a 6am alarm call is most definitely worth spending less now.  Getting to a point where I can choose to get up early because I have exciting plans that I want to work on is more important to me than wasting my money now on distractions that don’t add value to my life.

The Importance of Being Frugal

I normally do the Aldi shopping with my eldest. We’ve got it off to a fine art. He keeps me on track and away from the dangerous middle aisles. Running gear, power tools or a pizza oven anyone? Not that those things aren’t a bargain. They definitely are. But it’s only a bargain if you need it. So I get kept in check. We manage to stay within our budget, get a reasonable mix of food and a few treats thrown in for good measure.

Last week I ended up shopping with my youngest instead. That was a whole different experience. He was challenging me all the way round the shop. He was trying to take things out of the trolley as I was putting them in. Not that I didn’t appreciate his encouragement, but I really didn’t. I was trying to explain that it’s more cost effective to have a few nice things in the house to avoid ending up spending more on takeaways and chocolate runs to the convenient but expensive local shop.

I cook all our meals from scratch, there’s always plenty of fruit and veg in the trolley and a reasonable amount of meat too. I have a budget of £250 for the month for me and two teenage boys. This includes all the food for the month, cleaning supplies and toiletries. To be honest we usually only spend around £200 for the month and I quite often end up moving the surplus from the food budget to another budget that’s run over. I was explaining to him that this was a pretty frugal budget for what is essentially three adults. He disagreed. Vehemently.

I was thinking “Just you wait till you have to live in the real world mate and see how you get on”. Then I thought, is there maybe something I could learn from him and his fresh eyes on our budget? So when we got home he went through the receipt and crossed out what he thought we could do without. He was brutal. Now no doubt he was right. We could have survived on what he’d left on the receipt. Saying that though I’m not sure how sustainable his budget was. For me food is one of the great pleasures in life, and I don’t want to be going hungry just to hit a magic number in an excel spreadsheet. I’m pretty sure though that there is definitely some fat to be trimmed from our budgeting. And probably from my middle too, but that’s a whole other story!

Then he took it a step further. He worked out that he could bring the weekly food bill down to about £25. Now again, I’m not convinced of how practical this is on long term basis, but I was willing to indulge him. Plus I wanted to see where he was going with this. So he’s just cut at least £100 off our monthly food budget. His next question to me was if we put that towards the mortgage how many years does that reduce it by? That’s my boy! You know when you have those moments in life when you are just so incredibly proud of your kids and realise that although they may mock you for your FIRE aspirations, they are actually paying attention after all. So my 14 year old wants to know how much more quickly we can pay off the mortgage if he cuts the food budget for us. The answer to that question is about a year and a half. Maybe he’s on to something here. So I’m not quite sure I’m prepared for the sacrifice involved in cutting down the food budget so drastically, but I think there might well be some savings to be made and passed on to the mortgage payment. Food for thought, if you’ll excuse the pun.

So I think the moral of that particular story is that small changes we make can end up having quite a considerable impact on how quickly we can reach FIRE. I tend to think that I’m pretty frugal anyway, but maybe I’m not as good as I think I am. I was brought up to be careful with money and not waste it. My parents come from good working class stock in the north east of England. They got married in their early twenties and started a family. They rented their first flat in Newcastle, but by the time I came along they had bought their first house, having money for a deposit from compensation my dad got from an accident he had when he was a child.

Mum and dad both left school without any qualifications, which said more about the schooling on offer rather than their level of intelligence. Dad went to night class and ended up qualifying as an accountant. They took a chance when dad got offered a job in London and we moved down to the commuter belt. That’s where I grew up. I remember dad always working when I was growing up. He drove 40 miles in to London every day for his main job and every weekend he was busy working away at home on some sort of home working gig. Who knew side hustles were a thing even back then! At one point he was even working nights as a lecturer too. I honestly don’t know how he did it.

We eventually moved back home to Newcastle after 11 years living down south. My folks have done well for themselves with lots of hard work and a willingness to move around to follow the work. It was never really the done thing to talk about money when I was growing up, and I certainly had no idea about what sort of income was coming in. What I did know though was that you didn’t waste money. That’s set me up nicely with some good frugal habits that continue to this day.  

