Five books I want to read

Here are five of the many books that I want to read.

The Millionaire Next Door – I had it, read it, can’t find it, must have got rid of it during a declutter or did I lend it to somebody?  I read it about ten years ago before I was paying off my mortgage or saving money.  I’d like to read it again now I am more financially savvy.  I’m sure our old neighbours were actually millionaires next door.  They bought their house, next door to us, when it was first built in the 1940s.  They both worked, had no children and never moved house.  When we moved in both were retired and in their eighties.  They lived a simple life.

Rich Dad Poor Dad – I haven’t read this book.

The Power of Habit – I have heard good things about this book.

The Life Changing Art of Not Giving a F*** – I think this is the kind of book that I need to read.  I may even buy this book.

On Writing – For when I retire and write my best-seller!   I’m also a Stephen King fan.  I find his books a bit hit and miss but when they are good they are very very good.  I would recommend Revival.  Loved it.

So the plan is to look out for these books in the library and the charity shops.

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Final annual financial renewals

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So first of all we have reduced our cable bill by ditching the sport and going to the minimum package and then being offered a lower price to keep the sport, secondly we have changed gas and electricity supplier which will hopefully save us a few pounds a month (plus cashback), now it’s time to renew the contents insurance.

We are with Aviva.  The last few years they have been quite good and given us renewal quotes similar to the previous year.  I always cancel and then renew via Quidco to get some cashback.  This year they want £70 which is £10 more than we are paying now.  An increase of 17%.

I wasn’t always so good at keeping on top of the bills and house insurance.  When we got our first house together I just took the contents and buildings insurance with our mortgage provider and was paying about £50 a month.  At some point I must have become finance smart as I switched provider, reduced the cover, looked out for cashback and shopped around every year before renewing.

So back to this year, firstly I got some quotes for the contents insurance and I then phoned Aviva up and asked if they could match them.  They said no.  I also mentioned that I could take out my policy with them and get £20 cashback from Quidco so asked if they’d discount by £20.  They said no so I cancelled my renewal with them.

After a coffee I got a quote for Aviva via Quidco which came to £52 as they gave me a 20% discount for being an existing customer.  I then added in accidental cover to bring it up to £60 with £20 cashback.  So in total £40 for annual contents inusrance, a saving of £30.  As I split bills 50 50 with Mr 33 this is a cost to me of £20.

So that’s the last of my annual household bills that need renewing.  Council tax will go up in April so I’m hoping that reducing these other bills will cancel that rise out.

So not  a very exciting post.  If you are still reading then I do apologise but I like to keep a note of all the financial wins.  I hope the cute gingerbread house added to your enjoyment.

I’m now looking forward to a weekend where I can plan my next holiday not my finances.

Sunday Ramblings – 8

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I have installed the Calm app and completed Seven Days of Calm.   I can’t say this has been life changing.  I’ve never really got this meditation thing.  I will try the 21 days of Calm and see how that goes.  Now if I had installed a fitness app and done 7 day of fitness then that would be life changing.  I did run for the bus on Friday night and started to feel that runner’s high.  Must do it again or do something to get fit.  I had sad news from an old school friend last week.  She has had heart by-pass surgery.  I phoned, we chatted, she is making a good recovery.  She is not overweight so it was unexpected.  This should be the wake up call that I need to start exercising.

Time to think about New Year’s Resolutions.  I’m already thinking of doing another declutter.  We’ve been here nearly a year now and clutter has started to gather in the spare room.  Clothes sort outs are half done and my wardrobe is full of things I never wear.  Craft stuff sits in a big box and another year goes by without anything substantial being made and projects unfinished.  I’ve ordered Spark Joy to inspire me.

Yesterday we caught up with The truth about slim people.  Mr 33 and I are those annoying slim people.  Slim people who eat a lot and never seem to put on weight.  I do put in on around my middle though but hide it well.  This was an interesting programme.  It came up with interesting facts about why the two slim people were slim.  I will take on these tips.  My old rule of eat less move more is now defunct.

The first thing these two people did was that they didn’t snack.  I don’t tend to snack at weekends but I do in my breaks at work.  A small chocolate bar in the morning and a banana in the afternoon.  Thinking about why I snack it is because it’s something to do or look forward to in my breaks.  I will now make the effort to read my book or find something to do in my breaks.

Another thing was that they self-regulated food.  If they’d eaten a lot the day before they didn’t eat much or didn’t eat until much later the following day.  I think I do this too especially at weekends where I may eat a lot on Friday or Saturday night.  I’d skip breakfast the next day and eat lunch when I was hungry.  Also if there are cakes at work then I often won’t finish my lunch as I’m full.  This ties in with my 7 days of calm where they say eat when you are hungry.  I think I do that.  It’s also easier to do that when you don’t have a family to feed.

