My Perfect Day

I joined a new team a little while ago. The first meeting we had together the boss did a little getting to know you all session. He asked us all what our perfect day was. Quite a few people said their wedding day, or the day they had their children. I’ve been married twice and divorced just as often, so whilst I had a really nice time on both my wedding days, I definitely wouldn’t say they were my best days ever. The days I had my fabulous children. Er, no. Maybe if I was a father that might be the case. As the woman having to get a child out of my body I would most definitely say I’ve had few worst days, and definitely had better ones. I remember the day I had my youngest my mum came to visit me. She asked me how it was and I just looked at her. “That bad?” she said. “He’s worth it though isn’t he?” “Not yet he isn’t” I replied. Both of them most definitely are worth it now, but the actually giving birth days themselves have to be as far away from perfect as it’s possible to be.

Photo by Jeremy Wong on

It got me thinking about what my perfect day would be. I realised that for me it’s not necessarily about the momentous days, the ones you’re supposed to remember as perfect. In the end I settled on two days that were vying for the title of perfect day. They were both quite different, but had a fair number of common factors. In both of them I was abroad on holiday, the sun was shining (although not all the time) and on both of the days I was spending time with a good friend. I’ll tell you about the first Perfect Day, and maybe I’ll write about the other one another time.

My first version of my perfect day is set in Havana. I had a holiday in Cuba a few years ago. We went to celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday. We’d both wanted to go to Cuba for ages, so this seemed like a fitting excuse to finally get over there. We were renting rooms in a Cuban home, under the Casa Particular scheme, which is Cuba’s equivalent of Airbnb. We were staying right in the centre of Havana, and it was like being in a different world. The poverty was overwhelming, but then so was the zest for life evident everywhere. People were playing dominoes out in the street, the bars were full of real characters and everybody wanted to talk to you to share their story and find out about you.

This particular day started with me waking up really early. Even jet lag can have its place in a perfect day. I put my running stuff on and at 5am I quietly let myself out of the big wooden door and into the street. I ran down the hill towards the malecón where people were already out and about getting their days started. I ran along the seafront, passing fishermen, couples strolling hand in hand and plenty of other runners. Even at that time in the morning it was already starting to warm up. Any later and it would have been far to hot for me to contemplate my five mile run. I ran past the capitol building and stopped for a selfie. Well, it would have been rude not to.

Photo by Alex Azabache on

Back at the room I got myself ready for the day ahead, with that feeling of satisfaction you get from having got some miles in your legs before other people have even made it out of bed. We then strolled into the centre of Havana for a fantastic breakfast. Can a perfect day really be perfect without a truly outstanding breakfast? Maybe, but luckily this one had a fantastic one that set us up for the day.

We decided to do an open top bus tour to get our bearings a little bit. The weather was doing that thing where it’s boiling, but rain is threatening. Not just a shower, but that really laugh out loud rain that you only really seem to get abroad. We got on the bus, made our way upstairs and settled down for a tour of Havana. Apparently health and safety is not really a thing in Cuba. Pretty soon we were having to duck for electrical cables, street signs and traffic lights. Then the rain started. Calling it rain doesn’t really do it justice. It was bouncing off the bus and we were immediately soaked to the skin. We were having so much fun that we didn’t go downstairs to the dry. We just laughed our way through the tour. When they got to the outskirts of Havana they were clearly running out of things of historical interest to point out. When they mentioned a supermarket that Fidel Castro used to frequent we pretty much dissolved into hysterics. Maybe you had to be there, but take it from me it was one of the highlights of the trip.

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on

By the time we got off the bus the sun was out again and we pretty soon dried out. Then we did one of our favourite things to do on holiday. We like to call in soaking up the atmosphere, but it could look like just walking around looking at buildings, people watching and stopping occasionally for refreshments. There’s certainly plenty to see in Havana. We sat in a little square for a rest. My friend disappeared off for a bit and came back with cake for us both which someone was selling from a cart. It was the best cake ever. And let’s be honest, a perfect day isn’t a perfect day without cake.

Next we took a tour in a classic car that Havana is famous for. I generally view cars as lumps of metal to get me from A to B, but even I could appreciate the glamour of what we were being driven around in. We got dropped off at El Floridita, a bar made famous by Hemingway, and the home of the daiquiri. Even as a non-drinker I had my photo taken with a daiquiri. It just has to be done in Havana, even if you’ve no intention of actually drinking it.

Photo by Dimitri Dim on

By this time we were ready for some dinner. We were walking around looking for a restaurant. Someone approached us to take us to one of the small scale restaurants that have been established in people’s houses. We followed him up a winding staircase and entered a lovely restaurant with a handful of tables. He apologised for the balcony table not being available, but we assured him things were perfect. We were enjoying our drinks. It took them a little while to reconcile themselves to the fact that I wasn’t drinking alcohol, but they made me a virgin cocktail which was delicious. Then the guy who’d brought us in rushed over. He’d noticed that the balcony was now free. He moved us over and we settled ourselves in, making the most of the views of Havana. The lobster we ate was out of this world. Would it have been more perfect if I was there with a partner rather than my gay best friend? You know, I don’t think it would. We have the best holidays and I can’t imagine doing that trip with anyone except him.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

In Havana terms the night was still young, so we walked along the malecón where I’d started my day with my run. We followed the sounds of music, laughter and glasses clinking and found some sort of a festival going on. There were a few tourists there, but mainly it was locals enjoying themselves on a Friday night. We got a drink from one of the outdoor bars and walked around. We got chatting to a group of people and one of the guys offered to teach me to salsa. I love to dance anyway, but when a Cuban offers to teach you to salsa in Havana you snatch their hand off. It really was the perfect end to a perfect day.

June and July Review

I’m going to do a combined June and July review seeing as I hadn’t got around to doing my June post by the time July was ready to get published. What can I say. I’m a summer girl at heart and when the sun shines I’m outside making the most of it rather than being huddled over my laptop.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I used that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.


Mortgage £92,377.27 June £91,885.11 July (£92,869.64)


Cash £34,541.56 June £34,725.71 July (£35,002.04)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £14,026.62 June £14,534.87 July (£13,131.25)

Shares £65,289.39 June £66,050 July(£66,329.57)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £494,511.17 June £495,964.18 July (£495,116.46)

Net Worth including house equity

£494,511.17 – £92,377.27 = £402,133.90 June £495,964.18 -£91,885.11 = £404,079.07 July (£402,246.82)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£14,026.62- £92,377.27 = -£78,350.65 June £14,534.87 – £91,885.11 = -£77,350.24 (-£79,738.39)

I’m reasonably happy with those figures. The work share price is pretty rubbish at the minute, but even so things are all going in the right direction. I’ve still got too much cash sitting there as a bit of a security blanket, but I’m in the process of transferring £6k out of my savings account and putting that into my Vanguard ISA. That will show in my August figures. No doubt I should get rid of even more savings, but for now that’s enough for me. I like having enough easily accessible so that I feel I can deal with unforeseen circumstances. I might move a bit more money around at some point, but for now I’m happy with what I’ve done.

Not much else to say about those figures. As I mentioned in my last blog post I’m a bit bored with thinking about FIRE. I guess it’s probably natural. I’m doing what I need to do to get to where I want to be. I don’t need to think about things too much. I go through spells where I spend far too long looking at my spreadsheets. Once in a blue moon I’ll have a Eureka moment, where I think of a way to work smarter not harder with my finances. Putting extra money into my AVC fund instead of overpaying my mortgage was one such instance. Thinking about how much cash I have on hand is another example, even if my naturally cautious nature means I haven’t gone as full on as I could have done with depleting my savings account and putting more into index trackers.

As I mentioned at the beginning I’ve been making the most of the summer. I love it when the sun shines, so I’ve been dashing out to the garden on my breaks and straight away after work. Yet another benefit on working from home. Although I don’t feel like I’ve been particularly productive, I have managed to tick a few things off my 60 for 60 list. I’ve also amended it a bit; replacing a few slightly dull activities with more adventurous ones. I’ll write a post at some point with an updated list and a bit of chat about how I’ve found the things that I have got done.

