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.

August Intentions

This month for some reason I decided to write some intentions. For me they are not really goals, but something more vague. Just a general idea about some things that I intend to do. They were:

  • Start the 5:2 diet with Mr Simple
  • Continue painting the house
  • Prepare for Italy holiday
  • Continue to declutter my study
  • Read ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport and begin implementing its advice

So how am I doing?

Mr Simple has lost 2.5lbs on the 5:2 diet

Well, we’ve started the 5:2 diet and we’re on week two. Mr Simple lost 2.5lbs last week and I gained 0.5lbs. Fortunately I don’t actually need to lose weight; I’m just doing it to keep him company. I wasn’t sure whether Mr Simple would be able to stick to it, but credit where it’s due, he has done. I am hoping that he will be encouraged by the initial weight loss and that it will continue.

As for painting the house, the progress has been sporadic. We currently have scaffolding up due to work that was done on the house and Mr Simple decided that it would be the ideal opportunity to paint it. Unfortunately, since he started it the weather has taken a turn for the worse. I helped him one weekend and although the forecast was for sunshine we had a heavy shower half way through. Fortunately, the paint didn’t run off, as we thought it might do. The following weekend we had the guide dog and so we couldn’t both go up the scaffolding, so I stayed down in the garden. Then, last weekend, the weather was dreadful. As you may recall, Mr Simple only works part time, which leaves him free to get on with DIY tasks in the week so he has managed to make some progress. In fact, on fast days, he has done really well, because in a bid to distract himself from the gnawing hunger pains he has concentrated on painting.

Looking forward to a week in Italy next month

My preparation for Italy hasn’t started yet. I am going away to the Italian lakes with my mum for a week. Usually we have a holiday together once in a year in this country, but as I reached half a century back in the spring we are pushing the boat out this year. We’ve splashed out on a room with a balcony overlooking the lake and I’m really looking forward to it. I was a bit worried at the beginning of the week when they announced that some pilots were striking over the period that we are going, but fortunately we are not flying with an airline that is affected. Hopefully our itinerary should arrive soon and I can start thinking about packing. I have been to Italian evening classes in the past and listened to some CDs from the library. I keep promising to get them out again, but haven’t done so. I need to get on with that and listen to them in the car. It’s nice to be able to speak a little of the language when you’re abroad. 

I have made some changes in my study, but this is the one intention that I haven’t made a lot of progress on and I need to do so.

I have only just started ‘Deep Work’. I bought two books at the end of last month with the bit of money that I had left over. ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear arrived first so I’ve just finished that. I started ‘Deep Work’ this morning and so far am really enjoying it. I am hoping that if I can learn from his advice that I can make myself more productive at work, giving myself a bit of ‘wriggle room’ in my working day.

Do you set monthly intentions? Did you make any this month? How are they going?

July Review

Just a lovely summery picture as it’s July and the sun is shining

So here’s my review for July. I was thinking today about why I write reviews each month. I started doing it because it’s what FI/RE bloggers do. They review progress towards their financial goals each month, so that’s what I started doing when I launched this blog. I have to say that I really look forward to writing these posts. I find it useful looking back at the month, not only to see hopefully how little I have spent, but also to remember what we have done and how much we have achieved e.g. on the house. Do you review your progress? If you’re a blogger you probably do, but if not, do you measure your progress in any other way?

Anyway, let’s see how July went…

We had our second staycation at the beginning of the month. You may remember our first back in March. This time it didn’t quite work out as it did last time. Mr Simple’s parents planned to visit us some time over the summer and I suggested that they come during our week off, rather than come for a weekend when we’ve only got a couple of days off between busy work weeks. They said that they would come on the Thursday and so we had several days to ourselves to go out and have fun before they arrived.

A few days before the beginning of our week off we receive a call asking us to have a trainee guide dog from the Tuesday. I can’t remember whether I have mentioned this before, but we are boarders for Guide Dogs for the Blind. It’s a bit like being foster carers. We don’t do the training, but the dog lives with us and goes out Monday to Friday to do its training during the day and then is home all weekend. This time though the dog only went training one day whilst he was with us. Recently we have just had dogs for short periods of time when their usual boarders are away. We love having the dogs and so far have never refused when we have received a call asking us to have one, therefore despite our staycation we agreed. Now, I’d love to put a gorgeous picture of him up here, but unfortunately the rules are that we aren’t allowed to show the dogs on social media.

