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.

Debts

Mortgage £95,822.50 (£96,314.61)

Assets

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.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

Review Of October 2020

It’s that time again. The monthly review of how I’ve done in terms of my net worth and working on the goals that I set myself. I’ll set myself some new goals too so that I’ve got something productive to do in the last part of the year.

So without further ado, here’s my figures for October. 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.

Debts

Mortgage £96,314.61 (£96,806.40)

Assets

Cash £34,114.80 (£34,128.46)

Defined Benefits Pension £123.683 (£123,683)

AVC’s £7,176.61 (£7,002.82 )

Shares £40,001.04 (£38,766.86)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £454,975.45(£453,581.14)

Net Worth including house equity

£454,975.45 – £96,314.61 = £358,660.84 (£356,774.74)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£81,292.45 – £96,314.61 = –£15,022.16 (£16,908.26)

A fairly steady month then. Cash more or less where it was, which I’m happy about. My income has dropped a bit with number one son going off to uni, but I’ve not really had that much of a reduction in my costs. The AVC fund is pitiful, but what can you do. I’ll just keep plugging away at it. As I’m only looking to get that up to £50k or so I’m probably more or less on track with that, but it does seem to be growing really slowly. Patience is most definitely not my strongest virtue, but it’s an attribute I really need to develop on my road to FIRE.

I was looking forward to my shares going over the £40k mark, and I just scraped over the line on that one. Thank goodness my work shares picked up a bit this month, as my Vanguard fund was crashing and burning. It’s since picked up I’m happy to say, but I’ve stuck with the figures I’d put into my spreadsheet a few days ago. I was sorely tempted to update, but there has to be a cut off at some point!

My mortgage neutrality quest is coming along nicely. It’s slightly galling to look back and know that I’d got as close as £9k away from mortgage neutrality before the share price for my work shares came crashing down. I’m almost back to the position I was in nearly a year ago. I’m still not nearly as diversified as I should be, but much more than I was before. With the regular amount I’m putting in my stocks and shares ISA I’ll have used up my allowance by April, so I’m not going to think about diversifying any more until next year’s allowance kicks in. Of course I’ve not managed to use up the whole £20k allowance with monthly payments from my salary. I wish. No, I cashed in a number of ongoing share save schemes, took the cash and stuck the money in index trackers.

The mortgage figure is depressing me. I’ve overpaid my mortgage for such a long time, and used to love seeing the balance dropping. I borrowed an extra £20k earlier in the year to make the most of the staff mortgage before they closed it for extra borrowing. I still think that was a good decision. In this scary Covid world I think that cash is king. It also helps that I’m paying 0.1% on the mortgage, and even with dire savings interest rates I’m still making money on the extra that I borrowed. At the same time I also reduced the amount of overpaying I was doing on the mortgage. Financially this was the right call. The reduction in the overpayment I put towards my AVC fund for my pension. The tax savings mean that I’m able to save a good bit more than I was able to overpay the mortgage. I’d love to be mortgage free though. Sometimes it’s not all about the numbers. With starting so late though I don’t feel that I have the luxury of paying off the mortgage quicker just to make myself feel better.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Pexels.com

Let’s move on and look at my goals for October. Just to remind ourselves my goals were:

  • Track what I eat using MyFitnessPal. FAIL I’m not going to lie, I didn’t log one single meal this month. No excuse, I just could not be bothered.
  • Lose three pounds. FAIL Technically I finished October about a pound a half lighter than I finished September, but I think that was just a natural fluctuation in my weight.
  • Complete section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree by the end of the year. ON TRACK This is still going really well. At my current rate I’m going to have this finished in the next two weeks.
  • Find a new Spanish series that I want to watch and see at least 2 episodes every week. PASS I’m currently watching 100 días para enamorarnos on Netflix. It’s suitably trashy that it’s holding my interest and I can work out what’s going on without being able to understand a lot of what’s actually being said! By the end of October I’d watched 14 episodes, and it is definitely helping my atrocious Spanish listening skills.
  • Learn to solve the white cross on the Rubik’s cube. PASS I totally crushed this goal. I managed to learn how to solve the whole cube. I am ridiculously pleased with myself about this.

Most definitely a mixed bag in terms of how I did against my monthly goals. The weight has been an ongoing issue all year, really since lockdown started. I’ve not been running as much and have quite frankly been eating rubbish. Yet again I’m going to say this, but I really need to address this. I’m really pleased with how my Spanish is going. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but it’s something I work on every day. I think the key is going to be watching, listening to and reading lots of things in Spanish. I was delighted when Tony from Onemillionjourney.com did his first blog post in Spanish. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I could understand, and really hope he’ll put out some more in his native Spanish. To say I am pleased about the rubik’s cube would be the understatement of the century. I did get stupidly obsessed with it a number of years ago, but never managed to solve it without notes. Now that I’m able to do it without the safety net of my notebook I’m delighted. My next goal is not to be the slowest person in the house at solving it. My youngest is a speed demon at it, so I won’t beat him, but the oldest is in my sights. Competitive? Moi? I don’t know what you mean.

