The Power of Positive Thinking

As you know I’ve been working my way through Tom Corley’s book Rich Habits Poor Habits. His eighth habit focuses on positive thinking, or as he calls it, rich thinking, which he suggests you should engage in every day.

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Practise Gratitude

In order to cultivate positive thinking he says that successful people use the tool of gratitude. He believes that gratitude is the gateway to optimism and a positive mental outlook. You can simply think about the things in life which many of us take for granted and yet lots of people in the world don’t have e.g. I have a home, I can put food on the table. By recognising the things in your life that you are grateful for this shifts your outlook on life from negative to positive.

Looking on the bright side

For me, positive thinking is about changing your view from a ‘glass half empty’ one to a ‘glass half full’ one. You always need to try to look at the positives in a situation. One thing that I didn’t share with you about my recently holiday in Italy was that my mum fell over a couple of days before we were due to leave. Unfortunately she had a lot of bruising to her face and we ended up having to use the Italian health service (which was excellent I have to say). This was obviously all extremely upsetting and we ended up missing the trip on the last day.

Understandably Mum didn’t want to go down to the restaurant to have our meals and so instead we ended up taking them on the balcony of our hotel room. Up until that point we had had to share a table each evening with a couple who would not have been our first choice to spend our holiday with. The events which happened meant that we no longer had to do so and we enjoyed an evening meal, a picnic lunch and our last breakfast in Italy, on the balcony. Now, I’m not saying that what happened to my mum was a good thing, but I have to say that I really enjoyed those meals sitting and chatting together looking out at the glorious view. Part of the reason for going away on holiday together each year is that it is a chance to catch up as we don’t see each other very often. This enabled us to do just that. A very difficult situation had a positive spin off.

Affirmations

As well as gratitude another tool recommended by Tom Corley to alter your mindset is positive affirmations. These represent the picture of the individual you hope to be. For example, I am confident, I live my life in moderation, I am successful, I accomplish my goals.

He recommends making a list of positive affirmations and keeping them with you. These should be reviewed once in the morning, once in the afternoon and right before you go to sleep. Eventually they will take root. Events and circumstances will begin to manifest themselves round your positive thinking and opportunities will appear seemingly out of thin air.

One of my favourite life coaching podcasters, Natalie Bacon, also talks about affirmations. She believes that the trick with them is to make sure you believe them. Ones she uses are, ‘bad things are supposed to happen’, ‘nothing has gone wrong’. For me her ones are more like things that you would say to yourself in difficult situations rather than morning, midday and evening.

For example, a couple of weeks ago someone crashed into my car. Fortunately the accident wasn’t too bad, but I had to drive a hire car for a couple of weeks whilst mine was repaired. I am not a confident driver and having a large, fairly new and technologically advanced car to drive freaked me out a little. The handbrake was a button rather than a lever and I was so nervous about doing hill starts. I was also worried about having to park it in a multi-storey car park. Despite my fears I did manage to drive it without incident for the time that I had it, but for the first couple of days I would talk to myself, telling myself that I just needed to remain calm, that I can do this, that I am a competent driver. It’s the things that your best friend might say to you in the same situation.

Returning to the idea of positive affirmations to read each day, I’ve tried to think about what mine should be. It’s something that I’ve not tried before. I remember being at a training event at work last year and one of my colleagues said that she does this every morning. One that came to mind initially was, ‘I enjoy my work’. On the whole this is true, but sometimes I feel that I lose my way and see it as a chore. Reminding myself that I have a career that I chose and that has the potential to make me happy, even if the day has been tough, is no bad thing. This is definitely an area that I need to work on and I may just make it one of my October intentions to come up with some daily positive affirmations to consider.

So, do you have any suggestions for cultivating a more positive outlook in life? What tools do you use to help you manage stressful situations? Please let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to check out Tom Corley’s book.

Back to School

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Tom Corley’s rich habit number seven, from his book Rich Habits Poor Habits, is to take action on your goals every day. In order to do this, firstly, you have to have made some goals. I have written about goal setting here and here. Although I do set goals, sometimes they get forgotten about as life gets in the way. I often wonder if it would be a good idea to write out my goals and stick them up on the wall. They would then be a daily reminder of what I am hoping to achieve, either in the short or long term, or both.

