January 2022. Running, Eating, Spanish and some FIRE Stuff

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 £88,933.02 (£89,423.23)

Assets

Cash £26,841.91 (£27,620.56)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£137,586)

AVC’s  £18,132.06 (£18,246.40)

Shares £82,111.70 (£82,183.43)  

House £269,000 (£269,000) 

Total £533,671.67 (£534,636.39)

Net Worth including house equity

£533,671.67 – £88.933.02 = £444,738.65 (£445,213.16)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£18,132.06 – £88,933.02 = -£70,800.96 (-£71,176.83)

Cash is down a bit yet again. Life seems to be very expensive at the minute. Car repairs, insurances, trips away, lots of petrol for yet another big long trip to Cambridge to drop off uni boy. You know what though? Life is for living. The car repairs I could do without, but the trip to Cambridge was brilliant and the more things like that I can do the better. I’m not frittering money away on nonsense. I’m spending money on things that I need or experiences that I want. I’m not breaking the bank and I still have plenty in savings, so I’m not going to worry too much. Not very FIRE of me, but what the hell!

Photo by Aleksandr Neplokhov on Pexels.com

Considering the state of the markets just now I’m fairly happy with my investment figures. Down very slightly despite me having paid another month’s worth of money in, but it could be a lot worse. Given the recent Bank of England base rate announcements I’m slightly jittery about the amount of mortgage debt I have. I’m sticking with my decision to barely overpay my mortgage and stick the money into my AVC fund instead. Unless interest rates get ridiculous I’m happy this is the right route for me. Time will tell I guess.

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January has gone fairly well. Mum and dad came up to stay for a week which was lovely but quite full on. I was working, but we managed to get plenty of walks and talks in. I’ve lived on my own (well with the kids) for so long I find it quite exhausting having other people in the house. It’s made me realise how much I value my own company and time to myself. Saying that we did have a great time and it was lovely to spend time with them.

I’m well in the swing of half and full marathon training now. In terms of the number of weeks I need to complete on my marathon training plan I am now a quarter of the way through. Of course the miles really ramp up the further you get through the plan. In a moment of rash confidence I have signed up for an ultra marathon in the summer. An ultra is anything longer than a marathon, in this case 55km or 34 miles. Having said last year that I thought I should stop doing the longer races as I kept getting injured, I now have 2 halves, 1 full and 1 ultra marathon race this year.

Doing a full marathon and an ultra is on my 60 for 60 list, so it’s not completely come from nowhere. My thinking was if I was training for a marathon then I might as well combine that with training for an ultra. Having signed up I’m not quite sure how compatible the training is going to be. In an ultra the idea is that you cover the miles as efficiently as possible. So you walk the hills and run the flats and downhills. You also eat as you go, so I need to practice fuelling on the go. How bad can it be??? I go from complete and utter exhilaration at the thought to total terror at getting lost in the woods and never being seen again.

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I didn’t set specific goals for January, but this is what I wanted to work on.

‘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.’

I had a great trip to Cambridge and I am well in the swing of my marathon training. The eating is a little bit all over the place. I’m doing a bit better now, but it’s not been great. My weight has fluctuated quite a bit. I started HRT this month, so I’m going to go with that’s the reason. I’m not quite sure it is, but it’s possible I guess. Either way we’re mid February now and I’m less than half a stone from my ideal weight. I’m trying not to focus on that too much. I want to eat for my health and not for my weight. Saying that I really don’t want to be dragging excess weight around with me when I’m running long distances. I’m working hard on my Duolingo Spanish. I don’t know what I was thinking saying I could finish unit 6. Getting unit 6 and 7 is realistic by the end of the year, so unit 6 is going to take me a while. I’m enjoying it though and still feel that I’m making some steady progress.

For February I don’t think it’s going to be a massive surprise that running features quite a lot. Here’s what I want to work on

  • Continue to follow my marathon training plan
  • Find an ultra training plan and figure out how to combine this with the marathon plan
  • Walk at least once a week
  • Do 2 lessons a day on Duolingo Spanish
  • Watch at least 4 episodes a week of Betty en NY in Spanish.
  • Finish setting up spreadsheets with alternative retirement dates and how much I need to have in investments (Finally a FIRE goal, yay!)
  • Go to the cinema and watch The Godfather (It’s always good to have a fun goal, and considering how much I love this film I have to take advantage of it being on the big screen for an anniversary showing)

That’s plenty for me to get cracking with in February. Work is busy with lots of new things for me to learn there. Managing work, getting my runs in, not eating too much rubbish and getting plenty of sleep . If I manage all of that then I’ll be happy.

