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?

Treat Yourself

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We had some friends for lunch yesterday. They were passing through on their way to a week’s holiday with family and stopped by to say hello. Their suggestion was to go out for lunch, but I kept to our current frugal principles and offered to make lunch at home. We have a lovely house and a fairly nice, albeit very much ‘in progress’, garden. A much better place to eat than a dark pub on a bright spring day, and much cheaper.

During lunch Mr Simple surprised me. When I talk about FI/RE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) I don’t always think that he is listening, but yesterday he mentioned it to our friends and asked me to explain it to them. We talked about our staycation in March and how we had found pleasure in being at home. We also talked about changes that we have made to save money. One of them being that since we have become more frugal we are cooking much less fish (I am pescatarian and Mr Simple is a meat eater), so our meals are mainly vegetarian.

Our friends, who live in London, invited us down to stay and we talked about the great variety of restaurants there are in the capital, as compared to where we live. As well as economising on our home cooked food, we don’t go out to eat very often and that is when Mr Simple gets to eat meat. One would expect that he has been missing it, as now he only gets ham or chicken sandwiches, but never meat for a main meal. Some months, we don’t go out to eat at all, therefore his meat consumption at dinner is zero.  Surprisingly, Mr Simple shared than going out less often means that he enjoys it more when we do. He said that it feels like a treat.

So how do you define a treat? According to my little Oxford dictionary it is something that gives great pleasure. So, what makes it a ‘great’ pleasure? Back to the dictionary and one possible definition of ‘great’ is ‘more than ordinary’.

And that’s it isn’t it? It’s not something that you have every day. It is something that is out of the ordinary or extraordinary – unusual or remarkable; out of the usual course of everyday life. When you have your treat every day, or at least several times a week, that event doesn’t stand out anymore and therefore it’s not something to look forward to with anticipation.

Pleasures have become the mundane, the every day.

Having things less often means that you take more pleasure in them. In this day and age, we have forgotten what a treat is, as we treat ourselves every day.

In some ways I feel sorry for those who treat themselves every day. Their pleasures have lost their sparkle, their thrill. Maybe they have to spend more and more money to get that same feeling that I get when I buy a latte from a coffee shop once a month.

So, what treats do you have in your life? Or are there things that used to be treats, but aren’t anymore? How about giving them up for a bit and then just letting yourself have them occasionally? Try it for a little while and see how you feel when you do finally get that treat. You might just enjoy it all the more.

April Spending

April felt like an expensive month, but actually when I sat down and looked at the figures, it wasn’t too bad at all.

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Food spending for me totalled £109.83. We were away for a few days and although we did take quite a lot with us the extra we bought whilst we were away came out of the holiday budget. Mr Simple did the shopping this week, on the last day of the month and won’t charge me until next month. Therefore the total it was unusually low.

Petrol was only £97.05. Usually I buy a tankful every week at about £35, but I didn’t need any in the fourth week of the month, when we were away for part of the week.  We went in Mr Simple’s car to Dorset and although I paid towards petrol it came out of the holiday budget.

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Personal care totalled £68.15, which included toiletries and three pilates classes.

I upgraded my blog and finally parted with some money for a proper domain name so that cost me £48.

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I spent £95.63 on the garden, although Mr Simple paid more, as the plants we bought were a present for my birthday – it’s amazing what makes you happy as you get older. We have bought two wisteria plants. One to grow against the garage wall at the front of the house and one to train up the pergola in the back garden. (If you don’t know what a wisteria looks like check out my post about our Dorset walk).

An unexpected expense was a new sat nav. I seem to go through these very quickly. As I visit different addresses every week for my job it makes like so much easier than when I have to rely on maps. I had forgotten how expensive these great gadgets are. In the end I opted for a second hand one on Amazon for £34.96. It is very basic, but it gets me from A to B. Let’s just hope it lasts.

Payments from my ‘bills’ account i.e. expected expenses which I plan for throughout the year, were:

£85 for the short break in Dorset – I had already paid for the accommodation last month. This included two meals out, tea and cake and petrol. The most expensive thing, the cottage, was already paid for. Although it was an AirBnB rental, it was quite expensive for three nights. I am not convinced that AirBnB is actually always cheaper than a standard holiday rental.  

Travel hacking is something I am yet to try. I have looked at house-sitting sites. Mr Simple and I love dogs and the thought of caring for someone else’s four-legged friend for a week sounds ideal for us. The practicalities though might not be so fun, as we wouldn’t be able to go out for a whole day and leave the dog. If we did take him/her walking with us this may present problems. We have seen lots of ramblers with dogs have difficulties when walking through cow fields e.g. instead of running off the cows have surrounded them. In fact, we have had problems with curious cows following us and we don’t have a dog. I have thought of cat-sitting, but we are not cat lovers. I just wondered if anyone has tried house/pet sitting and how it worked out. I have considered trying it for a weekend just to see how we get on, although many of the sites charge a sign-up fee.

I also paid for two sessions of physio at a total of £64.00.

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My stocks and shares ISA leapt up from £6788.51 to £7033.10, an increase of £155.97. I also received £250 for my birthday so like the good little saver I am, I added that and the total now sits at £7283.48. I made my usual automatic deposits into two savings accounts of £435.00. One account now has over £10,000, which is enough to buy a car should my current one decide to pack up on me. Fingers crossed it lasts for a few years yet. I will therefore not be paying anymore money into that account and the £185.00 will go into my ISA from May. My savings now total £32,995.95.

