I May Be Worth Less Than I Was Last Month

So this is the first month since I started properly recording my figures that I’m worse off than I was the month before. I might as well get used to this, as I don’t imagine market volatility is going to disappear any time soon. I’ve used a higher Zoopla based house value for the first time this month. I’m not quite sure how good I feel about that, but I guess just keep using my purchase price from two years ago isn’t much better. The higher house value figure has bumped up my total assets figure from the month before.  For the net worth excluding the house equity, which is the one that really matters to me, I’m down. I need to learn to deal with that though, and see it as an opportunity to buy shares at a lower price.  I’m working on that state of mind, but I wouldn’t say I’m quite there yet.

Debts

Mortgage £87,050.51

Assets

Cash £16,728.33

Money in sharesave £11,304

AVC’s £3,987.82

Shares £32,759.19

House £245,000

Total Assets £309,779.34

Net Worth including house equity

£309,779.34 – £87,050.51 = £222,728.83

Net Worth excluding house equity

£64,779.34 – £87,050.51 = -£22,271.17

So despite things not going in the right direction, I still have almost £65K in my Happy Path fund. I’m actually pretty happy with that. I’ve decided to start trying to appreciate what I’ve already achieved, rather than looking mournfully at my spreadsheets thinking about how long I’ve still got to go till I achieve my freedom. In terms of other people’s figures mine look pretty pitiful. But I’ve never really been one for comparing myself to other people. This is my journey that I’m on. It’s never going to look exactly (or even much at all) like other peoples.

I started late and with not all that much income coming in, so it was always going to be a bit of a struggle for me. When I think back to fourteen years ago when I was newly divorced and moving in to a new house with a two and a four year old, I think I’d be pretty happy with the point that I’ve now reached. I was working part time, only earning about £17K a year and had just taken out a £100K mortgage. I had childcare to pay for, and quite frankly I don’t know how I balanced the books and made it all work. I did though.

I’ve come a long way since then. I’m now working full time and bringing in a bigger salary. I’ve been able to buy a bigger house thanks to overpaying my last mortgage and maxing out my work sharesave schemes. Quite frankly there was never a lot of cash to splash around, and I just kept that same money philosophy when I got a better job. We have our Alton Towers trips away now and the odd meal out, but apart from that our spending hasn’t changed all that much.

At work I’m in the same office as the old department that I used to work in. When I start early in the morning it’s really quiet in there and I can hear the phone calls that I used to have to take. Short servicing calls that suck the life out of your soul. I moan about my job from time to time, but when I hear those colleagues taking those calls and having to deal with those mundane enquiries I count my blessings. I used to be counting down until it was time for my next break. Sometimes I would have to put a post it over the clock to stop me checking it every few minutes. Now don’t get me wrong, I needed that job and the hours that I was able to work to allow me to fit in with my childcare. But honestly it nearly finished me off. I could not go back to that. Luckily, unless something goes badly wrong, I won’t have to.

Now saying that, there are a few people in that department that really seem to love their job. They mostly seem to be slightly older people, probably in their sixties I would think. They seem to get a real kick out of talking to customers. They’ve all been there a long time, but they don’t seem to have got jaded at all. I sometimes try and figure out what their secret is. It’s funny how two people can do the exact same job but experience it completely differently. I guess that’s down to your attitude. I know when I come in to work feeling stressed and not wanting to be there then I have a totally different day to when I come in with my positive head on. It really is all about your mental attitude.

The people I’m thinking about who love their job seem to work part time, so maybe that’s the secret. I know one of them is a carer for his disabled wife, so it may be that work is a change for him and a chance to get out of the house. For the most part I get the impression that work is something they enjoy doing, rather than something they have to do. I might be wrong, but maybe they have FU money.

In my department we’ve had a couple of departures recently. They’re doing shift reviews at the moment to try and standardise our working hours. We’re open till 8.00pm – but quite a few of us are on fixed day time shifts. They’ve now said that everybody will have to do at least 1 week out of 8 with an 8.00 finish. I can live with that, so I’ve agreed to the change. Apparently not everyone felt so accommodating. Within about a week of news coming out about these changes then two people had put their notice in. One of them had managed to find another job to go to, but the other just quit with no back up plan. I know he has plenty of investments stashed away. He’s a pretty private guy, but from what I know about his past I’m pretty sure he’s financially independent or at the very least well on the way. It was great to see FIRE in action.