Let’s move on to what I want to achieve in November. I’m feeling pretty motivated and want to finish the year with plenty of achievements under my belt. Time for me to set myself some goals for November:

  • 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. Christmas is coming and I am already not far off my normal post Christmas weight, which is not a good way to approach the holiday season.
  • 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.
  • No chocolate for the whole of November. This includes hot chocolate, as when there’s no chocolate in the house I have been known to eat hot chocolate powder straight from the tub. Oh my God. I can’t believe I’m actually setting this for myself. Considering I gave up coffee and alcohol about a million years ago then chocolate is my real treat to myself. I can do this. How hard can it be?
  • Finish section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree. This should be a given. Two weeks should do it, as long as I stick to my schedule.
  • Watch fifteen episodes of 100 días para enamorarnos. This sounds like a really easy goal. Watch a load of telly. I have to really concentrate though to follow what’s going on and try and pick out words that I understand. It is true that the total hotness of one of the actors ,David Chocarro, gives me plenty of motivation to keep watching!
  • Get under 2 minutes for the Rubik’s cube. I really don’t want to get too fixated on doing the cube really quickly. I’ve been there before and it’s too easy to lose whole days doing solve after solve. Sub 2 minutes should be more than achievable without needing to put in too much time.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m really excited to get started on those goals. I’m in a good place with my mindset for being healthy just now. I’m enjoying my running and am already being much more consistent, if much slower than I would like. The no chocolate is going to be a major challenge. I’m going to try not to fixate on it, but I’m already experiencing some cravings. I’m enjoying eating lots of healthy foods, so I need to focus on that rather than what I’m not having. I’m excited to continue working on my Spanish, and of course improving my cubing skills. It should be a good November.

December 2019 Net Worth and Update on End of Year Goals

A very quick round up today to put my December figures out there and have a look at how I got on with the goals I set myself towards the end of the year.

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

Debts

Mortgage £81,415.99 (£82,063.70)  

Assets

Cash £15,248.10 (£15,568.45)

Money in share save £14,804 (£14,304)  

AVC’s £5,055.46 (£4,750.46)  

Shares £36,932.81 (£35,562.18)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £322,040.37 (£320,185.09)

Net Worth including house equity

£322,040.37 – £81,415.99 = £240,624.38 (£238,121.39)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£72,040.37 – £81,415.99 = -£9,375.62 (-£11,878.61)

That was a pretty good month for me. Cash is down a little bit, but considering I paid the balance on my Berlin trip and booked a June break to Fort William for myself and the folks for a trip on the Jacobite steam train over the Glenfinnan viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter films, I think I’ve  done not too badly. My December credit card bill is in now and that’s higher than I’d like it to be, but that’s Christmas for you. It’ll get cleared anyway, so no doubt the cash will be even lower in January, so time for a wee bit of belt tightening.

All the other categories are doing pretty well. As always the one that is pleasing me the most is the net worth excluding the house equity. Barring any disasters I should reach mortgage neutrality this year. I’ve been there before, but to get back there only three years after buying a bigger house and effectively starting again with my mortgage is especially pleasing. The good thing is that although I am undoubtedly spending more on housing than I need to, I have a lovely house to live in just now whilst my boys are still at home. Once the kids are out in the world and living independently I’ve got something there to sell to free up some cash to add to the FIRE coffers.

One of my share saves has now matured, so I’m just keeping an eye on the share price to offload that. I’m going to cash them in and take the profit, which should be a good few thousand hopefully, and invest the whole lot in index trackers. I opened up a Vanguard ISA last year, which currently has just over £650 in it, which was set up using the final dividend payment I received last year on my work shares. I’m looking forward to being able to put a good chunk in there and start the all important diversification of my investments, which is what 2020 is going to be all about.

Now let’s have a look back at how I did on my end of year goals.