When I look at others’ posts they calculate their net worth which includes the equity in their house and their pension pot. Although we have over £350,000 equity in our house, as we are not planning to sell I don’t count this as available money. Secondly, being fortunate enough to have a defined benefit pension I only know what I am going to receive when I get to retirement age, but not how much I have in the pot. My issue is not whether I will have enough money to live on when I get to my sixties, but whether I can finish work earlier and if so what savings I will have to live on. At the moment I have a long way to go. In five years’ time, at my current savings rate I will have about £64,000 saved – taking account of the fact that I may need to buy a new car in that time.

As you know, the only debt that we have is our mortgage and I paid £1108.89 towards that in April, taking it down to a total of £80,217.97.

So that’s all folks. How was your April?

What is there to see on a walk?

We have recently returned from a few days away in Dorset to celebrate my birthday. On the way we broke our journey by stopping for lunch in a lovely pub in Somerset. The waitress who served us was very friendly and we got chatting, talking to her about our holiday and our plans to go walking. Her response was to ask, ‘What is there to see on a walk?’ indicating that she would find it boring as there is nothing to look at.

The following day we did a walk in the picturesque Dorset countryside and as I was enjoying the wildlife, the flowers and the scenery I realised how much there is to see on a walk. I wished that she had been there with us so that I could show her all the interesting and beautiful sights that our countryside has to offer. As that wasn’t possible I thought that instead I would share them with you, in case you’ve never been on a ramble and are of the same mind that ‘there isn’t anything to see’. So here we go, a few of the things that we saw…

Picturesque villages

Where we started our walk

Thatched houses, many with wisterias in flower

We saw so many houses with beautiful wisterias

Cowslips

Bluebells

Where we stopped for coffee

Deer

We saw deer on two occasions in one day – a single one and then a group of three

A kestrel catching a vole

A nuthatch

A yellowhammer

A wren

Rape fields

The footpath went right through the middle of this field

Cerne Abbas chalk giant

Thought to be a fertility symbol

Curious cows

Fortunately they were on the other side of the fence

This wasn’t a walk through the wilds of Scotland or some exotic land, it was a few miles across English countryside and yet we saw all of this. I must admit that we wouldn’t have seen some of the birds as well if we hadn’t had our binoculars with us – if you read my staycation posts you will know that we like to do a bit of birdwatching.  A good pair of binoculars can be expensive, but they are usually a once in a lifetime purchase. If you just fancy having a go to see if you might enjoy looking at our feathered friends you can buy a small pair on Amazon for under £20.

As the weather is improving, why not get out into the countryside and find out what you can see. At this time of year the bluebells are amazing – creating a blue carpet in many of our woodlands and the smell is divine. You can find some near you on the Woodland Trust website. You may want to take an ordnance survey map with you if you have one, but if you don’t try just going to a country park for a few hours. If you take a picnic you can make a day of it – a no spend day!

I must admit ours wasn’t quite that as we treated ourselves to tea and cake in Cerne Abbas – we were on holiday after all!

March Spending

We now own over 80% of our house

It feels as though we have made progress on both the mortgage front and the savings front this month. We made an overpayment of £850.00 on the mortgage and the balance now stands at £81,183. Like last month there was no council tax to pay, hence the large mortgage overpayment. It will go down next month to our usual overpayment of £500. This morning we were reflecting on how much we have paid off in the three and a half years that we have had the house – a grand total of £50,000!

Having changed electricity suppliers to Octopus a few months ago we finally got a refund from Good Energy of £70.27, which contributed to the mortgage overpayment.

One off payments I made this month included:

House insurance £282.58

Holiday deposit for a few days away in April £158.79

MOT £44.99.

We also had our first staycation this month and I spent £95.64, which breaks down as follows:

Sunday £0

Monday Train £2.90

Tuesday Train £12.40, Coffee and cake at the museum £8.30, Lunch £48.60 – two courses for me, three for him and two glasses of wine

Wednesday Lunch in the café during our walk £26.75

Thursday Petrol £20 Lunch at Slimbridge £19.15

Friday Lunch £53.17 – three courses each, 2½ pints of lager (only got charged for half a lager by mistake)

Total £191.27 or £95.64 each

I saved £435.00 to my savings accounts and I paid £100 into my Vanguard ISA. My savings increased by £717.26 (partly due to an increase in the value of the ISA), taking the total up to £32,154.98. I now have enough money in my instant access savings account to buy a new (well new to me) car and so I plan to start paying into my Vanguard ISA each month. I will still pay into one of the savings accounts which is offering 5% interest for a year. After that I will probably transfer it to the ISA.

My other expenses were:

Food £160.74 – over £50 more than last month when Mr Simple was away for two weeks.

Petrol £103.35 – very similar to last month

Toiletries £38.72 – when I went to buy some items e.g. hair dye, there was an offer on if you bought two, so I did, knowing that it would save me money in the long run.

Miscellaneous £142.41 – includes mother’s day present £32.95, books £45.13, team away day activity £14.00

Despite being frugal I know that there are other savings that I could have made

Looking at areas where I could have saved money they were mostly around food e.g. not buying so many lunches during our staycation. I have also bought a sandwich some days, usually towards the end of the week, when the fridge is looking a bit empty. I need to work on this next month. It may be the traditional joke in the FI world that if we forego our daily coffee we can get rich, but I do honestly think that these small changes can make a great deal of difference in the long run. I was on a training course today and as I work for the public sector refreshments are not provided. Several attendees bought a coffee on arrival, one during the mid-morning break, their lunch and then another coffee during the afternoon. I arrived with my bag of provisions, spent a total sum of £0 and sat there feeling very smug.

So how was your month? How is your progress towards paying off your debts and increasing your savings going? What are you going to work on next month? Let me know what changes you’re making to your spending.

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