They’re recruiting for new staff as we’re expanding. We’re bursting at the seams already, so there really is nowhere for any new people to sit. We already hot desk, but they literally have no room for any more bodies. So they are offering home working. We would need to work from home 4 days out of 5. I initially thought this would be great, but on reflection I don’t think it would be good for me. I think I would miss the social interaction. I think I would get a lot more done, but I would miss the banter. I only have a 15 minute each way commute, so that’s not a big deal for me. All the benefits that people talk about for working from home don’t really seem to apply to my job. As I take inbound calls I need to be logged on and all the stats are monitored, so there’s no just popping to the shops to get milk. I’m struggling to think of any big benefits to me in the job that I do.

I’m not sure if I’m just being naïve, but I thought that there would be some expenses covered for home working. The business needs people to work from home as they would have to get another building if we didn’t take them up on this. Now I get that some people would be delighted to work from home, and if you have a long commute then you’re quids in, but at the same time it’s definitely a plus for the company too. So they’re going to provide a laptop, keyboard and mouse. They’ll also put a privacy screen in so that customers can’t tell that you’re at home when you’re doing a video interview with them. Apart from that though we’ve to cover everything else. So we just use our own broadband and pay for electricity and heating. We even have to provide our own desk and chair. Now I don’t imagine I’d be using that much extra electricity, but working at home in Scotland in the winter I would definitely need my heating on all day, and that’s going to get expensive. Is this normal? Or would companies normally compensate you for your increased expenses?

Anyway, either way I don’t think I’m going to put in for it. Especially as I don’t have a partner I think the social part of work is particularly important to me. Which is now making me worry about FIRE. If I don’t think I am going to be able to cope with the social isolation of working for home then how the hell am I going to cope with no work at all? I suppose I won’t be tethered to the house in the same way that I would be if I was working.

I think the key when I do finally pull the plug on working is to make sure I get out of the house enough. I have hermit like tendencies, and have to be dragged kicking and screaming out in to the real world sometimes. I enjoy it when I’m out, and I most definitely need the social interaction, but I don’t always have the inclination to go out and be social. At least I have my running clubs now, which give me a much needed social structure. I just have to hope I don’t get injured, as so much of my socialising revolves around running.

One of the managers was saying that she thought home working would suit me down the ground, and she also said that she thought I’d never retire as I would never want to stop working. My immediate thought was that she’d got me all wrong, but the more I thought about it the more sense it made from her perspective. I can’t be bothered with all the office politics and just want to get on with the job in hand. From that point of view home working would be perfect.

As far as never retiring is concerned, that’s definitely not right, but I know where she’s coming from. Although I want to stop working, I don’t want to sit about the house watching telly and painting my nails. I need to have a purpose to my life and feel that I’m achieving my goals. But those goals don’t need to be provided through the structure of work. I already set myself goals that have absolutely nothing to do with my working life, and that won’t change come FIRE. In fact it just means that I’ll have all the more time to work towards ever more stretching goals.

I’ve already started looking at Open University courses that look really interesting. I always fancied doing a modern languages degree, and FIRE would give me the time and mental energy to work on something like that. I’m already working on improving my Spanish skills, and think I might add German in to the mix at some point. I’m not sure languages are necessarily a natural fit for me, as I find them quite difficult, but I do enjoy the learning process and I enjoy the fact that they have such practical applications. That’s definitely something for me to think about.

So I think now is the time for me to start designing what I want my ideal post FIRE life to look like. My son was saying to me the other day that I shouldn’t wait for FIRE to do all the things that I want to with my life. “You might never reach FIRE mum”. He’s absolutely right. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, and finding what you’re passionate about now means that come FIRE time you’ve got those interests in place and the time to spend on them.

Advertisements

Update on May Goals

I’ve been somewhat dreading writing this post. I think it’s fair to say that yet again things haven’t gone quite according to plan. I’m sure there have been some successes this month, but I’m struggling to think of many of them just now. Sometimes though you have to adapt to what’s going on in your life. Inevitably life throws up some challenges, and things that you thought were going to be a priority for the month end up being relegated to not even getting a look in whilst other things absolutely have to move up the pecking order. May has definitely been a month like that for me.