I’m just coming to the end of my two week holiday. I’ve managed a slightly more normal holiday than last year, but still far from what I would have planned. I managed to get away camping in the north of Scotland, back to one of my favourite camp sites. I could only get three nights booked, but it was great to get away and enjoy the fantastic views. I also visited my folks and made the most of parkrun having restarted in England. I got myself to Hexham for a fabulous riverside parkrun which was lovely and flat. I also met up with my brother and sister and we walked a mammoth 26 miles around Kielder reservoir. That’s the furthest I’ve ever walked, and I was completely exhausted by the end. The sense of achievement was incredible though. It’s been a good summer of walking for me. I climbed The Cheviot, the highest peak in Northumberland and also walked a stretch of Hadrians Wall. Next weekend will see me back down south and climbing Scafell Pike. I’m definitely getting some good things ticked off my 60 for 60 list.

Photo by JACK REDGATE on

It’s back to work on Monday and I’m already dreading getting back in the swing of things. As usual my time off has made me reflect on what my life will look like when I do finally achieve FIRE. I’m hopeful that there’ll be lots of running and walking in there and plenty of travel too. I’ve noticed that lots of the conversations I have with my friends eventually come round to retirement and what our plans are. I don’t think it’s usually me that brings it up, so I guess I must just be of that age where my friends are making plans hopefully to stop working in the next decade or so. It will be nice to have other people retired so that I have some people to hang out with during the week. Much as I enjoy my own company it’s good to have people to share the fun with.

Unusually I didn’t set myself any goals to achieve on my last post. Making the most of the summer seemed more important. I still feel like that, but I do have the Great North Run coming up in September, so I really need to focus on that. Let’s hope some goals around that will be useful. Here goes then.

  • Do at least one 13 mile training run. I’m already up to ten miles, so this should be an easy one. Training plans don’t usually recommend that you do the full distance in training, but I’m a rebel and always like to know I’ve done the full amount before the big day.
  • Get down to ten and a half stone. I was doing great with my eating and my weight was more or less where I wanted it to be. After two weeks off work that’s definitely no longer the case. I’ve not even got on the scales, and have no intention of doing that before Monday morning. Come Monday though I need to be on it healthy eating wise.
  • Get at least seven and a half hours sleep a night at least five nights a week. Sleep is always important, but never more so than when you’re in training. I’ve been a bit bad with this for a while now, so it’s time to sort that out.
  • Climb Scafell Pike.
Photo by James Wheeler on

I think that is plenty to be getting on with. I’ll focus on my health for a bit and reintroduce some good habits. All in all things are ticking along quite nicely. I’m having a lovely holiday, even if I do seem to have spent a fair bit of it getting stuff done, like booking dentist appointments and cleaning the house. That’s always the danger with a staycation. It has given me the time to make some plans though and I can’t tell you how much I loved getting back to parkrun. Only a week to go until it restarts in Scotland and then I can get my Saturday morning fix on a regular basis.

No Motivation May

It’s almost time to do my June figures, so I really better get my May ones out there. Better late than never as they say. Money first of all and then we’ll have a look at how I did with my goals.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I used to track how I was doing with my net worth minus the house equity. This was to see where I was in my quest to become mortgage neutral. Now that I’ve well and truly achieved that I don’t feel the need to track that any more. Instead what I’ve decided to do is see how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I used that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.


Mortgage £92,869.64 (£93,361.71)


Cash £35,002.04 (£35,708.53)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £13,131.25 (£12,464.24)

Shares £66,329.57 (£61,194.27)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £495,116.46 (£490,020.64)

Net Worth including house equity

£495,116.46 – £92,869.64 = £402,246.82 (£396,658.93)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£13,131.25 – £92,869.64 = -£79,738.39 (-£81,839.75)

A nice bump in the work share price has made my figures look really nice. Of course it’s subsequently dropped again, so June is not going to look quite so good, but that’s just the way it goes. I probably should have sold some of those when the price was up and stuck the money into my Vanguard account, but I get excited with the price going up and think this is the beginning of the great recovery. It never is! I did use some dividends that got paid to invest more in my Vanguard ISA, and I topped it up with some of my cash too to meet the minimum pay in amounts on two of the funds I invest in. I’ll just keep doing things like that to try and increase the amount in my index trackers. I definitely still need to diversify more, but I am at least going in the right direction. I’m still holding a stupid amount in cash, but it helps me sleep at night, so I’m not too worried about making any massive changes to that.

It’s nice to get my net worth over the £400k mark, but really it’s a bit of an arbitrary figure. I’m not selling my house any time soon and I’m not drawing my pension for quite some time yet. Still nice to hit it though. Hopefully it won’t be a million years until I get to the half million point. That really will be something to celebrate.

There’s still miles to go with my mortgage, but I’m glad I’ve stuck with my plan of putting the amount I was overpaying into my AVC fund instead. With a base rate mortgage there’s no point paying it off too quickly, and hopefully this way I can make the most of saving more with the tax advantages that come from paying into AVC’s. It also means that I duck under a salary cut off point for my son applying for student loans and bursaries.

There’s not much else to say about the figures really. The plan is working, albeit very slowly. If I’m perfectly honest I’m getting a bit bored of thinking about FIRE just now. I’ve got everything set up doing what it needs to do. I just need time to pass now so I can get my finances to where I want them to be. Of course I don’t want that time to pass too fast as then I’ll be wishing my life away.

I’m trying to make things happen at work by making the most of opportunities that come up, putting myself forward for things and started the long process of getting enough experience for the next job that I want to go for. That’s likely to take a while, but I’ve definitely made a good start. I think that’s probably the biggest thing I can do to help me reach FIRE, is get a better paid job. The next step up probably won’t come with much of a bump in pay, and in fact initially it might come with no increase at all, but in the long run it’s definitely going to be a good move.

So enough about my money, let’s look at my goals. I’m going to preface this by saying I have absolutely no motivation whatsoever at the moment. I feel like I’m wading through treacle somewhat. I’m eating rubbish, running as slow as a slow thing and generally not wanting to do more than is absolutely necessary. I think that’s ok though. Well, maybe it’s not, but it is what it is. We can’t be 100% going for it all the time. I’m enjoying being able to see people a bit more, and have had a trip south of the border to see family and gets some lovely long walks in. Goals are on the back burner, but no doubt I’ll get back on it at some point.

So here’s a reminder of my goals for May.

• Finish couch to 5k. PASS All done and I’m now running normally. Well you know, slowly and not as far as I’d like, but without needing to stop and walk, and crucially still injury free.

  • Cross train twice a week. PASS A mixture of walking and cycling twice a week. Mainly walking with friends, which has been really nice.
  • Start a new Spanish series. PASS Technically a pass. I have started a new series, but I’ve only watched one episode. Zero motivation for Spanish just now.

Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st June. FAIL On 1st June I weighed 10 stone 10.2 lb. To be honest I’m amazed it wasn’t more. I’m still a stone lighter than I was at the height of lockdown, but also ten pounds heavier than I was at Christmas.

As I’m doing this review so late in the month I don’t really see the point in setting myself any goals. It’s summer, the sun has been shining a bit and quite frankly I’ve not felt like working at much. No doubt I’ll get my motivation back at some point, but for now there’s not much point flogging a dead horse. I’ll just chill out, survive work and enjoy having my son home for the university holidays.

Money, Goals and Running for April

April seemed to go by in a bit of blur. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Let’s see how I did in terms of my Net Worth and working towards my goals.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I used to track how I was doing with my net worth minus the house equity. This was to see where I was in my quest to become mortgage neutral. Now that I’ve well and truly achieved that I don’t feel the need to track that any more. Instead what I’ve decided to do is see how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I used that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.


Mortgage £93,361.71 (£93,853.99)


Cash £35,708.53 (£35,668.12)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £12,464.24 (£11,634.04)

Shares £61,194.27(£57,266.53)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £490,020.64 (£485,222.29)

Net Worth including house equity

£490,020.64 – £93,361.71 = £396,658.93 (£391,368.30)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£12,464.24 – £93,853.99 = -£81,839.75

I’m pretty happy with those figures. It doesn’t seem five minutes since I was delighted to get my shares above the £50k mark, and now I’m above £60k. My net worth including the house equity is edging ever closer to £400k, which will be a nice figure to get to. It doesn’t really mean anything, as it includes twenty year’s worth of my defined benefits pension and the house that I live in. Neither of these things can I use at this stage to skip away from work without looking back. FIRE is a big thing to aim for though, so you have to play tricks with yourself and celebrate random figures that you achieve.

