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!

Be In Motion

In chapter four of ‘The Longevity Plan’ Dr John Day states he believes that a life of constant, but not overly taxing movement, using every muscle group in our bodies, is a model for the very best kind of exercise there is. This should include short bursts of more strenuous activities. He believes that we are designed to be in movement all the time.

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For me the challenge that I face is that, like most of the population, I earn money by sitting in front of a computer for much of my day. Our modern lifestyles meant that we are mainly sedentary creatures. The message from Dr Day is that although doing some strenuous exercise during the week i.e. going to the gym or for a jog, is of benefit, the best thing that we can do for our health is to be on the go most of the time.

My own pattern is that I tend to spend Monday to Friday either sitting in front of a computer, sitting in the car or sitting talking to someone…as you can see there is a theme here! The weekend is fortunately a different matter. As I don’t have a cleaner I can be almost constantly in movement doing all those lovely jobs such as dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the toilet. When the weather is warmer there is also gardening to be done and walking up and down the garden gets in much needed steps.

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I really need to find ways of incorporating more movement into my day, but like everyone I find that going out for a walk is much more attractive when the sun is shining and in this current cold weather I just want to stay in the warm.

Dr Day suggests the following:

  • using part of your lunch break to take a walk or bike ride
  • using the stairs in your office
  • parking far from the office door and walk
  • if you must sit, set an alarm to remind yourself to stand every 30 minutes

In ‘The Four Pillar Plan’ by Dr Rangan Chatterjee he recommends what he calls the ‘five minute kitchen workout’. Basically, whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or the rice to cook, do a few squats, lunges or calf raises. That seems much more manageable to me.

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He goes on to suggest ‘high intensity interval training’ – two ten minute sessions each week. By ‘high intensity’ he means going all out, sweat running and heart pumping. By the end you should be out of breath and unable to hold a conversation for a good thirty seconds. An example he gives is running on a treadmill for one minute and twenty seconds at 4km hour and then 12km per hour (or whatever feels very hard to you) for 40 seconds. This should be repeated three to five times. If my maths is correct that is a maximum of ten minutes exercise.

If you don’t have a treadmill his suggestion is to walk out of your front door and go to the end of your road. From there, walk as fast as you can for one minute. When that minute is over, look to see which house number you’ve arrived at, then walk at a normal pace back to the start. Now you repeat the same sequence, but this time you want to see if you can beat yourself and get to a house further down the road. Try to do this five times in total.

Dr Day concludes by saying that it is so important to stack the deck in favour of motion and the best way to do that is to make it fun. Do the exercises you enjoy doing, because if you don’t enjoy doing it, you won’t do it.

So how do you fit movement into your day? I’d been interested to see how people squeeze this in during their busy schedules. Do you try to be in constant motion or is short bursts of intensive training your thing? Maybe like me it’s just the vacuuming workout on the weekends!

Community

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In the third chapter of ‘The Longevity Plan’ by Dr John Day he says that if you want to live a longer, healthier and happier life, it’s every bit as important to pay attention to your community as to pay attention to what you eat.

‘Community’ means different things to different people, but at its most basic it is the people with whom you surround yourself. In the digital age it can be people you feel connected to via social media. I have to say that I struggle to find people in the real world with whom I feel a real connection. That sounds a bit sad, no actually, it sounds very sad, but it’s the truth. It’s partly because many people my age have grown up children and/or grandchildren and so their lives revolve around family. My partner and I live 180 miles from our parents and we don’t have any children. We therefore have very different lives from most other people our age.

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I spend a lot of my time reading and learning about how to make positive changes in my life. Others probably don’t have as much time as I do, but often I feel that they’re just not very committed to making changes, as it takes determination and hard work. It also takes motivation and sometimes until something happens to give you that motivation then it makes it hard to stick with it during the difficult times. Unfortunately changes in my health made me see the value of looking after myself and motivates me every day to eat well, exercise and enjoy life. I feel that people without a strong motivation talk about losing weight, doing more exercise, etc., but it rarely comes to anything. I am therefore one of those sad people whose community is a virtual one – I feel more in common with people whose blogs I read than with my friends, colleagues and neighbours.