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March Goals

I love a bit of goal setting. For me, if I haven’t got anything that I’m working towards then I’m not a happy bunny. Saying that, I feel that I’ve maybe taken my eye off the game a wee bit recently. I know that writing down goals works really well and makes me much more likely to achieve what I’m aiming for. So why do I suddenly find myself almost at the end of February and I feel that I have fingers in quite a lot of pies, I’m moving in the right general direction, but I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be working on?

I’m generally happy with how my year is going so far. I decided to try and focus on my health this year. I’ve got an app on my phone to keep track of the amount of fruit and veg that I’m eating each day. My thought was that if I had to eat five portions a day then I wouldn’t be able to fill up on rubbish. Turns out that’s only partly right. I’m happy to report that I am now on the 36th consecutive day of eating five portions of fruit or veg. A lot of this seems to be down to building good habits that mean you don’t need to think about it.

 I always have a handful of raisins in my porridge, have a salad for my lunch(well not on weekends – maybe that’s something I need to introduce) and carrot sticks to snack on at work (again, this works less well at the weekend). So by the time I get home I’ve already had 3 portions. There’ll always be at least one veg with my tea, so that just leaves some fruit to have in the evening. Occasionally I’ve seen me shoving some dried apricots down just before bed when I’ve suddenly realised I’m not up to my five portions. I’m not overly worrying about the size of the portions – I’m just being sensible about this. I reckon my lunchtime salad is probably more than one portion, whereas my morning raisins are probably slightly less than one. I reckon it more or less balances itself out though.

Drinks wise I’m trying to be good too. I haven’t had an alcoholic drink in something like fourteen years. There are a number of reasons for this, but the easy answer is I had a heavy night out, woke up and like many people thought “never again”. For me though it was actually as simple as that. I’m not saying I’ve never fancied a tipple in the last decade or so, but not enough to want to start drinking again. So for me the booze is never something I have to think about in terms of health. I don’t drink, simple as. I also don’t drink tea or coffee (I’m starting to wonder what I do do)! Hot chocolate now is another matter. Sometimes you just want a hot drink, but a hot chocolate always seems to make me want more sweet stuff (not something I need much encouragement on if I’m totally honest).  So I spotted some infusion bags in Aldi this month. I’ve tried the berry ones and the lemon and ginger ones so far. They were a bit of an acquired taste, but I’ve persevered, and I think I’m getting there with them. I’m drinking them at work now, so when I want a bit of an excuse for a wander about the office I go and make myself a nice healthy infusion drink. Naturally caffeine free, so I reckon they must be reasonably healthy.

I’m trying to drop a few pounds too. Honestly this is an ongoing issue. I always thought middle aged spread was just a funny expression. Turns out it’s an actual thing. My middle has always been my problem area, even when I was young, and having two kids certainly hasn’t helped matters any. People think I’m slim because I’m reasonably tall and running helps of course. I’m not really overweight, but I would just love to lose anything up to a stone, but more realistically half a stone would do. This would help with my running too, which I am really trying to focus on just now. I’m finding my motivation sadly lacking as I get older. Maybe it’s just that I’m no longer prepared to be hungry. The 5:2 has worked brilliantly in the past for me, but my God it makes you miserable. Also I don’t think it would give me enough energy for running. I’ve lost about 5 pounds since Christmas, but those creme eggs are a temptation that I never seem to walk past. I really must do better.

I’m trying to get more sleep too. Again this has been an ongoing attempt that I know will make my life so much better. Again I have an app on my phone for this. At first I optimistically set my target amount of sleep each night to eight hours. As I never got anywhere close to that I was finding that really demotivated me, so I dropped it down to seven hours. I’m much better at achieving that. Well, sort of.  As the alarm goes off at 6am, an 11pm sleep time seems much more achievable. I definitely don’t manage it every night, but I am getting much better at trying. I also am much more likely to go to bed at a reasonable time at the weekend now. It took me a while to work out that although I didn’t have work I was usually getting up to meet friends to run, or just waking up out of habit. So hitting the sack at 1am was never going to be a good idea.  

So the whole health thing is going reasonably well. Eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is a big fat tick in the box. I just need to ensure I keep this up, and maybe try and introduce some of my healthy working day habits on non-working days. My weight is an ongoing battle, and I’m not sure it’s one that I’m ever going to win. As I’m typing that I realise that food shouldn’t be a battle ground, but I’m sure I’m not alone in that mentality. Generally speaking I think I have some great healthy habits. My meals are reasonably healthy, although I really do need to stop eating teenage boy sized portions. I need to realise that I am allowed to dish out a smaller portion for myself. I’ve introduced a lot of healthy snacks into my life. In an ideal world I probably wouldn’t be snacking at all, but If I’m going to (spoiler alert, I am going to) then at least I can make them healthy snacks most of the time. I drink loads of water as this is my drink of choice, and I am trying to wean myself off my hot chocolate habit as best I can.

