Your Future Self

I spend a lot of hours planning just a few weeks out of every year

If you’re like me you spend a lot of time planning your holidays, considering every detail of just two or three weeks of your life out of every year. In times when we could travel abroad I used to plan our annual two-week holiday to France in great detail. The areas that we wanted to visit, and then the specific tourist attractions in those areas. I’d spend ages on Google Maps looking at the route, picking out small towns where we could stop for our midday meal and consulting TripAdvisor for the best restaurants for that leisurely three-course lunch. place. By the time the holiday came round I’d have it all typed out in a lovely table, with accompanying leaflets that I downloaded giving ideas for walks and cycle rides. I’d include all the travelling times, the day’s activity and where we were staying that night.  

And then the best bit, implementing the plan and getting to visit and experience all the exciting things on the plan. Occasionally things wouldn’t always go as planned – places would be unexpectedly closed or we’d come across a more interesting place to visit than I’d proposed, but on the whole, we did what it said on the plan. It was great. We didn’t spend hours working out what we were going to do or where to go whilst we were actually in France, as all of the hard work was done beforehand. We just typed the day’s destination into the sat nav and off we went.

What do you want to have achieved by the time you’re old?
What about the rest of our lives?

Now, I love holidays and I’ve certainly missed going away this year, but they are only a small part of most people’s lives. The rest of the time, the 47-50 weeks of the year when you’re not away, just happens. When it comes to that time, i.e. the majority of our lives, few of us take the trouble to consider our destination or what we actually want to do on our journey. We all know the general plan – school, uni and/or job, find a partner, buy a house, kids, grandkids, retirement, death.

The trouble with not making a plan is that you may arrive at a place that you never wanted to be or you end up sitting in that chair in the old folks’ home thinking about all the things that you were going to do, but never did.

It will always end like this, but what about the journey?
Advice from Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey, the authority of ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, talks about beginning with the end in mind. In order to decide what you want ‘the end’ to be he suggests imagining your funeral. I know it’s morbid and not something most of us want to think about, but bear with me here. Just take a moment to consider what you would like your family and friends to be saying about you after your life is over. What have you achieved? What good have you done in the world? What was important to you? This can help give you some general themes e.g. she loved nature and wildlife, he was an entrepreneur who took risks and made a million, he devoted himself to his family.  

Write to Yourself

In order to begin to me more specific about your future life, what I recommend is writing a letter to the present you from a you in the future. Decide how far into the future you want to go. Imagine it’s 2025 and Covid19 is a distant memory. Describe your ideal life. Consider areas such as your family, home, health and job. If you’re reading this in December and about to make your New Year goals perhaps just take yourself a year into the future and contemplate how you’d like to be living in December the following year. You can make your new life as realistic or fanciful as you want.

As well as activities you can also look at the sort of person you want to be e.g. someone who looks after their health, a person who gives to charity, a non-drinker. You can then use those principles to guide your current choices e.g. cutting down how many glasses of wine you have on a night out. You don’t need to change everything all at once, but just know the direction in which you’re going.

My Future Self

I’ve started to do this recently, looking at the life I’d like me and Mr Simple to be living when we’re retired. Not only does it give you long term goals to work towards, you can also identify things that you can do now. Mr Simple and I met in a walking group and we used to spend one day most weekends out hiking in the years before we lived together. More recently, particularly since we’ve moved to our current home, we’ve spent most of our free time working on the house. When I saw that in our retirement I’d like us to spend time together hiking I realised that was something that I could implement now. We don’t plan to go every week, but I’ve put it in the diary for once a month. So far we’ve managed to do this on two occasions. It was great to see the hills again, although my body’s not used to it now, but it was amazing. It’s particularly good at these times when you have to enjoy the simple pleasures that life has to offer.

Get Started

So, do you want to put as much thought into the rest of your life as you do into your holidays? If you’re not sure where to start I’ve got a freebie for you setting out areas of your life to consider. Just sign up below to get a copy and start planning the rest of your life.

Further inspiration from my favourite life coach – Natalie Bacon’s podcast and future self free training.

.

Ideas For Meal Planning

introduction

As you will know if you’ve been here before I am a fan of meal planning. It’s something that I have discovered since I have been trying to reduce our monthly spending. Like anything it’s a case of trial and error and the last few months of lock down have made it more difficult. Fortunately now that things are easing up I’m back to getting a regular supermarket delivery. If you are trying to reduce your budget, food spending is one of the big three to focus on – housing and transport being the other two. It’s also probably the easiest area to work on without having to make drastic changes to your way of life. If it’s something that you’ve been thinking about for a while here’s a few tips and freebies to get you started.

