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.

The Power Of A Good Start To Your Day

I returned from my holiday feeling refreshed and re-engergised, ready to make some changes to my life. Sometimes it isn’t the grand gestures that make all the difference, but rather it’s the little things that have such an impact on my day. I had a lot of time when I was away to assess my life and how I want things to be. I’ve not made any massive decisions, but what I have managed to change is my mind set.

Are there things that I would like to change about my life? Absolutely. Do I know exactly what I want those changes to be? If I’m honest, then not really. What I do know is that I have I seem to have a lot of the basics covered without really realising it. I’ve got great kids who will be spreading their wings before I know it and making their way in the world. Over the last couple of years I’ve developed a lovely group of friends and my social life is in a much better place than it used to be. Even the elephant in the room of the way I make a living is not nearly so terrible as it could be. It’s not necessarily my dream job, and I’d rather not be tethered to my desk for 35 hours a week, but all in all things could be a lot worse. The salary isn’t out of this world, but it’s a lot more than I used to make. We’re recruiting yet again, which I’m taking as a good sign that failing a post Brexit total meltdown I won’t be out of a job any time soon. The benefits are great, with a base rate mortgage that certainly isn’t to be sniffed at.

I know I would definitely love to have more control over my time. Moving towards FIRE is only going to help with this. Whilst I’m not going to be in a position to quit any time soon, I definitely have some freedom money if I choose to use it. I was talking to one of my friends about the fact that something available where I work is the chance to take a few months of unpaid leave. I definitely have enough in the bank to be able to take advantage of that. Whether I’d want to deplete my funds like that is another matter, but it’s a nice option to have in the background if I’ve got something outside of work that I want to pursue. So if I ever get around to that book that I’m sure I have in me, maybe that would be a way to get it kick started.

Positive Mental Attitude Is The Way To Go

In the meantime I’m trying to make the most of life. I’ve gone back to work with a much more positive attitude than I had before my break. The thing is, when I’ve got my positive head on I quite like my job. I basically talk to people about their finances all day long, so what’s not to love? So I’m now just taking it one customer at a time and seeing what I can do to help them with their financial lives. I’m not saying I’m in work heaven, but I’m definitely appreciating my job a lot more than I was before.

Sleep Glorious Sleep

My rediscovered positive mental attitude is making a massive difference. As it the fact that I’m finally getting a decent amount of sleep again. I’m not quite sure at what point I started to think that six hours sleep was enough for me. It’s most definitely not. I’ve always needed a lot of sleep and I get grumpy when I don’t get it, as I’m sure my children would agree. Anyone who’s read my goal setting posts won’t be particularly surprised to hear me talking about sleep yet again. I’ve been banging on about it for months now.

I was trying to get seven hours sleep a night and feeling a bit better for it. I’m now trying to get eight hours shut eye and definitely getting the benefit from that. Now trying and actually getting eight hours a night are two different matters, but I’m getting much closer to managing this. 9.30 sees me starting to faff about and get ready for bed. I’m still not always asleep for ten, but I’m not far off it most nights. With a 6 am alarm call that gives me my magic eight hours. Crucially, even at the weekend now I’m still going to bed pretty early to get my eight hours plus in. As I’m usually up fairly early to run it’s no good me staying up late on the grounds that it’s the weekend. That just makes me too tired to enjoy my time off.

Now I’m not saying I never feel tired now, but I can definitely feel the difference the next day when I’ve only had seven hours rather than eight. And with six hours I’m pretty much dead on my feet. I now walk a couple of miles on a lunchtime rather than sleeping in the car. And whilst I’m not saying I never have a post work power nap nowadays, they are the exception rather than the rule. I feel that I have time to do things on a night time now, as I’m not constantly battling exhaustion.

I have my work set up very well arranged. Once I had my kids I realised I was no longer prepared to sit in traffic jams to and from work. I changed my work location and I’m now only a 15 minute drive from the office. I’ve got a lovely 8-4 shift, so most days I’m home by 4.30. So with a 9.30 bedtime I have five hours every night to do what I want. It never used to feel like it, but five hours is quite a long time. Of course there are things to do. Jobs about the house, spending time with the kids, cooking tea, making the next day’s lunch up, running clubs etc etc. Still though plenty of time to get some serious stuff done.

Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail

To free up some more time I’ve put a cooking rota in place. No reason when there’s me and two teenagers in the house that I should be the only one providing food. The key to my whole week now is Sunday. At some point the three of us have a chat about what meals we’re having the next week and who’s cooking what. This basically writes the shopping list too, as we now know what food we need to buy on the Monday night Aldi shop. I then make up my snacks for the working week ahead, which means each night I only have to make my lunchtime salad up, rather than rushing around chopping up fruit etc to keep me sustained throughout the working day.

Each night before I go to bed I do a couple of tiny things that seem to make all the difference to how my morning goes. I set out my breakfast stuff in the kitchen. It takes no time to do, but when I come down in the morning I love how organised I’ve been and it just seems to make my morning run that much more smoothly. I also set up my laptop with the headphones in ready for my morning studying.