I’d like to think that I’ve continued down that path with my kids. They certainly know the value of money and how hard it is to earn it. If anything I sometimes worry that they think too much about saving money. I’m happy that they aren’t materialistic in the slightest, but I don’t want them to think that there’s never any value to be gained in spending money. Sometimes it is worthwhile to splash some cash on something that’s going to add value or joy to your life.

For me I think I’ve more or less got the basics covered in terms of not wasting money. I’m sure that there’s more that I could do, but because I’ve never really earned that much, I’ve always needed to be good at managing my money. I’ve always cooked from scratch, made up my lunch to take into work and tried to get the best deal on things that I do need to spend money on.

I occasionally find myself mentally totting up how much some of my colleagues must spend on coffee from Starbucks at work. This despite the fact that we get free hot drinks from the vending machines. I have a rule that I don’t buy anything at work. I always think that’s a slippery slope if I start buying chocolate from the machines. I’m at work to earn money, so the idea of spending money when I’m there seems totally ridiculous. It’s bad enough that I put petrol in my car to drive to work, despite the fact that I only live 3 miles away. What on earth would Mr Money Moustache say about that? Well, I know exactly what he’d say, but luckily I get to make my own rules about my spending. The alarm already goes off at 6am, so there’s no way on earth that I’m getting up earlier so I’ve got time to bike or run to work. That’s a step too far for me. Maybe one day, but not just yet.

I started taking advantage of a cashback site a year or so ago. I kept hearing about this idea of earning cashback on spending that you were doing anyway, but as it sounded too good to be true I assumed there must be some sort of a catch. What an idiot! All that cashback I’ve missed out on over the years. Once I discovered FIRE blogs I kept hearing more about these cashback sites and realised I’d most definitely been missing a trick. Of course now that I’m taking advantage of this I’m cutting my spending right back, so my opportunities to get cashback are a little limited. But there are always things that you need to spend money on, so when this is the case I might as well get some cash back for it. It’s a no brainer.

A case in point recently was when I was planning our summer holiday for this year. I’d asked the kids where they wanted to go, pretty much gave them free rein to tell me their dream destination and I would consider it. After much debating they came to the conclusion that their ideal holiday was a road trip around England. Ok. Not exactly quite what I had in mind, but the more I thought about it the better it sounded. So we’ve plotted a route and looked out budget hotels on the outskirts of the places we’re visiting to avoid the exorbitant car park charges. I was just starting to think about booking the hotels when an email pinged into my inbox with details of a 24 hour offer for 10% cashback on our chosen hotel chain. Kerching, thank you for playing. Don’t mind if I do. So the hotels are all booked now, cashback is winging its way to my bank account ready to put towards spending money for when we’re away. It’s not a huge amount, but as they say, every little helps. And speaking of that particular supermarket chain, we’ll be making use of the clubcard vouchers on holiday that they very kindly give me just for using my Tesco credit card every month for my day to day expenses. Paid off in full every month. Obviously.

This will be a bit of a different holiday for us this year. The last couple of years we’ve gone to Germany to visit a friend of mine. It’s always lovely to go over there and see her. It’s a bonus that she also lives in a beautiful place with a lake perfect for swimming in just across from her house. Flights are always cheap to get there, so it’s a fantastic holiday that costs next to nothing. Before that we always used to go camping, which again is a brilliant way to get an amazing holiday for next to nothing. Living in Scotland we never have to go too far to get to beautiful campsites. Although we always used to head way up north to stay next to drop dead gorgeous beaches. I really need to dust off the camping gear and head out again. I’m hoping that when I eventually reach FIRE I’ll be able to take advantage of lots of trips away. Camping trips and plenty of jaunts over to Germany are definitely something to aim for when I have a bit more time on my hands.