Firstly check what you already have
Check your fridge and see what needs eating up
Begin with what you have

The first thing that I do is to open the fridge and take out the salad drawer. For me, this is where I store most of our vegetables. Make a list of what’s in there, particularly anything that’s been rattling around for a while and is on the verge of going off. Hopefully that won’t be the case very often in the future as planning your meals helps to reduce food waste. As well as veg what else do you have in the fridge that needs using up e.g. cheese, jars of sauce, half-empty tins, bowls of left overs.

After this, check your cupboards. I keep vegetables like potatoes and onions in there. You’ll obviously have non-perishables, such as tins of tomatoes, lentils and pasta. They don’t need eating up immediately, but I always think it’s a good idea to use up ends of packets or alternatively look at what’s been around for a while. It might also give you ideas for meals that you’ve not eaten in ages.

Finally, look at what’s in the freezer. I tend to put single portions of leftovers in the freezer. Although they’ll keep for a while, they won’t keep forever and so I try to eat them at least by a month after I’ve put them in there. Don’t know what’s in your freezer? Use a fridge magnet to put a list on the door or alternatively stick one on your kitchen noticeboard.

Think about what’s available at this time of year
What’s free or cheap

If like the Simple household you grow some of your own veg you need to add to your list what’s available to harvest. At the moment it’s peppers and tomatoes. Some things may keep in the ground for a while, whereas others, such as tomatoes and runner beans will need picking before they get too big or rot.

Even if you don’t grow your own it’s advisable to have a think about what’s in season. I feel that we’ve lost touch with this as many veg are available all year round. You’re more likely though to get a bargain on something that’s in season in the UK. I know that some people advocate looking at your supermarket flyer as it will tell you what’s on offer. To some degree I can see the sense in that, but usually many products on offer are highly processed ones that aren’t good for you and are more expensive than buying fresh ingredients.

There are lots of recipes freely available on the internet
Find recipes

Once you’ve got a list to draw upon you need to get some recipe ideas. I think that we can get into a rut with our meals and end up cooking the same things week in week out. Whilst we all have our favourites I believe that it’s good to have some variety. You may just discover a new favourite! We’ve got a selection of recipe books that I sit down with regularly. There’s always the internet as well, where you can find thousands of ideas. In more normal times I would regularly get recipe books out of the library. If there were enough recipes that we liked I might consider buying the book, otherwise I’d just photograph the best ones and then take it back to the library.

Ensure you shop with a list
make your shopping list

When you know what you’re going to be cooking over the next week or month you’ll have identified some ingredients that you need, so make sure that you put them on your shopping list. Having a list when you go to the store or do your online order is a certain way to save money and avoid future waste. It’ll stop you just shoving things in your trolley randomly and finding out when you get home that you can’t quite put together enough meals for the week or a crucial ingredient is missing.

Decide how long your plan will be
Structure of the plan

What period of time you plan for is up to you. Initially I was creating a monthly menu, but now we are having a supermarket delivery twice a month I’m planning from one delivery to the next.

There’s also the question of which meals you plan for. I started with just noting our evening meals, but more recently I’ve been planning breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. If you’re looking to lose weight or at least keep it under control, particularly when we are all at home so much and taking comfort in food, a clear plan of what you want to pass your lips makes feeling in control so much easier.

Review

As with any plan it makes sense to review it from time to time and make any changes you think would help. Once you’ve been doing it for a few months, if you keep your plans you can look back and make a list of your favourite recipes and where to find them. This can reduce the time you spend going through cookery books, although it’s always fun to have a few new meals each month.

So there we are. Now there’s no excuse not to get planning those meals. I’ve also created some basic sheets to help you get started. Just enter your email address below to get a copy.

  •  

August Review

We are lucky to have stunning countryside almost on our doorstep
Relaxation

We actually got out walking in August and decided to go to our local national park. I was meant to be away with my mother, but chose to cancel for obvious reasons. Mr Simple then booked the time off so we could have some days out together. It felt strange to drive so far from home. I hadn’t driven outside of our county since March and I think that I had forgotten how to drive on the motorway. It felt great to be out hiking again.

Mr Simple and I used to spend time walking every weekend when we first met. Now we’re going through a period where we’re focusing on renovating the house, but it was fabulous to be out again. I had forgotten how beautiful it is in that area. The views are breath-taking.

