Home Brew #9

I can’t believe I’ve left it so long to get back to home brewing my own beer – my last batch was over a year ago!

Home brewing was a hobby which I took up back in September 2014 because I wanted to do something different, which would not only give me joy but save me some money  – it’s a fact that when I have home brew in the house, I spend far less or nothing on alcohol for home consumption. It isn’t an easy hobby but I think because of this, it’s a very satisfying one.

I only brew all-in-one premium kits, and the kit I made this time was Festival Razorback IPA.  This was probably the first kit I’ve attempted where I was a little concerned that I’d done something wrong.

After three days, fermentation still hadn’t started and I thought that I’d messed up with the water temperature, ie too hot, destroying the yeast and I dreaded the possibility of having to pour the whole lot down the drain.

Turned out it was the other way round, my kitchen was so cold that the mix had dropped to too low a temperature for the yeast to do its stuff, so as well as using a brew belt to increase the temperature, I wrapped an old winter coat round the tub and piled towels on top and that did the trick!

The kit produced 40 bottles (20 litres/35 pints) and cost £26.50.  So not accounting for the time spent doing the actual brewing, the cost of these beers work out at £0.66 per 500ml bottle or £0.76 a pint! Definitely happy hour! 🙂

Bit darker than the picture on the box!

Alcohol strength at over 5.5% is probably on the high side compared to what I usually drink but it still goes down easily! A good hoppy flavour, and this despite me not following the instructions exactly and leaving the hops in for just 4 days instead of the recommended 10 days, as I didn’t want to overdo the bitterness. From start to finish, this brew took just over 2 months before it was ready to drink and is likely to get better with time (that’s if I don’t drink them all quickly, haha!).

Obviously it’s nowhere near the quality of say BrewDog but it’s a decent beer with the important quality being that it pours with a good frothy head, which doesn’t disappear after a few minutes and which sticks to the side of the glass as you down the drink, just like a real pint you’d get in a pub! 🙂

I’ve now done 8 different beer kits and one cider kit. I had originally been planning to brew (and document) 10 different kits and then just reverting to brewing my favourites.

However, there are so many different kits out there, I may just keep going and trying new ones that catch my eye and picking up old favourites when I see them on offer.

Brewing as a Business

I can see me continuing with my brewing hobby and probably doing more of it when I no longer need to work.

Friends and colleagues have suggested that I should perhaps look into brewing as a proper business in the future (eg a microbrewery), but I’d rather not convert a hobby into a job.

Whilst it would be nice to earn money from a hobby, I just think that having deadlines and customer expectations would suck all the joy out of it. I’m happy just doing it for fun and sharing some of the fruits of my labour. My friends and colleagues are happy with the free beers they get off me but I reckon they might be a tad fussier if they had to pay!

I’ll leave the experts to rake in the profits that way!

I’ve promised a friend that I’ll do a cherry beer next – not something I would normally drink but I’ll give it a go in the next month or so.

Anyway, cheers!

4 Years!

 

This month marks FOUR years since I started blogging about my journey to Financial Independence/Retiring Early!

Happy 4th birthday to Quietly Saving! 🙂

With so many new blogs springing up all the time and other blogs falling by the wayside, no longer being updated, I guess this must rank me amongst the ‘veterans’!?

Back Then

Although my first post on this blog was in April 2014, I had made a note of my finances in March – my starting or pre-FI plan numbers!

Here’s the comparison between my starting numbers and my most recent update:

  • March 2014 – Future Fund: £30,075
    March 2018 – Future Fund: £130,574
  • March 2014 – Net Worth: £74,595
    March 2018 – Net Worth: £219,974

The increases have been largely due to me saving hard so that new capital can be invested every month, although I have also been lucky with investment gains from the (mostly) favourable stock markets these past four years. I also reinvest any dividends and interest I receive.

I’ve aimed to save/invest as much of my net salary as possible (averaging around 40-45%), and also put away income generated from cashback, a bit of rental income, the odd bit of gambling, affiliate links and profits from matched betting. Any bonuses I’ve received from work have largely been invested too, plus as I found a job fairly quickly, I was able to save/invest the bulk of the redundancy pay I received in 2016.

I don’t practise extreme frugality – I just don’t spend a lot of money on stuff I deem unnecessary, but splash out on things I enjoy and which are important in my life, eg holidays, eating/drinking out with friends, my gym membership.

Blog Stats and Numbers?

This is where I could probably post some numbers to show how many visitors I’ve had over the years, page views, followers, subscribers etc.

Apart from the first few giddy months of me starting this blog, I have to say that I’m not really interested in such stats. Although my blog is monetised, it’s never been my intention to make any real money out of it so I’ve never felt the need to work at driving a load of traffic here. The bit of income that I do get from Google Ads barely covers the upkeep of my site but that’s enough for me. The bit of affiliate income I receive is detailed in my monthly updates and is lumped in with the rest of my investments.

Someone even contacted me recently to buy my blog (why??) but I wasn’t interested, not even to see what they were going to offer.

