The True Cost Of Having Children

The first thing to say is that I love my children with all my heart. Having them is without a doubt the best decision I have ever made. I was desperate to have children. I wanted a different sort of life from the one that I was living. I spent a few years surreptitiously going around the shops and looking at baby clothes. My husband at the time and I waited a few years before we started a family. Money was tight and he in particular was keen that we get ourselves in a better financial position before we added kids in to the equation. That was definitely a good plan, if somewhat frustrating at the time. So we cleared the credit cards and tried to get a little bit of money behind us to try and cover my maternity leave.

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Everybody tells you how expensive having children is. They’re not wrong of course, although I’m never quite sure where they get their figures from about how much it costs to raise a child. Based on the figures you see bandied about only millionaires would be able to afford one child, never mind multiple kids. I tend to think that children cost as much as you choose to make them cost. There are certain things that you can’t avoid, but plenty that you can minimise. I think I pretty much lived in Mothercare when I was pregnant with the first one. You’re growing this baby inside you and you just want all the nicest things that are completely unnecessary. Let’s be honest, baby stuff is cute and you want the best for your unborn child. The fact of the matter is that what’s important with children is the time you spend with them, not the stuff they have.

Set Up Costs

There are certain basics that you need – pram, car seat, something for it to sleep in etc. A lot of the extra stuff is not needed, and if you decide that it’s going to make your life easier then the chances are you’re going to be able to get it either for free or very cheap. By the time I had the second one I’d figured out that most of the baby stuff isn’t used for very long, so even if you get it pre-loved it’s probably not seen all that much usage. I was lucky that in our family there are four male cousins. What that meant was that the clothes would get handed down from my nephew to my two and then on to my younger nephew. Result! Even if you’re not in this lucky position, in my experience people are always trying to get rid of their kids stuff. There’s a lot of it and it clutters up your house. People would much rather give it to someone they know can make use of it.

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So as far as stuff goes, minimise what you buy, get stuff for free or second hand and remember that when your baby is first born you are inundated with presents for the wee one. People love it when a baby is born, and I found that neighbours I didn’t even know would leave gifts on the doorstep. A baby is a wonderful thing for bringing a neighbourhood together. Now although buying stuff for children can get out of hand, remember that you are in control of what comes into your house. I really don’t subscribe to the theory that you have to give your children what everybody else has. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but my kids have never come home and asked for the latest designer label. That’s probably partly due to the way I’ve raised them and also the fact that they’re just not into that sort of thing.

Prioritise Experiences Over Stuff

I’ve always made sure that my kids could do what interested them in terms of activities. I’d much rather that I was spending my money on experiences for them – whether that’s them going to things like drama club, judo, swimming lessons or trips away with the school. I’ve also been comfortable saying no to things too. They didn’t even bother asking, but I saw there was a school trip to New York that cost thousands of pounds. Er no. If I don’t spend that sort of money on a family holiday then I’m not going to pay that out for just one of them to go. That’s the thing, as a parent you’re in control. You get to say no. As a parent there are plenty of things you’re going to be saying no to over the years, so you might as well get used to it. Is it any worse to say “no you can’t watch telly, go and find something else to do” or “no you can’t juggle with knives, it’s dangerous” or “no I’m not buying that for you, it’s a waste of money. If you still want it when it’s your birthday/Christmas then add it to your list”?

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Clearly everybody brings their children up differently, and I’m not trying to tell anybody what to do here, just saying what I did and how it worked. For me it was partly that I couldn’t afford to spend much on stuff, but mainly that I just didn’t think it was worthwhile. The house filled up with a tsunami of plastic crap no matter what I did, so there was certainly no need for me to add to what they had.

And don’t get me started on those Facebook posts at Christmas with the mountain of presents for the kids. Don’t, just don’t. There’s no need for it. The more you give the less impact each individual present has. You know what gift is going to bring joy to your child, not just on Christmas morning, but throughout the year. Some of the best gifts I got my kids over the years were a puppet theatre along with dressing up clothes for them to put shows on, bikes, an Xbox shared between the two of them and a shared laptop. I’ve been lucky in that my kids are only 18 months apart in age and have similar interests. This has meant that a present for one is effectively useful for both of them.