We didn’t start our staycation until the Monday, doing our usual chores on the weekend. I had arranged to have my car serviced on the Monday, having struggled to find a day when I didn’t need it during June. The weather was good and so after dropping off my car we went for a walk along the coast. Instead of taking sandwiches we stopped at a pub for lunch. Mr Simple’s mother had given us some money back in April after she received a dividend windfall and we still had £30 of this left. This just covered lunch so in terms of our budget for the week it cost us nothing. We did have an ice cream at the end of the walk, which came to £3.

On Tuesday we did a cycle ride around the local area. We discovered a café in a village where we had previously looked at a house before we decided on the one where we live now and treated ourselves to coffee and cake. Lunch was a sandwich in some woods where we have taken previous guide dogs. Our ultimate destination was a ‘castle’, though more of a mini stately home, where the gardens are open two afternoons a week and entry is free. We were the only visitors and had a wander round the somewhat weedy gardens before making our way home in order to be back for the dog arriving.

We live near the coast so can take the dogs to the beach

On Wednesday the dog stayed with us for the day and we took him for a walk on the beach in the morning and then pottered in the garden in the afternoon. Labradors and retrievers have a quite disgusting habit of eating manure and Mr Simple put down some manure pellets around some of the plants. Unfortunately, most of them were then eaten by the dog – he seemed to think that they were tasty treats put out especially for him.  

He was out on the Thursday training and we prepared for the arrival of Mr Simple’s parents. We did a bit of shopping and had lunch in a café. Mr Simple’s parents arrived late afternoon. His mother is somewhat nervous of dogs and so we hadn’t told her that one would be staying with us prior to their arrival. She had met one of our four-legged-friends one Christmas when they stayed with us and they got on well, as the dogs are usually very well-behaved. Fortunately, it was also the case this time and I think she enjoyed spending time with him.

Having researched places to go with the dog I had discovered that the botanic gardens about an hour’s drive away have doggy days twice a week. As he was a trainee guide dog we probably could have taken him in anyway as most places, although they are not obliged to do so, allow the dogs in. It was great as there was only one building that he couldn’t go in. They even had a room in the café where we could sit. On the financial side it was a cheap day as Mr Simple’s mother generously paid for petrol for the journey and entry to the garden and his father paid for tea and cake in the afternoon. For lunch I made sandwiches.

A BBQ with Mr Simple’s parents

Over the weekend we spent time walking the dog and sitting in the garden. On Sunday we had a cooked breakfast and then a late lunch, which was a BBQ, as the weather was great. Usually we would have gone out for a meal with Mr Simple’s parents, but with the dog this was more difficult and so we just ate at home. Therefore, it was a very frugal week foodwise.

The rest of the month has been fairly quiet. I had one of my get-togethers with former colleagues, which we do every other month. As always, the meal was cheap – only £10.50 and then I had a mint tea for £2.10.

So, let’s look at the figures…

Another good month on progress with the mortgage. The standard monthly payment was £532.28 and then we made an overpayment on the mortgage of £578.

This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £77,286.52.

Savings stand at £34,731.86. My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA has been up, up and up this month and by 31st July I had made a profit of £270.29.  As usual I saved £185.00 to Vanguard and £250.00 to Nationwide. Managed to get excel to draw me a nice little graph showing the progress on my savings so here it is – a good steady increase so far this year:

Interest on Marcus account which I am using for stoozing was a grand total of £6.14.

General spending

Food £139.93 – I ordered some dried fruit which lasts us a few months. Otherwise it was a fairly ordinary month.

Petrol £108.32 – Slightly lower than the budget.

Pilates £32.00 – Managed to get to four sessions which was great, as work doesn’t always allow me to do so. I feel so much better for going and really enjoy it. The lessons are also quite sociable as several people from the village go.

Toiletries £12.22 – Nothing exciting.

Miscellaneous £60.18 – We had to buy a new blade for the bread maker.  The non-stick was peeling off and lumps were coming out of the loaf when we took it out of the tin. I also bought a new airer to dry clothes. This was to replace a very old one belonging to Mr Simple which keeps collapsing and the plastic coating is peeling off. The new one looks much more robust and will hopefully last for years. We don’t have a tumble dryer and so our clothes are hung on an airer in a warm room over the winter months.

Expenses from bills account – expected annual expenses

Physio session £32.00 – I only managed to get to one session as I had to cancel the second due to work.

Car service £315.28 – nearly £100 more than budgeted, but unfortunately it is getting old and is likely to start costing me money over the next couple of years.

Gifts £19.98 – candles for two of my former colleagues who I met up with.