My only goal blog-wise has been to document my own progress on a semi-regular basis.

Top Finance Blogs

Some of you may have spotted that I re-added the Modest Money ‘Top Finance Blogs’ badge to my blog some months ago, after ‘losing’ it when I transferred from Blogger to WordPress.

When it was originally on my blog back in 2014, I had a rank of around #260 out of around 500 FI/PF blogs. My ranking has plummeted but the number of blogs is now around 1000, so I guess I’m still around the halfway mark.

I can’t say I’m actively trying to improve my rank, as I don’t have the time or inclination to sweat over analytics, SEO scores, Alexa Rankings or massing gazillions of Twitter followers.

But fair play and massive respect to those who do put in the hard effort and reap the rewards of a decent blog income – I personally just can’t be bothered with it.

As I draft this post, my rank is #596 so it’s probably gone down further by the time I publish this! How low can I go, haha?

For comparison, Monevator is the top UK blog, ranked at #40 (at the time of writing).

Thank You

A massive ‘Thank You’ to all fellow and non bloggers who take the time to read this little blog – I really appreciate your comments and emails.

Thank you very much for helping me keep my focus, keeping me motivated, giving me ideas and helping me stick to my plan!

I will also take this opportunity to give a shout out to the two blogs, Retirement Investing Today and diy investor UK, who between them, have provided nearly 12,000 referrals to my blog!  Cheers, chaps! 🙂

Also, thanks to FIREin’ London and theFIREstarter who have posted the most comments over the years – keep ’em coming!

Next Chapter

This time last year, I was unemployed (or practising living the FIRE life!) and I wrote that I would be entering a new chapter of my life.

The new chapter so far has turned out to be not too different from the old – I’ve settled into my job and am just getting my head down, getting on with my work. Next month, I will have been at my ‘new job’ for a year – I know! That’s bloody gone quick, hasn’t it?

Being settled means I can pretty much set things to ‘automatic pilot’ and continue with my plan for FIRE, barring any unforeseeable obstacles which life may throw at me in the meantime!

Onwards and upwards!

Hope everyone is enjoying the sunshine in the UK, while it lasts!

Spring is finally here, so no more scenes like this on the way to work!

Retirement Conversations

Just a random post to share a few recent conversations I’ve had about retirement:

Conversation #1

I had a routine medical appointment the other day and was attended by the same nurse I’ve been seeing for a while.

When I saw her, I made a comment about her not wearing her usual glasses.

She proceeded to tell me how she had finally gotten round to having a minor operation on her eyes, which meant that she no longer needed her glasses.

The reason why she was able to have the time to have the operation and recover from it? She’d dropped to part-time hours, or as she revealed in our ensuing conversation, she’d gone into semi-retirement (Is there a difference? I don’t know, I’m just repeating what she said).

I realised then that she didn’t look different just because she wasn’t wearing her glasses, it was because she looked a lot happier and relaxed!

She told me that after a 30-year career with the NHS, she still wasn’t mentally ready for full retirement but that at age 55, she was drawing on part of her pension and that this, coupled with her part-time wages was enough for her to live on and pay for her holidays and hobbies.

Conversation #2

One of my neighbours semi-retired a year ago when she was 53.

The last time we spoke, she was working part-time for a non-profit organisation.

I hadn’t seen her in a while so when I spotted her unpacking some shopping from her car the other day, I stopped for a chat and asked her how things were going.

“Oh I’ve jacked in my part-time hours,” she told me.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“I’m too busy to work! Too much to do, too many places to visit!” she replied.

Work/Semi-Retire/Early Retire

So that’s just two examples of people who are very happy with the decision they’d made as regards retirement/semi-retirement, and although not extremely early retirement, still early in that state pension won’t be available til they are 65.

However, I wonder how easy it was for them to make that decision? Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that it was something I could ask either of them!

Which brings me to all the kerfuffle going on about early retirees changing their minds (nicely put in this excellent post by Monevator).

Who really knows what they will do when the time comes (unless you absolutely hate your job, in which case it’s clear what you will do!) and you reach your financial goals?

Jim from SMHD tried the early retirement thing and decided to go back to work.

Early retirement is not for everyone,  even for those planning for it!

There’s every chance that instead of going for early retirement when I reach my FI number, that I may choose to work reduced hours. However, like my neighbour, I may find that even part-time hours will get in the way of me enjoying my new found freedom properly!

Or I may actually go for full retirement, which sounds very appealing when I’ve had a tough week at work and wish every weekend was a bank holiday weekend.

Or I might continue working (one more year?), which is how I feel when I’ve had a good day at work, had a great laugh and felt like I’ve achieved and contributed loads. (Yes really, I do have good days!).

I have no idea how I will feel when the time comes to pull that retirement trigger but the most important thing is that I will get to choose what I want to do.

There was a third conversation I had:

Conversation #3

Bumped into an ex-colleague at the gym. She’s still at the company which made me redundant and things seem to be going well for her.

While we were chatting, she revealed that her husband had retired some months earlier.