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The Extortionate Cost Of Childcare

That’s us dealt with some of the costs you can control with kids. Clearly there are some extra costs that you can’t do anything about. Childcare is an absolute killer. Unless you can manage your work around your kids then you’re going to need some sort of childcare or loss of income. Maybe some people manage to run a business from the house with the kids running around their feet. Hats off to them if so, because I cannot for the life of me see how that would be feasible.

Initially I went back to work full time working a late shift starting at lunchtime. This meant that I “only” needed childcare in the afternoon. With one child this was tough financially, but just about doable. Eighteen months later I added a second child into the mix. This time I had learned my lesson from the first time around where I’d gone back to work with a three month old baby at home. No sleep, a full on job and a touch of post-natal depression made that tough.

Second time around I took a full year off and went back to work part time, working in the evenings when my now ex came home from work. I couldn’t organise part time hours in the job I’d been doing, so I had to switch departments, drop a grade and obviously deal with less money coming in because of the fewer hours I was working. My eldest didn’t sleep through the night until he was four, my youngest used to get up at 6 am and I was working till 10.00 at night. So basically I was constantly exhausted, working a soul sucking job and never seeing my husband. We used to take it in turns to sleep at the weekends. Funnily enough we ended up getting divorced!

For me then I didn’t have any childcare costs second time around, but of course I was earning a lot less as a result. My pension got capped during this time as well, so what I’ll get in retirement is based on what I was earning during that time. A nice financial hangover of the child rearing years. Once the kids were at school I switched my hours to the daytime, but still worked part time so I could collect them from school. They went to the breakfast club in the morning as that was much better value than the after school club.

Luckily my parents have always had the kids to stay in the school holidays. That has been an absolute lifesaver. It’s meant the kids have a brilliant relationship with their grandparents, my folks have loved it and it has saved me a massive amount in childcare over the years. I honestly don’t know how I would have managed without them. Even now my dad’s been on hand to take them off to university interview days etc when I’ve been working.

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So from a cost point of view we’ve got the set up costs of having a baby, which as we’ve seen can most definitely be minimised. You’ve got childcare, which is hard to avoid. You either have to pay out for childcare or you have to organise your work life in such a way that you can look after your kids yourself. I went down the route of wanting to be there for them myself and earning less. In all honesty it probably would have suited me better to have worked during the day when they were younger. Being with them all day and then going out to work all evening was just too much. I think I might have appreciated them a bit more too if I’d had a bit more time away from them. A bit of time for myself. Linked to the childcare is the loss of income. You might choose to work less and not earn as much, change the type of work you do to fit in with your kid’s needs and earn less and you might be less invested in your career because of prioritising your children and so miss out on opportunities and so earn less. There seems to be a bit of a common theme going on here!

Maybe that’s not always the way it goes. It could be that having children motivates people to do well in their career and so be able to provide for their children. That’s not the way it worked for me, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. There are plenty of people in higher grades than me at work that are parents, so maybe I’m just using that as a bit of an excuse. Certainly for me the kids were my priority, and anything else came secondary to that.

I’m definitely more risk averse since I became a mum. I very much feel that I have to be in a position to provide for the kids and make sure that we’re all OK. I used to be much more inclined to move from job to job and feel that if it didn’t work out then it wasn’t the end of the world. Now one of my first concerns is that my working arrangements fit around family life. They’re old enough now that this isn’t really something I need to worry about, and yet still I do. In order to move on within the area that I work in just now it’s likely that I would have to work much more often in the evenings. This has always stopped me going for other roles, as I feel I want to be there for my boys when they need me.

It doesn’t seem very positive so far does it? Kids are expensive in terms of getting set up for them. You have loss of income from maternity/paternity leave. You either need childcare or a change in working hours to look after them, which in all likelihood will mean you have less money coming in. You’re likely to be less flexible in taking advantage of advancement opportunities at work. And of course you can’t work away from home, which many roles might require. So you have less money, a less good career potentially and you’re constantly juggling schedules to make sure that your kids are looked after and are healthy and happy.

Babies Are Torture Machines

Oh, and did I mention that the first five years are brutal. Total and utter torture. Yes, babies are cute and your heart fills with joy when you see them. Yes, you know that you would die to protect them and would do anything within your power to keep them safe. That doesn’t take away from the fact that they don’t sleep, they cry a lot and they completely and utterly take over your life. I could not go back to the baby stage no matter what you paid me. I know this is not everybody’s experience. People love babies, they want to be needed and they just love how dependent their kids are on them. Not me. I was always trying to get my children to the next stage, to get them to need me less.

