A Quick December Review

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

I didn’t do an update for November. My laptop had finally died a death that even my home grown tech support couldn’t fix. I can’t complain too much as he managed to eek an extra year out of it for me before it gave up the ghost. I have finally got around to getting myself a new laptop so I am good to go again. I won’t bother doing my figures for November, but instead will just jump straight to December with October’s figures in brackets for comparison. Quite frankly as 2021 is done and dusted now it seems a bit pointless to do a double month update.

Debts

Mortgage £89,423.23 (£90,408.16)

Assets

Cash £27,620.56 (£28,252.00)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £18,246.40 (£16,754.95)

Shares £82,183.43 (£80,026.26)  

House £269,000 (£269,000) 

Total £534,636.39 (£531,619.21)

Net Worth including house equity

£534,636.39 – £89,423.23 = £445,213.16 (£441,211.05)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£18,246.40 – £89,423.23 = -£71,176.83 (-£73,653.21)

I’m happy with those figures. My shares and AVC fund combined have gone over the £100k mark for the first time, which is lovely to see. The next step is to get the shares alone to £100k as the AVC fund is allocated to pay off my mortgage when I stop working.

My cash amount has gone down a little, but not nearly as much as I expected it to. Two years after a flood from the ensuite into the kitchen I finally have a working ensuite bathroom again. It is absolutely fabulous, and I am so happy that I got it done. I had allocated money from my savings for the work, but at the last minute my parents transferred a chunk of money over to me to pay for the majority of the work. I was really surprised and absolutely delighted. Their thinking is I might as well have some money from my inheritance now rather than waiting until they kick the bucket, hopefully many years down the line. I also bought a new laptop, but didn’t spend a fortune on that.

Having dropped quite a bit last month, my share figures are looking nice and healthy again. I’m definitely going in the right direction. On paper my budgets don’t really work, so I’m not quite sure how I’m managing to keep investing the amount that I do. I guess Covid can have some financial advantages as I’m still not doing all that much that involves spending money. I’m not sure quite how sustainable my investing level is longer term, but I’ll keep going as long as I can.

I have booked a weekend away to York for myself and my folks for later in the year, which was expensive, but should be a great trip away and worth the money. I’ve also booked a ticket to go and see the Scotland’s Strongest Man competition in the summer. Again I’m trying to have some events in the diary so I have things to look forward to. Crucial in these continued strange times.

In terms of how I got on in the latter part of the year, it was probably a bit of a mixed bag. I got back on the phone at work speaking to customers again and remembered that there’s lots of parts of my job that I do actually like. Although I’d much rather be at FIRE and able to fill my days with activities of my choice, actually what I’m doing in my day job can actually be quite fun at times. I’ve managed to deal with my anxiety and start actually living my life again, rather than just surviving. That’s been a bit of an adjustment after purely focussing on my mental health for a good few months there. It’s good to get a bit more balance in my life even if it sometimes feels a little overwhelming getting back in the thick of things.

I just read back my October review and saw that my running was going really badly and my eating was in a great place. I have to say that’s totally reversed now. I’m loving my running and am doing plenty of it. My eating on the other hand is not in quite such a good place. You know though, Christmas!! I’ll really need to get back to a place of healthy eating again, but as I have my folks here for a week on holiday it’s not really happening just now.

In January I want to continue to focus on my running. I have a half marathon in March and a full marathon in May. The half is easy enough, but I’ve only done one full marathon before and it was a bit of a disaster. I’m determined to do better this time. I’ve found a training plan that I’m happy with and I start it next week. In the meantime I’m running plenty and building a really solid base of fitness. I just need to stay injury free, get plenty of sleep and sort out my diet again.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

I’ve got another trip to Cambridge this month to deposit the eldest back to uni. That will allow dad and I to do the final parkrun in Cambridge itself. I’ve got a bit of a plan put together for parkruns this year. I should hit 100 parkruns in total around easter time and am going to almost be there with the A-Z challenge. You have to go abroad for a Z, but I should have the UK ones done this year. The fact that I have got my parents a trip to York with me as their Christmas present is completely coincidental. And the fact that we will be there on a Saturday morning and dad and I will be able to collect a Y parkrun is neither here nor there!

Photo by Peter Sutton on Pexels.com

I think that will be enough for January. A trip to Cambridge, start my marathon training plan and get my eating sorted and my weight back to  where it usually is. I also want to finish unit 6 of the Spanish Duolingo course. That should be enough to keep my out of mischief for now.

More Treat Than Trick For Me This 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 track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.