We have a week off this month and promised ourselves we would spend at least one day walking again. We also went on a cycle ride locally, discovering lanes and villages that we’d never visited before. I think that I am at my happiest when I’m enjoying the outdoors. As they say, it’s the simple pleasures…

Instead of sugar I focused on reducing my bread consumption
Personal Development

The topic in my life coaching programme Grow You was managing input e.g. sugar, social media, alcohol. I chose to focus on bread, although I have decided not to cut it out completely and am just eating it on weekends. As you know if you’re a regular reader I have been a committed meal planner for a while now, but over the past month I have not only been planning my evening meals, but also breakfasts, lunches and snacks. When you’ve got a plan it makes it takes the decision-making out of eating. In that way it’s easier to make good choices. I just look at the plan and prepare what it says.

I have not yet mastered ‘Teaser’, but my Pilates is still progressing
Exercise

I have continued to follow my Pilates routine, which although it is only 20 minutes on some days is I feel making an observable positive difference. Mr Simple even commented that I was looking more muscular. I’m far from having the body I would like, but I’m certainly going in the right direction.

My average daily steps were 8,150, slightly lower than my target of 9,000. It is also lower than I have done in a month since March, reflecting perhaps some of the atrocious weather we had in August, which always makes me more reluctant to step outside. In planning for the rain that we always get over the winter I have bought a waxed hat. Mr Simple says that I look like Paddington Bear in it. I think it’s very practical. When you wear glasses, as I do, a hood simply isn’t enough.

Another good month for investing
Numbers
 BudgetActual
Food£100.00£136.51
Toiletries£30.00£33.43
Cleaning products£10.00£9.50
Miscellaneous£40.00£31.95

Like last month I spent nothing on social activities or petrol. Mr Simple and I are very cautious and unlike others have not been tempted to ‘Eat Out to Help Out’.

We made our usual payment of £497.11 towards the mortgage and an overpayment of £650.00, leaving a balance of £63,419.39. I invested £2,180.00 into my ISA, some of which was unspent holiday money and by the end of the month the balance was £23,881.35. Adding other savings to that which are in a fixed term savings account my total was £37,179.33. That doesn’t include the £8,000 I have saved for a new car.

Compared to other’s savings my totals always look very paltry, but what I don’t include is the money in my pensions, which are both defined benefit schemes. One is just growing with the cost of living rises as I no longer pay into it, but my current one increases each year. As they are both defined benefit schemes the total amount invested is not disclosed. This morning I was having a quick look at what I would receive if I worked to aged 67, which I don’t plan to do, but that’s when I will receive my state pension. The three funds combined would provide me with an annual pension of £43,000 i.e. I would achieve a FI number of £1,075,000. I suppose that’s one of the benefits of working in the public sector, although unfortunately it means working until traditional retirement age.

Well, that’s all folks. I hope that August was a good month for you. Perhaps you got out and about a bit more as lock down has eased. I’m just still trying to enjoy spending more time at home and looking forward to a healthier bank balance at the end of the year! Take care, Sam

July Review

So how are you doing? Happy that lock down is easing and you’re able to get out and about more or still spending all your time at home waiting for the second wave? Everybody’s different I know. I’m just trying to make the most of having a bit of extra money, saving some and spending a little on a few clothes, which I haven’t done for about eighteen months. It feels very indulgent.

I struggle with bad weather during the summer
Activities

The beginning of July didn’t feel like summer at all as the weather was lousy. At times like these my thoughts always wander to moving to sunnier climes. Fortunately, by the end of the month, when Mr Simple and I had some time off, the sun was shining again. I was meant to be going away with my mum, but decided to cancel. Mr Simple therefore booked some time off and we spent the days, walking, cycling and gardening.

As well as having some time off we met up with some friends for the first time in months, doing a socially-distanced walk along the coast. I also visited a colleague and we sat in her garden for coffee. I’ve got so used to being at home or out just with Mr Simple it was strange to spend time with other people.

As the lock down has eased Mr Simple and I decided that we wanted our bubble partner to be of the four-legged variety. Over the past few years we’ve been boarders for Guide Dogs for the Blind, looking after trainee guide dogs. Covid19 has put paid to that and we have been missing the company of dogs. Occasionally we have walked our neighbours’ black Labrador and so we asked if we could have a bubble with him. Our neighbours have provided a spare harness and lead for us to keep in order to reduce the risk of passing the virus between us. So far we have enjoyed a couple of Sunday mornings walking him on the beach.

Finally, I’ve been doing a few walks locally and have been exploring some areas of our nearby town that I have never been to. I have discovered some disused country lanes running through a nearby housing estate and an old footpath believed to have been used by the Romans.