I think the moral of my recent experiences has been not to get complacent and think that I have all my frugal ducks in a row. I think I’m ok on the basics. I would never just automatically renew insurance etc without shopping around, I’m happy to threaten to move providers to get a better deal, I’m finally taking advantage of cashback sites, I’ve got budgets in place for absolutely everything and I don’t waste money on day to day spending. But just because I’m good compared to the people I see around me doesn’t mean I can’t improve. Five minutes online reading FIRE blogs will prove that to me. I’m a novice when it comes to saving money.  But I think that’s ok. I’m happy to learn, and also to recognise the things that I am prepared to compromise on and what’s a non- negotiable for me. That’s the wonderful thing about life. You get to design what you want yours to look like, both before and after FIRE.

eBay Escapades

So I’ve stumbled at the first fence at my attempt to raise some extra money from a side hustle. I’d read a book about how to make money from selling items on eBay. I didn’t exactly think this was going to be my path to riches beyond my wildest dreams, but I did hope I could sell off some unwanted things from my house, free up some space and raise some extra cash. So I started piling up some DVD’s and books that I no longer had any use for. I started slowly and listed 4 DVD’s over 2 nights. I had one bid already, only for £4.50, but you have to start somewhere. I then woke up this morning to an email from eBay saying that they had suspended my account as they were suspicious of activity on it. What, listing 4 DVD’s? It doesn’t look like there’s an appeal process at all, I’m just not allowed to buy or sell anything on eBay anymore. Hm, so that didn’t exactly go according to plan.

Clearly I’ll need to do a bit more investigating on this to see if there’s anything I can do to change the power that be’s minds on this. In the meantime though that seems to be the end of my eBay adventure. I’ll look into other ways of selling things to see if that’s going to be beneficial. I guess if nothing else it demonstrates the vulnerability of being too dependent on any one way of making a living. Obviously I’d not even got going with eBay, but imagine if I’d been a few years down the road with this experiment and this was making up a big part of my income. A valuable lesson in the importance of having a portfolio income, with money coming from a variety of sources.

I’m not feeling too down hearted about the lack of success in this first attempt at a side hustle. You have to start somewhere, and it’s not always going to go according to plan. I always think that it’s really easy to be positive when things are going well, it’s when life throws you a curveball that you see a person’s true character. It’s hard to keep battling away when you feel that you’re not making as much progress as you’d like to, but that’s when it’s really important to make sure you’re moving in the right direction, dig in and keep moving.  It’s easy to just give up and keep plodding along on the same old road without making any changes. But incremental changes and improvements can have a massive impact on your life. Yes, sometimes a huge change is needed, but other times it’s just a question of tweaking things somewhat to get where you want to be.

So I’ll keep trying to figure out how to bring in more income to bring me closer to FIRE. I’ve been putting in some good work recently researching side hustles. I’m looking at Matched Betting as a potential source of more income. Lots of the FIRE bloggers seem to do well with this, although let’s hope I don’t get gubbed from Matched Betting accounts quite as quickly as happened on eBay! I’m watching lots of You Tube videos about Matched Betting. I think I’ve more or less got my head around the basic idea, but I want to do some more research to ensure I fully understand it and don’t make too many stupid mistakes. I’ve got a week off in the Easter holidays, so the plan is to start Matched Betting then. I’ll have enough time to spend on it that hopefully I won’t be rushing and so mess up. In the meantime I’m going to keep researching Matched Betting, set up a new email especially for MB and probably a dedicated bank account to keep track of money from the MB side of things. 

I was training with my new running club last week when another running club turned up in the same part of the industrial estate where we were doing a session. We were basically both running up and down the same street at the same time but completing a totally different session. Awkward! But I’m pretty sure there’s more than one way to get good at running. It won’t be the same for everyone, and that’s ok. You find a group of people that you feel comfortable with and that you have confidence in getting you to where you want to be. As long as you’re improving and enjoying yourself then it’s all good. It got me thinking about FIRE though, and the many different ways that people achieve this.  I think most people can agree on the basics of FIRE. Spend less than you earn and invest the difference. That’s pretty much what it comes down to. After that it gets a little bit less simple though.

So, should you go down the extreme frugality route, counting every single last penny and forsaking anything that might bring you joy but involves the spending of money? Is it ok to have a car or is that the work of the devil? Or is it more important to increase your income rather than reduce your spending? I imagine that for a lot of people a combination of the two probably works quite well.

