October Spending

A label saying October and some acorns
Did you make any progress on your money goals this month?

If you’ve landed here for the first time you may wonder why I am baring all about my finances. Since I discovered the FI/RE movement and started my journey towards being more financially secure, like others in this niche, I have jumped on the bandwagon of doing a monthly review.

Even if you don’t have a blog I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is such a good way of looking at what went well and examining areas in which you could have been more frugal. It’s not only a tool for looking back, but a monthly review helps you plan for the future. I have learnt where I need to increase my allowances for next year. For example, we seem to spend money each month on bird food, so it probably deserves its own category!

How did October go for you moneywise? For me it was a more expensive month than usual. Some of my regular spending was less, but there were some unexpected expenses. Let’s see how it went…

Income

My only source of income is my monthly salary. Last month I received a backdated pay rise, but in October it returned to the usual amount which is £2726.17.

Household Bills

We are plodding on with our quest to reduce the mortgage. The standard monthly payment was £520.18 and then we made an overpayment of £591. This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £74,354.86. As we overpay every month by over £500 our monthly payment decreases the next month and Mr Simple then usually increases the overpayment amount. Instead of decreasing the term of our mortgage Mr Simple suggests that we should aim to get the monthly payments down to a very low amount where we hardly notice that we’re paying it and then just let the mortgage run to term. What’s your view on this?

Gas and electricity was £95.35. This is our usual direct debit. We are £191.44 in credit and I am hoping that will be enough to carry us over the winter so that our monthly payments don’t increase next year.

We paid the standard amounts on these bills which we can’t change:

  • Council Tax £258.00
  • Water £40.50
  • TV Licence £12.83

Okay, actually we could reduce the water bill, which is metered, and it is lower than last year when we spent a lot of the hot summer watering the new lawn that we had had laid.

This is going to cost us nearly £30 a month from November

Our internet and phone bill was £27.85. We are currently with John Lewis who are putting up our bill by £2 per month. As usual they are offering a £20 a month deal for new customers, but loyal ones like us will be paying almost £10 more than that. At the moment we are paying for free evening and weekend calls, when in fact we rarely use the landline. Mr Simple is going to see if we can drop that and hopefully get the price down. John Lewis’s service is provided by Plusnet so we may change our package to them if we can’t reduce the monthly payments.

Any suggestions for broadband and phone providers? We were with TalkTalk at our previous home and they were completely useless so we certainly won’t be returning to them even if they are cheap.

Savings and interest

My savings are a grand total of £36,227.74. My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA made a loss and stands at £9,072.69.  As usual I saved £185.00 to Vanguard and £250.00 to Nationwide. My savings account with the Nationwide matures in November and so I will get some interest, but the rate will decrease. I plan to close the account and move the money to my ISA.

Interest on my Marcus account, which I am using for stoozing, was a grand total of £8.43. Part of me wonders whether this stoozing is worth the bother as I am not making a fortune, but I suppose it is free money and I’ll keep going for the time being. I am getting to the limit on my Tesco credit card so I may not be able to use it much longer without either getting the limit increased or paying off each month what I spend. Even with the latter arrangement I would be able to keep £10,000 in my savings account, which is giving me 1.75% and over the next 8 months (until my 0% interest rate runs out) I would make about £100 to add to the interest I have already made.

General spending

Food £114.39 – under budget by £25.61. We ate a lot of food out of the freezer; mainly meals that I cooked over the past few months and froze. I also bought some dried fruit and nuts which I purchase online.

Petrol £109.57 – under budget this month. Yet again I had a week off so did fewer miles.

Pilates £24.00 – managed to get to three sessions this month. It’s good to get back to a regular class.  

Toiletries £13.90 – this was two extra large bottles of lysine tablets which I am using to try to prevent the cold sore virus in my ear erupting. It was on special offer at the health food shop and so I splashed out. Otherwise it was a very cheap month.

Watching a film in the village hall cost me £9.50

Social £55.40 – this included a ticket for the village cinema, plus a very frugal £2 spent on the raffle and snacks. The price of the ticket, which was £7.50, included a very large glass of red wine, which I would happily forego if I could pay less for the ticket, but it doesn’t appear to be an option. I paid the balance on two Christmas meals, which put my spending over the budgeted amount of £50, but fortunately not by much.  

Miscellaneous £181.97– I massively overspent in this category. It was mainly due to purchasing a blind and lampshade for the spare bedroom (although we did get them at 40% off in the sale) and buying a new handbag. I have a very old canvas bag that I bought from Next donkeys years ago and have been looking for something similar for a long time. Mr Simple calls it ‘the grand sac’ – a reference to the fact that I use it a lot when we are on holiday in France each year. Unfortunately it is very torn at the front and so I decided that I needed a new one. Canvas bags don’t seem that popular, but when we were away in Somerset I found a great shop in Dunster selling lots of canvas bags and they had one in just the size that I wanted. It was £32.99, which in the world of handbags, isn’t a lot.  

Expenses from bills account – expected annual/regular expenses

Physio session £64.00

Staycation and weekend away £217.46. Most of this was for the hotel and the evening meals.

Car battery – £80.87 – you may remember that my car broke down and it was the battery that was the problem.

Invested £125 on blogging – lots of studying to do over the winter

The blog – £124.63 – I have never spent money on blogging courses before, but I was persuaded to buy the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit. This is a package of about 100 courses. It must be worth thousands of pounds. I have downloaded a couple of the courses and started working my way through it. Mr Simple (who doesn’t know about the blog) is disparaging about blogging as a career, but there is so much more to it than there seems at first glance.