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I am willing to admit that I might not have been doing my parenting in quite ideal circumstances. A child that doesn’t sleep until he’s 4 is not necessarily the norm. My working arrangements, whist ideal from a financial point of view where not great from a life stand point. And when you throw a divorce into the mix when the kids are just 2 and 3 then it’s never going to be easy. I felt like I lost myself for quite a long time. I don’t feel like that any more, but I think it’s important to acknowledge how I felt at the time. Too often we see the idealised parts of family life on social media. I can’t be the only one who felt like this when my children were young.

Prepare To Be Exhausted

The children took absolutely everything that I had in terms of my energy levels. I was exhausted for such a long time. It’s hard being a parent, especially if you want to do it well. Maybe I could have given them more screen time to give myself a break, but that wasn’t how I wanted to play it. I have been far from a perfect parent. I have made lots of mistakes. I’ve been grumpy with my children, when I wanted to exude patience. I’ve craved time to myself rather than wanting to spend every waking minute with them. I am confident though that I have done the very best I could have done. Parenting is something I’ve taken incredibly seriously. I wanted to do my absolute best. I’ve fallen short on many, many occasions, but I know that I’ve given it my all.

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Reading this it sounds as though I regret having my children. This could not be further from the truth. Being a mum is the most important thing in my life. My kids are my top priority. I get the greatest joy from time with my family. Even when they were younger and it was much harder I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It was hard though, really hard, and I think we need to talk about that more. I desperately wanted children, I waited a number of years before I started my family to make sure we were ready, and yet still it was incredibly difficult. The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life by far. The most rewarding too mind you. If it’s something you really want to do, then go for it. Be aware though that it’s going to be tough. It’s also going to be the ride of your life.

September And October Didn’t Quite Go According To Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 2019 Net Worth Figures

Last month was not so great for the net worth figures, so let’s see how we’ve done for the month of August. As always I have put the previous month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I show my figures including my house equity, which is always a nice figure to see, even though I know that I’ll always need somewhere to live, so it’s not a true reflection of what I have to live on. I also show the figure excluding the house equity but including the mortgage. Although this seems counter-intuitive, as without the house you wouldn’t have the mortgage, I include it to show how I’m doing in my quest to become mortgage neutral.

Debts

Mortgage £84,107.72 (£84,843.68)

Assets

Cash £16,157.39 (£15,750.70)

Money in sharesave £12,804 (£12,304)

AVC’s £4,486.86 (£4,217.63)

Shares £31,523.07 (£27,982.60)

House £245,000  (£245,000)

Total Assets £309,971.22 (£305,254.93)

Net Worth including house equity

£309,971.22 – £84,107.72 = £225,863.50 (£220,411.25)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£64,971.22 – £84,107.72 =  -£19,136.50 (-£24,588.75)

It’s nice to see a bit of a bounce back of the shares that I own. Last month was a bit of a tricky month, with a big drop in the value of my shares. It’s satisfying to see that this has only been a temporary setback (here’s hoping!) and that things seem to be on the up again.

I’m very happy to dip under the twenty grand mark in terms of how far from being mortgage neutral I am. This continues to be a two pronged attack from me. I’m throwing as much as I can afford towards the mortgage to bring it down and also saving as much as possible to increase my assets. This is a really important target for me. I didn’t formally track my net worth in my last house, but I would periodically do a back of an envelope calculation, and was always delighted to know that my non-house assets totalled more than my mortgage. Psychologically there’s something very comforting about knowing that you could cash things in and pay off what you owe.

Then I decided that I wanted a bigger house for myself and my boys to enjoy now, and to have enough space for them to keep coming home to visit when they fly the nest. I’ve gone back and forwards on this decision about whether it was the right thing to do. We were probably ok where we were, but I’m such a homebody, that I really appreciate the extra space that we have now. And the thing is that I have an asset here that I can sell. There’s no saying that I have to stay put as and when my situation changes. I’ll definitely feel more comfortable though when I’m mortgage neutral.