Should you feel guilty if you can’t manage the exacting standards of MMM et al? Well no, clearly not, and I don’t think most FIRE folks out there would think so either. I’m pretty sure that most bloggers out there don’t write to make people feel bad or indeed to shout about their achievements. It’s a way to document your journey, to keep yourself accountable, to engage with like-minded people and to share ideas.  Achieving FIRE will be unique for each person. Yes, there’ll be a recipe that you can follow of how people have already managed it. There’s no point reinventing the wheel. That’s why I love reading FIRE blogs, to find out how people have managed what I’m trying to achieve. But will a highly paid couple follow the same path as me as a single parent with two teenage boys to support? Unlikely. But you know what? That’s ok.

I love the idea of earning money from a rental property. I love to read blogs and listen to podcasts where people have done just that. I’ve started working some figures out and looking at flats locally to see if the figures add up. It’s all very exciting. Until I start to imagine how I’ll actually feel when I’m responsible for managing a property. Not to put too fine a point on it, stressed to the eyeballs is how I start to feel. I can’t quite work out why I feel like this, I just know that I do. I don’t imagine that this will change any time soon, so I’ve come to the conclusion that this route is not the right one for me. Maybe a bit further down the line I’ll feel a bit braver and will revisit some of my earlier ideas. But I guess that’s the exciting thing about life. Things change, and how you feel now isn’t necessarily how you’ll always feel.

So for me I think that paying off my mortgage and building up my assets through shares is the way to go. I need more income too. I know I keep banging on about it, but it’s going to be crucial in me achieving my goals. I’m starting to dream bigger. Before I was trying to get retired at 60. This was going to be a bit of a stretch for me, but I think I’ve got things in place now to make this happen. More or less. But actually, that’s not the extent of my dreams. As that quote goes “The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it”.  Being financially independent at 55 will give me so much more scope to do what I want with my life. So maybe I won’t be fully retired in the traditional sense of the world. But so what. Even if was still working part time I would have so many more options with what I wanted to do. Definitely something for me to ponder.

I’ve realised that I’m really good at achieving my goals when I put my mind to it. It’s usually figuring out what I want to achieve that I have difficulty with. Any time in the past when I’ve had a really clear picture in my mind of what I want to achieve, I’ve reached my goal. In my early twenties I saw myself living in Spain, so I went to night classes to learn Spanish, used my fortnight holiday to do a training course on teaching English as a foreign language and secured myself a teaching job in Spain. It’s not always easy getting what you want, and it usually involves a fair amount of hard work, but you’re always glad when you succeed, no matter how things turn out in the end. It’s often the working towards things that’s the satisfying part.

So I think I need to work on what my particular picture of FIRE looks like. At the moment it’s a little bit blurry for me. I don’t quite yet feel like I have a clear destination in mind. Hopefully that will come with time. What I don’t want to do is to be getting the finances sorted but then have no idea what I want my life to be like. Drifting along is all well and good, and at times it can be just what’s needed, but for me I like to know what I’m aiming for so I can put my plans into action to get the life that is just right for me. It’s exciting stuff that’s for sure.

Find Your Pace and Settle In

I’ve done the Great North Run twice so far, and I’m doing it again this year. I remember a big banner on one of the flyovers last year which said something like “find your pace and settle in”. That became a bit of a mantra for me during that race. I got to a pace my body was more or less comfortable with, got my head down, got in the zone and got on with it. That worked pretty well for me. It seems to me that “find your pace and settle in” applies equally well to working towards FIRE. If I go too extreme then there’s a risk I’ll burn out and end up giving up. If I find the right pace for me on my journey towards FIRE then I can live the life I want to, confident that it’s sustainable for me and that I won’t look back and regret the things that I missed out on in life.

