Rich Habit Number One

Are you aware of your daily habits? Are they the habits of a rich person or a poor person?

In his book Rich Habits Poor Habits, Tom Corley describes how before you begin to develop good habits you need to assess the habits that you already have, good or bad.

Keep a record of your daily habits

He recommends that for three days you carry around a notepad or make notes on your phone, of every activity, thought or decision, that is a daily habit. You will know that something is a habit as you will find yourself repeating it every day.

Once you have your list decide whether each one is a positive or a negative habit. When you have done this, take your list of negative habits and invert them i.e. turn them into good habits that you can foster.

For example, ‘I watch too much TV’ becomes ‘I limit myself to one hour of TV per day’.

For 30 days try to follow your new good daily habits. Review them in the morning, at lunch time and at bedtime in order to remind yourself of them and assess how you are doing.

I would suggest setting up a habit tracker, i.e. a calendar with the habits listed and then each day you can tick off the ones that you have achieved. It’s good to look back over the tracker at the end of the month to review your progress. If you manage to do something every day for a month it will probably have become a habit by then.

So what are my poor habits?

The first one is watching too much TV with Mr Simple. He will sit in front of the box for over three hours every evening. Often I slope off to my study to plan or write for the blog (which he doesn’t know about). I think he wonders what I spend time doing. If I did tell him at least he would know why I like to sit in front of my computer most weekday evening, but I am afraid that he will think that it is a waste of time.

Consuming too many carbs on the weekend e.g. toast and marmalade, crisps, drinking lager (albeit it alcohol-free). In the week I am much more disciplined with my diet.

We probably all spend too much time on one of these

Getting lost on the internet – don’t we all do that sometimes? The trouble is when I spend too much time on the computer, added on top of my work, I get problems with my shoulder.

So how could I invert these poor habits into rich habits?

Watch only one hour of TV per day Monday to Thursday. I must admit that on the weekend I quite like to watch a film together after dinner.

I am not overweight, so at the moment I am getting away with eating more carbs at the weekend. I am not sure that I want to change it.

Do my physio exercises every day to strengthen the muscles in my shoulders. According to my physio this will stop them getting so tight. This is one that I definitely need to work on. It has been on my habit tracker in past months, but has fallen off. I will certainly get richer if I do it as physio appointments are currently costing me a pretty penny.

I’m sure that I’ve got lots more bad habits, but I need to put Tom Corley’s recommendation into practice and spend time assessing them.

How about you? What are your poor habits?

Are you brave enough to share them? How could you change them into rich habits?

In Praise of the Library

Libraries- an amazing and free resource in every town

Do you know everything that is available at your local library?

We all know that you can get books, but do you know what else is available? Actually I’m not sure if everyone knows that you can get books, as I do seem to meet a lot of people who never go to the library, or at least last went when they were a child.

I am a regular at the library. In fact, at one point I was reserving so many books that a staff member said that she knew our answerphone message off by heart having listened to it almost every week when she rang to say that my books were ready to collect.

I have to say that our library service is fabulous. You can reserve books online from any library in the county and they will bring it to your local library for you collect. In addition, they can request books from several neighbouring authorities for you. Each of these services is free.

In my younger days I used to spend a lot of money buying novels, but after reading them once they then usually sat on the shelf for years collecting dust. I still love buying books, but now I reserve my money for non-fiction.

I use the library mainly for novels and love just to pick a book off the shelf if it looks interesting. As it’s completely free of charge it doesn’t matter if I only manage to read a few pages and then decide to take it back. Where else can you borrow something, use it for its intended purpose and then take it back when you’ve finished and pay absolutely nothing?

Occasionally I pick non-fiction books off the shelf, normally ones about food, finances or lifestyle. We have often reserved a newly-released cookery book to see if we would be interested in buying it.  I will try out a few of the recipes and if we enjoy them then I may order it.

Download an audiobook

Apart from paper books I have also downloaded audiobooks to listen to in the car. Most libraries appear to have these available, along with e-books and again they are free.