We’re on our fourth pile of rocks
money in

As we live near the coast and no one has properly dug our garden since the house was built, over the past year Mr Simple has dug tonnes of rock out of the ground. The question has been how to get rid of it without spending a fortune on skips. The answer was to advertise it on Facebook Market Place. We’ve had loads of people coming to collect it to use for rockeries, ponds and dry-stone walls. They’re getting a bargain as I am giving it away and we have saved hundreds of pounds on skips.

We finally received a refund from Brittany Ferries after what seemed like ages and several emails. I ended up putting a poor review on Trust Pilot and that did the trick. They responded within a couple of days and paid the total amount back into my account. I have splashed out and spent my half on clothes. For a while my walking trousers have been too big for me as I am now a size ten, having lost weight a few years ago. There’s nothing actually wrong with the trousers, but I just decided that it would be nice to have some that fit rather than ones that hang off me. Rohan had a sale and so I’ve bought two pairs. I also bought a couple of t-shirts from Seasalt as some of my old ones have developed holes in the elbows.

Although I didn’t welcome having to spend money on ear pods at least I didn’t have to buy a new phone
Money out

In order to listen to podcasts when I am out in the garden I carry my phone around in the pocket of my gardening apron. Unfortunately I think some spilt seed or soil must have got stuck in the earphone jack. Despite attempts to remove it with superglue on cocktail sticks I didn’t have any success. I ended up buying a pair of wireless headphones – a suggestion made by Mr Simple. I must admit that hadn’t even crossed my mind and I was having visions of having to invest in a new phone.

If I could, I think I would never do the shopping myself again
the usual spending

It’s been back to having a regular delivery from Tesco, which has made me realise how expensive the local supermarkets are. Before coronavirus hit you will know that I was having a monthly delivery and topping up with fruit and veg on a weekly basis, which I would buy on way home from work. Now that I am working at home all of the time and the nearest large supermarket is 30 minutes’ drive away, I am having a fortnightly delivery. It costs me an extra delivery charge of £3, but is probably cheaper than paying the petrol to go myself and the produce is much cheaper than buying locally. It also helps that at this time of year we have lots of veggies in the garden.

The total for my half of the food was £140.91 this month. I spent £9.73 on toiletries. My ear pods cost just £24.55. I then indulged and spent £24.98 on books and some hand weights. The book was ‘Indistractable’ by Nir Eyal. I heard him being interviewed by Dr Chatterjee on his podcast ‘Feel Better Live More’. Haven’t yet got around to reading it as still catching up on other books I’ve bought this year. The upside of not having a social life is that I can spend the extra money on personal development books. The hand weights were for physiotherapy exercises for my stiff shoulders.

My ISA didn’t look healthy. I invested £563.65, but my return was only £8.54. My savings totalled £33,623.00 by the end of the month, plus the £8,000 for a new car.  Bills were pretty much what they always are. We overpaid the mortgage by £625.00 and along with the usual monthly payment the balance stands at £64,474.56.

So that’s it. Another quiet month, which as we all know is ‘the new normal‘. How has life been for you? I know many people are struggling with finances at the moment, having been furloughed or even having lost their job. Although I am missing family, friends and holidays we are fortunate that we are both still gainfully employed and as always trying to make the best of things.

June Review

Pain in my shoulders has forced me to have a rest from ‘A Simple Life’
Little to report

To say that it has been a quiet month here on ‘A Simple Life’ is an understatement, as I haven’t written anything since my last monthly review. Unfortunately I have been having some problems with my shoulders caused by too much sitting at my desk and so after a day’s work I have been reluctant to then spend more time typing. I have found some videos on the Pilates website where I subscribe and have been adding them to my daily morning and evening routines. Fortunately that has been helping, but I think it’s going to take a lot more work to completely resolve the problem.

Like most people life has been fairly uneventful and I am still working at home. I must admit I have settled into the routine and I think that I am going to struggle when we get back to normal, which I think won’t be for a while yet. Obviously I miss the social side of life, especially a nice meal out, but I don’t miss all that driving for work. Whereas I used to listen to podcasts when driving for work, I now enjoy them on my daily walk. As a result my step count has increased. My daily target is 9000 steps and whilst there are some days when I don’t hit that, a lot of the time I do. Prior to lock down I was struggling to do 2000 steps some days.