Even though they didn’t regularly exercise both did move a lot, things like taking the stairs not the lift, walking to work etc.  So quick wins.  In a normal day that I don’t exercise I do have walks to and from bus stops which is probably about 25 minutes a day.  One is an uphill walk.  I also use the stairs at work so guess what I am exercising!

Both also hardly ever ate out or had takeaways.  There were worrying statistics presented about how often the normal household does eat out or have takeaways.  All food was home cooked and if there were unhealthy things along the way then these weren’t as bad as takeaway food or extra calories consumed eating out.  We hardly ever have takeaways and although we do eat out it is not that often.

Finally both slept well.  Sleep regulates your eating hormones or something like that. I’m always in bed by 11 so usually get a good night’s sleep.

So I’ll be keeping an eye on the snacking and start to be mindful to just eat when I am hungry and not worry too much about three fixed meals a day.

Rather a long ramblings today.

Hope you have a good Sunday!

Habit Tracking

As I’ve mentioned before I’m not on top of my goals for exercising, being fit and healthy  and learning Italian.  I’ve been looking at habit tracker apps on my phone to help me with this.  Before I’ve used 42 goals which worked quite well but did mean that I needed to log in every day and update on my laptop.

I’ve installed the Loop Habit Tracker on my phone (can’t seem to be able to link to it but it’s in the Google Play store).  I’m hoping that knowing that I need to tick things off at the end of the day will encourage me to do those things.  The app also does loads of graphs and stats.  As graphs are one of my favourite things in life then I know I will at least get into the habit of tracking what I do or do not do.

So what am I measuring?

The app lets you set your frequency, asks a question and can even send you notifications to remind you to do things.

This is what I’m tracking:

Exercise – Have I exercised today?  This could be walking or some workout at home.  I expect this to be ticked for the weekends at least.  Hopefully this will shame me into doing more exercise and finding an exercise app.

Fruit – Have I eaten fruit today?

Vegetables – Have I had at least three portions of vegetables?

Meat free days – Aiming for two a week.

Sober – Is it an alcohol free day?  Aiming for six a week.

Music – Have I listened to music today?  A strange one.  Long gone are the teenage days of lying on my bed listening to my cassettes but music does make me feel good and more creative so I try to have music on at the weekends or when I’m doing housework.

Reading – Making sure I don’t miss a day.  This should be the easiest habit to keep.

Writing – Non blogging projects.

Blog – Days when I work on my blog.  Aiming for three days a week.

Italian – Studying Italian – should be daily even if it’s just five or ten minutes a day.  I will set up a notification for this.

No spend day – Excludes bills, food and travel to work.  No target for this but I think it is something useful to track.  I’m not a big fan of no spend days as you can spend more on one spend day than on thirty spend days depending what you buy.  I’d just like to keep an eye on how often I spend money especially during the week.

Travel – Am I out of my home or work town today?  No target here but I don’t want to let a month go by without having been somewhere.

Family – Have I communicated with any of my family today?  An easy one to let slip and a text only takes a minute.

Husband – Have I spent quality time with my husband today?  Have we gone out together, communicated or been a couple?  This will be quite an interesting one as there are days that we hardly see each other due to our working patterns so it’s about remembering to communicate and do things together when we are together.

Social – Moving somewhere new involves making new friends.  This habit means have I talked to my work colleagues today, have I seen or communicated with any of my other friends or have I been out socially  It’s making me make the effort so that friendships can be made or maintained.  It should also encourage me to answer texts and messages promptly not when I feel like it.

Housework – I seem to spend a lot of the weekend catching up on housework and then making lists of jobs that need doing the following weekend.  If I can do jobs during the week then that should free up my weekends a bit.

I’ll let you know how the tracking goes.

Do you use any tracking apps or do you track your habits?

October 2017 Review

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This is my non financial review of October.  What I read, watched and did to stay mentally and physically fit.

Reading

In October I read four books.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye – Michael Connelly
I’m a great Bosch fan and get so excited when I see that there is a new book out.  This one was a disappointment though.

I know why the caged bird sings – Maya Angelou
This is one that I’ve been meaning to read for some time.  I enjoyed it.  I learnt a lot about the American South in the 1930s.  Some of the book was sad and very touching.  For example the chapter about graduation where the students had a white speaker and realised that even though they had graduated opportunities were limited for people of colour.

Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty
I enjoyed this on the tv and wanted to read the book as I thought the book would be better.  It was.  I love a good thriller so I will look out for more of Louise Doughty’s books.