Pensions, Pensions, It’s All About The Pensions

It’s nice to see my AVC contributions growing there. I don’t pay a lot towards this, it was basically just a pay rise that I got a year ago that I decided to put into AVC’s before I got used to having the money. As I’ve got a defined benefits pension that I don’t need to pay into, I’m in a reasonably good position. Saying that, because the company screwed us over big time as far as this pension is concerned, it’s nowhere near as good as it should/needs to be. So my plan is to try to enhance this pension with AVC contributions and shares.

I was blindly paying AVC’s without much thought having gone into it. This month I decided I needed to do a bit of research, so I’ve been ploughing through some rather heavy documents figuring out what charges I’m paying, looking at how I’ve got my money invested and what my options are when I do finally pull the trigger on work. I was pleasantly surprised on the charges side of things and I already knew that I needed to diversify the investments as it’s all UK based at the moment.

My plan on the pension side of things is to rejig the investments a bit to get a bit of diversity in there and to contact the pension company to ensure that my understanding of what happens to my AVC pot when I retire is correct. It looks as though I can put my AVC balance towards my cash free lump sum on my main pension, so that I’m not taking as much cash out of that side of things and so keep my pension income as high as possible.

I’ve Finally Embraced Index Trackers

I’ve opened up a Vanguard index tracker ISA this month and have put in the money I received from my dividend payments. At just over £600 it’s not a massive amount, but it’s a start. The next two sharesaves that mature I’m buying and immediately selling to get my money along with the profit, and that’s going straight into the index trackers too.

Water, Water Everywhere But None Of It Covered On The Home Insurance

I’ve got a bit of an expensive time coming up. I’ve had some home emergencies this month, with a leaking toilet downstairs and then a more serious problem with the ensuite shower developing a crack in the shower tray and water coming through the kitchen ceiling. Luckily I realised the ceiling was sagging ominously, so managed to poke to a couple of holes in it to avoid total collapse. I seem to have got to it just in time.

I thought I might be covered on the home insurance, but it seems not. There’s a £500 excess for water escape anyway, so it probably didn’t make much sense to claim. I’m not great at DIY, so I got my handyman round to have a look for me. The ensuite basically needs a fair amount of work to get it fit to use again. As the toilet in there is such a shocking design it can’t cope with a single sheet of toilet roll, there’s an argument to be made for starting from scratch with it. I’d keep the shower and shower screen, as they are fantastic, but other than that it’s basically a new bathroom that’s needed.

I’m not wanting to shell out for that just now, but we do need a bathroom that we can all use, as up till this point we’d all been making use of the ensuite as the shower in there is amazing. The plan that I’ve come up with is for him to sort out my main bathroom. Just now it’s only tiled half way and only has a hand held shower and no shower screen. He’s going to take off the tiles, put up wetwall, attach the shower to the wall and put up a shower screen. Total cost under £700. He’s also shaved a little bit off the bottom of the downstairs loo door which would no longer shut because of the leak. That means we can now use it again, and we’re just going to live with slightly wobbly floor tiles that have lifted because of the escaping water.

At some point I will get the ensuite done properly, but in the meantime at least we’ll have a fully functioning main bathroom. Oh, and at some point I’ll get something done about the kitchen ceiling. I’ve got a dehumidifier going to dry it out, but actually it doesn’t seem too bad, and I might even get away with just paining over it. Disaster averted. I always meant to get the main bathroom done at some point anyway, so this has at least forced my hand. Hopefully this won’t impact on my figures too much for next month. These things happen when you’re a home owner, and at least I have the money there to make use of.

Generally speaking I’m really happy with the figures for this month. They’ve definitely perked up a bit since July. There are still changes that I need to make to my finances, but I know what they are and I just need to wait for the right time as far as the share price is concerned. A little bit of tweaking to do with my pension, but nothing too drastic. I seem to have things fairly well automated, which for me is probably the key to being consistent. If things happen automatically with my money without me being involved then all I need to do is set and forget. That’s the plan anyway.

August Goals Update

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

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

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

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

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

So What’s Next?

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

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

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

July’s Net Worth

It’s that time again. Time to step back and have a look at the bigger picture and see what I’m worth. In financial terms anyway. July was holiday month, which was lovely but probably not all that conducive to tightening of the old belt and keeping the finances in order. Life’s to be lived though, and to be honest we probably didn’t go all that crazy. As I put everything on the credit card and pay it off in full when the bill comes in, the holiday spending won’t really show until August’s figures in any case. So, without further ado, here’s my net worth for July, with June’s figures showing in brackets after for comparison.

