March 2024 Savings, plus other updates

The days have brightened up and a bit of winter sun has been great for my spirit and soul!

I had a few extra days off as well as the Easter days. Over the bank holiday, I did the usual thing of going to B&Q and came away with a couple of plants and paint for the garden fences  (front fence now done).

Have enjoyed some nice relaxing days, pottering around the house and garden, planting some things so will see if those are successful.

Anyway, another month, another NI reduction, resulting in some extra pay in my wage packet. As with the last reduction, I will use this extra to overpay my mortgage.

Also, another month, another work bonus! This time, the annual discretionary bonus I get if the company hits its profit/growth targets and partly linked to my own performance.

I’m sure there was a time when I would have gotten hugely excited about getting a bonus, probably because it would have been already spent  on ‘stuff’ (and then some) in my head! When I saw it in my wage slip, I just thought, oh that’s nice and mentally divvied up how it would be invested etc. As with the last bonus, I split it across my ISA, SIPP, emergency funds and mortgage overpayment.

And on that positive note, how did my numbers look for March?

I saved 50.3% of my net salary. Normal savings rate shall resume next month! The above includes £87.44 from doing Prolific surveys and £50 football predictions winnings.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The rocket continues onwards and upwards, my Future Fund hitting £262,470.89 at the end of the month. Looks great but I can’t bring myself to get too excited about it (much!).

Dividends and Other Income

An average month for dividend income:

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February 2024 Savings, plus other updates

As mentioned in my last post and as highly recommended by various commenters, I’ve been tracking all my spending.

January was what I expected, but partway through February, I realised that there was definitely going to be variance between what I think I spend and what I actually spend.

It appears that lifestyle creep has happened, despite my efforts!

While I’ve been pretty good at buttoning down my household bills and differentiating between ‘need’ and ‘want’ purchases,  I’ve not been so great with “social expenses”. Lunches, coffees, a swift pint after work (when I’m in the office) with friends and colleagues all add up – I didn’t even think I was that active socially but obviously enough so that these costs need looking at!

A big one will likely be gifts for friends and family – some expenses have been tracked (with receipts, credit card statements), but for some reason, I seem to have glossed over the various gifts of money (for birthdays, Christmas, Chinese New Year) to my family (and I have a big family). I’ve probably lost sight of them due to the transactions just being a bank transfer here and there, probably not helped by me actively using  different current accounts simultaneously. Anyway, I’ll see what the damage is by the end of the year and hope I’m not in for too much of a shock!

February’s payslip brought a nice surprise with a bonus payment for my part in completing that project I was on. I’d forgotten about it as I had other more important things on my mind and my eligibility for it had come while I was battling with long hours and intense work activity so it wasn’t on the forefront of my mind.

I split the bonus across my ISA, SIPP, mortgage overpayment and emergency funds.

A bit left over I used to buy some small items I’d wanted (not needed 🙂 ) for my garden and kitchen.

So how did that bumper pay make my numbers look for February?

Obviously, this is way, way above my usual (much more modest) amount, but I saved 51.4% of my net salary. It’s a one-off!  The above includes £63.61 from doing Prolific surveys and a £5 charity lotto win.

Shares and Investment Trusts

I finally sold my holding in Persimmon (PSN), one of the stocks I’d kept after running my Dogs of the FTSE experiment. I used the money to increase my holding in a (fairly) new holding in MP Evans Group plc (MPE), a ‘sustainable’ stock I’d dipped my toe in with a few quid last year, but which I will add to now as part of my income paying portfolio.

Other than that, no new investments, I just topped up existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

I need to do an update on my investing strategy but been too distracted.

Future Fund 

There was an uptick in the markets but admittedly, the rocket is only really there courtesy of my bumper capital injection this month. As at the end of Feb, my Future Fund stood at £253,452.87.

Dividends and Other Income

An average month for dividends:

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How Much Will I Need?

I’ve mentioned a few times that for my Future Fund and future retirement income, I had been loosely aiming for a ‘Moderate’ standard of living as cited by Retirement Living Standards (RLS), requiring an income of £23.3k.

For ease in my spreadsheets, that was a nice round income of £24k or £2k a month (net). Note that I currently do not need this much to live on and had already adjusted my numbers to account for the double-digit inflation we all had to swallow last year.

So you can imagine my dismay (and shock) to see that RLS had updated their numbers for 2023 and that such Moderate standard of living in retirement had apparently ballooned in just one year by 34.3% to £31,300. Erm, what!?

Source: retirementlivingstandards.org.uk

This predicament has been written about recently by Monevator, and from some of the comments against that post, it seems many believe the numbers are a little ‘frothy’.

Still, I’m sure there will be yet others looking at the higher end/Comfortable numbers and thinking that £43k (£59k for a couple) is nowhere near enough for their lifestyles but each to their own. For me, I mean, I’m not sure what I would spend £31k on, if I had it? I’d have to be frivolous and wasteful.