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
I must admit I didn’t finish this book as it was a bit repetitive and seemed to be just stories rather than scientific explanation and evidence.  It was a reminder though to trust your instinct and not to make snap assumptions about people.

That’s my October reading.  I am trying to read at least one non-fiction book a month so I can say I managed that with an autobiography and a psychology book.

Watching

Movies
None this month.

Learning new things/hobbies

Italian – Nothing going on here.  I think I need to pay for Babbel and this will encourage me to do some learning.

Photography – Nothing apart from some quick shots.

Blog – I’m still blogging!  I’ve decided to stick to three posts a week and to make at least one a finance post.

Health and Fitness

Apart from walking nothing exercise related and I’m getting fat so I do need to start to do some exercise or eat less, ideally both.

So that’s my October.  Hope yours was a good one!

Sunday Ramblings – 7

A frugal fail this week when I forgot to bring my lunch box to work so had to buy a double decker and a hot meal at lunch time.  Yes I could have bought a sandwich but as it was a night that Mr 33 was working it seemed sensible to eat a hot meal at work to save me cooking when I got home.  The chocolate?  Well there was nothing in my snack draw so I needed something to get me through the morning.  So £4 wasted due to me being in a rush in the morning.  Mr 33 had actually made my lunch box the night before (bless him) so it was in the fridge waiting to come out.

I can barely contain my excitement that interest rates have gone up by 0.25%.  My cash ISA interest rate is going up by said amount from December 1st.  I am so grateful to have paid off the mortgage and to have moved here.  If we hadn’t been able to sell I’d now be looking at paying more for my mortgage as we were on a variable rate.

Not sure if this is a frugal win or fail.  After downgrading our cable package to the most basic one Virginmedia phoned to offer us the package we are on now – ie Full House with Sky Sports, broadband and free weekend phone calls – for £68 a month.  We are currently paying £75 a month special offer which is due to come to an end soon.  I accepted the £68 as we’d be saving £7 a month but would have saved £28 a month by giving up the Sports channels.  I suppose it’s a case of what you are prepared to pay for things.  We are not willing to pay over £75 for the services we already have.

My friend may be coming to stay for Christmas.  I don’t want to say too much about this as she needs to sort it out with her family first so it may not happen and I will be very disappointed.   Mr 33 is likely to be working over Christmas so I’d be home alone.  Family have invited me but there are travel logistics and to be honest I’d rather be home alone.  As usual Mr 33 thinks there is no urgency to find out which days he is working over Christmas so I will probably find out on Christmas Eve.

Hope you all have a good Sunday!

Savings and budget update – October 2017

Before I used to report savings as a percentage of income.  I included any other income and passive income as part of the savings and income.  This wasn’t really helpful as other income could vary, for example one month I had a large tax rebate, so the percentages were meaningless.  Now I’ve decided to record actual savings.  This is quite a change for me as I didn’t want to reveal actual figures on this blog as so many bloggers are saving loads more than I am a month.   However this is a savings blog about my journey towards early retirement so it seems silly to have a set of graphs and figures on my numerous spreadsheets that I am not sharing.

So here we go, in October I saved £380 towards my retirement.

This money was saved into the accounts shown in the table below:

Oct 2017
Regular saver £250
Cash ISA  £80
S&S ISA  £50
Total £380

I also save into sinking funds or mini savings accounts for holidays, Christmas and birthdays, the flat annual maintanance payments, household, clothes and an emergency fund.  I can take money out of these accounts too but my retirement savings stay invested.  The £380 recorded above is saved just for my retirement and will stay in my savings accounts until I retire.

Passive income

My passive income at the moment comes from interest on savings and investments.  In the past my focus has been on paying off the mortgage rather than investing but now this is done any spare money will be saved so my passive income should grow every month.

My passive income for October was £101.   I’m pleased with this as I haven’t gone over £100 a month this year.

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The passive income was made up of £91 from my S&S ISA and £10.29 from P2P lending.

So for October:

  • Savings  =  £380
  • Passive income  = £101
  • Total = £481

This buys me 14 days of early retirement.

Spending vs Budget

On budget

All bills came in on budget.  These are all fixed direct debits and are unlikely to change.

Under budget

Food was £35 under budget as I tend to over-estimate on this.   See my previous post on food spend for an in-depth look at my food spend in October.  My pocket-money/personal spending money was £85 under budget and travel was £2 under budget.

Over budget

Nothing was over budget this month.

Sinking Funds

I spent from the household, clothes and birthdays sinking funds.

Income

Income in August was my salary and £3 Halifax reward.  Nothing else.  It was a busy month so I didn’t have time to think of money-making ideas.  I had budgeted to make £30 so this was a budget fail.  In future I will just budget for £3 extra income and anything else is then a bonus to be saved.