Eyebrow waxing £7.50

So that’s it folks any observations or suggestions? How was your July? I’d love you to let me know in the comments. Have a lovely August.

June Review and Spending

It hasn’t felt like June, mainly because the weather has been so disappointing. Even as I sit here writing this at the end of the month it may be sunny, but it is very windy, which means that t-shirt and shorts are out of the question. Every day that it’s like this a life in France seems more appealing.

This month started with a week in the Yorkshire Dales, which was a fairly frugal holiday in a small cottage, during which we mainly spent time walking.

£4 spent on ice cream

Socially, it was a quiet month – a few drinks with friends in the village one evening and my sister visited for a weekend. We ate at home and I only spent £4, which was on two ice creams for us after a walk along the coastal path. I did spend more than I usually would on desserts from the supermarket, but it wasn’t as much as if we had eaten out.

I had 66 more visitors to the blog, but 109 fewer page views. I don’t know an awful lot about blogging, but I think that means that people take a quick look and then disappear. Obviously not everyone likes what they see, but there we go. Although I read about people having thousands of page views after a few months, this is only a hobby so far and the fact that anyone actually bothers reading it at all seems amazing to me.

So, let’s look at the figures…

We paid £1111.21 off against the mortgage. The standard monthly payment was £536.21 and then we made an overpayment on the mortgage of £575.00. This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £78,263.13.

Savings are up thanks to the stock market

My savings are at £34,026.57.  It would have been more, but I realised that I made an error in my calculations earlier in the year and had to pay £160 into my stoozing account. My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA has been mostly up this month and by 30th June I had made a profit of £268.04. Woohoo!  I made my usual savings of £185.00 to Vanguard and £250.00 to the Nationwide.

Interest on my Marcus account which I am using for stoozing was £5.19. That makes a total of £17.18 since I opened the account at the end of January. It isn’t a great deal, but it’s free money as long as Tesco is giving me 0% on my credit card.

Food was £154.45 which included an indulgent Waitrose shop for our holiday in the Yorkshire Dales and a delivery from Tesco. I am reading ‘The Complete Tightwad Gazette’ by Amy Dacyczyn and she questions why we shop weekly and buy in small portions. I realised that I come home with a few bottles of beer, a couple of tins of mackerel and a few packets of crisps each week, when I could just buy a month’s supply. So that is what I did. I looked through the receipts from the past few months and made a list of what I usually bought, worked out how much we would need for a month and then Tesco delivered it. I also added in our normal weekly shop of groceries such as milk, vegetables, fruit, etc. The total came to £145.57 which was divided between me and Mr Simple. Therefore this month we went slightly over budget, but that should mean that we don’t spend nearly as much next month. The problem is going to be stopping Mr Simple eating all of the chocolate and crisps before the month is out – I have already had to hide the chocolate – at his request, as he tells me that he can’t resist.

The monthly shop may have been a large expense, but I did have a week of eating out of the freezer, as Mr Simple was away working during the last week the month. My meals were either chilli and rice, veggie burger and salad or pesto and pasta. That was a very frugal week.

Petrol £35.57 – this was very under budget. It’s partly due to being away on holiday when Mr Simple drove. I gave him money towards the petrol, but that came out of the holiday budget. I obviously just haven’t been anywhere.  

Pilates – £24.00 – I missed one week as we were away in Yorkshire, so this was less than usual.

Toiletries –  £6.00 – again very under budget. It included moisturiser and half a bottle of suntan lotion (Mr Simple shared the cost). We had three very old bottles which Mr Simple said weren’t working. He seems to burn more easily than I do, so I splashed out and bought a new bottle. Let’s just hope we get enough sunshine to use it.

Miscellaneous – £55.84, which was more than budgeted as it included money for my nephew’s birthday.

Expenses from bills account – expected regular/annual expenses

Eyebrow wax – £7.50

Hair cut £16.00

Holiday spending £124.96 i.e. balance on the Yorkshire Dales break.

Physio £32.00 – only one session this month.

Italy holiday balance – £220.57. I am going to the Italian Lakes in September with my mother to mark my 50th year. I have paid for most of the holiday out of the allowance I get for using my car for work. I used to receive this on a monthly basis and so just spent it along with the rest of my wages. Now I receive it annually, a bit like a bonus I suppose. I haven’t missed it in my wages. It’s amazing that when amounts are automatically deducted before you see them you just get used to having less. I have decided to use it towards a holiday each year.

Oil – £14.33. My car is burning oil and so I had to buy some to get it topped up. I am having it serviced next month and I am hoping that they can find out what is wrong with it and hopefully it won’t be anything too expensive – fingers crossed.