Changing The Habits Of A Lifetime

Previously my alarm would go off at 6am, 6.05, 6.15 and 6.20. I’ve done this for the last 30 years. I always wake up and have twenty minutes listening to the radio before I drag myself out of bed. Not any more. I still have five minutes listening to the radio up until 6.05, then I get straight up. I don’t know how easy this is going to be come the pitch black winter mornings, but so far it’s working like a dream. I get my phone to read me the news headlines for 15 minutes whilst I do my physio exercise for my knee. Then it’s shower time and then downstairs for breakfast. Once I’ve eaten I do ten minutes or so on Duolingo working on my Spanish. I always make sure I’ve done enough to keep my streak going, even though I know I’ll be doing more when I get home from work. Then it’s time to leave for work at 7.30. By the time I get to work I already feel like I’ve achieved some things and I’m on a roll.

In the grand scheme of things I’m still not doing a lot in the morning, but it feels like I’m being really productive and sets me up nicely for a good day. In an ideal world I would make even more time in the morning to achieve things. I’m already starting to think that if I could get up even just twenty minutes sooner I would also have time to do some yoga. I don’t think I’m quite ready to commit to a 5.40 am alarm call and the even earlier bed time, but it’s interesting that after such a short period of time my mind is already starting to think like that.

So all in all things are going very well. My holiday gave me plenty of thinking time and to realise that if I could just get the basics right then my life could be fantastic. I’ve decided to say yes to more things in life. When opportunities present themselves I am just going to go for it. Case in point was a recent trip to Edinburgh to see some shows at the fringe. A friend was organising a day out in Edinburgh and asked if I wanted to come along. She was meeting up with some of her friends who were coming up for the weekend. In the past my introversion would have made me think “oh, spending the day with people I don’t know, I don’t think so”. Instead I just said “that sounds like fun, yes please”. It turned out to be a spectacular day. The sun shone gloriously, the shows were excellent, I spent time with one of my good friends, got to know some acquaintances much better and met some lovely new people. I think I’m going to like this saying yes to things philosophy.

The plan then is to keep sleeping enough, stick with my morning routine, maintain my positive mental attitude, make the most of my evenings and say yes to things so that I can have a fantastic life. Sounds like a decent plan to me

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.

I May Be Worth Less Than I Was Last Month

So this is the first month since I started properly recording my figures that I’m worse off than I was the month before. I might as well get used to this, as I don’t imagine market volatility is going to disappear any time soon. I’ve used a higher Zoopla based house value for the first time this month. I’m not quite sure how good I feel about that, but I guess just keep using my purchase price from two years ago isn’t much better. The higher house value figure has bumped up my total assets figure from the month before.  For the net worth excluding the house equity, which is the one that really matters to me, I’m down. I need to learn to deal with that though, and see it as an opportunity to buy shares at a lower price.  I’m working on that state of mind, but I wouldn’t say I’m quite there yet.

Debts

Mortgage £87,050.51

Assets

Cash £16,728.33

Money in sharesave £11,304

AVC’s £3,987.82

Shares £32,759.19

House £245,000

Total Assets £309,779.34

Net Worth including house equity

£309,779.34 – £87,050.51 = £222,728.83

Net Worth excluding house equity

£64,779.34 – £87,050.51 = -£22,271.17

So despite things not going in the right direction, I still have almost £65K in my Happy Path fund. I’m actually pretty happy with that. I’ve decided to start trying to appreciate what I’ve already achieved, rather than looking mournfully at my spreadsheets thinking about how long I’ve still got to go till I achieve my freedom. In terms of other people’s figures mine look pretty pitiful. But I’ve never really been one for comparing myself to other people. This is my journey that I’m on. It’s never going to look exactly (or even much at all) like other peoples.

I started late and with not all that much income coming in, so it was always going to be a bit of a struggle for me. When I think back to fourteen years ago when I was newly divorced and moving in to a new house with a two and a four year old, I think I’d be pretty happy with the point that I’ve now reached. I was working part time, only earning about £17K a year and had just taken out a £100K mortgage. I had childcare to pay for, and quite frankly I don’t know how I balanced the books and made it all work. I did though.

I’ve come a long way since then. I’m now working full time and bringing in a bigger salary. I’ve been able to buy a bigger house thanks to overpaying my last mortgage and maxing out my work sharesave schemes. Quite frankly there was never a lot of cash to splash around, and I just kept that same money philosophy when I got a better job. We have our Alton Towers trips away now and the odd meal out, but apart from that our spending hasn’t changed all that much.

At work I’m in the same office as the old department that I used to work in. When I start early in the morning it’s really quiet in there and I can hear the phone calls that I used to have to take. Short servicing calls that suck the life out of your soul. I moan about my job from time to time, but when I hear those colleagues taking those calls and having to deal with those mundane enquiries I count my blessings. I used to be counting down until it was time for my next break. Sometimes I would have to put a post it over the clock to stop me checking it every few minutes. Now don’t get me wrong, I needed that job and the hours that I was able to work to allow me to fit in with my childcare. But honestly it nearly finished me off. I could not go back to that. Luckily, unless something goes badly wrong, I won’t have to.

