December 2020 Review

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

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

Debts

Mortgage £95,330.62 (£95,822.50)

Assets

Cash £34,503.66 (£34,304.08)

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

AVC’s £9,826.32 (£9,139.84)

Shares £49,278.21 (£50,102.75)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

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

Net Worth including house equity

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

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

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

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

  • Get under 10 and a half stone. I don’t need to stay there for the rest of the month, but I would like to at least know that I’ve managed it at least once during the month. PASS My lowest weight for the month was when I weighed myself on Christmas morning and I weighed 10 stone 3.2 pounds. I’m absolutely delighted with this.
  • Don’t start the Christmas eating until the week of the 21st December. PASS Remarkably I didn’t really start what I would class as Christmas eating until boxing day night. I had the full Christmas dinner, Christmas pudding and then another Christmas dinner as leftovers on Christmas night, so I did eat a lot on Christmas day itself. What I didn’t do though was eat just for the sake of it. There was probably no need for the leftovers on the night time, but it wasn’t a horrendous amount of food that I had. It did all go a little bit wrong after that. I got stuck into the chocolate on the 26th. Considering this was my first lot of chocolate since the end of October, I’m surprised I didn’t crack earlier.
  • Weigh less than 11 stone on the 1st January. PASS I weighed 10 stone 7.2 pounds on the morning of New Year. This is a lot less than I would normally weigh after Christmas, so I am very pleased with that. I’ve had a few slips where I’ve gone into “eat everything in the house” mode, but I’ve mainly gone back to being healthy.
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

I set myself some fairly straightforward goals for December. Straightforward but not necessarily easy. I didn’t want to undo all the good work that I’d done on losing weight and eating healthily. There was a point where I thought I might just not go back to eating chocolate. When it got to boxing day night and I still hadn’t had any chocolate I did think I might have accidentally given up eating chocolate. When it came down to it though that was just a step too far for me.

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

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

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

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

November Has Been A Belter

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

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

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

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.

September Net Worth and Goals Update

What Was I Worth In September?

It’s time for an update on my Net Worth figures and to see how I’ve done in working towards my September goals. I’ll also set myself some new goals for October to ensure that I don’t just coast towards the end of the year, which is far too easy to do.

Here’s my figures for September. 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 £96,806.40 (£97,298.42)

Assets

Cash £34,128.46 (£34,066.27)

Defined Benefits Pension £123.683 (£123,683)

AVC’s £7,002.82 (£6,452.88)

Shares £38,766.86 (£38,246.93)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total Assets £453,581.14 (£452,449.08)

Net Worth including house equity

£453,581.14 – £96,806.40 = £356,774.74 (£355,150.66)

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

£79,898.14 – £96,806.40 = -£16,908.26 (-£18,532.34)

There’s not really too much to say about these figures. Things are ticking along quite nicely. My cash amount is almost the same. The shares are very slightly up. Rather unusually this month the Vanguard Index Trackers have not increased by quite as much as the extra money I invested. They have been pretty solid for me since I started putting money into them earlier this year, so I think I can forgive them an off month. Luckily my work shares very slightly increased, rather than the drops that I’ve seen during the year. Maybe they’re starting to pick up, or maybe there’s it’s just not possible for them to go any lower!

My net worth excluding the DB pension and the house equity is continuing to go in the right direction. I can’t wait until I get to zero where I can effectively say that I am mortgage neutral. I probably shouldn’t really include my AVC’s in that calculation as they are not strictly speaking something I could just cash in and use to clear my mortgage if I was so inclined. I’ve started doing it that way though, and quite frankly it’s too depressing to remove at this stage and feel that I’m going back the way. I guess they’re my figures so I can include and exclude as I see fit!

It shouldn’t be too long until my shares and index trackers sneak over £40k. I’m looking forward to that and then I can start to aim for £50k. So much of this FIRE business is psychological. You need to give yourself mini-targets to aim for so that you don’t get discouraged. It’s the long game we’re playing, but there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the mini successes along the way.

That doesn’t seem like a particularly exciting month, but at least things are continuing to move in the right direction, albeit slightly slower than I would like. I’m impatient as always and would like to see much bigger improvements in my figures month on month. With the best will in the world though I can only work with the income that I have coming in. For now anyway. More income would definitely give me more options in terms of investing and paying down the mortgage. From a purely financial point of view it makes perfect sense to put more into my pension and take advantage of the tax savings rather than paying off a base rate mortgage more quickly. I would really love to be mortgage free though. I spent so many years trying to pay my mortgage off that it goes against the grain to not be throwing as much towards it as possible. I have to prioritise though. My current strategy is the best way to make the most of the income I have coming in just now. If I can figure out a way to make more money then that will give me the luxury of also chipping away a bit more at the mortgage. That would be the ideal scenario for me.