Debts

Mortgage £90,408.16 (£90,900.44)

Assets

Cash £28,252.00 (£28,202.74)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s £16,754.95 (£15,346.81)

Shares £80,026.26 (£73,460.94)

House £269,000 (£269,000)

Total £531,619.21 (£523,596.49)

Net Worth including house equity

£531,619.21 – £90,408.16 = £441,211.05 (£432,696.05)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£16,754.95 – £90,408.16 = -£73,653.21 (-£75,553.63)

That’s a very pleasing set of figures. The markets very kindly did a big jump up just as I was working my monthly figures out. I’m very happy with that increase in the value of my shares. Of course since then the work share price has dropped again a bit, so next month’s figures might not be quite so impressive. For now though I’m happy with the increase. Nice to see the chunk of money that I put in from dividends and the sale of some of the work shares doing so well.

I always like to have arbitrary targets to aim for, just to break up the monotony of striving for FIRE. There’s a few coming up that I have in my sights. My mortgage will duck under £90k next month. Still far too high for me to feel complacent about, but I can see my plan working of paying into my AVC fund rather than overpaying my mortgage. Saying that, all this talk of increasing interest rates is making me somewhat jittery, but in the grand scheme of things rates are not likely to change enough for me to adjust my strategy. Investment wise I’ve got £45k in my Vanguard account, and it will be nice to see that hit £50k. And when I combine my shares and AVC fund I’m just shy of £97k. It will be lovely to hit £100k as psychologically that is such a big barrier. A few things there for me to reach in the hopefully not too distant future.

I didn’t set myself any goals for October and I’m going to continue in that vein for November too. I’ve got an ongoing battle with my mental health, which is taking all my focus for now. I made some really good progress this month, returning to work on a phased return. I’m back to full time hours from next week and and back on the phones then too speaking to customers again. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride getting back to work, but it’s an important step in me learning to live with this anxiety for the time being until I hopefully get back on a bit more of an even keel.

The main thing want to focus on is my health again. The positive that I can take from the difficulties I’ve been having is that I am really drilling down on what is important for my health. I’ve talked a fair bit over the last few years about how important I feel sleep is for our health. That belief hasn’t always translated into me actually going to bed early, but I certainly have recognised how much better I feel when I get more sleep. Getting enough sleep is no longer an optional extra for me. A combination of my feelings and the medication I’m taking are making me absolutely exhausted. It gets to 8.00 and I’m thinking “how soon can I go to bed?” I’m sure I won’t always feel like this, but for now sleep is absolutely crucial for me. I use a sleep tracker and during October there were only four nights where I didn’t get at least eight hours sleep. I’m still exhausted all the time, but at least I’m giving my body the best possible chance to deal with everything that is going on.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Similarly my eating is going really well. Again this is something I have repeatedly set myself goals around. My weight has fluctuated my entire life, and whilst most people would say I was slim and not notice when I put weight on, for me it’s been a big issue. For now I am not beating myself up about what I eat, but I am focussing on eating plenty of fruit and veg and avoiding sweet food. Without really trying I have lost a reasonable amount of weight. I’m only a couple of pounds away from the lowest my weight ever goes. I feel trim and most importantly it’s not feeling like a struggle. I didn’t consciously set out to lose weight. It sounds ridiculous, but I just started buying more nice healthy food and stopped buying myself sweet treats. We’ll see if I can keep this up once I’m back to dealing with customers all day long and working full time hours. I’m quietly confident. It feels like something has changed. I’m eating for my health rather than for my weight. Of course it could just be stress and the medications causing me to lose weight, but hopefully not.

Photo by Foodie Factor on Pexels.com

My running on the other hand is not going so great. I’m still going out, but only for 3 or 4 miles at a time. Since I went on Prozac I don’t seem to be able to run to save my life. My legs feel sluggish and the anxiety is causing me difficulties in regulating my breathing. It seems unbelievable that I managed to pull the Great North Run out of the bag just back in September. I’m not going to worry too much about this. I don’t have any races until May. I’m treating running as a form of therapy just now. My fabulous running friends (well, you know they are actual friends but we met through running and it’s our favourite thing to do together) are making sure that I get out so that I get some exercise and chat about how I’m feeling. They really are outstanding.

I’ve got a couple of trips out this month. I’m through to Edinburgh with one of the kids for a symphony concert and I also have some comedy to go to with a night out to see Chris Ramsey with one of my friends. It’s nice to have a couple of things to look forward to, and I might even get my favourite boots re-heeled, and possibly even my first haircut in over a year. I’m hoping that’s a sign that I’m starting to feel a bit better and ready to start participating in the world again. Here’s hoping!

August Review

It’s time to see how I got on in August, both in terms of my money and working on my goals.