Debts

Mortgage £84,843.68 (£85,539.21)

Assets

Cash £15,750.70 (£16,174.12)

Money in sharesave £12,304 (£11,804)

AVC’s £4,217.63 (£4,138.87)

Shares £27,982.60 (£32,684.43) YIKES!!!!!

House £245,000 (£245,000)

Total Assets £305,254.93 (£309,801.42)

Net Worth including house equity

£305,254.93 – £84,843.68 = £220,411.25 (£224,262.21)

Net Worth excluding house equity

£60,254.93 – £84,843.68 = -£24,588.75 (-£20,737.79)

Well that’s not gone quite as planned!

OK, so I’m going to try and take the positives from this. I’m a glass half full kind of girl, so it goes against the grain for me to be all doom and gloom. The things that I have any control over are going pretty well. Cash is very slightly down, but to be honest I’m amazed it stays relatively stable. I’ve had an expensive year, and I don’t think the cash figure has changed all that much. I’m still saving the full £500 a month in to my work’s sharesave scheme and I continue to overpay my mortgage. I know, I know, from a financial point of view it makes absolutely no sense. From a sleeping at night and feeling like I’m making progress perspective though it’s invaluable. The mortgage is coming down nicely, although more slowly than I would like. I probably need to give myself a bit more credit on that though, as I have paid off £15k in just over two years.

The rest. Well, what can I say? There’s not much to say really. Except I really hope Brexit gets sorted at some point, things settle down and the share price recovers. It reiterates what I’ve known for a long time that it’s madness to have all my shares in the company that I work for. I’m no longer reinvesting the dividends in more shares, instead I’ll put that money in index trackers. There’ll always be times when the market tanks, there’s nothing to be done about that except hold your nerve and hunker down. But I’m too vulnerable with absolutely no diversification.

My next sharesave matures in January and I’m going to take any profit and run and put the money in index trackers as fast as I can. Of course, since I’ve done my net worth figures for this month the share price is down even lower, so there might not be any profit to take if this keeps up. This is turning in to a bit of a depressing update, which is not what I want. I’m still in a pretty positive place. My Happy Path Fund is still over £60k (for now) and my mortgage is coming down nicely. I was really hoping to get mortgage neutral in the next year, but that’s looking a bit of a tricky ask now. Saying that, things often change quite quickly. As long as I keep doing my thing then I’m in a better position than I would be if I wasn’t on the road to FIRE.

Life’s good despite the state of my July Net Worth

So that’s not been the most upbeat of an update, which is a shame as I’m feeling really positive about life. That’s me finished my second week back at work after my holidays. I came back feeling really energised, full of ideas of what I wanted to change in my life and generally wanting to embrace life and make the most of opportunities that present themselves. Sometimes those sorts of feelings disappear quite quickly as the routine of working sets back in. I’m happy to report that hasn’t happened to me. Not yet anyway!

I’m remembering the good things that I like about my job and trying to focus on those, rather than getting sucked in to feeling ratty about the nonsense that goes on no matter where you work. I’m getting more sleep, which is definitely helping with my positive frame of mind. Going to bed earlier is also having the knock on effect of me getting up earlier, only five minutes after my first alarm goes off, rather than my normal twenty minutes of snoozing. I’m actually getting some things done in the morning before I go to work. And not boring domestic things. Things that are actually important to me, like doing my physio exercises for my knee and doing some Spanish studying. This is setting me up for the day nicely, as I feel that the day’s started well and the momentum keeps me going in that direction.

As I’m getting more sleep on a night time I’m no longer feeling the need to have a lunchtime sleep in my car. The knock on effects just keep on coming. So not only do I avoid coming back to my desk after a lunchtime snooze feeling all groggy, I’m even going out for a walk instead so am getting a bit of exercise and hitting the afternoon feeling all energised. I’m not saying that I never feel tired during the day, but things are definitely going in the right direction.

So I feel that my holiday has really done me some good. I’m feeling rested and refreshed. I’ve had a chance to think about some of the things that I want to change in my life. I think I’ve always known what I wanted my priorities to be, but I wasn’t always necessarily committing to doing anything about that. It’s all well and good saying something is a priority, but if you don’t build that into your day somewhere then nothing well get done about it. Now I feel that I’m addressing some of the issues that stopped me having my priorities in the right place. There’s still a long way to go, but I feel that I’m moving in the right direction.