Progress On My Goals

Not much more to say about my finances for the month, so let’s move on and see how I did against the goals I set myself. A quick reminder of what I was working on.

  • Get 7 hours sleep a night, 5 nights a week. PASS. There’s only been five days this month where I’ve not got at least 7 hours sleep. I definitely feel better for this, and am now in a habit of going up to bed early enough to get plenty of shut eye.
  • Do 4 forms of exercise every week. In an ideal world this would be 3 runs and 1 cycle or walk. PASS (SORT OF) Most of the weeks I did more than 4 lots of exercise. The minimum runs I did in a week was 3, although most weeks it was 4. The only week that let me down was last week. I had a really heavy cold and so did no exercise at all. As I knew I had a really busy weekend dropping number 1 son at uni I was trying to get healthy and was sensible enough to know that running wasn’t going to do me any favours!
  • Complete section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree by the end of the year. ON TRACK. I am now on a 497 day streak. I can almost taste the victory of getting to 500 days! I’m well on track to get section 5 finished by the end of the year. In fact at my current pace I should finish around the start of December. I’m really enjoying it and feel like I’m learning a lot.
  • Find a new Spanish series that I want to watch and see at least 2 episodes every week. KIND OF PASS. On paper this is a pass. I found a YouTube series to watch. I’ve see a lot more than the 2 episodes a week, but as they are about 10 minutes an episode this feels like a bit of a cheat. I still haven’t looked for a proper box set. This is mainly because I’ve not been watching any TV and I’ve really been enjoying that. I’ve been reading loads and generally feeling like I’ve been much more productive. However I need to recognise the fact that Spanish TV watching is productive and isn’t the same as just vegging out with no purpose in mind.
  • Keep my car mileage under 69,000 by the end of the year. FAIL. I’m at 69,635 miles now. Although clearly I’ve failed at this one, I’m not at all worried. This is one of those situations where life is much more important than goals. I had to do a round trip of 800 miles to go to a family funeral. My dad had just had an operation and so was in a wheelchair and my mum doesn’t drive. My sister’s car is too small to get a wheelchair in. It was great that I was able to get time off work, have a big enough car to get all of us in and safely transport us all down south. It ended up being a really lovely if exhausting trip. Of course funerals are always sad, but this was a real celebration of my auntie’s life. I got to catch up in a socially distanced way with cousins that I’ve not seen for nearly 30 years. Even the whole road trip with my folks and sister was a lot of fun. You’ve got to look for the positives in life, and as funerals go that was a lovely one. In an ideal world you wouldn’t be having reunions with family at funerals, but as you get older this seems to be one of the main sources of far flung family getting together. I’ll try and stick to under 70,000 miles for the year now. I’m still avoiding using the car for short journeys, which seems like fiddling whilst Rome burns considering my monster road trip, but I can only do what I can do. I’ll control what I can and not worry too much about the rest.

October Goals

So what do I want to work on during October? I’m not going to set myself too much I don’t think. There’s quite a bit going on family wise just now, so I feel like I need to be a bit kind to myself. Saying that, I do like to have something to work on, so here goes.

  • Track what I eat using MyFitness pal. I’ve had a lot of success when I’ve used this in the past. It is a bit of a faff when you first start using it, but once you’ve got some meals logged it becomes a lot easier.
  • Lose three pounds. My weight is all over the place at the moment. I keep losing a bit and then putting it back on again. My weight does tend to fluctuate quite a bit, but this is getting ridiculous even for me. This year I’ve been consistently heavier than my normal post Christmas weight. That’s not good. I really need to do something about that.
  • Complete section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree by the end of the year. I just need to keep plugging away at this. I’m on track, but it’s still a big stretch goal so I need to stay consistent.
  • Find a new Spanish series that I want to watch and see at least 2 episodes every week. Sounds familiar, but this is how I’m really going to improve my Spanish listening skills.
  • Learn to solve the white cross on the Rubik’s cube. I have Weenie from Quietly Saving to thank for this one! When I mentioned in one of my previous posts about one of the kids being really good at cubing she told me how she’d learned to do it a few years ago and has now challenged herself to learn the 4×4. I used to be able to do the normal 3×3 cube, but only with the help of my notes on how to solve it. It’s on my bucket list to be able to solve the cube without notes. Weenie has very kindly sent me the instructions that she used. The white cross is the first stage, so I think that’ll be enough for me to getting on with for this month. I think the key is to learn each stage in isolation, practising until it’s in my muscle memory, and then move on to the next stage.
Photo by JTMultimidia on Pexels.com

So after saying that I was going to give myself an easy month, I think there’s plenty there for me to be working on.