There’s obviously a long way to go until my AVC fund value gets anywhere near what I owe on my mortgage. As long as I get there by the time I’m 60 then I’ll be happy with that. I took the mortgage out until I was 70 but with the plan to over pay it and get it cleared by the time I was 60. I’m hoping I’ll achieve the same outcome doing it this way, but that compounding can do a lot of the heavy lifting for me. With a base rate mortgage it makes no sense to clear the mortgage quickly, but I don’t think I’d be comfortable with still having a mortgage when I’d stopped working.

It’s felt like I’ve been spending a bit more recently. April is an expensive month anyway in terms of my car. The insurance, tax, MOT and service are all this month. With a bit of jiggery pokery I’ve managed to get the car tax into May’s figures by paying it right at the end of the month on my credit card. There’s still a lot to pay out in one month though. Luckily the car got through the MOT without anything too horrendous. £250 for a ten year old car to pass the MOT I didn’t think was too bad. I can’t really think what else I’ve spent. A takeaway I think and a few treats to celebrate the slight easing of lockdown. May is already proving much more expensive, but as that includes a week’s holiday from work I’m not going to worry too much about that. And anyway that’s a confession for next month’s review!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I think that will do for the money side of things now. Let’s move on to see how I did with the goals that I set myself. Here’s what I said I would be working on in April

  • Finish Cien días series 2. PASS This is all done. I really enjoyed it and this wasn’t a chore to do. I’m sure my Spanish must be improving, but I have to be honest I can’t really see it myself.
  • Complete up to week 5 of Couch 2 5k PASS I’m still really unfit, but crucially my hip is holding up. If I walk for too long my hip hurts, but with the amount of running I’m doing just now I don’t feel it at all on my runs. Long may this continue.
  • Read the Moscow Rough Guide. FAIL You would think with only setting myself three goals this month I would definitely get them all done. Apparently not. I think maybe it just seems too far off for me to be interested in reading the guide book. Or maybe I’d be better just dipping in to various sections as and when I want to research particular things. We have made a bit more progress on planning, I just haven’t read the book.

So let’s set myself some things to work on for May.

  • Finish couch to 5k. I’m on track for this. As long as I don’t get injured again I should be able to finish this no problem. The latter part of the programme is building up the length of time you run for, with no walking at all. I’m being careful to follow the schedule and not rush on ahead and get injured again.
  • Cross train twice a week. I’m trying a new strategy to stay injury free. Instead of running four times a week I’m going to stick to three times weekly and put in some walking or cycling on top of that. I’m hoping going out on the bike will strengthen my hip without putting any strain on it. That’s the plan anyway.
  • Start a new Spanish series. I have picked one and added it to my list on Netflix. I can’t for the life of my think what it’s called, but I know I’m good to go with it.
  • Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st June. Going back to an old favourite of mine. I was ten stone 7.2lb on the 1st May, however I’ve had a week’s holiday since then. The fact that I haven’t been on the scales since the first of the month probably tells you all that you need to know. I’m a bit annoyed with myself with this one as I was doing so well. Time to get back on it.
Photo by Dylan Howell on

I think that will do for the month. As usual no money goals in there, which seems ridiculous when this is supposed to be a FIRE blog. I never really see the point though. I’ve got things set up how they need to be. Unless I earn more then I’m not going to be able to save and invest more. I’m working on the earning more angle with my 9-5, but realistically that’s probably going to take a bit of time to come to fruition. I have everything automated in terms of my investments, so there’s no point setting myself goals around those. And randomly trying to achieve a certain level of net worth seems a bit pointless. The markets will do what they will do, and whilst I’m happy when I hit certain random figures, setting myself goals around that doesn’t seem like a good use of my time.

I’m happy with how I’m progressing in my journey towards FIRE. I’m working on the things that are important to me, albeit with certain recurring themes around my weight, which to be honest have been a work in progress for most of my life. Unless something miraculous happens I imagine I’ll be thinking about my weight until the day I die. Sad but true. I’m happy to be back running and the key is going to be staying injury free. With parkrun due to restart in England next month I have already planned some trips across the border to ahem “visit my parents”. The fact that these visits will allow me to be in a park in England at 9am surrounded by fellow runners is purely coincidental! Have a great May everyone.

March 2021 Review

It’s time for me to have a look and see how March was for me. I’ll put my Net Worth figures up and an update on how I did with my monthly goals.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. As I reached Mortgage Neutrality last month I’m not including that figure any more. Funny how something that was so important to me last month is not even getting included this time. I’m sure I’ll find something else to focus on as I strive for FIRE.


Mortgage £93,853.99 (£94,345.97)


Cash £35,668.12 (£35,523.72)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £11,634.04 (£10,814.45)

Shares £57,266.53 (£52,479.19)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £485,222.29 (£479,470.96)

Net Worth including house equity

£485,222.29 – £93,853.99 = £391,368.30 (£385,124.99)

Another great month from a shares point of view. The work share price is up yet again, and my Vanguard ISA is doing great as well. I still need to diversify as I have more than half my equities in an individual share. Mind you a year ago I had about £600 in index trackers and the rest in my work shares, so I’m actually doing great on shifting the balance. I’ve not actually sold any of the work shares as yet, but rather have cashed in ongoing share saves as the option price most definitely wasn’t worth taking advantage of. I’ve decided I’m not doing any more share saves. I don’t want to have to wait three years to get my money in the market. Plus I don’t want to add any more to my already top heavy share allocation. I buy a tiny amount each month as work offer a share match scheme which is really just too good to pass up. In the grand scheme of things though it’s nothing, and my plan is index trackers all the way from here on in.

Somehow I managed to fill my ISA allowance during the tax year, which sadly is not something I would usually be able to do. That gives me options moving forward for selling some of the individual shares and sticking them into the ISA in index trackers. I’m continuing to invest each month to my Vanguard account and I’m loving how quickly it’s growing. Well, you know, it’s all relative. I’ll not be able to chuck in work any time soon, but it’s most definitely going in the right direction. It’s not that long since my Equities hit £50k and already I have £60k in my sights for my next target.

Cash is up again very slightly. With the eldest going off to uni (and now back in his bedroom studying remotely) and the subsequent reduction in maintenance, child benefit and the miniscule amount of working tax credit that I get, my budgets don’t actually balance. So it’s an absolute miracle that I’m not eating into my cash reserves. Actually it’s a reflection of lockdown. I still have budgets for petrol, entertainment, holidays etc for when these things were possible and necessary. For now I’m filling the car up once every few months and although I’ve booked a few shows, I’ve already had some cancellations and subsequent refunds. What I’m not currently spending of my various budgets I’m shoving towards the house budget to save up to get a working ensuite. Once that’s done the cash amount will go down considerably, but considering the amount of cash I have sitting there I can definitely live with that. I’ve decided to spend a bit of money on the house. I moved in almost four years ago and spent next to nothing on it. Time for a bit of TLC on the place. Nothing major, but I got a new rug for the lounge and it’s made such a difference. I was planning on buying a bookcase too, but luckily my ex husband was moving and getting rid of a load of stuff. I managed to blag a bookcase, and he even helped me carry it out of his place. An amicable relationship with the ex husband certainly has plenty of benefits! The lounge looks much cosier now for not too much of an outlay. Money well spent I would say.

Photo by Element5 Digital on

Not much else to say on the money side of things. Things are going in the right direction. As always I know I need to diversify, I have too much cash and I could do with earning more so that I can invest more, or at the very least keep investing the same amount without depleting my cash reserves to do so. Somehow I seem to keep plodding away without a fantastic salary. I have a good life. I spend enough, but not a ridiculous amount. My strategy of waiting to replace things until absolutely necessary seems to be working so far. Just now the things that almost certainly need replaced include the boiler, my laptop, my phone, the ensuite and potentially the car.

I’m hoping to limp through to the end of my phone contract at the end of the year. The phone itself works ok, but every so often (more often as times goes on) the display goes really strange, with parts of the screen in darkness. It’s always remained useable, but it would probably help if I stopped dropping it all the time. My resident computer expert put Linux on my laptop which seems to have revived it, but I now get a critical disc error periodically. I’m just backing stuff up and hoping for the best. The ensuite is just not getting used. The car I’ll keep you posted on, as it’s getting the MOT and service done this month. I bought it new ten years ago and it has just over 70,000 miles on the clock. It was looking a bit dodgy last year but I’m hoping the lack of driving over the last year has bought me some extra time. The boiler mostly works, but it needs topping up every few days which is a pain. They can’t get parts for it any more apparently, so if something goes on it I’ll need to get a new one.