June Update, Goal Setting and an Epic Road Trip

The weeks and months are flying by. I’m long overdue a bit of a catch up on how I did on my June goals. I’ll not bother making excuses about why I haven’t updated how I got on or set goals for July. Suffice it to say I spent a fair chunk of July on holiday, spending time with the kids and having lots of lovely family time, rather than worrying too much about what I needed to achieve. So here’s a quick reminder on what my June goals were, along with how I did with them.

  • Get 7 hours sleep a night for at least 15 nights. PASS. I managed to do this 18 nights in June. I seem to be getting in to a bit of a better sleeping pattern. Honestly I’m still feeling quite tired most of the time, so I’m not entirely convinced seven hours a night is enough for me, but at least it’s a start.
  • Have 5 portions of fruit or veg a day for at least 15 days. PASS. Seventeen days in June I managed my five a day. I seem to be much more focussed on this now. I’m still eating a lot of rubbish, but at least I’m getting some vitamins now.
  • Do 15 days of Spanish on Duolingo. PASS. I’m going great guns on this one. I’m on a 70 day streak now and hopeful that this will just keep on going. I’ve also introduced German into the mix now which is messing with my mind. I’m definitely loving the language learning, so this is one I want to continue to plug away at.
  • Get promoted to the gold league on Duolingo. PASS. I totally smashed this one. The gold league is far away in my rear view mirror. I’ve been in the Ruby league for a good few weeks now, which is the top league.
  • Earn £100 on Matched Betting. FAIL. Oh well, it’s always good to leave something to work on for next month. Shame it was this one, but it really just wasn’t a focus for me in June. I made £43.73 profit once I’d covered the cost of my Oddsmonkey subscription. So it’s better than nothing, but it’s hardly going to get me to FIRE at this rate. I’m not too downhearted though as it seems to me that it’s quite likely matched betting will be something that I can dip in and out of as my mood and free time allows. I don’t mind spending time on it, and I am definitely still learning how to make the most of this income stream, so hopefully moving forward it is something I can improve on.

So overall not too bad a result for June. I’d kept my goals pretty basic. I realised that I needed to get the eating and sleeping stuff right to have energy for everything else that I want to do. I still wouldn’t say I’m quite where I need to be on that yet, but I’m definitely moving in the right direction.

August Goals

Now comes the tricky bit. Goal setting for August. I’ve got the Great North Run at the start of September, so I really need to start getting some miles in my legs. Unfortunately I’ve picked up another injury, so I’ve had to rest and am nowhere near where I want to be mileage wise.

My supposedly good knee gave up on me, so I was hobbling about with a decided lack of mobility. This happened right before our road trip, so the timing couldn’t have been worse. Any time I had to bend my knee I had a real problem. So stairs and changing gear were real issues. Just what you need on a road trip where you need to do all the driving! Luckily I was managing to walk about ok, and it gave me a small insight into what it must be like for people with a real disability. I was looking at the world slightly differently, searching for alternatives that wouldn’t mean me having to use stairs.

So for now I just have to be a bit careful. I’ve run through an injury before and have learned my lesson the hard way that continuing to run only extends your recovery time. So I’m being good and have rested and am now building the miles back up very gradually. I really need to make sure I do my physio exercises. They’re so boring, but so necessary. I have a race towards the end of August and two half marathons in September, so fingers crossed that I’m fit enough by then. It’s so frustrating that I had only just done my first long run training for the Great North Run when I got injured. But such is life. I maybe need to get myself a back-up hobby in case this body of mine doesn’t hold up to the rigours of running indefinitely.

So goal wise for August things are going to revolve around health and running.

  • Lose half a stone. This will help with my running no end, and it’s something I want to get really serious about.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep 2 nights a week and 7 hours a night 3 nights a week. The other 2 nights I’m not too worried about. I’ve got loads of sleep whilst I’ve been on holiday, and I’m definitely feeling better for it. This will be a tough one for me once I get back to work, but I really need to keep to this.
  • Do my physio exercises 5 days a week. This one is vital, so I need to stick to it.
  • Do cross training once a week – swimming, yoga or walking. This one should hopefully be ok to achieve, I just need to find a slot for it in my schedule.
  • Decide on where I’m going to put my dividend money when it gets paid next month. I’ve stopped them being automatically reinvested, and instead am going to put them in to index trackers. I just need to figure out the specifics on this.