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Sports teams, interest groups, political organisations and lifelong learning classes are great ways to meet new people. I always say that the world isn’t going to come to you. If you want to meet people you need to get out there and join groups, volunteer or sign up for evening classes.

Apparently, if you’re surrounded by people who don’t lift you up, won’t treat you right and don’t appreciate your goals, you stand a much lower chance of living a long, healthy and happy life. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I certainly know that over the years I have become more like my partner and I use phrases that I have picked up from him and am influenced by his thinking. The trick is to spend time with people that you admire and want to emulate. For me, the trouble is finding them in the first place.  

The healthiest communities are those in which we’re surrounded by people with mutual goals and values and who act accordingly and consistently. I listened to an episode of the ‘Do It Scared’ podcast the other day which was about the core values of Ruth Soukup’s organisation. It was really interesting to hear how they helped influence ways of working. It made such a change to hear employees talking about the positives of working for their organisation.

So how do you find your ‘community’? Do your friends share your interests or do you feel you connect more with others on social media? Do you get to spend time with others who ‘lift you up’? I’d be really interested to know.

Master Your Mindset

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This is the second chapter in the book by Dr John Day, ‘The Longevity Plan’. He states that a positive mindset isn’t just about feeling happy. He believes that the way we think about our lives is perhaps the biggest factor in how our bodies will respond to the conditions of our lives. If we are going to change our lives for the better, we must first change our minds for the better.

He gives us three statements to ponder:

Buddhism teaches that the root of all unhappiness is desire. This does not mean that we should desire nothing, but rather than we should focus our desires on that which is most important to us – family, health and safety – and leave all feelings of entitlement by the water’s edge.

When we’re burdened by trying to maintain the inessential things we have (let alone procure more) we have less time, space and energy to devote to making the real changes that are so vital to creating healthier and happier lives.

Somewhere along the way, many people in our society began associating happiness with ‘having more’.

Considering these wise words I feel that they could have been written for the FI/RE community or for those trying to live a more frugal and simple life. Isn’t that about deciding what is important to you? For each of us we make conscious decisions about what to spend our money on rather than just buying to keep up with the Joneses.

He suggests simplifying one’s life by asking yourself two basic questions:

  1. Do we have what we need?
  2. Do we need what we want?

These questions help us to begin the process of decluttering our lives which is a vital step towards stress relief. Marie Kondo is popular at the moment in the world of decluttering. Marie believes that each of your possessions should bring you joy and if it doesn’t you should thank it for the service that it has provided to you and discard it.

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Although our age is often a tremendously large part of our mindset about ‘where we’re at’ in life, it is a perfectly pointless measure of who we are. In Western culture getting old has negative connotations, but in the village where his study was based maturity was something to be respected. He states that the mere belief that growing older is a positive thing might be an influencer of good health. When you start to worry that you’re over the hill I suggest thinking about the alternative – being dead. I am sure that we would all choose the former!

We all have stressors in our lives. The key to living well with stress lies in how we perceive and manage it. For example, if you have a stressful commute try listening to the books or podcasts you never seem to have time for while driving. At the time that I made this note I didn’t act on it, but now I absolutely love podcasts and have discovered a whole new free world of learning. If you find podcasts you like you might actually look forward to the days when you have to drive for work in order to be able to listen to something. The miles will pass and you may not even notice them.

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Dr Day believes that at its best, exercise is something we should look forward to. Positive anticipation is a vital part of a healthy mindset. How to fit this into your day is probably something that you may still be struggling with. In our sedentary lives, mostly spent sitting at a computer, even thirty minutes a day may seem impossible. Laura Vanderkam, who has written several books about time management suggests that the most successful people, who she has spent time studying, exercise first thing in the morning, as they are least likely to be interrupted at this time. I am sure many of you will be saying, ‘But I don’t have time in the morning’. Check out her advice about time tracking and building a morning routine which may help you find the time in your week.

Linking back to the first chapter on healthy eating Dr Day goes on to suggest ways to change your thinking which will help you address your diet and improve your physical health. For example, when we have achieved something positive or had a difficult day at work we often ‘reward’ ourselves with unhealthy food. He suggests picking something healthier and ultimately more rewarding. For him that is doing something athletic with his family.