It’s been playing on my mind quite a bit recently that I’m getting a little bit obsessed with what my net worth is and how long I’ve got to go until I’m free. I’m waking up thinking about it, any quiet moments at work have me playing about with various figures to calculate when I can afford to give up work (spoiler alert, it’s going to be a while yet), and I’m constantly mulling over different scenarios that could lead to me reaching FIRE. I am a bit of an all or nothing girl anyway. Moderation isn’t really in my vocabulary. So it’s not really massively surprising that I’m constantly thinking about FIRE. It would be a lot more useful though if this thinking and planning led to a bit more action rather than just counting how many years there are to go. It hasn’t escaped my attention that what I’m actually doing is wishing my life away. Yes I want to reach FIRE as soon as I can, but do I want to do that at the expense of living life to the full and being properly present in the moment? Er, no, definitely not.

I think I’m probably at the point where I’m saving as much as I’m prepared to, based on my current income. The key now is going to be growing my income, hopefully from some sort of side hustle that I can fit around my current work, children, friends and hobbies. The things that I’ve got in place so far to pay off the mortgage and invest will keep doing their thing whether I’m constantly thinking about the figures or not. Keeping track of spending and what you’re worth is clearly an important part of reaching FIRE, but once you’ve got your life organised to spend less than you earn and invest the rest, then you should just be able to get on with living your life. So being slightly less obsessive is something for me to work on. I’m not sure how successful I’ll be on that score, but I can only try.

So without further ado, here’s my net worth figures for last month.

Debts

Mortgage £88,889

Assets

Cash £15,558

Money in sharesave £9,804

AVC’s £3,516

Shares £32,227

House £228,000

Total Assets £289,105

Net Worth including house equity

£289,105 – £88,889 = £200,216

Net Worth excluding house equity

£61,105 – £88,889 = -£27,784

So ta da, I managed to just sneak over the £200k mark for my net worth when I take into account the house equity. I was lucky with a bump in the price of the shares I hold from work, which nudged me over that elusive figure. It won’t take much for it to drop down below again, but hopefully with my continuing paying off of my mortgage and keeping saving then I’ll keep going in the right direction. The next milestone is getting to the point where I have as much in savings and investments as I owe on the mortgage, so I could theoretically pay it off. I reckon within the next two years that net worth figure excluding the house equity should be at zero. Hardly an impressive figure, but better than the negative amount I’m at just now.

I’ve had a change of heart about what I’m going to do with my pay rise. I was planning on investing in index trackers, but instead I’ve decided to put another £100 a month towards my mortgage. I’ve gone back and forth on this one, as I know I need to grow my passive income, but at the same time I can’t be financially free whilst I’ve still got the mortgage as a millstone around my neck. I think for me I’d feel more comfortable knowing that my debt was getting smaller. Barring interest rate rises (I know, I know, I’m forever the optimist) then this new payment means that I’ll have my mortgage paid off just before I reach 60. As 60 is the worse case scenario for when I want to pack in work, then I feel better knowing the mortgage will be gone by then to allow me to stop working. £100 is also more than my payrise, but I’m working on the assumption that I’ll find the extra money somewhere. I always do.

So with my current expenses excluding my mortgage I reckon I can live on about £15k a year. My pension at 60 will be about £10k, so I just need to make up the shortfall in passive income. Any income from a side hustle can hopefully also continue to pay for fun stuff that I’m sure will be in abundance in my post FIRE life. A bit of travel thrown into the mix with all my free time would be much appreciated. So I want to keep hammering away at the mortgage, keep on with my current share save schemes, as they’re due to net me a nice wee profit over the next couple of years, and work on increasing my income so I can afford to invest more now and use that to top up my passive income once I reach FIRE. Sounds like a bit of a plan.

A plan to reach FIRE is one thing, but what a post FIRE life will look like is a whole other thing. As I was getting ready for work on Monday morning I started to daydream about how differently my day would go once I’d reached FIRE. I certainly wouldn’t have set my alarm for 6am, although I imagine I would still be waking up fairly early, but having had enough sleep to feel fully rested. I might get up and do some yoga in the house. I’d spend my morning working on some sort of a side hustle, which I’d decided to continue after I reached FIRE to bring in some extra cash. I imagine when being free from work was still a novelty I would spend a bit of time getting my house sorted. I like to think I’m quite good at decluttering, but the reality is that just now I begrudge spending too much of my limited free time clearing things out. When I have much more free time I could sort my possessions and only keep those that were useful or brought me joy. I’d like to think my house would be a lot cleaner than it is at the moment, but whether that would actually be the case or not remains to be seen. I tend to do as much cleaning as is really necessary and then clean like a dervish when it gets messier than I can stand. I’m not entirely sure that would change with more time on my hands.