With all of these things I have the cash sitting there to replace them. My plan as always though is just to keep going with them as long as I possibly can. That way I keep hold of my cash for real emergencies. Run of the mill people think I’m crazy for doing this. Why would I have something sub-optimal in my life? Honestly though I’d rather have the money in my account. If it gets to the point where any of these things are really bothering me then I’ll replace them. Until then I’ll just keep going as I am. Better for the environment too.

That’s enough about the money part of my life. Let’s move on to my goals for March now. He’s a quick reminder of what I was working on.

  • Watch 16 episodes of Cien días. PASS No problems at all with this one. I’m not quite sure how many I watched, but I think it was closer to twenty.
  • Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st April. PASS 10 stone 6 lb I don’t want to jinx it, but I seem to pretty much have this one cracked. I’m trying to make healthy choices, but I’m not denying myself. Chocolate is most definitely featuring yet again, and you know Easter is a thing. I love to be ten stone, but I have to be hungry to be that weight. That’s not sustainable long term, so I can definitely live with ten and a half. Considering at the height of my lock down weight I was not far off twelve stone I’m delighted to be back at much more of my fighting weight.
  • Do my physio exercises at least five days a week. PASS This is just what I do now. They seem to be working, so all the more reason to keep them going.
  • Research one of the trips on my 60 for 60 list. PASS (sort of) I’ve started to dive in to the detail of a trip to Russia. I’ve found a trip that seems to balance some sort of support in terms of providing flights, hotels and transfers along with some excursions, but also gives us enough time to explore on our own. It’s too early to be able to book holiday from work for next year, which makes it tricky, but research is well under way. Still lots of planning to do, but we have decided we want to visit Moscow and St Petersburg and have guide books for both places and a Russian phrase book. We’re having lots of fun talking about places we want to visit in the two cities and I have high hopes of this being a great holiday, assuming Covid restrictions have eased by next year.

So all in all that’s been a pretty successful month. I’ve done well on my goals, so time to set some new ones for April

  • Finish Cien días series 2. This should most definitely be achievable. It’s suitably trashy that even when I can’t really be bothered doing anything I’ll happily sit down and watch an episode.
  • Complete up to week 5 of Couch 2 5k I’ve come to the conclusion that my hip is probably as good as it’s going to get. I’m able to walk and cycle without any problems. The physio advised I do Couch 2 5k to give the tissue time to recover. It seems ridiculous to be running for a minute and then walking for a minute, but I’ll do what’s needed to get me back in the game.
  • Read the Moscow Rough Guide. I don’t want the planning for this trip to stop. I’m conscious that I can’t book next year’s holiday from work yet and I don’t want the momentum for this trip to just fizzle out.

I think that’s enough for now. I’m doing lots of decluttering at the moment, which is keeping me quite busy. I can’t quite bring myself to set throwing things out goals, but the reality is that’s how I’m spending quite a lot of my time just now, and it’s going well. There is an element of moving things from room to room, and parts of the house now look like a pig sty, but it’s all part of a master plan. I’ve even thinned out a lot of old paperwork and photos. The loft has been sorted and the garage will be getting done at some point.

All in all March has been a pretty good month. The money side of things is looking pretty good. I’m making steady progress; never as fast as I’d hope for, but still on track for where I want to be. I’ve smashed my goals and I’ve got some good targets to aim for in April. It’s great to be back running, even if it’s most definitely baby steps. I need to take it easy and take a step back if needed to avoid further injury. Hopefully the weather will start to perk up soon, and these hail and snow showers will make way for wall to wall sunshine. That would be nice. Have a great April everyone and let me know what you’re up to.

Freezing February Review

Let’s have a look and see what my Net Worth is looking like for February. I’ll also have a look at how I got in with the goals I set myself for February and set myself some things to work on in March.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I’ve also got my Net Worth not including the DB Pension or the house equity, which seems barmy, but is really just to represent how close I’m getting to mortgage neutrality.


Mortgage £94,345.97 (£94,838.70)


Cash £35,523.72 (£34,965.12)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £10,814.45 (£10,307.70)

Shares £52,479.19 (£49,209.19)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £479,470.96 (£475,135.61)

Net Worth including house equity

£479,470.96 – £94,345.97 = £385,124.99 (£380,296.91)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£98,817.36 – £94,345.97 = £4,471.39 (-£356.69)

So let’s unpick those figures a little bit. A nice little bump up in the work share price has had a rather nice impact on my numbers. The only slight down side to that is that the proportion of my investments in work shares as opposed to index trackers has increased. It’s good that they’re worth more, but it still really concerns me that I’m not diversified enough. I’ve more or less filled up this year’s ISA allowance, so next month when we pass the cut off date I can think about selling some of them and putting more into my Vanguard account. The problem is every time the share price recovers a bit I get all optimistic about them and think that they might go somewhere close to where they were before. That would make FIRE sooner rather than later much more realistic, but at some point I will have to just cut my losses and accept that it’s more important to be diversified rather than wait for some magical jump up in the share price. That’s a mental adjustment that I need to make rather than anything else though.

The really big news this month is that I’ve become mortgage neutral. Cue champagne corks popping and fireworks going off. Actually as I don’t drink that’s not quite right, but there was rather a lot of smiling happily at my spreadsheets the night I did my net worth figures this month. I’ve been banging on about becoming mortgage neutral for a long time now, so it feels fantastic to have actually got there. Post lockdown I’ve got some spending planned to have a bit of a life and to tick off some things on my 60 for 60 list, so the key is going to be to try and stay mortgage neutral.

Mortgage Neutral, whoop whoop!!

I was mortgage neutral in my last house, even though I didn’t measure all my figures in nearly so much detail as I do now as that was pre my discovery of FIRE. It’s almost four years since I moved, so it’s really nice to get back to that same position financially. I moved from a 3 bedroom semi to a 4 bedroom detached house. The move wasn’t strictly speaking necessary, but with two teenage boys the extra bathroom has certainly come in handy. And I have to say that it would have been incredibly difficult to work from home in the last house. Strictly speaking it wouldn’t have been allowed as you need to have a room where the door shuts and people don’t need to walk through it to get to other rooms. Pre Covid for people who worked from home you had to have an inspection to make sure there set up in the house was suitable as we are speaking to customers on the phone, so privacy is an issue. Things have relaxed slightly to get the majority of people safely out of the office, but you still have to have somewhere to work. One of my colleagues has spent the last year working on an ironing board as she doesn’t have room for a desk. Having the spare room to work in has made working from home so much more convenient. On balance, although moving hasn’t helped my FIRE figures I’m still really glad I did it. It’s not like the money is lost either. I can always downsize as my teenagers make their way in the world, or even rent a room out at some point in the future.

All in all it’s safe to say I’m pretty happy with this month’s figures. Let’s move on now to see how I got on with my goals for February. The fact that I’m about to have to go and check what they were probably doesn’t bode all that well.

  • Get under 10 stone. FAIL I’m going to officially give up on this one, but to be fair I got within spitting distance of it. I got down to 10 stone 0.4 lb, so I think I can probably live with that.
  • Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st March. PASS Just, but I was 10 stone 6.4 lb on 1st March. It all went a bit pear shaped (literally) the last few days of the month, but I snuck under the magic ten and a half stone and I’m back much closer to the ten stone mark again.
  • Exercise at least four times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. FAIL I was well on track with this right up until the last week of the month. I haven’t been able to run due to injury, but I was walking four times a week for about 50 minutes a time. I was loving it. Unfortunately I went out walking in the snow and ice and fell and ended up flat on my back. This really hurt my already injured hip, and I’ve not been able to exercise since. I can’t wait to get back to it, but for now recovering from the injury is more important. So it’s physio exercises and lots of rest.
  • At least once a week cook a recipe that isn’t one of our go to recipes. PASS I was messaging one of my friends saying that I was bored with what I was cooking and wanted to try some different recipes, and was interested in trying out more veggie meals. This somehow turned into us doing a month long challenge to not eat any meat. We exchanged recipes and sent photos of our meals to each other. I must have done at least ten different recipes during the month, and I’ve now got some new meals that will be part of our repertoire.
  • Finish Cien Días. PASS I’m putting this as a pass, but strictly speaking that’s not quite right. The day after I set my goals they released an extra 35 episodes on Netflix. I’m currently working my way through them, but that’s going to take a bit of time. As long as I amend the goal to finish series one of Cien Días then I can safely say I’ve achieved it.