We need to challenge customs which are intrinsically unhealthy. For example, why is inviting someone over for alcohol, caffeine or sugar-packed pastries socially accepted while inviting them over for veggies might be considered weird? Why do we celebrate birthdays with cake instead of a complete healthy meal? I have to say that my manager now brings fruit to our team meeting, but it never seems quite as attractive as the biscuits and cake she also brings.

Little by little we can take actions that fly in the face of conventional wisdom especially if what we do conventionally isn’t particularly healthy. That’s not just limited to food. One of the most promising work-place trends over the past few years is the advent of the standing desk. I had thought about this, but it costs over £1000 to buy a desk that you can both sit at and stand at. One option, if you have the space, is to have a shelf at which you can stand to use your computer and then a desk at which to sit when you want a rest from standing.

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If you’re going to take actions that are better for your life and the lives of people you care about you’re probably going to have to endure a bit of ribbing. And if that’s going to happen the best thing you can do is to simply adapt the mind-set of not really caring what those people say. My colleagues call me the ‘food police’ as I tend to refuse the offer of sweets, biscuits and cakes and frequently Google what they are eating and tell them how many spoonfuls of sugar are in that iced Greggs doughnut that they are eating – eight in a ‘pink jammie’!

I think that much of the advice in this chapter is about reframing your life and experiences. You need to have the courage to be different and not just follow the crowd. Have confidence in the choices and changes that you want to make to improve your life. Maybe others might follow your example and join you on the road to improving their mindset as well.

January Spending – approximately!

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Income

So in January I carried £32.97 over from last month, my wages were £2665.62 and then I received £105.55 for mileage costs. That was then a total of £2804.14 to spend for the month.

Expenditure

£1550.00 was transferred to the joint account and spent as
follows:
Mortgage £558.63
Mortgage overpayment £501.00
Council Tax £244.00
Water £49.00
Gas and electricity £90.98
TV licence £12.83
Broadband and line rental £26.95
Charity donation £6.00
Total £1489.39

£300 then went into my second current account which pays for annual expenses or regular payments. This month all that I had to pay for was a deposit for a holiday we have booked in the Yorkshire Dales in June of £94.75, £3.00 for eyebrow waxing and £64 for physio – £32 under budget, so I can spend this on something else! The rest stays in there and accrues until I need it e.g. for car insurance. The idea is that I don’t all of a sudden have to find the money for an expensive car service. It is already there in the account and then if I don’t need it all I can spend it on a treat.

That left £954.14. In the spirit of Robert Kiyosaki I pay myself first and have direct debits into two savings accounts totalling £435.00, so I was down to £519.14 to live on for the month. Now, this month I have started using my Tesco credit card to pay for almost everything and for this reason my usual spreadsheet has gone a bit awry and I can’t completely work out where the money has gone.

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For someone who thinks that they are good at this budgeting lark it is very frustrating. Now I do the weekly shop and pay for it, then at the end of the month I total up how much my partner owes me – this is particularly important as he eats meat and some of the items I buy for him are expensive so I don’t just split it down the middle. Before I started writing all this out on a blog I just spent the money, got some back from him at the end of the month and never went overdrawn. This month I have tried to work out exactly what I have spent on food, which includes some cash items and to be honest it just hasn’t worked. I have spent a couple of hours trying to work out where every penny has gone and I can’t do it. I did want to give you this detailed and what I am sure would have been fascinating, breakdown, but unless I want to spent several days of my life on it, it isn’t going to happen. So here are the approximate figures, which is the best I can do. I will do better in February – I promise.

Here we go then:

Food £149.01
Petrol £131.76
Toiletries £16.45
Subscription £23.26
Mobile phone £9.50
Pilates classes £24.00
Miscellaneous £104.59 – includes two meals out

Even though I can’t tell you where each penny went, (as there should be £60.57 remaining and yet that’s not the balance left in my account) the main positives are that we overpaid the mortgage by £501.00 and I put £435.00 into savings. On the not so good side, my lovely new Vanguard ISA is down, affecting my overall savings pot, but that’s the same for everyone. I had two days where I spent money unexpectedly, but otherwise it was pretty much in line with what I had anticipated. For me, this has been such a good lesson. When you set out to explain something to others you realise how little you know. Next month, I will be counting every penny, meticulously!

I hope your January was a successful one too!