This month it’s become apparent that things have gone slightly awry in family life. For reasons that I won’t go into it’s been much more important than usual that I spend time with the kids. It’s not that this isn’t usually important, but with two teenagers there’s a lot of shut doors and catching them when they’re in the mood for talking rather than just snarling at you. I’ve now allocated an hour a night with one of the kids where we go out for a walk, get some exercise and have a chance to touch base. It’s working well, but with a busy life already some things have had to give to allow time for this.  Of course this now means that I’m feeling guilty (not usually something I believe in) for not spending this same sort of time with the other teenager. I really could do with a good few extra hours in the day.

On the plus side I’m remembering how much I love to walk. When I got back into my running a few years ago I pretty much stopped walking as I felt like I’d had my exercise already. I had forgotten how good walking is for letting you think about things and make plans. Running is great for clearing your mind, but quite frankly when I’m running I’m too busy thinking about how much my body hurts to do any life planning. I always thought that when I reached FIRE I’d spend much more time walking and exploring my local area. Apparently you don’t need to be retired before you do that. Who knew! I’m also finding that as walking is becoming a much more regular thing for me I am using the car a bit less, as I’m walking rather than taking the car on shorter journeys.

So anyway, enough of the excuses. Let’s get down to the serious business of letting you know how I’ve done against my May goals. Here’s a quick reminder of what they were.

Get my local park run time down to 25.50 which would be a PB. FAIL. I came fairly close to this one. I only did my local parkrun once this month, as for the other Saturday where I wasn’t working I was away so did a bit of parkrun tourism. So I managed to get down to 26.10 for my local parkrun, which I was really pleased with, but I didn’t quite have enough to give to get a PB. Not a bad effort though, and shows that I’m getting closer to that elusive PB.

Get my weight down to ten and a half stone, and keep it there till the end of the month. FAIL. Well theoretically I can’t actually say if this was a pass or a fail as I didn’t get on the scales the whole month. I think that probably tells you all you need to know about the rubbish I was/am eating. I’m so annoyed with myself, but quite frankly other things were more important this month. And food is always a comfort thing for me, so I’ve been indulging myself.

Start using my fruit and veg tracker again and have at least five fruit and veg portions a day for at least 20 days out of the month. FAIL. See above. Unless chocolate has suddenly become one of my five a day then there was no point in me using my fruit and veg tracker. This I think I can fix fairly easily. I have lots of good food habits along with my bad ones, so it shouldn’t take too much of a shift in focus to get back to eating five a day.

Get at least seven hours sleep a night during May. FAIL. Bit of a common theme here. I’ve been trying to carve a bit of the day out just for myself, and unfortunately the only time for that was late at night. I’m exhausted all the time, so I really need to fix this pronto.

Continue Matched Betting and make £200 profit by the end of May. PASS. Finally one that I’ve achieved. I’ve made back the money that I lost by messing up my first bet, I’ve covered two month’s worth of Oddsmonkey subscriptions and had a clear profit of £212.76. I got myself in to a nice little habit of coming home from work and going straight on the laptop for a bit of matched betting. The challenge is going to be keeping this going as I move on to the reload offers.

Read at least two books. PASS. I read two Laurie Lee books and a biography of his life.

So I could be generous and say that I had mixed results, but realistically it was pretty disastrous. Saying that, you have to be able to be flexible in life and react to changes in your life. I suppose I could say that as this is a FIRE blog then the one real money related goal I had was a pass. I’m really pleased with getting going with the Matched Betting, and just need to keep the momentum going on that.

I really need to start looking after myself a bit more. I’m not going to worry about my weight for a bit and instead focus on reintroducing some healthy habits back into my life. So sleep and healthy foods are what I’m going to try and bring back into my life. I’m not going to worry too much about the rubbish that I’m still eating at this stage. I can work on that later, but for now sleep and healthy food alongside the rubbish is the way forward.

I’m also getting back into Spanish after a very long break. I’m using Duolingo and am absolutely loving it. The competitive format really suits me, with points being awarded, league tables and challenges. So I want to keep working on this and progress through the different levels, so I’m going to incorporate this into one of my goals.

So for June I’m going to try and keep things simple.