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

Debts

Mortgage £91,392.92 (£91,885.11)

Assets

Cash £29,026.93 (£34,725.71)

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

AVC’s £15,431.04 (£14,534.87)

Shares £71,318.81 (£66,050)

House £269,000 (£250,000)

Total £515,430.38 (£495,964.18)

Net Worth including house equity

£515,430.38 – £91,392.92 = £424,037.46 (£404,079.07)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£15,431.04 – £91,392.92 = -£75,961.88 (-£77,350.24)

A couple of things to talk about in those figures. I took £6k out of my savings and put them in my Vanguard Stocks and Shares ISA. As a single parent I really like having a good chunk of money in the bank “just in case”. I figured £29k in savings is probably still enough to let me sleep at night, but has a bit more of my money working harder for me. Definitely a good decision, but I think that’s probably as far as I’m prepared to go for now.

Putting that extra money into my Vanguard account has the added advantage that I now have more money in index trackers than I do in work shares. I still have far too many of those shares, but at least I’m going in the right direction. My plan is to sell about £4k worth of the works shares before the end of the tax year to max out my ISA for the year. I’m going to try and wait for the share price to hopefully go up a bit, but no matter what I think I’ll stick to that plan. Considering only 18 months ago I only had £650 in my Vanguard account and everything else was in my work shares, I’m pretty pleased with my progress. Of course I’ve not actually bitten the bullet yet and sold any shares, but I will.

I’ve put a higher house value in there this month. It’s just based on a Zoopla figure, so I’m not sure quite how accurate it would be. It doesn’t really matter anyway as I’m not planning on selling any time soon, and although I include my figures with the house equity in there, it’s not really something I’m particularly focussed on.

Let’s move on now and see how I got on with working on the goals I set myself. Here’s a quick reminder of what I was working on.

  • Do at least one 13 mile training run. DONE. I managed a 14 mile run last weekend. It was only supposed to be 13, but I got lost in the woods and ended up running a different route to what I expected. I managed to keep going till I found my way home and was happy to get 14 miles in the bag.
  • Get down to ten and a half stone. FAIL. I’m actually back up at 11 stone again. This is a bit of a recurring pattern for me. It is what it is.
  • Get at least seven and a half hours sleep a night at least five nights a week. PASS. I’ve really made sure that I focussed on this. I just need to keep this going now.
  • Climb Scafell Pike. PASS. I loved, loved, loved this. It felt relatively easy, which was great, but still felt like a great achievement.
Photo by Eric Sanman on Pexels.com

I’ve done well with my goals this month. I’m not setting any goals for September. My mental health has taken a bit of a battering recently. It’s certainly strange times that we’re living in, and work is also proving incredibly stressful. I’m normally pretty resilient, but I think it’s fair to say things have been getting too much for me for a while now. There’s only so long you can just plough on pretending everything is ok. I’ve finally been to the doctors and have got some help in the form of a prescription and a bit of time off work. I’m hoping I’ll start feeling a bit more like my usual self quite soon, but in the meantime I’m going to hunker down, get myself in a better place and be a bit nice to myself. The only thing I want to achieve this month is getting the Great North Run done and getting myself in a better head space. If I can manage that then I’ll be happy.

June and July Review

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

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

Debts

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

Assets

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

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

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

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

House £250,000 (£250,000)

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

Net Worth including house equity

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

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by JACK REDGATE on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

No Motivation May

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

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

Debts

Mortgage £92,869.64 (£93,361.71)

Assets

Cash £35,002.04 (£35,708.53)

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

AVC’s £13,131.25 (£12,464.24)

Shares £66,329.57 (£61,194.27)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £495,116.46 (£490,020.64)

Net Worth including house equity

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

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Money, Goals and Running for April

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

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

Debts

Mortgage £93,361.71 (£93,853.99)

Assets

Cash £35,708.53 (£35,668.12)

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

AVC’s £12,464.24 (£11,634.04)

Shares £61,194.27(£57,266.53)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £490,020.64 (£485,222.29)

Net Worth including house equity

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

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£12,464.24 – £93,853.99 = -£81,839.75

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

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

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

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2021 Review

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

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

Debts

Mortgage £93,853.99 (£94,345.97)

Assets

Cash £35,668.12 (£35,523.72)

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

AVC’s £11,634.04 (£10,814.45)

Shares £57,266.53 (£52,479.19)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

Total £485,222.29 (£479,470.96)

Net Worth including house equity

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

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

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

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

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 2021 Review

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

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

Debts

Mortgage £94,838.70 (£95,330.62)

Assets

Cash £34,965.12 (£34,503.66)

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

AVC’s £10,307.70 (£9,826.32)

Shares £49,209.19 (£49,278.21)

House £250,000 (£250,000)

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

Net Worth including house equity

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

Net Worth excluding house equity and Defined Benefits Pension

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

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

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

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

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.