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!

Matched Betting Is Finally Happenng

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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