  • Go to running club twice a week. Continue to work hard and challenge myself so that I start to see improvements. It’s difficult to quantify what “work hard” means, but I’ll know if I’ve been taking it easy or not. PASS I missed a few sessions due to illness, but I went along to all the ones that I was able to. I have really been pushing myself and there have definitely been some encouraging signs of improvement. I was getting a few comments about how I was running strongly, and I was keeping up with people that I normally only see in the distance, so I’m taking that as a good sign.
  • Watch at least one film every week with at least one of the kids. PASS I didn’t actually track this, but we definitely watched quite a few films, so I’m going to say that I did this.
  • Meet up with my parents in Edinburgh for the Christmas markets and generally a bit of a catch up. PASS We had a lovely day out at the markets and a delicious lunch. Great to get together and spend some time enjoying the Christmas atmosphere in Edinburgh.
  • Keep my Duolingo streak going and get section 3 of the Spanish tree finished. PASS I just checked my streak, and I’m currently on 228 days. I finished section 3 on Christmas day.
  • Get caught up on my volunteering debt with parkrun. PASS I’ve volunteered 6 times now, and did my 69th parkrun on Christmas day. I’m subsequently up to 72 parkruns, so I’ll need to volunteer again to keep my 1 in 10 quota up, but it feels good to have repaid my volunteering “debt”
  • Do one new parkrun. PASS I got Polkemmet done in November, which I really enjoyed. I’m getting ever closer to tourist status, with seventeen completed now, and just another three to go for this particular challenge.

I’d set myself some nice fun goals for the end of 2019, and it was nice to achieve them. I’ve been working really hard at my running, and am starting to reap the rewards from that. I was spending a lot of time working on my Spanish, not just on Duolingo but listening to podcasts and watching TV in Spanish with Spanish subtitles on (Big Bang Theory in Spanish without Spanish subtitles was a step too far for me, I just about had a nervous breakdown trying to keep up with the breakneck speed!)

So overall I think that’s been a pretty solid finish to the year. The Net Worth figures are looking fairly promising, going in the right direction anyway. Now that we’re in 2020 it’s probably time to sit down and assess my finances again. I definitely need to be paying more into my AVC fund, so I need to work out how I can afford to do that. Some rejigging may be required.

I had a nice balance of a fun time at the end of the year enjoying the festivities, but also running and studying reasonably hard. I’ve eaten too much, but I’ve kept running right through the holidays (not that I had many actual days off work, but you know, it’s still holiday time) including a parkrun on Christmas day and two parkruns on New Year’s Day. I even had the chance to try out my new trail shoes on a forest run, so all is good with the world. Hope you all had a great time over the holidays and are raring to go now that we’re in 2020.

September And October Didn’t Quite Go According To Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August Goals Update

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

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

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

  • Get 8 hours of sleep 2 nights a week and 7 hours a night 3 nights a week. The other 2 nights I’m not too worried about. FAIL I can’t in all good conscience put this as a pass when I look back over my sleep tracker. I’m not doing too badly, but I could be doing better. Most weeks I’m probably averaging about 7.5 hours sleep a night. I’m definitely not being consistent at getting 8 hours, which is ridiculous as I know how much better I feel when I get more sleep. I seem to have stopped doing that stupid thing of staying up really late at the weekend, despite the fact that I’m getting up early the next morning to run. So that’s definitely a positive. I also no longer make it a habit to only get 6 hours sleep a night. I’m not saying it never happens, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. So I’ve made some improvement on this one, but there’s still a ways to go. What has changed is that I’m not napping nearly so much now. I’m still walking every lunchtime at work rather than sleeping. And if I am tired when I come in from work I’ll often just lay down on the couch for 5 minutes and recharge my batteries but don’t actually fall asleep. I’m taking this as a good sign that my body is less exhausted than it was.
  • Do my physio exercises 5 days a week. PASS This is just what I do now.  Every day without fail. It’s the first thing I do when I get up in the morning. I’m now down to only having to run with a support on one knee rather than both of them. I managed the Great North Run without any twinges and successfully made it up a Munro without my knees giving out. I think I’m always going to have to be careful, but hopefully incorporating my exercises into my morning routine will keep injuries at bay.
  • Do cross training once a week – swimming, yoga or walking. PASS I feel I could do better with this one, but as I’m walking every week day lunchtime this is most definitely a pass. I’ve done yoga a few times in the house, but I haven’t got a set time when I do it, which means it’s a bit hit or miss. I need to build that into my routine, maybe a certain day when I get back from my run. I really need to put swimming back in my life too. I’m annoying myself with this one as I love swimming when I’m doing it, but I can never be bothered going. When I was seeing that guy earlier in the year I would meet him without fail at the baths 4.30 on a Sunday and we would swim. There’s absolutely no reason why I can’t start doing that again.  
  • Decide on where I’m going to put my dividend money when it gets paid next month. PASS The dividend has been paid, I’ve opened up a Vanguard ISA, decided on some index trackers that I’m happy with and transferred my first lot of money over. At some point I’m going to sell some shares and put more into this ISA, but I’m just waiting for an improvement in the share price. I’m not sure with all the Brexit uncertainty that now is the time for me to be offloading finance related shares. I’ve got a share save scheme maturing in January and I’ll be taking the profit from that and popping that into these index trackers too.

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

So What’s Next?

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

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

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