Once you have set some goals, which can be one of the most exciting bits of the process, you then have to act on them. Tom Corley believes that there is a war raging inside of us every day between taking action and procrastination. He says that most people procrastinate because they are not passionate about what they do for a living. Therefore, we put off things that we do not like. This happens until the pain of the consequences of not doing the thing we dread and fear outweighs the dread and fear of doing it.

According to Tom, successful people take action on their dreams and goals and this moves them forward in life. Unsuccessful people procrastinate, which creates problems that require immediate attention. They are constantly putting out the fire in their lives. The subconscious knows that completing that task is important in helping improve our lives and that procrastinating on that task will only have negative consequences, damaging our life. This can make us feel stressed.

Writing a list is easy – doing the tasks is more difficult

Tools to stop you procrastinating:

To do lists – I have listened to some podcasts recently about planning and the usefulness, or not, of list making. A list is okay, but once you’ve made your list you have to decide when you are going to do each task. You need to put them in your calendar i.e. assign each task a day and a time. Now, that is the easy part, the hard bit is actually doing the task when it appears on your calendar. We all have more interesting things to do when a difficult chore presents itself to us. This is where the procrastination comes in. You think about it for a couple of minutes and then find something more interesting to do, or something easier. At work, scrolling through my emails often seems so much more attractive than writing a report. I therefore think that to do lists are only part of the solution. If you make a list, but never commit to the tasks on the list, then it is a waste of time.

The daily five – decide on five things that you want to achieve today. This is about prioritising. For work, I tend to highlight the most important tasks for that day and then rank them in the order that I should do them.

Setting and communicating artificial deadlines – telling third parties which turns your deadline into a promise. I listened to an episode of the Problogger podcast the other week where Darren Rowse describes mentioning to an acquaintance that he was going to start a podcast and committing to a certain timescale. Despite having had this on his to-do list for several years it was only a chance remark that actually made him get on with it.

Accountability partners – someone you meet with regularly who checks how far you have got on your tasks. This could be in real life or on line. Having a blog is in some ways like having lots of accountability partners. You set out your intentions, what you’re planning to do and then you write about it, giving your readers updates on your progress. One of my favourite type of posts is the monthly reviews. It is such a good way to look back at what I’ve been doing and also how much progress I’ve made towards my financial goals.

As I write this I feel that I haven’t recently been making any progress towards my personal goals. At work I don’t really have goals. I just have tasks that I need to do. I enjoy my job, but it isn’t the be all and end all of my life. For me, goal setting is all about improving my personal life.

I think that the reason I don’t feel as though I’ve made much progress recently is partly because I’ve been away on holiday and I’m still catching up with boring things like washing and ironing. Also, summer is a time when to some extent routine goes out the window. It is also when Mr Simple and I spend quite a lot of our weekends doing work in the garden, which I love, but it is time-consuming. As the nights start to draw in and the weather deteriorates there will be less to do outside and I will have more time to work on my goals.

I think that September can be a good time to refocus. Although as adults we may not be returning to school or college, it’s maybe time to return to the ‘university of life’ and work towards achieving our personal goals.  

So what are your goals? Have you actually made any for this year? If so, how’s progress going? Are you able to do some work on them every day? If you haven’t made any goals, maybe it’s a good time to start. You can then review them at the end of the year and see if you want to continue working towards them in 2020.  And don’t forget, if you want to know more about Tom Corley’s book, you can find it here.

Make Every Day Exciting

I was recently persuaded to go into the city centre on a Saturday night for a colleague’s leaving do. By the time that I arrived at 6pm she and several others had been out all afternoon drinking. I was just there for something to eat. My days of going out to bars and clubs are long behind me and mainly happened in my late teens and early twenties. Now I sit and watch aghast at what goes on and how much money people are parting with.

The venue for the meet up was a cocktail bar which was serving various concoctions at  extortionate prices. I got a lift there from a colleague who shares the same views about going out drinking at the weekend and we had an interesting debate about the need to get plastered on a regular basis. Both of us are middle-aged and happily settled in relationships. We have nice homes that we enjoy spending time in and partners who we love and want to spend time with. Our theory about those who wish to dull their senses with alcohol on a regular basis was that maybe they aren’t as lucky as we are and therefore want to escape from the real world.