  • Get 7 hours sleep a night for at least 15 nights. This should be realistic. I’ve made a good start to the month, so let’s hope I can keep this going.
  • Have 5 portions of fruit or veg a day for at least 15 days. I’ve started using my tracker again, so that is focussing my mind. I was being so good at this earlier in the year I don’t understand how it all went wrong, but this should be a really easy one for me to crack.
  • Do 15 days of Spanish on Duolingo. I’m on a 14 day streak since I started, so really I want to keep doing it every day, but I’m going to keep this easy and if I do more then that’s  all to the good.
  • Get promoted to the gold league on Duolingo. The top 15 in each league get promoted at the end of every week. You basically just have to put the time in to get the points. This should be easy enough, but again it will depend on how much time I have available to dedicate to it.  
  • Earn £100 on Matched Betting. This seems like a bit of a backward one as I earned £200 last month. But I’ve worked my way through a lot of the relatively lucrative introductory offers, so I’m on to the reload offers now. I’m not sure how time consuming it will be to make much from these, so I’m setting the bar fairly low in the hopes that I can surpass it.

I think that’s enough for June. I’m not putting any running ones in there this time. There’s three months till my next half marathon so I need to start upping the mileage a bit rather than worrying too much about fast times. My knees are a bit niggly too, so I’m going to try and concentrate on staying injury free. There’s lots of other things that I want to be working on, but I need to be realistic. There’s no point setting myself unrealistic goals and getting discouraged when I fail to achieve them. I’m going back to basics and then I’ll build from there.

The same goes for what I’m able to achieve in my time off. I was out walking and talking to one of the kids about the things I had on my To Do list for over the weekend. He asked me if I didn’t think I was maybe being a bit ambitious about the things that I could get done, and that it would actually discourage me from starting anything. He was absolutely right. Now the things on my To Do list all needed doing, but that didn’t mean that I had time to do them all. So I moved some things in my phone calendar to my next day off to stop myself feeling quite so overwhelmed. When I review my weekend I can see that I did get quite a lot done. So the things I completed were

  • Cleaned the bathrooms
  • Had two hour long walks
  • Messaged my friend to support her with man trouble
  • Volunteered at parkrun and had a great time cheering people on as a marshal
  • Did my money – checking transactions on my statement and making sure my budgets all balanced
  • Did some matched betting
  • Sorted out my paperwork – chucking out a whole load that wasn’t needed and filing what I had to keep
  • Cleared out my emails and moved them in to the relevant folders
  • Listened to two podcasts
  • Renewed my running club membership
  • Went on a 7 mile run with friends
  • Watched 2 episodes of Gogglebox (I gave this up a few months ago as I felt I could make better use of my time. Turns out the amount that it makes me laugh makes it a really valuable way to spend my time, so I’ve reintroduced it)
  • Renewed my working tax credits claim
  • Phoned my best friend
  • Cut the grass
  • Did the washing
  • Fixed my wirly gig so I could hang out my washing
  • Made a delicious lasagne
  • Did a few hours Spanish on Duolingo
  • Wrote a blog post

Some of the many things I didn’t get done

  • Phone my sister to find out about the date she was going on
  • Research activities for our summer road trip
  • Do as much matched betting as I’d hoped to
  • Go geocaching with the kids
  • Go swimming
  • Play a game with the kids
  • Watch Gentleman Jack (This will have to be watched on the iplayer as it’s far too good to miss)

So looking at my list it’s actually amazing how much I did get done, but I feel like I’ve been really unproductive. So maybe I need to stop beating myself up so much and give myself some credit for what I do achieve. I like to feel like I’m making progress towards achieving my ambitions, but this can lead to feeling that you can never just relax. Life shouldn’t always be about doing, but also about just being present and enjoying the moment. That’s definitely something for me to work on. Maybe I should set myself a goal around that!

Net Worth For April

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

Debts

Mortgage £87,696.45

Assets

Cash £17,028.49

Money in sharesave £10,804

AVC’s £3,937.57

Shares £35,360.54

House £228,000

Total Assets £295,130.60

Net Worth including house equity

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

Net Worth excluding house equity

£67,130.60 – £87,696.45 = -£20,565.85

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update on April Goals and I May Set New Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matched Betting Is Finally Happenng

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 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.

Resolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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