February has been a bit of a tricky month for me. I feel like I’m making lots of good healthy choices, my weight is staying pretty low and I was doing well on the exercise front. My injury has really put a spanner in the works for me, but I was doing well with keeping up with walking when I couldn’t run. Falling on the ice is really annoying, but I know that it’s too sore now to even be able to walk. I even had to take some time off sick as it was too painful to work. That is definitely a sign that I need to give my body a chance to recover. I’m doing my physio exercises and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get back to the walking fairly soon and build up to running at some point. I need to listen to my body and not be tempted to push too hard too soon. I need my body to keep working for the long haul, so it’s really important that I take my time and heal properly.

Let’s get some goals set for March then

  • Watch 16 episodes of Cien días. This should definitely be possible. I’m still not understanding all of it, but I think it is helping my Spanish skills. There is a danger that if I watch it after work I’m tired and not concentrating all that much, but I reckon even just immersing myself in the language without focussing massively has to be helpful.
  • Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st April. Sound familiar? I really just want to keep myself accountable here. I want to continue to make healthy choices and part of that should be reflected in my weight. Ideally I want to be around the ten stone mark, but the extra half a stone gives me some leeway for emergency chocolate eating.
  • Do my physio exercises at least five days a week. Ideally this will be every day, but I’ll build a little bit of slack into my goal. I would like to increase the number of reps I’m doing, but I’m finding if I do too much it’s too sore, so that’s counter productive.
  • Research one of the trips on my 60 for 60 list. Pretty much nothing on my list is possible at the moment with lockdown restrictions, but that doesn’t stop me planning trips away for the future. The current thinking is maybe a trip to Russia next year with the younger son. It’s somewhere we’ve both always wanted to go to, so I’m thinking maybe next year will be the year. I need to get an idea of the costs involved and balance my spending on experiences with my desire to reach FIRE. Hopefully I’ll be able to do both.

I think that’s enough for now. I need to start to recover from this injury, and it’s really tempting to put some running goals in there, but I need to be sensible about that and listen to my body about when I’m ready to start that up again. I’ll continue to make healthy choices most of the time, work on recovering from my injury and work towards getting back to my running. I’ll keep plugging away with my Spanish TV watching and start to look into a trip to Russia. That should give me something to look forward to, which I think is crucial in these difficult times.

Sixty Things To Do By The Time I’m Sixty List

I turned fifty last year. It wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I thought it might be, despite having most of my celebrations cancelled due to lockdown. About six months before I turned the big 5-0 I started writing a list of fifty things to do before I was fifty. I think it’s safe to say that I’d probably left writing this list a little bit late. For me I think that long term goals are what I like to aim for when it comes to lists like this. I ended up putting things on there that I didn’t really care about, just so I had things that I felt I’d be able to do quickly and fairly easily. I think if I’d got to almost 50 without feeling the need to go and get my nails done, then it’s fair to say that it wasn’t something that I was all that bothered about. That turned out to be a pretty rubbish list and I barely got anything ticked off on it. At the same time though I started writing a 60 things to do by the time I was 60 list. I found I actually had more things on this list than the one for when I turned 50, although nowhere near 60 things.

Photo by on

Recently I’ve picked up both of these lists and had a good look through them. A lot of the things on the 50 for 50 list quickly got discarded, but there was plenty on the 60 list that I really wanted to do. Just under ten years gives me a good bit of time to actually make some progress on these things that are important to me. Quite a few of these things are going to take a bit of planning and will need a bit of money spending on them, so it’s good that I’ve got plenty of time. There’s some really big FIRE milestones in there too, which is really exciting to see.

The challenge I guess is balancing spending money on experiences that I want to have with achieving my FIRE goals. The two things seem to be somewhat incompatible, but I suppose as long as I spread them out and try and do some of the travel aspirations in a budget manner then I should be ok. There are quite a few completely free things on there, along with plenty of pretty frugal ones. Some of them require a big time commitment, and others are just plain indulgent. There are some things on there that terrify me, which I think is probably a good sign that I should definitely go for it.

I’ve committed my list to the back of my bullet journal. No doubt the list will change over time. I’ve not worried about how I’m going to do all of these things, I’ve just put down that I want to do them. There are already some things that I wish I’d put on there, but which at the time didn’t quite make the cut. No doubt I’ll make some adjustments as time goes by. And if this running injury doesn’t heal then I’m going to have to think of a lot more things to go on the list, as a fair chunk is devoted to running activities!

So here’s my list.

  1. Vogrie parkrun
  2. South Shields parkrun
  3. Gibside parkrun
  4. Run a marathon (Again, but made a better job of it than I did last time)
  5. Do an ultra
  6. Do a triathlon
  7. Become a parkrun tourist
  8. Do parkrun A-Z
  9. Do the Granada half marathon
  10. Do 100 parkruns
  11. Do 250 parkruns
  12. Volunteer 25 times at parkrun
  13. Run the Road to the Isles half marathon
  14. Do the Kielder Dark Skies run
  15. Do the Chariots of Fire race
  16. Do a parkrun abroad
  17. Walk up Arthur’s Seat
  18. Walk the West Highland Way
  19. Cycle around Loch Leven
  20. Run the Loch Leven half marathon
  21. Learn a ballroom dance
  22. Finish the Duolingo Spanish tree
  23. Write a book
  24. Do some volunteering
  25. Become mortgage neutral
  26. Get my AVC fund to £50k
  27. Get my Equities fund to £125k
  28. Pay off my mortgage
  29. Go part time at work
  30. Retire
  31. Learn to do the 3×3 cube without notes (again, and don’t forget how to do it this time)
  32. Do the cube in under 1 minute 30 seconds
  33. Climb Ben Nevis
  34. Climb Scafell
  35. Climb Snowden
  36. Get the en suite done
  37. Ge the kitchen done
  38. Get the bathroom done
  39. Get new carpets
  40. Go to Italy
  41. Visit Copenhagen
  42. Go to Russia
  43. Go back to Cuba
  44. Do a tour of the Scottish Islands
  45. Go camping in Europe
  46. Go to the Alhambra in Granada (again, but I love it there)
  47. Go to the German Christmas markets in Germany rather than Edinburgh
  48. Do a trip in a campervan
  49. Go to San Sebastián
  50. Go to Cyprus
  51. Go to Canada
  52. See the Northern Lights
  53. Have a trip on the Jacobite Express
  54. Stay in a wigwam
  55. Go white water rafting
  56. Watch the Graham Norton show being filmed
  57. Go out for a really good breakfast
  58. Go to a TEDx event
  59. Visit London
  60. Go to Gairloch and my favourite ever campsite

Reading that list makes me so excited to get started. The only one I’ve actually done already is that I became a parkrun tourist just before lockdown. Every good list always has at least one thing on it that you’ve already done. The parkruns are free to do, but time constraints are going to be against me. Unless I change my job and no longer work every second Saturday then getting 250 parkruns in by the time I’m 60 will be tight. I need to factor in injuries, volunteering and of course the fact that it’s not on just now due to lockdown. We’ll not even talk about the ultra and triathlon that I’ve recklessly added to the list. I’ll worry about those another time, as they terrify the hell out of me. As does the marathon, as I remember how much that took over my life when I did one once before. I’m not entirely convinced my body is up to all these physical challenges, but I guess I don’t have to do any of them fast, I just have to do them.

Photo by Daniel Reche on

There’s a reasonable amount of travel in there, but hopefully not so much that it will be unachievable on my budget. I’m really excited to go to Italy. Considering how much I love Italian men and food it’s a travesty that I’ve never been there before. The really good thing about the different destinations I’ve listed is that I have a fair idea who I’ll go to each place with. These are all places that I’ve talked about going with different people over the years, we’ve just never quite got around to it.

The white water rafting is something my sister and I have been supposed to do for years. We postponed it when she got pregnant with my nephew, but as he’s twelve now we’re long overdue that adventure! And the climbing of Ben Nevis, Scafell and Snowden is something that myself, my sister and my brother have been talking about during lockdown.

