May 2020 Savings, plus other updates

11 weeks of staying at home and the ‘lockdown me’ is just getting on with life.

Whoever invented this is to blame for my expanded lockdown waistline!

My hair is the longest it’s ever been and I waiver daily over whether to keep my greys or bolt for the hairdresser’s as soon as their doors are opened so I can hide them for a while longer.

My waistline has expanded somewhat and my weight is up – not enough exercise, too much comfort food. I look forward to my gym reopening so I can revert to my previous fitness/strength levels.

I have a fantastic glowing tan, courtesy of the wonderful weather we’ve had; I’ve been enjoying a lot more sleep and have loved spending time reading (books) and watching boxed sets. I’m still currently employed.

Work sent out a ‘Back to Work’ survey form for everyone to complete – I responded that I didn’t have a need to return to the office as I could work comfortably from home, but that I would go in if I had to, as long as I felt safe.  One of my friends has already been told by her work that she will be working from home for the rest of the year.

Anyway, how did I get on with my numbers?

I was able to save 60% of my net salary.  Aside from groceries, the only things I purchased this month were some plant pots. If I can keep this up, it’ll be the first time ever that I will have achieved my savings rate goal.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The stock market continues to show no correlation whatsoever with what’s going on in the world.

My Future Fund stands at £186,988, only a couple of grand down from the beginning of the year, so almost a complete recovery (if you exclude the extra capital I’ve invested these past few months).

‘V’ recovery, or the beginnings of a ‘W’?

It could be the calm before the storm of a global recession – who knows?

As the great late Jack Bogle said, “Nobody knows nothing”, so I continue stick to my plan and invest on a monthly basis.

Dividends and Other Income

A few more dividends got cancelled this month but it was a good month overall: Continue reading

Information Overload

I think I’ve been suffering from information overload or rather, infoxication.

From originally wanting to know everything about the pandemic and the economic and health repercussions of the virus, I’m at the point where it’s just getting overwhelming for my poor brain and sanity to cope with.

I feel that all I need to know right now are actual specifics about lockdown and how it will affect me personally (ie when and what is being relaxed, who I can meet up with and where) and from my employer, when/if I’ll be going back to the office.

That’s it.

I really don’t need or want to know any more. I used to watch the daily Coronavirus update but even that was getting a bit too much.

At some point in the future, I might be interested in reading more about what the various experts and governments around the world should have/shouldn’t have done but I’d rather read about it as a historical event which I lived through – that’s assuming I will live through this.

Maybe HBO will do a Chernobyl-like mini-series about it to dramatise all the lies and incompetence but also pay homage to the brave and the inspirational.

I’ve tried to cut back on my use of social media.

The weekly Zoom calls I have with my friends are great but also remind me how much I miss them.

I still check out Twitter for my business/investing news and although I haven’t unfollowed or blocked anyone, I’ve muted a LOT of people who were just spouting negativity. I know things will get worse,  I just don’t want to be bombarded with this fact every day in a hundred different ways.

Give me more stories about Captain Tom Moore.

I’m still reading other FIRE blogs as many are continuing with their goals and there’s still a sense of positivity, whether they’re volunteering or even when there’s been redundancy.

I’m sooooo glad that the German football league has started as my feed will now have a trickle of positive but irrelevant tweets.

I’m really craving reading something that I’m interested in but which has nothing to do with whether people are going to die or that the country will go down in flames during the worst recession in history.

I also recently developed the terrible habit of checking my phone excessively while I’m watching tv, in between reading chapters of my book and worse, it’s really distracting me while I’m working.

I came across the Forest app (free for Android) which supposedly helps you focus on tasks at hand.

Basically, you set a time for however long you want to concentrate (and not be distracted by your phone) and if you succeed, you grow a tree for your virtual forest.

If you fail (by giving up), you end up with a withered tree and you don’t want that messing up your nice little forest, do you?

My forest after a week

Yes, it’s a little gimmicky but I’ve found that it has helped me somewhat with my concentration.

Anyway, there’s a better review of the app at The Money Mountain, where I first read of the app.

How is everyone else doing and does anyone else use apps to help with their concentration/focus?

Hope you’re all enjoying the bank holiday.

April 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Another month in lockdown and I’m finding living and working like this has become quite normal.

The latest WI Magazine cover which seems quite apt

The latest all employees’ call with work mentioned plans being devised for people to return to the office once it’s been deemed safe to do so but I have mixed feelings.

Yes, I miss being in the office – miss printing stuff off to give my eyes a rest from the screen –  miss my colleagues and being out of the house, but I can’t say that I’m looking forward to returning to travelling on public transport. I’ve applied for and received a refund for my annual travel pass in any case.

Anyway, in a full month of lockdown, how did I get on with my numbers?

I was able to save 59%! All those occasional little work lunches, Friday after-work drinks and social outings do add up and since I wasn’t spending, I was able to save a lot more.

That said, I wasn’t able to max out my 2019/20 ISA – I think I got to around the £16k mark which isn’t bad, as anything over £15k is good for me.