This habit of living just for the weekend is something that I encounter on a regular basis. There seems to be an expectation that Monday mornings are something to be endured and going back to work after a period of leave something to be dreaded.

The village hall is going to be host to a film night once a month

As you know I have recently returned from a holiday in Italy and actually I was quite looking forward to coming home. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my holiday, but there were plenty of nice things happening back at home. For a start, one of the trainee guide dogs we have looked after a couple of times was coming back to stay for the week and he was going to be with Mr Simple when he picked us up at the airport. Secondly, I was going to meet up with some ex-colleagues for food and then later that week I had an invite for drinks at a neighbour’s house. She has what looks like a lovely property and I was excited to see inside for the first time (I am ever so nosey). There seem to be more social events than ever going on in the village – I had booked to see a play in the village hall later in September and then whilst I was away I also had a message about a film club starting in the village.

Maybe I’m lucky that  I enjoy my day to day life. Like everyone I have good and bad days, but on the whole I have a nice life. Yes, it involves going to work, which can sometimes be stressful, as well as doing chores on the evenings and weekends, but everyday there are things to enjoy. That first cup of tea in bed in the morning whilst I’m reading my latest  self-help book, sitting down to breakfast with Mr Simple on some days, watching FI/RE videos on YouTube whilst I am jogging on the treadmill. In the evening I get to spend time with Mr Simple, even if it’s just watching a bit of TV together. I get excited about seeing how many people have read my posts that day and enjoy planning and writing new posts. Even my daily commutes provide an opportunity for pleasure as I decide which podcasts to download ready to listen to the next day on the way to work.

If you just live for the weekend or your holidays, my homework for you today is to have a think about how much time you spend planning your holidays or your weekend nights out, as opposed to making your ordinary days more enjoyable.  Instead of just living weekend to weekend or holiday to holiday could you put more effort in to creating that same anticipation when you wake up each morning? How could you make your days more enjoyable by adding little bits of pleasure?

Lessons from the older generation

The view from our balcony

For regular readers of this blog you will know that I have just returned from a week away in Italy with my mum. We stayed on Lake Maggiore, which was fabulous and I would recommend it to anyone, but it is certainly not a frugal holiday destination. We saw luxurious hotels (although unfortunately weren’t staying in one) and a classic car show, sponsored by a Swiss bank. Amidst all this excess Mum and I found a couple of ways to save a bit of money.

Monte Rosa in the Italian Alps

Firstly, as is usually the case on the continent, tea and coffee wasn’t provided in the room and you had to buy it in the bar. In order to save money Mum brought a small kettle, two cups and some tea bags with her. As well as enabling us to retire to our balcony overlooking the lake of an evening and have a mint tea, it also allowed us to have a cup of tea in bed in the morning, something which us Brits can’t live without. There was a fridge in the room and so we could keep a carton of milk in there for the morning cuppa.

Secondly, the restaurant in the hotel refused to provide tap water at dinner. When I asked for it I was told that they don’t have tap water (I am not sure how they washed the dishes or boiled the potatoes). I didn’t bother arguing with them and after the first night we just brought our own. Mum had a small plastic bottle which she could fill and take down in her handbag. My water bottle is rather large and wouldn’t fit in my handbag, so she suggested keeping the small wine bottle we had from dinner, which had a screw top, and then I filled that with water from the bathroom tap and took it down to dinner with me. Other guests were spending €4 a time on a bottle of water. Strangely, the couple who we shared a table with were under the impression that the water in Italy is not safe to drink, which is evidently not the case.

As well as saving money on drinks I think that we also resisted buying things for the sake of it. We went to a market one morning and whereas previously I would have bought something just if I liked the look of it, as I didn’t need of anything I didn’t spend a penny. Mum bought two wooden spoons for cooking, for a grand total of €5.

We did spend a lot of money on food, partly because the evening meals in the hotel weren’t very special and as Mum said, we wanted to sample real Italian food. I feel that we spent money on experiences, which included all of the optional trips of the holiday, and a nice lunch everyday, rather than buying more possessions.