Photo by Brett Sayles on

It’s really great to see that by the time I’m 60 I should have reached FIRE, with some important milestones reached during the next decade. I should be mortgage neutral really soon and then my next targets will be my AVC and Equities fund. I’m hoping I should hit those in the next five years or so. At that point I can consider the possibility of negotiating a shorter working week. I’ve very optimistically put pay the mortgage off in the list. That’s probably going to take me longer, but it’s a good target to aim for. At the very least it should be at a much more manageable level. Once I turn sixty my work pension kicks in, so full retirement should be mine for the taking. That’s pretty exciting to think about. Only a decade to go. The key is going to be to fill that decade with lots of meaningful experiences so that I can enjoy this last part of my working life.

Does anyone else have a list like mine? Any suggestions of any really great things that I’ve missed off?

January 2021 Review

That’s January well and truly done and dusted. A quick update to see how my Net Worth is doing and how I did with working towards the goals that I set myself. We’ll start with what my money looks like for the month.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I’ve also got my Net Worth not including the DB Pension or the house equity, which seems barmy, but is really just to represent how close I’m getting to mortgage neutrality.


Mortgage £94,838.70 (£95,330.62)


Cash £34,965.12 (£34,503.66)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £10,307.70 (£9,826.32)

Shares £49,209.19 (£49,278.21)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £475,135.61 (£474,261.79)

Net Worth including house equity

£475,135.61- £94,838.70 = £380,296.91 (378,931.17)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£94,482.01 – £94,838.70 = -£356.69 (-£1,722.43)

So how do I feel about those figures? Not too bad I think. The shares have gone down slightly, which considering I invested another £675 in January isn’t exactly ideal. It’s not horrendous though. It would be nice to be back above £50k again, but I’m sure I’ll get there sooner rather than later. I’m happy to get the AVC fund above £10k, especially as that means I’m now a fifth of the way towards my target. Cash has gone up again a little bit, which it really shouldn’t be doing now that I have a cut in my maintenance due to my eldest having gone off to uni, albeit only for one term before lockdown forced him back home to study online from his bedroom. (Cambridge’s loss is my gain, I’m delighted to have a temporary reprieve and have him back in the house!) I had my lowest ever credit card bill in January, coming in at around £250. Considering I pay for everything except my utility bills with this card and clear it each month this is definitely good going for a family of three that includes two teenage boys who are eating machines.

I am so close to being mortgage neutral now that I can practically taste it. Only £356.69 stands between me and mortgage neutrality. When I mentioned this to the kids one of them offered to transfer me the money just so I could get there straight away. I politely declined. This is going to be all the sweeter for waiting for it. Hopefully next month if I can keep my spending under control.

This month is already proving more spendy than last, but with a bit of luck it won’t stop me hitting the magic number for mortgage neutrality. I’ve had to get a bit of work done to the house as some mice got in. I got a company in to sort them, which luckily was included in the home emergency cover that comes with my bank account. What isn’t included is the mouse proofing of the house that I needed done. This is classed as essential work, so I was able to get my handyman out to fill holes and he’s going to come back to fit a guard to the bottom of the garage door to stop them making themselves at home in my garage. All in it’s only costing me £150, which I think is money well spent for the peace of mind it’s giving me. I know I shouldn’t freak out about mice in the house, but I totally was. I’ve calmed down now, and fingers crossed the problem is sorted now. I’ve also ordered a new desk for home working. The one I’ve been using is far from ideal and as my plan is to work from home indefinitely it makes sense to get an optimal home office set up. So more expenses than usual this month, and I even had to put petrol in the car for the first time in months, but it still shouldn’t be horrendous I don’t think.

Photo by Markus Spiske on

I’m finding I’m getting a bit bored with checking what I’m worth. I still like doing my monthly Net Worth, but the obsessive checking of my Vanguard account is not really doing it for me any more. I think this is a good thing. It’s probably a sign that things are going ok in my life and I’m not looking to FIRE to save me. I do find that the worse I’m finding work the more I check my spreadsheets. I think I’m finally coming to the conclusion that I have things set up as they should be and it’s just going to take time for me to get where I want to be. I don’t have a magic wand that’s going to suddenly make my spreadsheets say something different. Yes, I need to tweak my investments, but I have a plan in place for that. Constantly logging in to my accounts doesn’t improve my life and it just makes me frustrated that I’m not where I want to be yet. I’m slowly weaning myself off my post work checking of my Vanguard account habit!

  • Get under ten stone. FAIL I got down to 10 stone 3.8lb. Although I didn’t achieve this one I’m actually not too bothered. I really want this to be a long term goal more about health than a particular number on the scales. I had a few weeks where I went slightly off the rails, but even then my weight only went up to ten and a half stone. This is a lot better than I was doing last year, and I’m eating really healthy foods, which is kind of the point.
  • Weigh less than ten and a half stone on the first of February. PASS On 1st February I weighed 10 stone 5.2lb. That’s a good weight for me, and I would be delighted to be able to keep it around that level.
  • Exercise four times a week. PASS I’ve finally admitted that I have an injury. It’s been going on for months, but it’s been getting worse. I managed to get a phone appointment with the doctor who referred me to the physio. The good old NHS. Within 24 hours of me phoning the doctors I was in seeing the physio. She examined me and the good news is it’s not osteoarthritis, which was looking like a possibility. Instead it is bursitis. Annoying, but something that should go away. I’ve got exercises to do and I need to rest, so sadly no running. I was told to rest for four weeks, but it’s been that already and there’s not much improvement, so I’ll keep being a good Sassenach and not run for now. I have however been walking plenty. I’ve done a few too many long walks that have not done my hip any favours, but there have been some perfect walking days with sunshine and lots of snow. What can you do? Sometimes you just have to get out there. I’ve been managing to get out at least four times a week for a walk, and I’m really enjoying it.
  • Finish cien días. FAIL I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t do this. I’m still not feeling all that motivated with my Spanish studying, and this has been yet another Spanish thing that I’ve just not done. I’ve got back into it now, so I’ll put this as a goal again to get it finished off.
  • Pick another Spanish series to watch. PASS A bit of a cheat this one, as I didn’t actually do this during January, but it is done now. As I’ve still not finished Cien días yet I have plenty of time for this, but I now have Velvet added to my Netflix list. On the Duolingo forum this one seems to get good reviews, so I’m hoping I enjoy it when I eventually get round to watching it.

So most definitely a mixed month for me. And to be fair that is what it felt like. It has felt really hard to go in to this lockdown. I was hoping to get down to Newcastle for a weekend where my support bubble is. With the border effectively being closed and universities closed my trip down south to drop my son with my parents for dad to take him down to uni was never going to happen. Until this got cancelled I hadn’t realised how much the thought of that was keeping me going. It took me a few weeks to adjust, but I think I’ve more or less bounced back now. And as I said it’s lovely to have him home, although for his sake I hope he gets back to uni soon

So I suppose I’d better set some goals for February. It’s a bit of a cheat this really as we’re so far through February already. I have got some things that I’m working on, but to be honest for now it’s mostly just about getting through lockdown and making sure everybody stays safe. Mum and dad have both now had their first vaccinations, as has my sister as she works for the NHS. I’m really still focussed on healthy eating and making sure that my injury doesn’t mean I stop exercising altogether just because I can’t run. I think quite a few of these goals are going to look pretty familiar, but better late than never if I finally get around to achieving them.

  • Get under 10 stone. As I’ve said before this would really be as low as I would want my weight to go. Even at this weight I still have a belly, but I don’t think that’s ever going to go. I’ve had it my whole life. I really want to focus on eating healthily and feeling good. Weight can be a helpful guide, but it’s not the be all and end all. Saying that, it would be nice to get under the magic ten stone just so I know I can do it
  • Weigh under ten and a half stone on 1st March. Same as before, just to keep me on track
  • Exercise at least four times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. This is especially important now that I’m injured. If nothing else it will ensure I actually get out of the house
  • At least once a week cook a recipe that isn’t one of our go to recipes. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut with what you cook. I’m sure this boredom then leads to snacking and unhealthy choices. I’m really enjoying lots of veggie meals just now, so I’d like to continue exploring new recipes
  • Finish Cien Días. This is definitely achievable. I’m back watching it again, still struggling to understand it, but the only way I’m going to improve is by sticking at it

That’s enough for now for to me working on. I really want to continue to focus on my health. I’m loving all the healthy eating that I’m doing and I hope that I can reap the rewards from this in the years to come. I’ll keep doing my walking until my body is strong enough for me to run again. If I focus on eating well, getting enough sleep and trying not to sweat the small stuff then I think I’ll have the building blocks for a long and happy life. Here’s hoping anyway.