So I think that’s probably enough to be working on. There’s no reason why I can’t achieve these. I’ve piled the weight on over the holidays, so I need to do something about that pronto. It’s got to the point where I can’t ignore it anymore. There are other things I’ll continue to work on, such as studying Spanish, but that’s pretty much a habit I’ve got established now, so doesn’t need too much thinking about. I’ll keep plugging away at the Matched Betting. July was a bit better for that, but I’m not too concerned about setting a specific goal around that. I’m happy to do as much as my free time dictates and that I have the inclination for.

Holidays are the Best

It’s been great being on holiday. I had a week off where the kids were away and I was just home alone. That gave me plenty of reflection time, which is always useful. The road trip around England and Wales was a lot of fun. We returned to places that we’d enjoyed before, and put some new places in the mix too. We had a chance for some culture, seeing Hamlet in a pop up theatre in York and some more Shakespeare in Stratford upon Avon. The weather was great too, which always helps. I even managed to fit in a catch up with a friend who lives down south.

I couldn’t help thinking whilst I was away that this could be how my life will look like once I reach FIRE. Taking time to visit places, see old friends, make time for some studying and generally just enjoying life. Saying that, I was glad to get home and sleep in my own bed again. I’m not sure I’d necessarily be wanting to travel all the time. Maybe slow travel would work for me so I had a chance to settle in to a place. As we were staying in budget hotels we didn’t have any cooking facilities, so we had to eat out a fair bit. I have to say it’s nice to be back to home cooked meals again, although we did have a couple of cracking meals out.

Time to Ponder

Being away definitely gave me time to think about changes that I want to make in my life. I’ve not really come to any definite conclusions, but I’m pretty sure I want to rejig things a little bit. I feel like I’m in a bit of a rut, and I need to mix things up a bit. I did that thing last year where you say yes to everything (within reason, I wouldn’t be doing anything illegal or morally ambiguous) and that worked pretty well for me. I think I’ll instigate that again. I’ve already started to say yes to some fun things. I’m going to see a couple of things at the festival. It’s ridiculous how close I live to Edinburgh and how little I take advantage of the fringe being on. I’m climbing a Munro next weekend too, which looks like a good (If quite long and tiring) day out.

So hopefully I’ll start to have a bit more fun in my life. I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the amount of experiences that we managed to have on our road trip without spending a fortune. We visited York, Cardiff, Stratford and Sheffield. We shared a family room which kept the costs down, but we also ate out every day. We had a couple of theatre visits and a live streaming of a concert at a lovely Picture House in Stratford. There were also plenty of free things on offer. So we walked the city walls in York, went to the (free and excellent) National Museum in Cardiff, saw some outdoor improvised Shakespeare, did some geocaching in Cardiff, with a phenomenal multi-cache that took us a return visit the next day to finish off and had  some lovely walks in Stratford.

I’m not Broke Yet

Despite the expense of the trip, the budgets are all still balancing, and the finances look ok. So maybe it’s time to loosen the purse strings just a little bit. It’s been lovely having some new experiences, and there’s no reason why that can’t continue now that we’re back home. I’m well and truly coming to the conclusion that you’re a long time dead, and you have to make the most of your time on this earth. I’m clearly a slow learner, as you’d have thought I’d have figured this out by now.

I’m also continuing to explore side hustles, trying to bring extra income in to my life to get me ever closer to my FIRE goal. I feel that I just need to open my mind a bit more to the possibilities that are out there. I guess that’s the good thing about going away and distancing yourself from your normal life. It really gives you the chance to examine your life and think about how differently you could have it set up. I honestly think that a portfolio career is the way to go. Not being too dependent on any one source of income has got to be a sound philosophy. If work goes belly up then you’ve got other income streams that could pick up the slack. I’m definitely nowhere near there yet, but my dividends are starting to grow, my Matched Betting is bringing a bit in (with the possibility of more I’m sure) and my mind is swirling with thoughts of what else I could do.

So all in all going away has been a really positive experience. We’ve had some lovely family time, it’s given me a chance to catch up on some sleep and most importantly it’s given me the space and time to start to see the possibilities that are all around me. As ever the challenge is going to be to keep the momentum going once I get back to work and the holiday is over.