September has been a fairly good month. Lots going on family wise, which luckily I was in a position to be able to help out with. Work were good with putting in emergency holidays for me to get to the funeral. I had already decided though that if that wasn’t forthcoming I would just take unpaid leave. Having FU money really is a help even if you aren’t anywhere near full FIRE. Yet more benefits of knowing what you’re worth financially and being aware of what your priorities are and how you can make use of your money to ensure that your actions match what’s important to you.

I’m reasonably pleased with how I’ve done against my September goals. The odd spanner in the works, but that’s how life goes sometimes. I’m going to keep up my focus on getting enough sleep as that’s working really well for me. I’ll keep working away at my Spanish and get started on a TV series to help with my listening skills. I’ll get cracking on learning the Rubik’s cube (whilst trying to avoid getting obsessed, which is what happened about 7 years ago!) I think that’s probably enough to keep me out of mischief. Let me know what you’re working on just now and any tips on how to keep motivated and ensure that you achieve your goals.

Goals For September And Beyond

Quite frankly the last year has been pretty piss poor for me in terms of setting goals, getting stuff done and generally feeling like I’m moving forward with my life. I went through a time in my life about two years ago where things seemed to be going really well. I was making sure I got lots of sleep, which meant I had plenty of energy. That had the knock on effect of me getting loads more done. Work was going well, I was enthusiastic and felt like I was gaining new skills and carving out a role for myself in the department that hadn’t really existed before, but which suited me down to the ground. That’s no longer the case.

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

I’m hating work at the moment, which is making it really difficult to feel that I’m making any progress with the rest of my life. Work is so busy and stressful that it’s sucking any motivation for me to do anything else. I finish work and am so exhausted and mentally drained that I don’t seem to have the will to do anything other than sleep on the couch and do the bare minimum to survive and keep me and my boys ticking over. That’s never been enough for me. I need to feel that I’m getting somewhere with my life, no matter where that happens to be. As long as it’s moving the way I want it to then I’m happy. Just now I feel like I’m somewhat stuck.

I’m barely running, which is always a bad sign. I know I feel so much better when I exercise, but I just don’t want to go out. I’m averaging about one or two runs a week, mainly when my friends arrange for us to meet up and get a few miles in. I can’t keep up with them any more as I’ve lost so much fitness, which again makes me not want to run. It’s not helped by the fact that I have an ongoing problem with my knees, which doesn’t particularly seem to be helped by resting or the physio exercises that is the one thing that I have been continuing to do. I always feel much more in control of my life when my running is going well. It really does make you feel like you can do anything you put your mind to.

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

It’s not all doom and gloom though. On the financial side of things I have things pretty much automated so that I don’t need any willpower to stick with my plan. I’m more or less on autopilot with my budgeting and my investments go straight out of my salary and fly out of my bank account by direct debit. The one good thing I have done during this lacklustre period of time in my life is diversify my investments. This is very much still a work in progress, but at least I’ve pretty much stopped investing in shares of the company that I work for (apart from one too good to refuse deal – £75 worth of shares every month for only £30 of an outlay from me – yes please) and have started buying index trackers instead. I still hold far too many work shares, but I’m working on changing the balance on that over the next few years.

To try and jolt myself out of this lethargy I’ve decided to start setting myself goals again. I always used to do this. I like to have things to work towards and feel that I’m making progress on the things that are important to me. I usually set myself far too many goals and end up feeling overwhelmed, but sometimes that’s the only way to get things done. You might not achieve absolutely everything, but at least you do nudge yourself along in the right direction.

As usual, despite this supposedly being a FIRE blog, (actually I think it’s more a journey of the ups and downs of my life and an attempt to keep myself accountable to me if nobody else) the goals are not finance based. As I said I have a lot of my finances automated. If anything what I need to do is stop checking my money so often. I have a ritual whereby at the end of every working day I check my Vanguard account to see what it’s worth. That’s not useful, healthy or even all that encouraging. I do it anyway. It’s my treat to myself for surviving the day and a reminder that I won’t be living this life forever. It does however often lead to me wishing my life away by focussing solely on when I am going to reach my magic number and can stop working.