The numbers come from this report, where 135 people participated in discussion groups, people who were retired but also non-retired individuals over the age of 50.

Although the report makes an interesting read, I’m not sure about the views of this latter group, who I reckon will have somewhat over-estimated their costs.

Which is Which?

Which? have also done their own report on retirement spending, and I’m inclined to believe their numbers are a tad more accurate, given that their research was based on surveying over 5000 retirees on their actual spending.

Which?’s ‘middle’ standard of retirement living requires £20k, so my continued aim for an income of £24k falls within this catergory – phew!

Bills, Bills, Bills

Cost of living aint getting cheaper so all I can do is try to keep the costs within my control from spiralling upwards.

I mentioned that I recently switched my broadband for a saving of £20 a month – I could have gone cheaper but as I work mostly from home, I couldn’t really take the risk of not having fast full fibre (reliable) internet.

My mobile phone monthly was swapped recently from £11 a month to £8 – nothing huge but it all adds up.

Groceries I aim to average £40 a week – doing alternate normal and small weekly supermarket shops seems to be working. A shopping list is a must however, as it’s easy to blow this budget if I just drop things randomly in my shopping trolley, without first checking what I already have in my cupboards/freezer.

I have a credit balance on my electricity/gas account and have been notified that my direct debit will be reducing by £20 a month soon. I’ll leave whatever credit balance is left for next winter.

Water, Water, Everywhere

When I moved into my house, I got a water meter fitted as soon as I could, knowing for a fact that I would make a saving (as with my previous home).

I’ve got a water butt in the garden for my plants (also use that water for my indoor plants) and think I’m doing a decent job of not wasting or using excessive water.

Since I’ve switched to a water meter, I’ve apparently saved £753.98 (over 2 years) compared to if I’d stayed on rateable value bills.

What surprised me was my average daily usage compared to other singleton households…

So it looks like my daily average is around 40 litres, the outlier being 97 litres a day during summer 2022, which would have been due to the heatwave we had and me using the garden tap (plus watering can, to avoid using the hose) to water my parched plants.

But according to United Utilities, other single households typically use 149 litres a day – what are these people doing to use so much water?

Several baths every day/really long power showers, leaving the water running while they brush their teeth/wash the dishes, flushing the toilet needlessly/endlessly? Using the hosepipe daily to water their garden/wash their car?

I’ve never been one to stay in my PJs while working from home (except the time when I had Covid), I’m dressed every day so I shower every day. However, my showers are usually 5 minute max, (I tend to just go over the much vaunted 4 minutes)  longer if I have to wash my hair!  It’s not just about cost-cutting, it’s about not wasting resources.

I let the washing up pile up in the sink during the day and do it all in one go in the evening, water in a washing up bowl, the old fashioned way.

I do 1-2 clothes washes a week, don’t always have enough dirty clothes for a full load so have to wait sometimes!

I understand that larger households will use a lot more water but seriously can’t see how my norm is so low compared to other singletons? Not that I’m worried about it but it just seems bizarre.

The Only Way is Up

It’s likely that I will probably at some point be left with no alternative but to revise my income numbers – there’s only so much I can do to keep costs down, other costs will creep up which I will have no control over and I don’t want to change my current lifestyle too drastically.

I still think it’s unlikely that I would need £31k though.

I’ll track my spending this year to see if I’m proved wrong.

How does your intended retirement income compare to RLS/Which?

January 2024 Savings, plus other updates

I kind of ‘lost’ two weeks in January while I recovered from my surgery.

The procedure went well; painkillers sent my head into woo-woo land and antihistamines I had to take to counter an allergy to antibiotics caused such drowsiness that I was just shuffling around the house like the Walking Dead for the best part of a week – am so grateful that my sister looked after me.

When I returned home, I just spent most of the time sleeping. My freezer was full of food I’d prepared weeks before which only required heating up in the microwave and visiting friends topped up my milk, eggs and fruit.

As I came off the painkillers and antihistamines and my head became clearer, I spent my days reading, sketching/drawing and playing video games.  A prelude to how I will spend my days in retirement? Evenings were spent watching TV, nothing with intricate plotlines though, my head was still a bit slow!

I’m still on the mend, not quite 100%, can now drive short distances without too much discomfort and am now back at work (I took nearly 3 weeks off and eased myself back by just doing a few hours a day last week). However, I’m already tired of the emails beginning with “Hi Weenie, how are you? I know you’ve been off but…<insert big piece of work which is apparently really urgent>”. Who says retirement isn’t a worthy goal, lol?

Anyway, the good news is that test results came back and I’m in the clear – what a huge relief.

And on that positive note, how did my numbers look for the first month of 2024?

I saved 17% of my net salary.  The above includes £44.35 from doing Prolific surveys and a £10 charity lotto win.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

A small wobble at the start of the month and then a slight recovery had my Future Fund ending the month at £249,583.56.

Dividends and Other Income

A decent start to the year for dividends:

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