A little bit of recent research has also shown that the following are available in libraries throughout the country, mostly for free:

  • Online magazines
  • Online newspapers
  • Researching your family tree – you may have to go into the library rather than access it remotely.
  • Reading groups
  • DVDs
  • Book prescriptions
  • Digital drop-ins – help with computers, tablets, etc.
  • Careers advice e.g. help with cvs and job-hunting
  • Researching companies
  • Business support -workshops and seminars e.g. market research resources, how to grow your business
  • Webinars
  • Free one to one business advice
  • Activities for children, e.g. craft events, messy play.

So, if you don’t use your local library, shame on you.

If you do, but it’s only for books, maybe have a look at what else they offer.

If you’ve cancelled that magazine subscription in order to save a bit of money you might be able to read it for free online.

If you miss immersing yourself in the day’s news, check out online newspapers.

Ninja Thought Experiment #5

Life is good. You finally did it! You pulled the plug on your day job after reaching financial independence. You never have to work for money ever again. But, you’re bored. You need something to do… You need a project! You grab a piece of paper and a pen and start thinking. Now that you’re financially free, what projects do you want to complete? However ambitious, however small, you now have the time to pursue anything that you like, what will you accomplish?

I started writing this post some time ago and then I happened to be watching Mr Money Mustache’s new YouTube channel and in episode four he said the following:

When you are retired you are the same person, it’s just that the work part goes away. The question is what are you filling your days with now, outside of work i.e. what are you doing on the weekend? If you can get a good weekend package then that is just going to expand to be your full-time life when you retire. He went on to say, you should plan your post-retirement life around these five factors:

  • Outdoors
  • Social
  • Physical
  • Generous
  • Challenge

As I cannot dispute that MMM knows what he is talking about when it comes to early retirement I thought that thinking about each of these points would be a good way to answer this challenge.

So here we go…

Spend more time in the garden

Outdoors

At home I would have more time for the garden. As I write we are only just developing our garden. By the time we retire it will hopefully have matured. Not working would give me more time to grow vegetables all year round. I would love to be able to open it for the National Gardens Scheme. Several houses in the village do this and I would like to be able to join them at some point.

I have recently considered selling some produce from the garden. A couple of years ago we had loads of courgettes, just too many to eat, and I put them in a box outside the house with a notice telling passers by to help themselves. I expect I could have made some money selling them. Mr Simple makes jam, as we have fruit bushes in the garden, so maybe he could do a bit more of that. Eventually we could have a permanent stall outside the house. It wouldn’t make a fortune, but it would be fun.

Social

I belong to a couple of social groups in the village where I live. Quite a few of the members are retired and go out together on weekdays. Obviously I can rarely go along as I am in work. I would therefore be able to be a much more active member of these groups.

My main social interaction is though, sadly to say, on line. Probably because I find that I have a lot more in common with people whose blogs I read than I do with some of my friends. Sad, I know, but the truth. At the moment I struggle to find enough time in the day to post on Twitter, so I would have more time for this and other social media.

Physical

The joys of hiking

You’ll hopefully remember from my staycation posts that Mr Simple and I enjoy walking. In fact, we met through a young ramblers group. We used to go walking every Sunday. Since we have moved house weekends have been taken up with chores and DIY. If we didn’t have to work we would have time again for walking. We also have bicycles, which spend most of the time in the garage. We live in a rural area with lots of lanes to explore and so cycling would definitely be on the agenda.

Generous

Before I had a full-time job, which wasn’t until my early thirties, I used to spend a lot of my spare time volunteering for an international charity. My current job involves helping people, but it’s more about decision-making than hands-on helping. I think that once I don’t have to work for money I would want to do more direct helping work. I know that there are lots of charities and I am sure that I could find something to do, maybe just once a week or once a fortnight.

More time for reading self-help books

Challenge

I would probably need some mental stimulation, as currently the main way that I get that is via work, but also through reading all those great FIRE blogs and self-help books. Over the past few years I have learnt some French and Italian. Many classes are held in the day time and so weren’t available to me. My French evening class involved not getting home one night a week until 10pm, which for someone who is a morning person I found really difficult. It was also hard to maintain concentration after a day’s work. A daytime class would still enable me to get home at a reasonable hour. I would also have plenty of time for homework and to meet up with classmates to practise what we had learnt.