This is the first occasion that Mum and I have spent time together since I discovered FI/RE. We live 180 miles apart and although we speak on the phone once a fortnight, we only see each other a couple of times a year. One of those is always a week’s holiday together. Often we go away in the UK, but as it was my 50th birthday this year we thought that we would do something special, hence the Italy trip.

Spending time with my mum this year has made me realise that she is a fabulous example of how to be frugal. Firstly, she is a great fan of charity shops and whenever we are away in the UK she always wants to go into charity shops and will often tell me that what she is wearing was bought in a charity shop. In respect of food, she grows fruit and veg in her garden, she cooks from scratch and she and my father rarely go out to eat. She can sew, so makes her own curtains, tablecloths and in the past, her children’s clothes, when we were young.

As well as her thriftiness, she is also a great example of how to set up a side hustle. My mum is not very academic and never had a career. When my siblings and I were young she stayed at home to look after us, doing part time work from home so that she and my dad could make ends meet. When she was 50, her father died and left her some money. It wasn’t a fortune, but she used it wisely. She bought two rundown properties and renovated them, doing a lot of the decorating herself. The rental income provides her with a pension so that she doesn’t have to rely solely on the state pension.

Thinking about all of this has made me wonder what we could all learn from our parents. Although my mum never went out to work until I was a teenager I never felt that we were poor. We always had food on the table, my parents owned their own house, we had two cars, albeit second hand ones and we went on holiday every year, although sometimes this was camping and we always stayed in Britain. I find it strange nowadays that both parents often seem to work full time and an oft-used phrase is that ‘she had to go back to work’. I am certainly not advocating for women to stay at home, as I am a feminist and glad that society has moved on from that view, but to me it seems that both parents only need to work full time nowadays to fund the extravagant lifestyles that we lead. New cars, the latest iphone, a TV in every room, weekly takeaways and meals out, designer handbags and clothes. The desire for all of these takes parents away from their children. I had a great childhood, but it didn’t feature any of these things and I realise that my mum gave us a great life because she found ways to make the best of what we had. I do feel that today’s generation could learn a lot from their parents and grandparents about what is actually important in life and instead of working just to keep up with the Joneses, choose to work less and enjoy more time with their family

So if you’re reading this and you’re middle-aged, what could you learn from your parents and if you’re in your twenties, maybe you need to have a chat with grandma and granddad and see how they have managed their money over the years.

What are your views? As someone who doesn’t have children am I being harsh? Do you feel pressured to work full time so that your kids don’t miss out on possessions when really you would like to be at home more?

August Review

We started the 5:2 diet this month

I feel as though not a lot happened in August, mostly I think because the weather took a turn for the worse up until the Bank Holiday weekend, which was a scorcher.

Mr Simple and I started the 5:2 diet and he has lost 6lbs, whereas I’ve only lost 1lb. Fortunately I don’t need to lose weight. I think the reason for my lack of progress is that on the days where I can eat, I am eating more than usual to compensate for the fast days. Usually, when I am not dieting, I tend to eat very well in the week, avoiding carbs except at dinner. Now, the morning after fasting, I tend to have a slice of toast with breakfast, as I’m starving by that point. There are apparently other benefits to fasting apart from weight loss such as better blood sugar control, which can prevent type 2 diabetes, so hopefully it’s still doing me some good. I will keep going as it is working for Mr Simple and he is the one that needs to lose weight. Once he has achieved his ideal weight I can then decide whether to revert to my original eating habits or not. The risk is that for Mr Simple, who likes his bread, this may mean weight gain, but we will just have to wait and see.

The trainee guide dog that stayed with us during our staycation week in July returned for a long weekend at the beginning of August. One day we took him to a local country park and he got absolutely filthy. He loves the water, but at the park there were only muddy ditches, so he was very grey looking by the end of the walk. Unfortunately he also rolled in something brown and smelly (probably pooh). We had to take him to our usual walking spot near the beach so that he could go in the water and get clean.

I managed to finally get around to meal planning and it went extremely smoothly. Although I am away for a week in September I have already planned our meals for the rest of the month.