The above savings includes top ups from yet another £25 premium bond win (4 months in a row!) and £63.15 affiliate income from OddsMonkey* (thank you to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

A couple of new investment trusts added to my portfolio, namely Murray International Trust and Templeton Emerging Markets IT, both showing decent discounts when I made the purchases.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

So much doom and gloom in the news globally yet the stock markets are doing their own thing. Whether this bounce-back is temporary or not is anyone’s guess.

My Future Fund stands at £179,924, an increase of over 9% from last month! I’m still down by around 4.4% year to date but that’s not too bad.

Dividends and Other Income

A few more dividends got cancelled this month but others thankfully continued to roll in: Continue reading

Thought Experiment #10 – COVID-19 Edition

It’s been a while since I did one of SavingNinja’s famous thought experiments and here’s his latest one:

“Unprecedented events create new experiences. What fun, misadventure, or positive discoveries have you encountered while locked down?” 

Usually I don’t take part because I don’t have the time, but I can’t really use that excuse on this occasion!

So here goes with a few things which come to mind after 4 weeks of official lockdown:

1 – Discoveries

The week when the bottom literally fell out of the stock market’s backside, I discovered that the massive drop in my investments did not give me any sleepless nights.

Here is how I slept that week (from my Fitbit):

I’d always wondered how I would feel during a stock market crash and now I know, although admittedly, it would probably have been a very different story had I relied upon my investments for income.

2 – Fun 

Although there’s a lot more time for me to read, instead of doing so, I’ve decided to have some fun and have re-taken up another passion of mine, that of video gaming.

Still conscious of cost, I looked for a good free game to play and have settled on Guild Wars 2, a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) which is my favourite game genre.

I think I’m likely to be playing this game for a long while and find it really relaxing levelling up my character.

It’s also been fun having virtual meet ups with family located on the other side of the world and also virtual nights in with friends.

The other night, I also attended the first virtual Manchester FIRE Meet Up (via Zoom) – over 20 of us logged in for a good chat, debate and discussion. Post lock-down, I can see these virtual meet ups still taking place.

3 – Misadventures

Not driving my car for over 2 weeks meant that when I did try to drive it, the battery had gone flat. One of the neighbours has offered to jump start it so I’ll hopfeully get it sorted this weekend.

Also, my oven typically stopped working just as its 5-year parts guarantee expired, so not sure when I can get that sorted. My friend’s husband has offered to take a look  (while practising social distancing) but I don’t know yet how much the parts will cost. In the meantime, we still have use of the hob and also the microwave.

Pre-lockdown, my diet was fairly low on carbs but our groceries recently have noticeably include a lot of carb-laden comfort food, eg bread, cake and biscuits. The good news is that I haven’t piled on the pounds (much!) so I’ll allow myself to enjoy these sinful treats while we must hunker down in our abodes.

4 – Routine

Being stuck at home, I feel that it’s important for me to keep my weekdays separate from the weekends as I don’t want them merging into each other – otherwise, what else is there to look forward to!? This is something I intend to maintain when I retire.

As such, I have continued to keep to the following routine:

  • Wake up to my work alarm every day during the week (a little later than my previous work alarm as I don’t need to commute), shower and get dressed.
  • Go for a quick 10 minute walk (replicating the walk I used to take from the tram stop to the office).
  • Log onto work laptop at the usual time, stop for a dedicated lunch break and log off the laptop at the usual time.
  • Rinse and repeat Monday to Friday.
  • Alcoholic drinks only allowed at the weekend, as well as lie-ins!

And thus I reckon I have maintained my own sanity and a sense of normality.

5. Positivity

You will have gathered that I have remained pretty positive during lockdown but of course I’m not entirely happy.

I miss hugging my friends, I miss eating/drinking out, I miss the office and commute (yes really!!) and I am really missing sport on tv.

I’d say the routine I’ve kept to has helped loads with me staying positive, but also, I think this ties in with ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots’: I still Have a job, I Have a garden and I Have Not got children. These 3 things I feel have contributed to my positivity, although as I’ve mentioned, my lifestyle has adapted well to lockdown.

I’ve switched off from a lot of social media and ‘news’ – all I do is keep basic tabs on what’s happening with the virus in this country and I don’t bother looking anything else.

I feel sorry for people who are suffering (mentally, financially or physically) but there’s only so much I can worry about so I reserve my concern predominantly for my family and friends. The government will do (or not do) whatever it will do (or not do) without me having to stress about it too.

Yesterday, one of my closest friends messaged me saying she has the virus symptoms – here’s hoping she doesn’t suffer too much and that she makes a fast recovery.

As I write this, I realise that if the government were to announce a further extension to this current lockdown, I think I will just shrug my shoulders and get on with it.

Other bloggers with their personal takes on this Thought Experiment include:

Mrs SavingNinja

PathtoLife2

Indeedably

Money for the Modern Girl 

Total Balance

Anyone else got any thoughts to share?