The first course that I started suggested moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, which means managing the site yourself. The good thing about this is that you can start adding plugins, a lot of which are free. With WordPress.com you have to be on their business package which is about £200 a year to get plugins. The downside of the move was that I needed to move my hosting to another providers. I chose Siteground as it is adequate for what I need and was a reasonable price.

So there you have it. Any observations? Where could I have saved more money? What do you think about our mortgage tactics? Should we reduce the term instead of the monthly payments?

September Review

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The main event this month was my holiday in Italy with my mum. Although I spent money on the holiday, this all came out of money I had saved throughout the year.

Mr Simple and I continued with the 5:2 diet, although both had a break from it when I was on holiday – Mr Simple put on 1½lbs, but lost it again the following week and then over the last week he lost 2½lbs more.

The Labrador retriever cross that has stayed with us a couple of times came back for another week. He came to the airport with Mr Simple to collect me and Mum. We have now said our final goodbyes to him and have an Alsatian staying with us for a little while. Despite looking slightly scary he is as daft as a brush. Mr Simple his extra weight loss last week as due to all his walking with the dog.

Someone pulled out of a side road and crashed into my car just after I came back from holiday so I had a hire car for a week. It was a Vauxhall Astra, only a year old and just under £20,000’s worth of car. Almost everything was automatic – windscreen wipes, lights – you didn’t have to think for yourself. It also had integrated sat nav and digital radio. Quite a step up from my nine-year-old Toyota Yaris, worth about £2000, but not something that I would chose to money on in the future.

I had my bi-monthly meet up with old colleagues in our usual cheap eatery and spent under a tenner on food – drinking tap water – something I missed in Italy. It was also our village women’s group meet up in the pub and then I went for drinks at a neighbour’s house. Her home is enormous – like a mini-hotel with at least five bedrooms. She is certainly not an example of the frugal lifestyle as only her and her husband live there. I think though that she may be an example of FI/RE as she is probably about my age and yet she doesn’t work. I heard that she had a big redundancy pay out and that is how she affords the house and not to work.

I finally updated my mobile phone as it will stop supporting Whatsapp in December and it crashed the other day – I had to take the battery out to stop it vibrating. The chap in Carphone Warehouse seemed quite amused by the model I had. I was paying £9.50 per month and have increased now to £9.99 so it will hardly break the bank and the phone is much better. I was absolutely gobsmacked at people coming in and asking about the latest phones at £60 a month. I know that it is about deciding what is a priority in your life and spending your money on that, but I struggle to see what an iphone (which I do have for work paid for by my employer) can do that my £9.99 Alcatel can’t – for those of you in the know I would love to be enlightened. As well as the 49p extra per month I have had to spend £7.99 on a new case as my old one won’t fit the new phone.

As well as my phone almost dying the bulb in my sunrise lamp blew this week. You don’t realise how much you miss something until you don’t have it anymore. I had forgotten how horrible it is to wake up in a dark room and have to turn on the bedside lamp, blinding you as you do so. Mr Simple has ordered two new bulbs for me so I will always have one spare in the future and won’t have to be without it again. As an aid to making winter mornings easier I can’t recommend it enough. It may not be cheap, but if you are trying to get up earlier in order to expand your morning routine I think that it is invaluable.

So, let’s look at the figures…

Another good month on progress with the mortgage. The standard monthly payment was £524.30 and then we made an overpayment on the mortgage of £594. This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £75,286.14.

Savings are a grand total of £35,725.91. My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA made £58.75.  As usual I saved £185.00 to Vanguard and £250.00 to Nationwide. As I write today is payday and I have found out that I have received a pay rise, which has been backdated to April. It is only £75 per month before tax, but better than nothing and the backpay comes to just under £300. It will probably go into my ISA, but I haven’t decided yet.  

Interest on Marcus account which I am using for stoozing was a grand total of £7.91.

General spending

Food £151.66 – slightly over budget. Mr Simple spent some money at Waitrose when I was away. We also did a big Tesco shop and so this included cleaning items, which all come under the umbrella of food. I am hoping that I won’t have to do another large shop until November.

Petrol £88.52- under budget again this month, which is expected as I was on holiday for a week.

Pilates £8.00 – missed two sessions due to being on holiday and then the teacher was on leave last week.

Toiletries £32.57 – I spent over budget this month, although only slightly as the budget is £30.00 and I bought loads – two tubes of hair removal cream, shampoo, conditioner, two deodorants, intersticial dental brushes, four bottles of shower gel, body lotion, two tubes of toothpaste, moisturiser and facial wash. Many of the products were from the Tesco essentials range so extremely cheap e.g. shower gel at 28p a bottle.

Social £42.40 – two meals out with friends, a drink in the local pub, theatre tickets for a play next month and a ticket for the community cinema which is starting next month in the village.

Miscellaneous £59.45 – as usual this was items bought by Mr Simple, including a new digital radio for the kitchen as the last one finally gave up the ghost, mobile phone case and two bulbs for my sunrise lamp.

Expenses from bills account – expected annual/regular expenses

Physio session £32.00 – again only one session this month mainly due to being on holiday.

Gifts – £10.00 towards a leaving present

Spending money for Italy holiday – £176.53, which went on the extra trips and lunches

Car insurance £211.17

So that’s it. I’ve got some money left in my current account so I’ll probably treat myself to a couple of books and then transfer the rest to my ISA.

How was your September? I’d love to know.

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.