Staycation Day One – armchair shopping and a windswept walk

Technically it is day two, as if we were going on holiday we would go on a Saturday. That day would mainly be taken up with travelling and shopping for groceries. Recently I have given up shopping en route and we have left with the car full of food, including the cool box and stopped on the way for a leisurely lunch.

The great thing about a staycation is that you don’t have to travel anywhere and so can spend each day of your holiday enjoying yourself. Unfortunately yesterday was a wash out in terms of the weather so we defaulted to our usual routine of chores and DIY.

The weather forecast for today looked much better – sunny spells, but during breakfast we had sideways rain. In light of this Mr Simple decided that he wanted to go out and look for an armchair for his study, so that is what we spent the first morning of our ‘holiday’ doing. Part way through browsing in the first shop I was rather glad that I didn’t persuade him to go for a walk when I saw the hail coming down outside.  

After a frugal lunch back home whilst watching Ronnie O’Sullivan clear the table several times (snooker for those of you who aren’t a fan), I managed to drag Mr Simple out for a short walk for a couple of hours. It was still blowing a gale, but the sun came out and it kept dry. There’s a lovely area of woodland a few miles from here which has wild daffodils – smaller and more delicate than the usual garden variety. It was then back home for dinner and more snooker.

Despite looking forward to some meals out this week, something which only happens occasionally since we started cutting back, we may not feel like taking advantage of the permission that we have given ourselves to indulge. Unfortunately we have both been struck by a strange stomach bug which has lingered for over a week, reducing our appetites. It hardly seems worth spending our hard-earned cash on a good meal when we aren’t that hungry. Hopefully we’ll start feeling better as the week goes on. The only treats so far have been a slice each of a lemon drizzle cake that I bought for £2 from the Coop yesterday – last of the big spenders!

Tomorrow the weather forecast is better, so we plan to take the train one stop and then walk back through the villages. I’ll let you know how we get on.  

Staycation budget spent so far: £0 or £2 if you count the cake, but that will probably come out of the food budget.

Preaching to the Converted

Reading a post from someone who has recently achieved FIRE he rightly observed that many blogs are only rehashing the same information and you just need to ‘f***ing save money’. We all know the basics, at least if you are reading this, I expect that you know them – bring your own lunch, don’t buy coffee from Starbucks, eat home cooked food rather than takeaways, invest, set up some side hustles.

My question for you is how do we reach those people who don’t know about FIRE, who have never heard of FIRE, who don’t yet know that they want to achieve FIRE or that it is even possible? Where are they hanging out on social media? Who are they following? What discussions are they having on Facebook or Twitter, where we could contribute? We might just get people to think differently or even get them to make small changes to their spending and to understand how those could make a significant difference to their future?

I suppose you may ask, ‘Do I care?’.  For me it’s probably my inbuilt bossy streak which leads me to want to tell others how to improve their lives, even if they don’t want the advice. Whether it is about diet – eat fewer carbs, exercise – it’s good for you, but won’t make you thin or being more organised at work (Buy Getting Things Done – David Allen, it may help) and now FIRE. I have a strong urge to shout from the rooftops to let people know how their lives can be better, but as I think that may get me arrested, I’d be interested to know which virtual rooftops you would recommend.

Answers on a postcard – or maybe just below!

Your Home – Asset or Liability?

Last month I listened to Paula Pant interview Chris Hogan, the author of ‘Everyday Millionaires’. According to the measurements used in that study, it may well be that we are on our way to being millionaires, but I am not sure whether I agree with the definition of millionaire, as they took into account the value of their houses.

Three years ago we moved from a small terraced house to a four bedroomed detached property. Mr Simple had sold his own property – a modern starter home – before he moved in with me for a while. We wanted a house with a large garden, as we love growing our own vegetables, so in many ways we bought the house for the garden rather than the size of the building.

At that point in my life I had not discovered the FI/RE movement. The reason for the move was not only to have a bigger garden, but also to move nearer to Mr Simple’s place of work. I transferred to another office within the same organisation. The house we live in is about equidistant between our two places of work. In that way one would say that the move was in line with the FI/RE principle of reducing your transportation costs, as each of us had a twenty-minute journey to work. Now I say ‘had’, as Mr Simple has been made redundant since we moved house and my office has been shut due to efforts on the part of my employer to reduce overheads. Fortunately, I am able to work at home a lot, but when I do have to go to the office it is an hour’s drive away.

Not only is it in this study that the value of a property is considered an asset, but many FI/RE blogs post monthly net worth updates which include the value of their house minus any outstanding mortgage balance that they owe. The question that I have is whether the value of your house should be considered in your net worth calculations. According to Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad  when calculating your net worth you should not include your home.

We have about £370,000 equity in our home, but that money is not accessible to us, as we don’t plan to sell it and even if we did we would still need somewhere to live. We could buy a smaller property and therefore invest some of the money, but not all of it. 

Robert Kyosaki not only believes that you should not consider your house an asset, but in fact it could be considered as a liability. A house has to be maintained, there is decorating to do, it needs cleaning and you have to pay to heat it and light it, as well as other bills such as council tax. The bigger the house the higher the bills, so even though some would say that a large house means a higher net worth, in fact it could be stated that the greater the value of your house the bigger a liability it is.

Now that we have this house and I have got the FI/RE bug I plan to consider how to turn it into an asset. At present there is a considerable amount of decorating to be done, which Mr Simple has turned his hand to now that he doesn’t have full-time employment. Ideas that come readily to mind are AirBnB, renting out a room to a lodger, hosting overseas students and renting out the driveway for parking as we live near an airport. I need to do some research on each of these and plan to share my findings with you over the next couple of months.

Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Have your turned your house into an asset? I know that Gentlemans Family Finances has delved into the world of AirBnB. Have you tried this or any other ways of making your house pay? I’d love for you to share your experiences.

If I lost everything

In response to Saving Ninja’s challenge, ‘If I Lost Everything’:

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If I woke up tomorrow and didn’t have anything because a cybercriminal had stolen all my money and assets, my other half wouldn’t be surprised as he meticulously shreds everything with his name and address on it and nags me about identity theft. I am rather more blasé.

Although my family live three hours away I know that there are local people who would let me bed down with them for a while. Three and a half years ago we moved to our current house in a village in Wales. Shortly after that one of our neighbours started a women’s group. This started as a monthly get together in the local pub for any women who live in the village and wanted to come. It has though developed way beyond that. We help each other out. Whether it is feeding cats, watering plants or putting on lunch for the village OAPs. It is a lovely feeling that there are people nearby who will always help you out, particularly when your family don’t live on the doorstep.

As well as my neighbours there are also friends, in particular ones from work. A group of us all worked together for several years in an office that has closed, but despite us now working in different places we all still keep in touch, albeit mainly virtually. Each Christmas we have a night out with the whole team, as though the office still exists. I know that anyone of them would give me a bed for the night.

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I am lucky that the only debt that I have is the mortgage and that isn’t excessive. I suppose though if I didn’t have anything, I would have the mortgage, but not the house. Fortunately I have a fairly well-paid job with an organisation which has a non-redundancy policy, so even if I had nothing else I would have my job and be able to start saving again as I earn. One of the difficulties is that I need my car to do my job, but I have a good credit rating so I expect I could get a loan to buy an old banger which would do me for a while until I could afford something better.

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In terms of food I know that I could live on beans and lentils for months. Having been a vegetarian for twenty years, now lapsed as I eat fish, I can make cheap and tasty meals. We love curry and so a few veg, spices, lentils and rice would keep us going. My other half, who is a meat eater would protest, but he would have to put up with it.

Even though they live in England, I also have family. I think that some of us take it for granted that if the worst happens we can always go back to Mum and Dad. In my job I meet people who don’t have any family, or at least not any that they would want to live with. Although for me that would mean leaving my current job I expect I could get another one where they live and go back to sleeping in my old room until things improve. Having jumped on the bandwagon of those responding to this challenge I have found it a useful exercise and it has helped me realise that no matter how bad life could be there will always be a way to sort things out. Even if it means some significant changes I wouldn’t be sleeping under a bridge in a cardboard box!

Killing myself for FI

Two days this week have ended with me having a headache and I think that it may be because I am starving myself in order to save money. My other half is away working this week and so in a bid to save money I thought that I wouldn’t cook any meals for myself, but live on leftovers and food out of the freezer from Monday to Thursday. For my evening meals this hasn’t been too bad, but I haven’t been great with lunches. I did manage to make some roasted veg which I had with tinned fish on a couple of days, although the plate looked a bit empty. Yesterday evening I realised that the roasted veg had run out and I wasn’t going to be home at lunch time today to cook anything fresh – usually I do sweet potatoes, avocado, tinned fish and salad – I can just shove the sweet potatoes in the oven and continue working until they’re done.

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A smoothie is something that I occasionally have for breakfast (made with berries, nuts, seeds and avocado to fill me up) when I don’t have much time in the morning. As I didn’t have anything to make lunch and didn’t want to fork out any money I planned to have a smoothing for lunch and therefore I couldn’t have one for breakfast as well.  I therefore decided that it would be a good idea to get up half an hour earlier in order to make a decent breakfast for myself which meant getting out of bed at 6am! I really like the idea of getting up early. My ideal world involves having as many hours before work as I have after work, rather than the morning being a short mad dash and the evening stretching out before me with the temptation of wasting it watching TV as I’m too tired to do anything else. I do manage a leisurely morning on some days when I am working at home and only have to go into my home office at 9am and switch on the computer rather than commute for an hour. Then I manage to fit in reading, a decent breakfast and sometimes a 20-minute jog on the treadmill.

I have been thinking of trying to change my routine and get up earlier. I felt inspired this week when I listened to Ruth Soukup on the ‘Do It Scared’ podcast interviewing Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning. I agree that it feels good to have extra time in the morning and today getting up at 6am today was only half an hour earlier than my usual time, but I’m not sure that I am cut out for it, particularly in these dark mornings. By the time that I was driving home I had a thumping headache and was starving. Despite the headache I had planned to do the shopping and in particular I am making a concerted effort to always buy my petrol from Tesco as it is cheap and I get loads of Clubcard points. By the way, I realised the other day that I have earnt some passive income, well not sure that it strictly adheres to the principles, but after doing most of my spending via my Tesco credit card in January I earnt £15 in vouchers, which came off of last week’s shopping. It felt really good as I haven’t quite got the hang of earning extra money on top of my wages, but this did feel like something for nothing.

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Anyway, I digress, back to the shopping. We live about a half hour drive from Tesco and so I always try to do the shopping on the way back from work as I am passing anyway. Since I am working from home tomorrow that meant that I couldn’t just leave it, but had to struggle round Tesco with a thumping headache to save using extra petrol, and time, by going tomorrow. Now that I am home and have had a decent meal I feel fine, but I think that I really need to make more of an effort to go easy on myself. It’s just that at 49 I get depressed reading all those blogs by people who discovered FIRE in their twenties and retired by the time that they were thirty. I am madly trying to catch up! The trouble is that I might be dead before I manage to save enough to give up work! I hope your day was better than mine or if it wasn’t good at least you managed to save some money without starving yourself!