So, I am not sure whether I have answered Saving Ninja’s question, as technically none of these are projects. They are though things with which I like to fill my time, or with which I would like to fill more of my time if I didn’t have to work for money. They are I suppose ‘a simple life’, which is what I want my life to be.

How do you fill your weekends?

What did you used to do before you started that well-paid, but stressful job, before you bought that big house which needs lots of cleaning and decorating, or before you had kids?

What would you fill your time with if your whole life was just one long weekend?

Other thoughts:

Saving Ninja

Cashflow Cop

Ditch the Cave

Merely Curious

A Way to Less

in-deed-a-bly

Gentleman’s Family Finances

Marc @ Finance Your Fire

Dr Fire

The Fire Shrink

Young FI Guy

Advantages of the Public Sector

I have just finished ‘Financial Freedom’ by Grant Sabatier. Like many other financial independence bloggers he recommends ‘hacking your 9-5’. Often this involves asking your boss for a rise. If, like me, you work in the public sector, this is not an option. The only way of getting more money is to apply for another position, doing something different. Alternatively, you could move to another organisation or leave the public sector altogether. Neither of those are options that I want to consider, so I’m probably going to be where I am until I retire.

This post is therefore about what I see as the benefits of my job and how I can make the most of them. If you also work in the public sector I hope that it may give you some ideas about how to take advantage of your 9-5 benefits on your way to FIRE.  

Remote working makes the commute a distant memory

Working at home

This is not possible every day as my responsibilities involve visiting people and attending meetings, but very often, if I am just sitting at a computer, then it is at home. Working at home equals no commute. In the morning I therefore have plenty of time for reading, exercise, meditation and breakfast – all of the things that I like to do before starting my work day. If I get up at 6am, which I have been doing recently, despite Mr Simple’s complaining, then I have three whole hours to myself before I have to start work – a luxury.

Many jobs could be done at home, but often it is the mindset of the organisation that prevents this. Strangely it seems that being seen sitting at one’s desk is regarded as a measure that one is being productive, whereas in my experience trying to get work done in a busy office is a challenge. I tick off more of my to-do list at home, even if I take breaks occasionally to hang up the washing or answer the door when a parcel is delivered.

I believe that it is always worth asking the question. The worst that can happen is that they say no. Even working at home one day a week can give you some extra precious hours. Then it’s up to you how you spend them – exercising, reading a good book or working on your side hustle.

Car allowance

I feel frustration when I hear time and again the suggestion that in order to get to FI quicker you need to move nearer work and get rid of your car. Even if I moved to within a mile of my office I would still need a car as my job involves visiting members of the public. The necessity of having a car is reflected in the receipt of a monthly allowance and a good mileage rate. I don’t ringfence this allowance for sole allocation to car costs, but if I did, over several years it would make up the large part of a new (well new to me) vehicle.

Pension

I have a defined benefit pension which I can take from aged 55. Due to having not had a full-time job until I was 32 my pension pot isn’t enormous, but DB pensions seem to be few and far between, so I need to count myself very lucky. My employer also contributes much more to my pension than I do.

Take advantage of being able to plan your own diary

Managing my diary myself

A lot of the time I get to choose what I do on what days. I plan my supermarket shopping day when I pass through the nearest fair-sized town. This means that I don’t make a special journey in order to do the shopping. Sometimes I do the shopping over my lunch hour if I have time between visits. This means that I am not battling the rest of the population at the checkout at 6pm.

Generous annual leave

I have been amazed to read American FI blogs stating that in the US workers only get two weeks of annual leave as I get six. It’s so many that I don’t always get around to taking them all, particularly as we are trying to save money on holidays. An idea came to me when thinking about how best to use my allowance and I thought that maybe I could book the occasional day off to work on a side hustle or my blog or any other way that I can think of to make money. So if you get plenty of annual leave how could you use some of those days to help you get closer to your goals?

Hopefully that’s given you some ideas to chew over if you also work in the public sector.

I’m sure that there are plenty of others so please feel free to comment and let me know what they are.

I would love to hear your ideas.

Rich Habit Number Four

I will devote 30 minutes to exercise every day. I will eat healthy food every day.

