The Budget

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So before I review my monthly spending I thought that I would let you know my monthly budget. This reflects the changes that I have made since discovering FIRE e.g. cutting food costs, beauty treatment costs and increasing savings.

Household Bills

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Firstly, about £1550.00 comes out of my account into our joint account. Currently I am paying the mortgage and most of the household bills and my partner is spending the equivalent on the renovation of the house. At present this money is split as follows:

Mortgage £560.00
Mortgage overpayment £550.00
Council Tax £244.00
Water £49.00
Gas and electricity £96.00
TV licence £13.00
Broadband and line rental £26.50
Charity donation £6.00

Budgeting for annual expenses

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I then have a personal account into which I transfer £300.00 at the beginning of each month in order to save towards annual car expenses and other regular payments. The money in that account is split as follows:

Car service £20.00
Car tax £2.50
MOT £3.50
Car breakdown £5.10
Car insurance £16.00
House insurance £12.00 (this is towards half of this)
Travel insurance £7.20
Hair cuts £10.00
Eyebrow waxing £6.00
Dental check-up £1.20
Opticians check-up/new glasses £13.50
Physiotherapy appointments £96.00
Holiday fund £100.00

Saving and living

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That leaves about £815.00. I have direct debits into two savings accounts totalling £435.00, so I am down to £380 to live on for the month. This is divided as follows:

Food £140.00 (this is for my half)
Petrol £120.00
Toiletries £7.50
Professional membership £24.00
Mobile phone £10.00
Pilates classes £40.00
Miscellaneous £40.00

Now, I have some added income every month as I get paid mileage from my company for travelling. It varies from month to month, but can be from £100 to £250. This allows for some extras in this tight budget or adds to my savings at the end of the month.

I will let you know how January has gone in a couple of weeks!

Habits Not Resolutions

My advice for today is to be the tortoise rather than the hare – small steps, not big leaps. In this way you are more likely to arrive at your chosen destination.

This is the time of year when many people are making New Year’s resolutions – get fit, lose weight, give up smoking, save money – but as we all know many people fail to see these through despite all of their good intentions. Now if you have made some resolutions, that’s great, you have some long-term goals to work towards in 2019. The next step is to translate each resolution into something that you are going to do at least several times a week, if not every day, in order to achieve that goal. The key is to start small. If at the moment you don’t do any exercise at all don’t commit yourself to going to the gym for an hour five mornings a week. Start with say a fifteen-minute walk three times a week and if you achieve that and can keep it up for six weeks, then increase it.

In order to monitor your progress a habit tracker may be useful. These are a popular tool with those in the bullet journaling community. Basically, it is a star chart for adults. Draw out a table with the days of the month across the top and the habits that you want to cultivate down the side. At the end of each day look at which habits you have achieved and put a tick (or a star!) in the box. Then, at the end of the month you can assess your progress and adjust next month’s habit tracker accordingly.

One of my trackers from last year – it can be as simple or as fancy as you want to make it

The good thing about a habit tracker is that you can see your progress and hopefully, if there are lots of ticks, you will be spurred on by your positive progress. Even though the initial changes may be small, you have to start somewhere and over time they can grow and help you move towards your big goal. As the saying goes, ‘Every journey begins with a single step’. Every day you will take one step and eventually you will arrive at your destination. Good luck on your journey!

Habits That I Hope Will Help Me Achieve FIRE

Began taking anything that I want to eat or drink during the day, with me

This is a common one that anybody who wants to save money can easily do. I am not one for a Starbucks everyday, but occasionally I would get myself a coffee on the way to work or stop for a sandwich if I couldn’t be bothered to make one that morning. Now I make myself a flask of coffee for the day and try to take something to eat. As it’s winter it tends to be a flask of soup, but when it gets warmer it will be salad, usually including some left over veggies from dinner the night before.