So there it is. Any observations or suggestions? Tell me how your June was.

May Spending

Spring is definitely here and summer is on its way

It feels as though as summer approaches I am attending more social events. I don’t have a big group of friends and as you would expect from the title of this blog lead a fairly simple life. The village in which we live has an active social committee and so there are a programme of events throughout the year which I try to take part in.

I have also met up with ex-colleagues. We keep in touch every couple of months and as you can see from how much I spent, go to a fairly cheap eatery for some food and a chat. Friends came to visit and we cooked lunch instead of going out.

I also attended a local fund-raising event to raise money for twinning activities. The nearest town is twinned with a place in France and this has waned over the years as the members of the society have got older. Now they are trying to revive it and are looking for new blood. With my love of France it was an ideal activity for me to get involved in. At the moment it will just be attending events to publicise the revival of the twinning, but eventually there will be the opportunity to host visitors from France and join a trip to the French town to stay with a local family and see the sights.

So, let’s look at the figures…

Another good month on progress with the mortgage. The standard monthly payment was £571.00 and then we made an overpayment on the mortgage of £540.06. The standard amounts came out of our joint account for bills, one of which was our gas and electric bill with Octopus who we switched to last year. They were recommended by Money Saving Expert and Which and I have found them really good. All of their electricity is 100% green and you can carbon offset your gas. If you were thinking of changing then click here to check them out and if you sign up both of us get £50.

This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £79,207.36

House value is £476,283 (according to the Nationwide House Price Calculator) which is an increase of 9.49% since we bought it.

Savings stand at £33,514.34. My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA has been up and down this month and by 31st May I had made a loss of £54.85.  Saved £185.00 to Vanguard and £250.00 to Nationwide.

Interest on Marcus account which I am using for stoozing a grand total of £4.35.

Try to use up ingredients that have been hanging around for a while.

Food £133.29 which included a quarterly order of dried fruit and nuts. I felt as though I had some expensive weeks this month in terms of food, but the cupboards are looking a bit bare as we had let them run down so I had to stock up. I was trying to make an effort to use up those strange ingredients that you’ve had for years and that are lurking in the back of the cupboard. This month it was a packet of sundried tomatoes which I think we bought in Italy over six years ago. I soaked them in some boiling water and used them in a lasagne recipe.

Petrol £115.35– slightly under budget as I took the train a few times. That gets refunded so I don’t count it in my expenses.

Pilates – £32.00 – this is quite a lot, but I really find it beneficial and don’t want to skimp on something which is good for my health.

Toiletries £25.36.

Presents are something that I haven’t budgeted for, but need to do so.

Miscellaneous £68.54 which included £30.00 in presents, spending on the garden of £9.45 and seeing gardens £10.00. Meal out with friends £9.40 – a bargain. Just ordered a wrap and fries and drank tap water.

Expenses from bills account – expected annual expenses

Holiday balance £94.75. We are about to go to the Yorkshire dales for the week. Unfortunately the weather forecast isn’t good, but we are renting a lovely cottage so will have plenty of room to hang up our waterproofs after a day on the hills.

Travel insurance £23.06 for a holiday to Italy. I usually get annual insurance as we have a couple of holidays abroad, but this year I didn’t bother as Mr Simple and I are staying in the UK this year. My mother and I are celebrating my 50th year by going to the Italian lakes in September. My insurance is unusually high due to my heart condition which I have to declare. Mr Simple, who is fortunately fit and well, can get annual insurance through his bank for £30 per year.

One year of physio sessions equals a holiday in France.

Physio sessions – £64.00. These are to help with problems in my neck and shoulders, mainly caused by poor posture and too much time on my computer. When I have a week’s leave my shoulders feel fine, but as soon as I go back to work they feel tight again. The physio has given me exercises to do to strengthen the muscles in my shoulders, but I am not always a good student and forget to do them. I recently realised that my annual budget for physiotherapy of £1152.00, is the equivalent of our yearly holiday in France. This year we aren’t going there, but I worked out that if I make more of an effort to do my exercises and don’t have to go to physio anymore, then we can go to France without any increase in the budget. This is a good example of how daily habits can help you to achieve your goals and dreams i.e. daily habit = physio exercises; goal = save £1152.00; dream = holiday in France in 2020.

Received some interest of £28.70 from a savings account which I emptied some time ago.

Had £65.55 left over and paid this into my Vanguard ISA.

So any observations or suggestions? How was your May?