“When will you be retiring?” I asked her, knowing that she was in her mid-50s.

“I’m not,” she replied, “It would do my head in sitting at home with him all day! I go to work to get away from him, the weekends are enough!”

She was joking…I think!

And Another Thing

The nurse and my neighbour? Both single (one divorced) which cements in my mind that I’m fine going it alone, since it appears that most people aiming for FI are married or with significant others, helping them build their FI pot, sharing expenses.

Not that I’m intentionally staying single (or plan to stay single for long…ooooh!) but if things don’t work out on that front, I’ll be just fine! 😉

And on that note, have a great weekend all!

Where you’ll probably find me at some point on Saturday night…

Typical Day

In a recent comment, @Playing with Fire mentioned that it might be interesting to know what a typical day looks like during my ‘unplanned practice retirement’.

I’m not sure it would make a very interesting post but here goes!

Also, I would love to treat it as ‘retirement’ but feel a little uneasy about enjoying myself too much!

Anyway, three of my days in the week are pretty much the same so I guess they’re ‘typical’:

My alarm wakes me up at 7.30am. I know this isn’t actually that early but considering I don’t really need to wake up at that time, it’s still quite early (for me, especially as I’m not a morning person!). I need to set the alarm as I don’t want to end up treating every day like the weekend. Also, when I get a job, the transition won’t be so painful!

I’m up and about, have a simple breakfast, read the news online, check my emails and by 9am, I will sit down to do my matched betting.

This can take between 1-1.5 hours, depending on the number of offers on and if I can get any decent matches.

Matched betting done, I do my job hunting – this can take between 1 – 3 hours depending on whether there are any vacancies worth investigating, what job matches I have in my inbox, if I make any applications etc.

I probably get 1 or 2 agencies calling me each week, some just to go over my CV and experience; other times, I end up having a mini telephone interview.

I’ll have my lunch anytime between noon and 2pm, depending on the above activities. I used to take my own salad box for work but for some reason, I can’t face eating salad at home. It would be so easy to just nip out and buy lunch but keeping costs down in mind, I just make a light lunch at home.

If it’s sunny, I’ll then potter around the garden. If the weather’s crap, I’ll catch up on some blog reading, read my book, occasionally practise my ukulele or listen to some podcasts or the radio.

At around 4pm, to avoid traffic, I’ll set off for the gym. I catch up with my friends in the club area and then do my own training in the gym (weights and punchbag). After this session, I rejoin my friends for the aerobics class. Shower, change, drive home – by this time, it’s nearly 8.30 pm.

I never have much of an appetite after a workout so I’ll make a small evening meal, perhaps have a couple of snacks.

Anyway, it’s then back online to check how my matched bets have gone and I update my spreadsheets, cheering at the profits/free bets and grimacing at qualifying losses!

The TV is finally switched on and I’ll watch 2 or 3 episodes of some show I’m currently in the middle of watching or catch up on iPlayer.

Around midnight, time for bed but I’ll read for up to an hour before my head hits the pillow.

And that’s pretty much it – the days don’t seem to drag but I’ve noticed they certainly don’t go by as fast as they did when I was working.

I’ve still been keeping to my drinking-only-at-weekends rule – it’s feels important to me to distinguish the weekdays from the weekends so yes, I still look forward to the weekends. In this, I think I’d probably practice something similar when I am finally retired.

My social life hasn’t changed but I actually turned down a couple of recent ‘unplanned’ outings, (“Champagne afternoon tea? Sorry, count me out!”) which I would have probably accepted when I was working.

I’m spending a lot of time at home, which would drive some people mad but the other alternative is to go out and going out often means the opportunity to spend money. On the few days when it’s been sunny and I’ve decided to walk into the local village, I’ve deliberately not taken my purse.

I still do my one supermarket shop a week, keeping to my usual routine. My grocery bill hasn’t changed too much but I might start planning my meals better again, cook in batches etc.

Resistance was futile…

As mentioned in discussions with @FIREin’ London, I was trying to not buy any alcohol for home consumption this year – I lasted until April – ended up wandering down the ‘wrong’ aisle in the supermarket and left with a few bottles of Brewdog! I’ll see how long I can resist again – really need to get another homebrew on but struggling to find the motivation to do so.

Positive

I think I’ve retained a positive outlook by keeping to routines, maintaining my fitness and continuing to network. My friends and family seem more concerned that I’m not working, when in the back of my mind, I don’t think I’d be too upset if I was free to enjoy the summer! However, my preference of course would be to get back to working sooner rather than later.

My ex-boss has been calling me every other week to see how I’m getting on and to provide support and advice. I’m actually very grateful he does this as we had a great working relationship.  His calls help keep me focused on the job hunting, plus he has a lot of contacts in the industry.

Today

Today would have been one of the above ‘typical days’ only it wasn’t because I had an interview so spent the entire morning prepping for it (all of yesterday too). It was probably one of the toughest interviews I’ve had and I very much feel like breaking that no-alcohol-in-the-week rule, haha! Fingers crossed for this one!