Staycation – Day Two – hidden delights and unexpected feathered friends

Today definitely felt more like being on holiday. As I said yesterday we walked down to the railway station and caught the train one stop along the line and took a circuitous route back to the house through some surprisingly delightful countryside. We have only lived in this area for just over three years and although we used to visit before we moved here, there are still many corners that we have never visited. When driving we tend to avoid the narrow lanes and stick to the main roads, so a walk is a chance to discover those hidden corners.

Elevenses stop

We were lucky with the weather as it was better than predicted. We managed to find a sunny bank for elevenses and had our coffee looking over this lovely field. Surprisingly there is a main road at the top of the ridge behind the hedge.

Lunch was a sandwich taken on a bench in a sunny churchyard. As it was sheltered it was surprisingly warm. After lunch we crossed a wide flat-bottomed valley which was flooded in places and there were geese and swans grazing. Then Mr Simple spotted something else through the binoculars, which at first he thought was a heron, but it was too big for that, and turned out to be a crane. It must have come across from Slimbridge or the Somerset levels. A real treat to see – if you’re a birdwatcher that is.

An unexpected sighting

Unfortunately the weather closed in as we got close to home, but we rewarded ourselves with a cup of tea and the rest of that lemon drizzle cake once we got back!

Total spent: £1.45 each for the train fare.

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!

February Spending

This was a fairly cheap month, particularly for food, as Mr Simple was away for two weeks working. Although he was back on the weekend in between I didn’t spend as much on groceries as I would usually do.

£1550.00 was transferred to the joint account and spent as follows:

 BillAmount  
Mortgage £555.32
Mortgage overpayment £850.00 – More than usual as no council tax to pay
Council Tax £0
Water £49.00
Gas and electricity £95.35
TV licence £12.83
Broadband and line £27.25
Charity donation £6.00
Total £1595.75

There must have been some slush left over from last month. Mr Simple manages this account and decides on the level of the mortgage overpayment and as you can see the amount spent is more than I paid in. It’s great seeing so much coming off of the mortgage. We owe £82,447.68. At the current overpayment rate we are due to pay it off in seven years, but I am hoping to reduce that to five – not sure how yet.

£300 then went into my second current account which as you know pays for annual expenses or regular payments. This month I had to pay for an extra dental check up for a sensitive tooth £14.00, haircut £20.00, eyebrow wax £7.50, car tax £30.00, oil for the car £14.66, physio £32.00, deposit for holiday £203.00.

I saved £435.00 which is my regular amount to my Charter Savings account and my Nationwide account, which pays 5% to those who already have a current account with them and our joint account is with the Nationwide. This offer is for a year and the maximum you can put in in one month is £250, hence that is what I pay in. My Vanguard ISA increased in value by £120.61 therefore my savings increased by £555.61 to a total of £31,437.72. I had some money left over and so I paid £100 into my ISA, although I am waiting for it to clear and bought four books, which I plan to read and review.

My other expenses were:

Food £110.32
Petrol £98.48
Toiletries £10.49
Membership £23.26
Parking £48.10 (£39.70 of this will be refunded in March as it was
incurred as part of my job)
Phone £9.71
Pilates class£16.00 – couldn’t go as often as I would have liked due to work commitments
Miscellaneous £72.71 – includes annual membership of £42
Total £398.07

So, how did your February go? Love to hear how your expenses and savings compare to mine. Are there certain areas where you are struggling to reduce costs? Let me know and maybe I might have some helpful suggestions.

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.