I think I would enjoy spending more time exploring where I live on foot rather than whizzing by in the car in a mad rush. I love walking, but just now I hardly spend any of my time actually doing it. Without things being so busy I would have time to walk places rather than automatically jump in the car.  It would also be nice to spend time with friends without being exhausted and feeling like you’re needing to try and find time to fit in visiting them. I think everything will be all the better for not being shattered all the time and having the luxury of taking your time with things.

I think the key to a happy post FIRE life will be to have enough going on that you feel fulfilled, but not so much that you end up feeling just as frazzled as when you’re working for the man. As with everything in life, balance is key. Sometimes when I’m off work I end up feeling at a bit of a loose end and that I’m not really achieving anything. For me, a bit of structure works well. So I imagine once I’m able to stop working I’ll want to adhere to a bit of a schedule, whilst allowing enough flexibility to go with the flow and make the most of opportunities that present themselves.

 I sometimes have hermit like tendencies, so making myself go out in the world will be important for me. As long as I’m still running then my various clubs will work well for this, but I’ll also need to factor in some other social interaction. Just now I crave time to myself, but once I haven’t got the enforced social aspects of work, then it will be important to make sure that I’m not spending all my time alone. Nice problems to have. You effectively get to design the life that you want to have. It takes a bit of thinking about though. For so long our lives are structured by our working hours and then trying to cram our actual lives in to the few hours in the evenings and the all too quick weekends.

So all in all I’m reasonably happy with how things are going in my quest for FIRE. It’s been really motivating to get over the £200k mark for my net worth including my house equity. Still a long way to go to say the least, but I’m definitely making progress. The next step is to increase my mortgage overpayment again to make good use of my pay rise. I’ll keep having a think about potential side hustles and do some more research on this.  It’s been good having a think about what I want my post FIRE life to look like. By visualising my ideal life once I’ve reached FIRE I’m much more likely to keep on track and make the necessary changes to bring in the extra income that will allow me to be free from my mortgage and have enough passive income to support my lifestyle. Let me know how you’re getting on with your FIRE journey. I’m always keen to learn from others that are striving for FIRE, or who have already achieved the holy grail of financial independence. 

March Goals

I love a bit of goal setting. For me, if I haven’t got anything that I’m working towards then I’m not a happy bunny. Saying that, I feel that I’ve maybe taken my eye off the game a wee bit recently. I know that writing down goals works really well and makes me much more likely to achieve what I’m aiming for. So why do I suddenly find myself almost at the end of February and I feel that I have fingers in quite a lot of pies, I’m moving in the right general direction, but I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be working on?

I’m generally happy with how my year is going so far. I decided to try and focus on my health this year. I’ve got an app on my phone to keep track of the amount of fruit and veg that I’m eating each day. My thought was that if I had to eat five portions a day then I wouldn’t be able to fill up on rubbish. Turns out that’s only partly right. I’m happy to report that I am now on the 36th consecutive day of eating five portions of fruit or veg. A lot of this seems to be down to building good habits that mean you don’t need to think about it.

 I always have a handful of raisins in my porridge, have a salad for my lunch(well not on weekends – maybe that’s something I need to introduce) and carrot sticks to snack on at work (again, this works less well at the weekend). So by the time I get home I’ve already had 3 portions. There’ll always be at least one veg with my tea, so that just leaves some fruit to have in the evening. Occasionally I’ve seen me shoving some dried apricots down just before bed when I’ve suddenly realised I’m not up to my five portions. I’m not overly worrying about the size of the portions – I’m just being sensible about this. I reckon my lunchtime salad is probably more than one portion, whereas my morning raisins are probably slightly less than one. I reckon it more or less balances itself out though.