I’m really trying to focus on my running at the moment too. I’ve joined a new running club recently, and this is really challenging me, which I’m hoping will lead to improvements. I feel that I’ve been stagnating in this area for a while. I was injured last year and it’s taking me a while to get back in the swing of it. This new running club does a lot more interval based training, which should really help with my speed and endurance. I’m also swimming once a week with the boyfriend. We’re up to 60 lengths now, so I reckon in terms of cross training this can only help. I definitely feel that my upper body is stronger now, which is helping a lot at the end of runs when my legs start to tire.

I’ve got a couple of races coming up in March which I’m really looking forward to. There’s a ten miler next weekend, which will be tough, but hopefully good fun. There’s five of us heading off on a bit of a road trip for that one, so that should be a good laugh. I’ve also got a six mile trail race coming up, which should be something a bit different. I’m not worrying too much about the times for these ones, but rather I’ll just go out and enjoy them and hopefully feel nice and strong. I’m trying to work on my speed as I really want to bring my park run time down. I can’t seem to get anywhere close to my pre-injury best time, so I’m going to take the pressure off and just try and whittle it down little by little. I’m been hovering a little above the 27 minute mark recently, so I’m going to get it down under 27 minutes as my next target.  

So I want to continue to build on all the good work that I’ve been doing in terms of my health. Fruit and veg consumption, sleeping (hmmm, maybe try and do a bit better on this one) and try and get my weight a bit lower again. I also want to keep working hard at my running so that I can see an improvement in my park run time.

In terms of FIRE I think it’s time for me to knuckle down and do some research. The bonus on my cash ISA for my emergency fund is coming to an end next month, so I’ll need to shift that pronto, as the rate it’s going to revert to will be dire. So I’ve popped some time in my phone on one of my days off to research rates. I also need to look into low cost index trackers too. When I get a small pay rise in April I’m going to invest that money rather than inflate my lifestyle, so I need to figure out where I’m putting that extra money.

I desperately need to look into side hustles too. If I can earn some extra money I can either pay some more off my mortgage (very appealing) or invest more. I’m currently reading a book about how to make money from eBay. The great thing about my job is that I get to talk to people about their finances all day long. Well, you know, the job itself is not always that great, but I’m trying to take the positives, and recently I have definitely been focusing on looking at the many different ways that people have their finances organised. Anyway, this month I was talking to this customer who mentioned he was retired. He was only 54, so already my FIRE antennae was twitching. I quizzed him more (purely as part of my job of course, not because I wanted FIRE tips)! He then went on to say that he had retired at 40, set up an eBay business and had lots of buy to let properties. He mentioned that he still did the eBay thing part time and was making as much a year as I do working full time. By this point all pretence at just doing my job had gone out the window. Anyway, he then mentioned that he’d written a book on how to make money through eBay and that I should check it out. On my next break I was on my phone ordering a copy. It was written a while ago, so some of it is a little dated, but there’s lots of good tips in there. So my plan is to get finished that book in March and start to think about how eBay could work for me as a side hustle.

Blog wise I want to work on getting things looking a bit nicer. I’m not really a picture sort of person, but I think that’s probably what’s needed to break up some of this writing. I have no idea how to do that, so I need to do some work on figuring that out. I also need to have a bit of a play about with the look of the blog. I would like to put some links in to other blogs that I follow, and maybe have a bit for books that I have enjoyed or found useful. Again, I have no idea how to do this, so I need to spend a bit of my precious time figuring some of this stuff out.

Goals for March

Run my local park run in under 27 minutes

Complete my 10 mile and 6 mile race

Get my weight down to 10 stone 9 pounds

Research rates to switch my cash ISA and get the account changed over

Research low cost index trackers

Finish reading the eBay book

Figure out how to add pictures to my blog posts

Work out how to add links to the blog

Re-watch Game of Thrones ready for the new series starting. A bit of a ridiculous one I know, but realistically I know it’s something I’ll be spending a fair chunk of my time doing, so I might as well be honest about it. I tend not to watch a lot of TV, but I do like a nice box set and usually have one on the go for when I need to sit quietly and relax.

I think that’s probably enough for me to work on. I’ll keep focussing on my health which will hopefully give me enough energy for all the other things that I want to do. I’ll press on with my running training and drop another couple of pounds.  I’ll get some research done this month in terms of my cash ISA, index trackers and a potential eBay side hustle. By the time that March is done we’ll be starting to think about spring and all the hopeful possibilities that come with that. I’ll also find out about my pay rise and bonus, so will know how much extra I’ll have to play with in terms of investing. It’s all feeling quite positive in the Sassenach Saving garden, especially when I worked out my net worth figure the other day. A bit of a bump in the work share price has had an exciting impact on my figures. But you’ll have to wait for another post to hear about that.

Resolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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