December 2020 Review

It’s time to review how the month of December went for me. I’ll have a look at my net worth figures and how I did on working towards my goals. December is always a funny month; more to do with having fun than achieving goals. Of course 2020 was a bit different to a normal year, but Christmas was still part of the equation. Let’s have a look first of all at the money side of things.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I’ve also got my Net Worth not including the DB Pension or the house equity, which seems barmy, but is really just to represent how close I’m getting to mortgage neutrality.


Mortgage £95,330.62 (£95,822.50)


Cash £34,503.66 (£34,304.08)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £9,826.32 (£9,139.84)

Shares £49,278.21 (£50,102.75)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £474,261.79 (£474,200.27)

Net Worth including house equity

£474,261.79 – £95,330.62 = £378,931.17 (£378,377.77)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£93,608.19 – £95,330.62 = –£1,722.43 (£2,275.83)

I’m fairly happy with those figures. The work share price dropped again, but with my Vanguard Index trackers going up it doesn’t look quite as bad as it could do. A bit frustrating to dip under the £50k mark for my shares, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not the end of the world. My AVC’s are doing well, and with a bit of rounding I’m now 20% towards my target for that particular part of my investments. That will allow me to take the cash lump sum option of £50k at 60 without reducing the amount of pension that I receive. The extra money I’m putting towards that side of things came from a reduction in the overpayments I was making towards my mortgage. Psychologically I would prefer to see my mortgage coming down more quickly, but from a purely numbers point of view it’s definitely been the right decision.

My mortgage neutrality is edging down ever closer to zero. Not that much of a change this month, but it is at least going in the right direction. It’s great to see there’s less than two thousand to go until I’m mortgage neutral. That’s such an important target for me. It’s one I reached a long time ago in my last house, so it will be great to achieve it in this home. It’s quite likely that will fluctuate a bit as I use some of my savings to do work to the house. What I’ll probably do is have a bit of time where I can enjoy being mortgage neutral before I dip into my savings. I guess I could wait until I’m in a sufficiently positive financial position whereby even by spending on the house I would still be mortgage neutral. We’ll see.

My cash amount has increased ever so slightly. This really shouldn’t be the case. With the reduction in the maintenance that I receive once number one son started uni last year I don’t have enough coming in to cover the amount I am paying out. I would worry about this more, but it’s only because I’m throwing so much towards investments. I’ve got plenty of cash savings, so in reality all I’m really doing is drip feeding some of these cash savings towards investments. Although at the moment I’m not even needing to use the savings. Not being able to do anything does have an advantage from the financial point of view.

What I am actually doing though is virtually moving budgets around to put towards saving for getting my en suite sorted. Every month that I don’t spend my petrol, hair cut, entertainment etc budget I put it towards my house budget. I’m definitely getting there, and it shouldn’t be too much longer until I have enough to get the work done. Not that I’m actually planning on getting it done yet. I think I’ll wait until the vaccine is fully rolled out before I have people in my house doing non essential work.

I realise this is a bit of a bonkers way to work my finances. It works for me though and keeps me accountable to myself. I have cut some of my budgets to try and keep within what I earn, but there’s a limit to how low I can go. I’m not going to worry too much. With the latest lockdown my eldest is likely to be studying from home for the foreseeable, which naturally is putting my expenses back up. It’s lovely having him home again, so the extra costs are something I’m more than happy to deal with.

I have decided to spend a little bit more money to try and have some things in the diary to look forward to. I’ve booked a trip away to the Highlands for myself and my parents. This got cancelled last year, so I was keen to get it organised again. It’s a night away in Fort William and then going on the Jacobite Express, or as it’s better known, the Harry Potter train. It looks absolutely amazing, so I’m really looking forward to that. The scenery you pass through is out of this world, so it should be an incredible experience. It’s booked for early May, so I’m not entirely confident it will go ahead, but I thought it was important to be optimistic and get it booked in. I don’t have to pay for the hotel until the day itself, and I can cancel at any time, so I won’t be out of pocket if it does get cancelled. And the train tickets themselves were already paid for last year, so there’s no added expense there.

Photo by Gabriela Palai on

I’ve also started to organise tickets for events at the local theatre. I’ve got a dance show booked for June, which might be a touch optimistic, but here’s hoping! And there’s some comedy for 2022 that I really want to go to, so I’m currently organising friends to see who wants to go and see that with me. I think if I just try and book one or two things a month for later in the year it will spread the cost and give me something to look forward to. This not spending any money has been great, but I’m not sure how good it is for your soul to do nothing. There’s plenty of free things I love to do, but if there’s things that do cost money but which need paid for then I think it’s ok to do some of those things too.

Let’s move on now and have a look at how I got on with my goals for December. Here’s a quick reminder of what I wanted to achieve.

  • Get under 10 and a half stone. I don’t need to stay there for the rest of the month, but I would like to at least know that I’ve managed it at least once during the month. PASS My lowest weight for the month was when I weighed myself on Christmas morning and I weighed 10 stone 3.2 pounds. I’m absolutely delighted with this.
  • Don’t start the Christmas eating until the week of the 21st December. PASS Remarkably I didn’t really start what I would class as Christmas eating until boxing day night. I had the full Christmas dinner, Christmas pudding and then another Christmas dinner as leftovers on Christmas night, so I did eat a lot on Christmas day itself. What I didn’t do though was eat just for the sake of it. There was probably no need for the leftovers on the night time, but it wasn’t a horrendous amount of food that I had. It did all go a little bit wrong after that. I got stuck into the chocolate on the 26th. Considering this was my first lot of chocolate since the end of October, I’m surprised I didn’t crack earlier.
  • Weigh less than 11 stone on the 1st January. PASS I weighed 10 stone 7.2 pounds on the morning of New Year. This is a lot less than I would normally weigh after Christmas, so I am very pleased with that. I’ve had a few slips where I’ve gone into “eat everything in the house” mode, but I’ve mainly gone back to being healthy.
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I set myself some fairly straightforward goals for December. Straightforward but not necessarily easy. I didn’t want to undo all the good work that I’d done on losing weight and eating healthily. There was a point where I thought I might just not go back to eating chocolate. When it got to boxing day night and I still hadn’t had any chocolate I did think I might have accidentally given up eating chocolate. When it came down to it though that was just a step too far for me.

Time now to set myself some goals for January. I’m not quite sure how motivated I’m feeling. I know it’s the start of a new year, but I’m really just not feeling it. I’m enjoying feeling healthy and want to keep working on that, but otherwise I might be quite easy on myself. I’m feeling a bit conflicted at the moment as I’ve read the James Clear book Atomic Habits. He talks about not setting goals, but rather establishing habits that move you in the right direction. That makes perfect sense to me, but I do love a good goal to work towards. Thinking about it though, some of my most successful goals have been where I’ve been establishing good habits as part of the goal achievement process. When I set myself sleep targets earlier in the year this established good habits about going to bed that I have continued long after I’m setting myself sleep goals.

Here goes then. Let’s see what I’m going to be working on this month.

  • Get under ten stone. This should be achievable, although getting there by the end of the month might be a bit tough. This will be as low as I want my weight to go. My clothes fit brilliantly at this weight, but often people will comment that they think I look a bit too thin. My face and wrists tend to get quite thin, even though I still have a sizeable belly. It’s very frustrating!
  • Weigh less than ten and a half stone on the first of February. I’ve learned my lesson on this one. If I just set a goal for a target weight then I tend to go off the rails once I’ve hit it. This should deal with that.
  • Exercise four times a week. This shouldn’t really be a goal I need to set for myself. I’m absolutely loving my running and am getting out four times a week without fail. The issue I’ve got is that I’m injured. I’ve been ignoring it and have kept running, but I am going to have to take some time off. I need to make sure this doesn’t morph into doing no exercise at all as I’m sulking because I can’t run. Even just getting out for a walk will be good. Especially with working from home, I need to make sure I get out of the house for some exercise.
  • Finish cien días. I was really enjoying this, so I don’t quite know why I’ve stopped watching it. I’ve only got about ten episodes left to go, so this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. I’m still not managing to understand all the Spanish, but I’m not going to improve if I don’t stick in.
  • Pick another Spanish series to watch. When I finished the last one I was watching I got out of the habit of putting a Spanish programme on. If I have another one picked out I can go seamlessly from one to the other.