Now saying that, there are a few people in that department that really seem to love their job. They mostly seem to be slightly older people, probably in their sixties I would think. They seem to get a real kick out of talking to customers. They’ve all been there a long time, but they don’t seem to have got jaded at all. I sometimes try and figure out what their secret is. It’s funny how two people can do the exact same job but experience it completely differently. I guess that’s down to your attitude. I know when I come in to work feeling stressed and not wanting to be there then I have a totally different day to when I come in with my positive head on. It really is all about your mental attitude.

The people I’m thinking about who love their job seem to work part time, so maybe that’s the secret. I know one of them is a carer for his disabled wife, so it may be that work is a change for him and a chance to get out of the house. For the most part I get the impression that work is something they enjoy doing, rather than something they have to do. I might be wrong, but maybe they have FU money.

In my department we’ve had a couple of departures recently. They’re doing shift reviews at the moment to try and standardise our working hours. We’re open till 8.00pm – but quite a few of us are on fixed day time shifts. They’ve now said that everybody will have to do at least 1 week out of 8 with an 8.00 finish. I can live with that, so I’ve agreed to the change. Apparently not everyone felt so accommodating. Within about a week of news coming out about these changes then two people had put their notice in. One of them had managed to find another job to go to, but the other just quit with no back up plan. I know he has plenty of investments stashed away. He’s a pretty private guy, but from what I know about his past I’m pretty sure he’s financially independent or at the very least well on the way. It was great to see FIRE in action.

They’re recruiting for new staff as we’re expanding. We’re bursting at the seams already, so there really is nowhere for any new people to sit. We already hot desk, but they literally have no room for any more bodies. So they are offering home working. We would need to work from home 4 days out of 5. I initially thought this would be great, but on reflection I don’t think it would be good for me. I think I would miss the social interaction. I think I would get a lot more done, but I would miss the banter. I only have a 15 minute each way commute, so that’s not a big deal for me. All the benefits that people talk about for working from home don’t really seem to apply to my job. As I take inbound calls I need to be logged on and all the stats are monitored, so there’s no just popping to the shops to get milk. I’m struggling to think of any big benefits to me in the job that I do.

I’m not sure if I’m just being naïve, but I thought that there would be some expenses covered for home working. The business needs people to work from home as they would have to get another building if we didn’t take them up on this. Now I get that some people would be delighted to work from home, and if you have a long commute then you’re quids in, but at the same time it’s definitely a plus for the company too. So they’re going to provide a laptop, keyboard and mouse. They’ll also put a privacy screen in so that customers can’t tell that you’re at home when you’re doing a video interview with them. Apart from that though we’ve to cover everything else. So we just use our own broadband and pay for electricity and heating. We even have to provide our own desk and chair. Now I don’t imagine I’d be using that much extra electricity, but working at home in Scotland in the winter I would definitely need my heating on all day, and that’s going to get expensive. Is this normal? Or would companies normally compensate you for your increased expenses?

Anyway, either way I don’t think I’m going to put in for it. Especially as I don’t have a partner I think the social part of work is particularly important to me. Which is now making me worry about FIRE. If I don’t think I am going to be able to cope with the social isolation of working for home then how the hell am I going to cope with no work at all? I suppose I won’t be tethered to the house in the same way that I would be if I was working.

I think the key when I do finally pull the plug on working is to make sure I get out of the house enough. I have hermit like tendencies, and have to be dragged kicking and screaming out in to the real world sometimes. I enjoy it when I’m out, and I most definitely need the social interaction, but I don’t always have the inclination to go out and be social. At least I have my running clubs now, which give me a much needed social structure. I just have to hope I don’t get injured, as so much of my socialising revolves around running.

One of the managers was saying that she thought home working would suit me down the ground, and she also said that she thought I’d never retire as I would never want to stop working. My immediate thought was that she’d got me all wrong, but the more I thought about it the more sense it made from her perspective. I can’t be bothered with all the office politics and just want to get on with the job in hand. From that point of view home working would be perfect.

As far as never retiring is concerned, that’s definitely not right, but I know where she’s coming from. Although I want to stop working, I don’t want to sit about the house watching telly and painting my nails. I need to have a purpose to my life and feel that I’m achieving my goals. But those goals don’t need to be provided through the structure of work. I already set myself goals that have absolutely nothing to do with my working life, and that won’t change come FIRE. In fact it just means that I’ll have all the more time to work towards ever more stretching goals.

I’ve already started looking at Open University courses that look really interesting. I always fancied doing a modern languages degree, and FIRE would give me the time and mental energy to work on something like that. I’m already working on improving my Spanish skills, and think I might add German in to the mix at some point. I’m not sure languages are necessarily a natural fit for me, as I find them quite difficult, but I do enjoy the learning process and I enjoy the fact that they have such practical applications. That’s definitely something for me to think about.

So I think now is the time for me to start designing what I want my ideal post FIRE life to look like. My son was saying to me the other day that I shouldn’t wait for FIRE to do all the things that I want to with my life. “You might never reach FIRE mum”. He’s absolutely right. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, and finding what you’re passionate about now means that come FIRE time you’ve got those interests in place and the time to spend on them.