For many years now I have had a recurring ear infection. It’s not the usual type of infection, but the cold sore virus, which is living in the cartilage in my outer ear. I will never get rid of it, as those of you who suffer from the usual facial cold sores know. Unfortunately, every so often it flares up and gets infected, meaning that I have to take antibiotics, which I hate doing. After listening to a podcast about your ideal life I made some notes describing mine and included in the health category an absence of this infection. At the time I didn’t think much of it, just a pipe dream which isn’t realistic, but then I started researching cold sore prevention and came across lysine. It’s an amino acid which is believed to be effective at preventing this pesky virus. We have a great health food shop in the local town and I managed to buy a bottle of them. Unfortunately the tablets are enormous and I am not great at swallowing tablets at the best of times. I am making an effort though to take one half way through my breakfast, which helps push them down. It may be that this makes absolutely no difference at all, but I thought that it was worth ago. Before making the goal of not having any ear infections I didn’t even think it might be possible, but writing down the goal made me do some research and hey presto, a potential solution, or at least something which might reduce the frequency. I will keep you posted.

I received my pension statements in August. I will be able to draw on two of them aged 65 and the third one aged 67, when I get my state pension as well. As I’ve said before, I am fortunate enough to have a defined benefit pension, but it won’t be enormous as I’ve only been in full-time work since I was thirty-two. One pension is from my first job which I had for eight years and the other two are from my current job, as the organisation changed the scheme hence one maturing at 65 and the other two years later. At present I will get £10,500 at 65 and a further £4000 at 67. If I get the full state pension, which at the moment I don’t qualify for, not having worked enough years, that would be £23,500. In today’s money that’s not bad and as the mortgage will be long gone will be plenty to live on. As I’ve written before the problem is not the pension, but how to live between now and then without working full time.

Mr Simple and I have booked a few days away in the autumn at a nice hotel in Somerset. My budget for physio allowed for fortnightly sessions, but I haven’t gone as much as that so there is plenty of money left in that pot. I am going to use the excess to pay for this unplanned break.

On the blog I had 2707 views and 582 visitors, both numbers up from the July figures. Comments were fewer, but I am hoping that was due to visitors only having time for a quick read as they were on holiday or out enjoying the sunshine (when there was some).

As I write I am about to have my last day at work before my holiday and have been driving around listening to my Italian CDs which I got from the library. Really looking forward to this indulgent break. Although Mr Simple and I have been away even our holidays have been frugal.

So, let’s look at the figures…

Another good month on progress with the mortgage. The standard monthly payment was £528.34 and then we made an overpayment on the mortgage of £590. This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £76,282.58.

Savings are a grand total of £35,232,16. My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA has been mostly down this month and by the end of the month I had a total of £8577.12.  As usual I saved £185.00 to Vanguard and £250.00 to Nationwide. I had a little money left over and so invested a further £50 to my ISA at the end of the month.

Interest on Marcus account which I am using for stoozing was a grand total of £7.32. I had forgotten how long I had interest free period so rang Tesco and it is until July 2020. Loads of time to go to accrue interest for me.

General spending

The local wildlife is costing us a fortune

Food £131.56 – this included a monthly order from Tesco and a few top-up shops of mainly fruit and veg. The two freezers are bursting with produce and meals such as dahl and veggie burgers so if we need to we could live out of them for a while.

Petrol £89.17- under budget slightly.

Pilates £24.00 – managed to get to three sessions.

Toiletries £16.45 – this was two packets of hair dye which were on offer and the lysine pills.

Social £11.85 – very modest considering that my budget is £50. This was a drink out with a few neighbours and two lunches at work (the meals are very cheap, due I think to it being subsidised).

Miscellaneous £100.45 – this was mostly spent my Mr Simple on bird food and items for the garden.  Way over budget. I sometimes think that I need a separate budget just for our feathered friends as they cost us a fortune.

Expenses from bills account – expected annual/regular expenses

Physio session £32.00 – only managed to get to one. I had to cancel two sessions due work.

Somerset £85.00 – this was the deposit for our break in autumn.

Gifts – £50.00 for my nephew as it was his birthday this month.

Hair £16.00 – I go with it wet and just have it cut these days, dying it myself.

So that’s it folks. I am finishing this off just having got back from Italy and will let you know how they went in a future post. For now, how was your August? I’d love to know.