That’s all I’m setting for myself this month. As I say, I’m not feeling particularly motivated. Work is always crazy busy in January, so sometimes just slumping after work is the order of the day. If I can keep working on my weight, get some non running exercise whilst I’m injured and get back into the swing of watching Spanish TV then I think that’s probably enough for January. Hope you all have a great January and are doing some great work on achieving your goals. Let me know how you’re getting on.

November Has Been A Belter

I’m very excited to be doing this November review. The markets have been kind, and my figures should be good. I’ve been working hard on my goals too, so all in all a great November. Let’s start with my Net Worth for the month.

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I’ve also got my Net Worth not including the DB Pension or the house equity, which seems barmy, but is really just to represent how close I’m getting to mortgage neutrality.

My annual pension statement is finally out (18 months after the last one; you’d think there was a global pandemic or something). The figure I use for my Defined Benefit pension is the annual amount that I would get if I left my company now and then started taking the money when I’m 60, which is the usual retirement age for that pension scheme. I then multiply that by 20 on the basis that I’m hoping to last at least 20 years after I start drawing my pension. I’m actually hoping to get to 100, but I guess that’s not a given. Since I clearly have more service since the last statement was out, my annual figure has increased, so you’ll see that reflected in my Net Worth figures.


Mortgage £95,822.50 (£96,314.61)


Cash £34,304.08 (£34,114.80)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£123.683)

AVC’s £9,139.84 (£7,176.61)

Shares £50,102.75 (£40,001.04)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £474,200.27(£454,975.45)

Net Worth including house equity

£474,200.27 – £95,822.50 = £378,377.77 (£358,660.84)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£93,546.67 – £95,822.50 = –£2,275.83 (£15,022.16)

Those figures are making me very happy. Of course the work share price has dropped slightly since I updated my spreadsheets, but I’m not going to worry about that too much now. In October I was delighted to sneak over the £40k mark for my shares, and now I’ve broken the £50k mark. I’m aiming for £125k, so it most definitely feels like I’m making progress. My Vanguard index trackers are doing well, and as I say the work share price is much improved. It’s still got a way to go before I break even, but hopefully it’s going in the right direction. The plan is still to sell off the work shares gradually and get everything into Vanguard index trackers within an ISA. A way to go yet, but I’ll get there.

It’s good to see my AVC fund jumping up so much. I’m aiming to get £50k in there so I can take my cash lump sum without impacting the annual amount that I receive. It was great to be able to put in a higher amount for my DB pension figure. It often feels like a bit of a slog sticking with the same company, but I’ll reap the rewards in terms of a bigger pension the longer I can stick it out.

The figure that is making me the happiest out of all of these is the net worth excluding the house value or the DB pension. This is how I measure how close I am to mortgage neutrality. There’s something really lovely about knowing that you could cash everything in and clear the mortgage if you were so inclined. I’m not going to of course, but just knowing that possibility exists would be very comforting. I was in that position previously, but then I bought a bigger house. Very un-FIRE like of me I know. Sometimes I doubt my decision, but mostly I think it was the right thing to do. Particularly with everything that’s gone on this year. Knowing that we have plenty of space has made lockdown much easier. And I’ve always got an asset to sell, or even make money from in terms of renting out rooms in the future.

I can almost touch mortgage neutrality now, and I can’t wait. I am however expecting that I might become mortgage neutral and then go back the way from time to time. I’ve got a fair bit of work I want to do to the house. I’m squirrelling money away for that, and at some point I’ll be splashing the cash to get the work done. That’s life though. It’s not always about having money in the bank and in investments. Sometimes you need to spend a bit to improve your surroundings or just generally to live a bit. Saying that, I’ll probably try and enjoy my mortgage neutrality for a few months once I get there before I spoil it all by spending my cash.

I’m getting used to having less income coming in because my eldest son has gone off to university. My maintenance money has halved and I’m getting less child benefit and working tax credits. Luckily(!) the tax credits were tiny anyway, so I wasn’t reliant on them. On the face of it you’d think that I should be in the same financial situation as before. There’s one less person in the house, so my expenses should drop. It’s a good theory. I am spending less on food etc, but already he’s home for the Christmas holidays and so the food bill has gone through the roof.

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Over the whole year the holidays are slightly longer than the term time, so I do still have a decent amount of expenses for him. Add to that the fact that I will be stocking him up with a decent supply of food to take away with him so that he actually has something to eat. I absolutely don’t care though. It’s fantastic having him home for the holidays. I’ll manage the money side of things one way or another. I don’t ever want him to stop coming home. He’s been such a miss. It’s great that he’s out in the world doing his thing, but it’s also brilliant to have him back and that he still wants to hang out with us. It was good to see that my cash has actually very slightly increased this month, despite having less money coming in. This not going out or driving anywhere certainly has some financial benefits.

Let’s move on now and have a look at my goals for November. Here’s a quick reminder of what I had set myself to work on.

  • Get under 11 stone. And stay there. I am only going to count this as a success if I am under 11 stone on 1st December. PASS I’m absolutely delighted with this one. On 1st December I weighed 10 stone 8.6lb
  • Exercise four times a week. Ideally this will be four runs, but with my propensity for injuries, I’m going to say any exercise for at least 30 minutes counts. PASS I exercised 4 times a week in November, with a total of 17 exercise sessions. It was good that I put in that it didn’t need to be running, as a period of self-isolation after my running partner tested positive for Covid meant I had to do some inside exercise.
  • No chocolate for the whole of November. PASS A couple of sticky moments where I was absolutely desperate for chocolate, but I resisted. What’s more it’s now 10th December and I still haven’t had any chocolate. Hard to see how that could continue for much longer with Christmas just around the corner, but you never know.
  • Finish section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree. PASS No problems on this one at all. I’m giving myself a bit of a break on this one now, just doing the bare minimum to keep my streak going.
  • Watch fifteen episodes of 100 días para enamorarnos. PASS I actually watched 19 episodes. This is not even a chore, just something I do for relaxation. I’m still not understanding a massive amount of the language, but it’s definitely helping.
  • Get under 2 minutes for the Rubik’s cube. PASS In November I did the cube in under 2 minutes 19 times. I can’t do it that quickly every time, and I still sometimes forget the algorithms. I’ve definitely done this enough to say I achieved this. I’ve barely picked up a cube for a few weeks now, so I’ll need to make sure I solve it from time to time so I don’t lose the skill.

I have to say that has been an absolutely cracking month for me. I’m not sure if I realised how well I was doing until I sat down and looked at what I’d achieved. It’s not too often I achieve every single goal that I set myself. They were fairly challenging goals too. What’s very good is that I’ve continued the weight loss, exercise and lack of chocolate even after the month ended.

Goal wise for December I’m going to be quite easy on myself. Tis the season to be jolly after all. Saying that I’m keen not to reverse all the good work I’ve done up till now. I’m enjoying eating healthy food, exercising plenty and generally trying to get myself into good shape. I don’t want Christmas to ruin that. I do want to be able to enjoy Christmas though. I have 5 days off work, starting on Christmas eve, so I want to make the most of my time off.

Let’s set a couple of goals for myself for what’s left of December.

  • Get under 10 and a half stone. I don’t need to stay there for the rest of the month, but I would like to at least know that I’ve managed it at least once during the month
  • Don’t start the Christmas eating until the week of the 21st December. Christmas is typically the time for me to eat my body weight in rubbish. I would like to try and a avoid doing that for as much of the month as possible. It’s proving easier than normal with not being in the office and surrounded by tins of chocolates.
  • Weigh less than 11 stone on the 1st January. This should be easy, but it won’t be. I’ve hit that age where I can’t get away with eating rubbish. My body puts weight on really easily, so if I have a week of eating nonsense the scales will reflect this. We’ll see.

That’s it for January. No massive goals, just try not to reverse all the good that I’ve done over the last month or so with my eating habits. I’m looking forward to getting my house looking lovely for the holidays, watching some Christmas films and spending some time with my children. That’s what life’s all about after all, time with the people you love. Have a great Christmas everybody and then we can all start 2021 raring to go and ready to work on our goals to make 2021 the best year ever.