Drinks wise I’m trying to be good too. I haven’t had an alcoholic drink in something like fourteen years. There are a number of reasons for this, but the easy answer is I had a heavy night out, woke up and like many people thought “never again”. For me though it was actually as simple as that. I’m not saying I’ve never fancied a tipple in the last decade or so, but not enough to want to start drinking again. So for me the booze is never something I have to think about in terms of health. I don’t drink, simple as. I also don’t drink tea or coffee (I’m starting to wonder what I do do)! Hot chocolate now is another matter. Sometimes you just want a hot drink, but a hot chocolate always seems to make me want more sweet stuff (not something I need much encouragement on if I’m totally honest).  So I spotted some infusion bags in Aldi this month. I’ve tried the berry ones and the lemon and ginger ones so far. They were a bit of an acquired taste, but I’ve persevered, and I think I’m getting there with them. I’m drinking them at work now, so when I want a bit of an excuse for a wander about the office I go and make myself a nice healthy infusion drink. Naturally caffeine free, so I reckon they must be reasonably healthy.

I’m trying to drop a few pounds too. Honestly this is an ongoing issue. I always thought middle aged spread was just a funny expression. Turns out it’s an actual thing. My middle has always been my problem area, even when I was young, and having two kids certainly hasn’t helped matters any. People think I’m slim because I’m reasonably tall and running helps of course. I’m not really overweight, but I would just love to lose anything up to a stone, but more realistically half a stone would do. This would help with my running too, which I am really trying to focus on just now. I’m finding my motivation sadly lacking as I get older. Maybe it’s just that I’m no longer prepared to be hungry. The 5:2 has worked brilliantly in the past for me, but my God it makes you miserable. Also I don’t think it would give me enough energy for running. I’ve lost about 5 pounds since Christmas, but those creme eggs are a temptation that I never seem to walk past. I really must do better.

I’m trying to get more sleep too. Again this has been an ongoing attempt that I know will make my life so much better. Again I have an app on my phone for this. At first I optimistically set my target amount of sleep each night to eight hours. As I never got anywhere close to that I was finding that really demotivated me, so I dropped it down to seven hours. I’m much better at achieving that. Well, sort of.  As the alarm goes off at 6am, an 11pm sleep time seems much more achievable. I definitely don’t manage it every night, but I am getting much better at trying. I also am much more likely to go to bed at a reasonable time at the weekend now. It took me a while to work out that although I didn’t have work I was usually getting up to meet friends to run, or just waking up out of habit. So hitting the sack at 1am was never going to be a good idea.  

So the whole health thing is going reasonably well. Eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is a big fat tick in the box. I just need to ensure I keep this up, and maybe try and introduce some of my healthy working day habits on non-working days. My weight is an ongoing battle, and I’m not sure it’s one that I’m ever going to win. As I’m typing that I realise that food shouldn’t be a battle ground, but I’m sure I’m not alone in that mentality. Generally speaking I think I have some great healthy habits. My meals are reasonably healthy, although I really do need to stop eating teenage boy sized portions. I need to realise that I am allowed to dish out a smaller portion for myself. I’ve introduced a lot of healthy snacks into my life. In an ideal world I probably wouldn’t be snacking at all, but If I’m going to (spoiler alert, I am going to) then at least I can make them healthy snacks most of the time. I drink loads of water as this is my drink of choice, and I am trying to wean myself off my hot chocolate habit as best I can.

I’m really trying to focus on my running at the moment too. I’ve joined a new running club recently, and this is really challenging me, which I’m hoping will lead to improvements. I feel that I’ve been stagnating in this area for a while. I was injured last year and it’s taking me a while to get back in the swing of it. This new running club does a lot more interval based training, which should really help with my speed and endurance. I’m also swimming once a week with the boyfriend. We’re up to 60 lengths now, so I reckon in terms of cross training this can only help. I definitely feel that my upper body is stronger now, which is helping a lot at the end of runs when my legs start to tire.