The ridiculous thing is that because a major part of my retirement plans focus on my defined benefits pension, and because there are some pretty serious penalties for retiring before the normal retirement age of 60, chances are I’ll be working for the next ten years come what may. Now saying that, I’m hopeful that once I reach some of my financial targets that I can negotiate a shorter working week. A four or even better three day working week sounds pretty civilised to me. As my pension is based on a salary that was capped a lot of years ago when I was working part time and quite a few grades lower than I am now, I could reduce my working hours and not impact my pension much. So although I might not be able to RE – or at least as early as I would like, I am hoping that I can take advantage of FI if I ever get there and make the last part of my working life much more tolerable.

Really I should be setting myself a target restricting the number of times I check my Vanguard account and look at my Net Worth figures and charts. I should do that, but where’s the fun in should. So I’m not going to restrict myself in that way for now. I am just going to try and remind myself that we have a finite amount of time on this planet and that I should be spending the time I have living my life to the full rather than looking longingly towards a time in some mythical future when I don’t have to work.

I’m going to try and enjoy the parts of my job that I do enjoy – which rather ironically is the bits that are ostensibly my actual job title. I do actually like talking to customers about their finances and helping them to sort things out. Of course there are days when I can’t really be bothered, but overall it’s not a bad job to have. It’s the nonsense that goes alongside it that is hard to take. The lack of time to manage your cases and the constant pressure to get on the phone and take yet another call despite having things to sort out for customers you’ve already spoken to.

So, enough about goals that I’m not going to set myself. What is important to me and is going to set me up for success in all areas of my life?

  • Get 7 hours sleep a night, 5 nights a week. This is a crucial one for me. I’ve always needed a lot of sleep. If I’m tired , which I usually am, then I can’t get anything done. When I was regularly getting 7-8 hours of sleep a couple of years ago I felt fantastic. The nights I got a full eight hours I felt invincible the next day.
  • Do 4 forms of exercise every week. In an ideal world this would be 3 runs and 1 cycle or walk. Back in the real world I know that my knee often can’t deal with this. I’m loving going out on my lockdown bike and really want to do more of that. This should get me back in the swing of exercising and hopefully I can build my running fitness back up.
  • Complete section 5 of the Duolingo Spanish tree by the end of the year. I am now on a 455 day streak on Duolingo. This sounds quite impressive, but quite a few of those days were just a quick 5 minute burst, useful but not enough to see real improvements. I finished section 3 on Christmas day and only finished the fourth section the other day, so I really should be further on than I am. This is going to be a real stretch goal for me and will require a decent amount of studying every day. It should be achievable, but only if I really stick in.
  • Find a new Spanish series that I want to watch and see at least 2 episodes every week. I finished watching Valeria on Netflix a month or so ago. It was far too fast for me, so really difficult to understand, but crucially I loved it and really wanted to watch it to find out what happened next. I need something else like that as it’s the only real way I’m going to improve my listening skills
  • Keep my car mileage under 69,000 by the end of the year. It’s raining and I can’t be bothered going out to check my current mileage, but the last time I checked a few weeks ago it was sitting at 68,648. Hitting this one will depend on a number of factors. It’s either totally achievable or completely impossible. Since lockdown I have implemented a rule that if a journey is 3 miles or under that I don’t take the car. The exception to this is if I have shopping to get, the kids are with me or there is a time constraint. Sounds like lots of get out clauses, but actually even on a 5 litre paint buying expeditions that was 3.5 miles away I walked rather than taking the car. I’m still doing the weekly Aldi shop by car, but as one of the kids comes with me and I have shopping I think that’s acceptable. I have no intention of stopping homeworking, so there’s no commute to do. The issue is going to arise if I need/want to go to Newcastle to see family, and I’m not going to restrict myself on that. Also maths boy is going off to university in October and so I’ll be going down to drop him off. The ex hubby and I are going down together. If we can get all the stuff in his car then he will probably drive as he thinks I drive too slowly, (AKA sticking to the speed limit) but if we need to go in my car then that’ll be me screwed for hitting this goal. I suppose I could take long journeys out of the target if needs be.
Photo by Daniel on Pexels.com

I think that’s plenty to be getting on with. More sleep will help my energy levels, which hopefully will make me more motivated to exercise, which in turn will give me the will to get stuff done. Maybe then I can look at some more stretching goals. At some point I will need to address my shocking eating habits that have developed during lockdown and the subsequent weight gain, but that is something I’ll worry about another time. For now I’ll keep it simple. Get more sleep, exercise more, work on improving my Spanish and keep up the good work on restricting my car use.

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.

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!

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!

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.