Looking at the price of petrol at every petrol station that I pass

Having done this for a while I have realised that Tesco is always the cheapest and recently it has been going down by a penny a litre every time that I visit.

Got a Tesco Credit Card

Apparently Tesco has one of the most generous points systems – one point for every £1 spent in the store, two points for every £1 spent on petrol and when buying something from another shop, you get one point for every £8 you spend. One point is approximately one penny. I have 0% interest for 20 months on the card and so I can make the minimum payments for 18 months, put all the money that I would have spent in a savings account, earn some interest and then pay off the balance next year. Hey presto, free money!

Wearing more clothes when working at home

Some days I just sit at my computer and type, other days I am out and about. When I am at home I have taken to wearing thick socks and putting a blanket over my knees so that I don’t have to put the heating on. I have been lucky in that our winter has been quite mild until now, but over the past couple of days it has dropped and I may end up having to put the heating on for an hour or so. Working at home saves me money on petrol as I would have a round trip of 70 miles, but I am not sure money wise how that equates with two hours of central heating.

Opened a stocks and shares ISA

I have had money in premium bonds for a few years. It felt a safe way to save money with the exciting possibility of becoming a millionaire. Although I think that that is more likely with premium bonds than when buying a lottery ticket, surprise surprise it didn’t happen. Occasionally I won £25, but I think I would have earnt more through interest in savings account. I therefore took the plunge and opened a stocks and shares ISA with Vanguard. Unfortunately so far I am down nearly £100, but it is very early days and all the advice that I have read says that you have to play the long game. Don’t lose your nerve when the stock market dips, but in fact invest more money, as what you buy today is cheaper than it was yesterday. When the stock market rises again, as it inevitably will, your investment will go up.

Started eating more vegetables and less fish

I was a vegetarian for a lot of years, but when I met my partner, who is a meat eater, the compromise was to start eating fish and I do actually enjoy it. The difficulty is that fish is expensive and with the meagre budget that I have set for our food shopping I can’t afford it every week. Therefore it is now an occasional treat and we are back to eating mostly veggies, which consists of a lot of Indian food as you can put almost any vegetable in a curry.

Making double the quantity of dinner and freezing it

I’ve read a lot about batch cooking – spending most of Sunday cooking and putting it all in the freezer in nice little plastic tubs. I just find the thought of spending the whole day in the kitchen unattractive so instead I try to cook double or triple the quantity for dinner and freeze the surplus. In this way I am not doing any extra cooking, but we still have meals in the freezer which we can eat if we don’t have a lot of time for cooking on a weekday evening.

Why I missed driving

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Some of my days are spent sitting in front of a computer, but others are spent travelling around, which means a lot of time in my car. Usually it’s an hour there and an hour back and maybe some shorter journeys during the day. Those such as Mr Money Mustache or Jacob Lund Fisker of Early Retirement Extreme would say that we should ditch the car and walk everywhere, but unfortunately my job doesn’t allow me to do that. Therefore I have found a way to enjoy my time in the car and put it to good use. It initially started with a friend reminding me about audiobooks which are available in the library, but then one day when I was watching You Tube whilst jogging I found the Afford Anything podcast and I was hooked. Watching a static picture on You Tube whilst listening to whoever Paula Pant, the host of the Afford Anything podcast, was interviewing was rather boring, but a quick hop over to her website and I found over 150 podcasts to download on to my phone and play in the car, all about financial independence.

Over the Christmas period I have mostly been working at home and it just doesn’t seem right to spend time sitting and listening to podcasts. I suppose that I could do it whilst doing some housework, but if I’m partly concentrating on something else then I often lose concentration and miss bits. In the car I am able to just completely focus on listening to podcasts; obviously whilst having my full concentration on the road as well.

That is why I have missed driving. I now actually look forward to getting in the car some days; planning what to listen to, downloading it to my phone. It is like a treasure trove of information out there just waiting to be discovered and it is completely free. It may not fit the ideal picture of someone working towards financial independence, but without my car, I couldn’t do my job and without my job there wouldn’t be any money to save for the future and therefore no chance of achieving FI. And, as well as making the journey more interesting I have learnt a great deal about financial independence from all of the podcasts that I have listened to.