I’ve got a couple of races coming up in March which I’m really looking forward to. There’s a ten miler next weekend, which will be tough, but hopefully good fun. There’s five of us heading off on a bit of a road trip for that one, so that should be a good laugh. I’ve also got a six mile trail race coming up, which should be something a bit different. I’m not worrying too much about the times for these ones, but rather I’ll just go out and enjoy them and hopefully feel nice and strong. I’m trying to work on my speed as I really want to bring my park run time down. I can’t seem to get anywhere close to my pre-injury best time, so I’m going to take the pressure off and just try and whittle it down little by little. I’m been hovering a little above the 27 minute mark recently, so I’m going to get it down under 27 minutes as my next target.  

So I want to continue to build on all the good work that I’ve been doing in terms of my health. Fruit and veg consumption, sleeping (hmmm, maybe try and do a bit better on this one) and try and get my weight a bit lower again. I also want to keep working hard at my running so that I can see an improvement in my park run time.

In terms of FIRE I think it’s time for me to knuckle down and do some research. The bonus on my cash ISA for my emergency fund is coming to an end next month, so I’ll need to shift that pronto, as the rate it’s going to revert to will be dire. So I’ve popped some time in my phone on one of my days off to research rates. I also need to look into low cost index trackers too. When I get a small pay rise in April I’m going to invest that money rather than inflate my lifestyle, so I need to figure out where I’m putting that extra money.

I desperately need to look into side hustles too. If I can earn some extra money I can either pay some more off my mortgage (very appealing) or invest more. I’m currently reading a book about how to make money from eBay. The great thing about my job is that I get to talk to people about their finances all day long. Well, you know, the job itself is not always that great, but I’m trying to take the positives, and recently I have definitely been focusing on looking at the many different ways that people have their finances organised. Anyway, this month I was talking to this customer who mentioned he was retired. He was only 54, so already my FIRE antennae was twitching. I quizzed him more (purely as part of my job of course, not because I wanted FIRE tips)! He then went on to say that he had retired at 40, set up an eBay business and had lots of buy to let properties. He mentioned that he still did the eBay thing part time and was making as much a year as I do working full time. By this point all pretence at just doing my job had gone out the window. Anyway, he then mentioned that he’d written a book on how to make money through eBay and that I should check it out. On my next break I was on my phone ordering a copy. It was written a while ago, so some of it is a little dated, but there’s lots of good tips in there. So my plan is to get finished that book in March and start to think about how eBay could work for me as a side hustle.

Blog wise I want to work on getting things looking a bit nicer. I’m not really a picture sort of person, but I think that’s probably what’s needed to break up some of this writing. I have no idea how to do that, so I need to do some work on figuring that out. I also need to have a bit of a play about with the look of the blog. I would like to put some links in to other blogs that I follow, and maybe have a bit for books that I have enjoyed or found useful. Again, I have no idea how to do this, so I need to spend a bit of my precious time figuring some of this stuff out.

Goals for March

Run my local park run in under 27 minutes

Complete my 10 mile and 6 mile race

Get my weight down to 10 stone 9 pounds

Research rates to switch my cash ISA and get the account changed over

Research low cost index trackers

Finish reading the eBay book

Figure out how to add pictures to my blog posts

Work out how to add links to the blog

Re-watch Game of Thrones ready for the new series starting. A bit of a ridiculous one I know, but realistically I know it’s something I’ll be spending a fair chunk of my time doing, so I might as well be honest about it. I tend not to watch a lot of TV, but I do like a nice box set and usually have one on the go for when I need to sit quietly and relax.

I think that’s probably enough for me to work on. I’ll keep focussing on my health which will hopefully give me enough energy for all the other things that I want to do. I’ll press on with my running training and drop another couple of pounds.  I’ll get some research done this month in terms of my cash ISA, index trackers and a potential eBay side hustle. By the time that March is done we’ll be starting to think about spring and all the hopeful possibilities that come with that. I’ll also find out about my pay rise and bonus, so will know how much extra I’ll have to play with in terms of investing. It’s all feeling quite positive in the Sassenach Saving garden, especially when I worked out my net worth figure the other day. A bit of a bump in the work share price has had an exciting impact on my figures. But you’ll have to wait for another post to hear about that.