In the week that the Lancet published a study saying that in 2017 there were 11 million deaths attributable to dietary risk factors it seems pertinent to focus on this habit for my series on Tom Corley’s book ‘Rich Habits Poor Habits’.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

According to Tom Corley successful people have a system or routine for weight management i.e. they monitor the amount of food that they eat every day and they engage in a daily exercise regime. In contrast, unsuccessful people have no consistent day to day control over their health. They are always in search of the latest quick fix diet.

Tom Corley found that rich people have an internal motivation to be able to manage their weight and eating, whereas unsuccessful people required an external motivator and when this disappeared they fell back into bad habits.

Be Well Enough to Enjoy ‘Retirement’

Avoid too many of these and use nature’s larder to keep you healthy

If, by the time you reach FIRE, you aren’t well enough to enjoy it, then one has to ask what was the point of all that hard work getting there. The Lancet study found that cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of diet-related deaths, followed by cancers deaths and type 2 diabetes. The findings showed that a suboptimal diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risks globally, including tobacco smoking, highlighting the urgent need for improving the human diet. Their assessment showed that the leading dietary risk factors for mortality are diets high in sodium, low in whole grains, low in fruit, low in nuts and seeds, low in vegetables, and low in omega-3 fatty acids.

Schedule Exercise and Make it Easy

In our busy lives fitting in 30 minutes of exercise every day can be hard and I must say I struggle with this. For me it is probably just three times a week. I find that doing exercise shortly after I get up is the best time. By the end of the day I am just too tired to feel like jogging.

I used the NHS ‘Couch to 5K’ programme in order to start jogging. It is a great and free resource which trains you to run 5k even if, at the moment, you feel that you couldn’t run to the end of your garden. If you have ever wanted to start jogging I would strongly encourage you to check it out.

Now, going out for a jog on a bright summer’s morning, with the sun warming your skin and the birds singing in the trees is a wonderful thing. It may not be so great in January when it is cold, wet and dark. During the first winter after I learnt to jog I have to admit that I gave up. I just wasn’t determined enough to drag myself out of bed when it was miserable.

My Tesco treadmill – cheap, but it does the job

When spring came around I had to go back to the beginning of the programme and build up my fitness again. In the autumn as the mornings started getting dark and cold I decided that I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. I know myself well enough to realise that I didn’t have the determination to go out on those awful mornings and so I bought a treadmill. I didn’t spend a fortune, as I was worried that it may just collect dust, but it didn’t and I now use it several times a week. When the weather is better I will go outside, but the great thing about jogging on the treadmill is that I can watch all those finance YouTube videos whilst I am jogging – getting exercise and educating myself at the same time.

Apart from a good pair of trainers, jogging is a fairly frugal pursuit. You don’t have to join an expensive gym and wherever you live I am sure that there is somewhere nice to run. If you don’t fancy jogging maybe try walking. Download an interesting FIRE podcast to your phone and take a stroll a few times a week.

Eat Well and Cheaply

Roast veggies ready for weekday lunches

I have written about diet before in my series about ‘The Longevity Plan’ by Dr John Day. Therefore I thought that I would just suggest a way of getting more of those much-needed vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. An oft-quoted frugal activity is to take your lunch to work every day instead of buying it. As a believer in reducing the amount of carbohydrates I eat, instead of a sandwich, I take some vegetables and fish in my lunch box. Every Sunday I roast and steam some veggies. Simple and cheap things like carrots and broccoli, are great and at the moment I also include courgettes and peppers. Obviously it takes time to do this; chopping the veg is the most time-consuming thing and then shove them in the oven with some olive oil and herbs.

A good source of omega – 3

In the morning I fill my lunchbox with a few of the veg, adding some lettuce, avocado and a tin of fish – mackerel is my favourite. So cheap – 70p a tin in Tesco’s at the moment. Tomorrow I will also be taking some butterbeans that I have soaked and cooked and mixed with nettle pesto. I found a recipe in a book by Dan Stevens of River Cottage fame. It was a bit fiddly washing the leaves with rubber gloves on and then blanching them, but after that it was fairly easy. When you’re out on that walk of an evening maybe you could pick some nettles and make yourself a tasty and cheap pesto sauce to go with some pasta.

So do you have rich habits or poor habits when it comes to eating and exercise? What poor habits would you like to change? Have you tried walking or jogging as exercise? How did you get on?