December 2018 Review

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A few months into my decision to live more cheaply and after discovering the FIRE movement I am still learning so much. I think that I have made good progress on the saving front, now I just need to learn how to make some money – my grand total so far is £9.50 which I made by selling some DVDs on Facebook.

So how has this month been?

I went to have my eyebrows waxed. Previously it was a full facial, eyebrow and lip wax. Writing this at the beginning of January I now have a very spotty chin. I am hoping this is due to Christmas indulgences rather than giving up my facial. I am still using two out of three of the products that I buy from the beauty salon so I can’t believe it has made that much difference. Time will tell I suppose. The good news was that when I went to pay for my eyebrow wax I was able to use the deposit of £10 on my account to pay for the treatment as the salon no longer requires it due to my decrease in the use of their services.

That evening I was going out to my first Christmas meal of the month and as I hadn’t had my lip waxed at the salon I had to remove it myself. Having bought some cream from Boots at a cost of £3.25, about an hour before I had to leave, I smeared it across my top lip for ten minutes. Unfortunately, although it did remove the offending hair it left me with a large red mark across my lip around the edge of where the cream had been. Luckily it eventually disappeared and I did not have to use half a tube of foundation to conceal it. The moral of the story – a bit of future planning next time and remove my moustache the day before.

Paying just over £40 for the meal and entertainment meant that there was free wine on the table – well not exactly free – but I didn’t need to pay for it that evening. I therefore managed not to spend a penny, just sticking to the wine. I seemed to be in the minority as a red wine drinker and so there was more than I wanted, not being a great drinker.

My parents-in-law visited at the beginning of December and I had to think of free activities to do. They didn’t arrive until Saturday lunch time and so I made some cakes for their arrival and then we had dinner at home, cooked by my better half.

On the Sunday we went to the local Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve – both us and the parents-in-law are members, so it was ‘free’. The evening was going to be expensive as I had booked a table at our favourite restaurant. Very kindly, having won £75 on the premium bonds recently, my father-in-law paid – thanks ERNIE!

We have changed our gas and electricity suppliers to Octopus. Hopefully it should save us about £200 a year, although at the moment we are down money as Octopus take payments a month in advance and our previous suppliers have taken their usual direct debits – hopefully we should get some of that refunded in the new year. The good thing about Octopus is that they are not only cheaper but also environmentally friendly – electricity from renewable sources and carbon-offsetting for the gas. The middle of the month brought my first hair appointment where I wasn’t getting it dyed. I just had it washed and cut. That was £20, which seemed a lot. When it gets warmer I am going to think about washing it myself and going along with it wet and just paying solely for the cut. Although some other frugal folks seem to have taken to cutting their own hair I am not that brave. I am only now thinking about dying it myself – dye bought and just need to do a test to make sure that I don’t come out in a nasty rash. I have told my better half that he is going to have to help me.

Petrol was less than budgeted, mostly because I was at home over Christmas rather than having to drive to work, but also because every time I go to Tesco the price has dropped by a penny or two per litre. I now have a Tesco credit card and so am hoping to start building my points. The interest rate is 0% for 20 months. I read an article about ‘stoozing’ – saving any money I spend on the card in a high interest savings account and then paying off the balance with this before the interest-free period expires – having made some interest in the process. My better half said that it sounded dangerous, but it seems to me that you just have to be organised and basically it’s money for free! Has anyone else tried this?

I managed to put £623.90 into savings, but my overall total did not increase by that much as my stocks and shares ISA has lost nearly £100 since I opened it at the beginning of the month. I expect things to get a lot worse as we head into the abyss that is Brexit, but hopefully by the time I need to tap into it ‘the will of the people’ will be a distant memory.