I ended up with an extra £93 in October.  I saved £50 of this towards retirement and added £43 to my emergency savings which are now at £360.

Towards Retirement

Is there anything that I spent and wished I hadn’t in October?  Any spending that would have been better off as savings?  Nothing this month.

I hope you have all had saving successes in October.

Food Spend – October 2017

The food spend for October came in at £200.50.  This was low and I’m happy with it.  I noticed when adding the receipts up that Mr 33 has been putting a lot of sweets and goodies on the food bill.  We are supposed to pay for these ourselves.  I will be having a word!

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My additional food spend came in at:

Eating out – £27.10.  Not too bad, just two lunches out.  One lunch out was actually with my Prezzo vouchers which I’d exchanged my Tesco clubcard points for.  I still ended up paying £10.  Not sure why as surely the one with the vouchers shouldn’t have to pay anything.

Snacks – £10.34.  A few work things have come up where I’ve had to contribute to a buffet.  Otherwise just sweets, chocolate and other treats.

Coffee – £5.10.  Good.  I tend to only buy coffees at the end of the week.

Wine – £4.99.  Just one bottle.  There is a stash of gin and tonic in the house which I drink when I don’t buy wine.

Takeaways – £0 – Although Mr 33 did treat me to fish and chips.

So my total food spend for the month was £148 compared to £223 last month.  The graph below shows how good I’ve been this month.

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I do have to confess though that the eating out bill was actually nearly £100 higher as I took my dad out for his birthday.  However as this spend was part of his birthday present then the money came out of my birthdays budget so doesn’t need to be reported here.

Hope your food budget came in on budget!

Sunday Ramblings – 6

I have taken the plunge and got rid of our sports channels.  From December we will have a lower broadband speed, but fast enough as there’s only two of us, the basic tv package and free weekend calls for £47 a month.  It would have been over £100 if I’d done nothing.  They did offer £71 for all the Sports for nine months and then it would go up to £87 for three months.  I won’t tell Mr 33 about this and we will see how we go.  This change makes a total saving of £28 a month for us, my half being £14.  So okay not a lot but over a year that is £168.  Enough for a weekend in London.

Talking of London, which I miss, we are far away down here, in my old town we used to go for a day trip.  Talking of London, getting to the point, on Facebook I noticed I was tagged in a comment.   I made the mistake of looking.  It was one of my old friends from when I lived and worked in London, saying that next year would be 30 years since we all lived there and that we should arrange a reunion.  Three out of the six of us were up for it.  I’m pretending I didn’t see the comment.  The other two were silent too.  They’re not on Facebook much like me these days.  However I know that at some point an email will appear and I will have to think of a reason to say no.

It’s sad to say that of this group I only feel close to two of them and those are the two that did not comment.  As much as I had a great time in London I’ve moved on now, I’m married and have new friends.  If there were any 50th birthday parties or weddings coming up then I would go depending on the location, but a get together to just reminisce isn’t for me.

My stepmother sends Christmas cards to over 200 people.  I have made conscious choices to lose contact with certain people in my life.  If I don’t see you, talk to you, text or message you in the year then what is the point in staying on touch with Christmas cards.  It’s better to have a small number of friends that you make the effort to communicate with than a large number that you have no links with.  The London girls are on my Christmas and Birthday card list as I have seen one of them a few times this year and have been in contact with the others.  Although whether I send Christmas cards this year or not is another blog post.

I’m off for a walk by the sea now.  Enjoy your Sunday!

Paying myself first

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Articles on saving money always say pay yourself first.  This has never made any sense to me.  Yes I understand the bit about saving the money as soon as your pay hits your bank account.  The same rule applies for paying off debt or overpaying the mortgage.  I did this with my mortgage overpayments and now I’m saving towards my retirement I save a fixed amount as soon as I’m paid and at the end of the month I put anything else left into my savings or investments .  Yes I get the idea but I’ve always wondered why they say pay yourself first.  Surely paying yourself means giving yourself spending money for the month.  And then the penny dropped.  You are paying your future self.  I expect you all knew this but for some reason this meaning had evaded me!

Paying my future self is so exciting and so motivating.  Instead of moving money from one account to another and updating a few spreadsheets and graphs I am now paying my future self.  I’m paying me money that I will draw on in eight, ten or fifteen years time.  This money means that future me will not need to work until she is 67.  I am paying myself to follow my hobbies or have new hobbies, to have afternoon tea or go to the theatre, to go abroad on holiday or just to walk by the beach.

Suddenly saving has become exciting again.  To spend or to save for future me?