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.

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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.

Where does all the time go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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