We had a week off in June, which was meant to be a fortnight spent in France, but instead we stayed home and worked in the garden. I cancelled the second week of leave and plan to take it later on in the year. On one day we went fora walk, starting by going through a field with lots of orchids. It was a very hot day, but fortunately quite a bit of the walk passed through woodland. All that hot weather seems a long time ago now, as I sit here looking out at the rain on this mid-July day.

I’d love to be able to work just 6 hours a day
work

It has always been my wish to work part time, but the more I look at our finances the less likely I think it is to be possible, especially if I want to reintroduce some of the things that I have given up in order to try to pay off the mortgage and build up some savings. Recently I have been taking a different approach to work. When lock down started our work dried up for a couple of weeks and I was looking around for things to do. It was agreed that even if we didn’t work a full week we would still be able to claim full time hours on our flexi sheets. After that initial two-week slow patch the work has picked up again, but I have been working really hard on improving my productivity. You may remember I read Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, earlier in the year and I started to implement some of his strategies.

I have also discovered the beauty of ‘calendaring’. I no longer have a to do list. Every task has a spot on my calendar. There are daily repeated tasks such as ’emails and phone calls’. On the notes for that slot I list the calls and emails I need to make on that day. I can’t over-emphasize how liberating this feels. With a to do list you are never finished, as there’s always something left on your list. By calendaring everything at the end of the day you can see whether you have achieved everything that you planned to do. In fact, sometimes I finish my work day early, as I have achieved all of the tasks that I planned to do on that day.

What all of this means is that although the workload has increased I am still managing to work fewer hours every week that the 37 hours that I get paid for. It’s not that I am doing less than anyone else, it’s just that I am doing it more efficiently. I have started to wonder why we pay people for the hours that they put in rather than the amount of work that they achieve. I have been reading more books and listening to some podcasts on the topic of productivity and plan to continue to try to improve my skills.

My aim is to be able to achieve all of my work within 30 hours each week. If I can do this, by the time that life returns to normal, which may not be until well into 2021, I am hoping that I will be a pro at this. The question then is going to be whether I can persuade my employer, which is a public sector organisation, to continue paying me on a full time basis for only working part time. I would argue that if I can show that I am working just as hard, if not harder, than those people doing longer hours, why shouldn’t I be entitled to the same wage.

Close friendships is still a work in progress for me
personal development

The topic in my life coaching program last month was ‘Wanting from Abundance’. In essence, appreciating what you have now, but also wanting to change that, but without feeling unhappy about your current circumstances. One of the areas that I chose to look at was friendships. I think that I have probably written about this before, but I do struggle to find like-minded people. People who I can share my true feelings with. That’s probably why I enjoy reading and writing blogs as I can connect with people on the same wavelength.

The life coach said that I need to be honest with myself first and then open up to other people and they will respond and open up to me. It’s basically putting yourself out there and sharing your feelings and seeing the response in order to make connections with people. I must admit that this is an area that I am still working on. I think that at heart I am a ‘people pleaser’ and am worried about upsetting others. In my job as a social worker I am paid to be diplomatic and so it has become second nature to me. Maybe at home I need to relearn being true to myself, saying what I think and to heck with the consequences. People will like me or they won’t.

A colleague, who lives fairly close, invited me round for a socially distanced coffee recently. It was an open-ended invitation – if you’re at a lose end pop round. In the past I would never have taken her up on this offer and on reflection I think that this may be the problem. Other people are reaching out to me and I am ignoring them. Whilst I haven’t yet been round for that coffee I am off from work at the end of July, so plan to take up her offer then. I suppose the truth is that often we like to blame our circumstances for our situation, as opposed to looking at our own behaviour as the creator of our results.

spending

Life under lock down involves no spending on petrol or social activities, but the amount spent on food has been astronomical. The budget is £140, which is just for my half of the groceries and cleaning items. In June I spent £224.62. It has made me realise how expensive shopping in the small local stores is. Fortunately Tesco’s now have some delivery slots and so my spending in July is likely to be much smaller. Toiletries came to £18.44. I splashed out on some Pilates equipment, as it doesn’t look as though classes will be starting back anytime soon. Fortunately I am enjoying the online program and it makes it easier if I have the right equipment. I also bought four books – ones about improving my focus at work and finding my passion in life . Therefore miscellaneous spending came to £86.15. On the savings front they total £33,000 plus £8,000 put aside for a new car. We paid £1122.11 towards the mortgage, which now stands at £65,492.51.

So there we are. I hope that you are well and using this time wisely. Hopefully coming to terms with the new normal rather than fighting against the reality of a situation which none of us can change. Hopefully my Pilates will help with my shoulder problems and I will get a few more posts up this month.