October 2020 Savings, plus other updates

So, after months of effectively living under Tier 2 rules (before the government had thought of the name ‘Tiers’), I’ve been living under Tier 3 (Very High) rules this month, a pre-cursor to the national lockdown we’ll all be facing soon.

Tiers for Fears

No significant change really in how I’ve been living my life since July but I’m just glad that I was able to continue going to the gym (I can squeeze in a couple more sessions before they’re forced to close their doors on Thursday).

I’ve finally shifted my ‘lockdown pounds’ and am back up to strength, using my previous weights for training. My gym sessions have definitely helped to keep me sane during these ‘interesting’ times – I’ll somehow have to muddle through this month of lockdown – might see what home exercise kit I can pick up.

Anyway, highlights this month for me included:

    • Venturing into Manchester City Centre for the first time since March. It was like a ghost town but when I returned the following week during half-term holidays, there were more people about so it felt a bit more normal. Both trips were necessary (to order and pick up glasses).
    • Eating out in a restaurant. Twice!
    • My niece coming up to stay during half-term holidays – teenagers don’t appear to need much apart from wifi, food and a friendly ear to listen to them witter on (endlessly) about their interests/school/teenagey stuff.
    • Succumbing to Amazon Prime Day and buying a new wok (needed) and a food chopper (not really needed but already used).
    • Attending the (online) Manchester FIRE meet up – sign up here if you’re interested in future FIRE meet ups (next one is Thurs 26th Nov).
    • Attending two (online) Investing meet ups, which would have taken place in Liverpool and Leeds respectively during normal times – sign up here if you’re interested in future investing meet ups.
    • Winning a £150 Amazon voucher on the online Bingo and quiz session run by work!

Since I mention highlights, I must also mention the not-so-good things which happened this month (lowlights?!):

    • A visit to the dentist which left me £770 out of pocket (replacement crown and replacement filling). The whole social-distancing experience made me feel like I was in a sci-fi movie, with my dentist the futuristic scientist performing experiments on me!
    • My friend was tested positive for COVID-19; it wiped her out for a week but she recovered the following week at home.
    • Discovering my property did not meet fire safety regulations, as detailed in my previous post.

And on those drab notes, how did I get on with my savings in October?

I saved 44.2% of my net salary – I used some emergency funds to cover part of my dental bill so took a bit of a hit on the savings rate. Still a decent number by all accounts but not helping me get towards my revised goal.

The above savings includes top ups from another £50 premium bonds win and £40 Matched Betting profits (from last month).

Shares and Investment Trusts

Although I used some bits of dividend income to make very small purchases of a few random shares, I made no significant new investments, mainly topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The stock markets have continued to be all over the place, resulting in no real change for my Future Fund which stands at £199,109 – I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I hit that £200k milestone again – so close I can smell it! 🙂

Dividends and Other Income

Another fairly average month for dividends:

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Adding up the Cladding

On 14th June 2017, along with the rest of the UK, I watched the horrific scenes of the terrible fire raging through the apartment block Grenfell Tower in London, which killed 72 people.

The fire had likely been started by a faulty fridge-freezer but it was the insulating cladding material on the outside of the building – supposedly having passed stringent fire safety tests – which was found to be flammable and instead of slowing down the spread of flames, actually contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.

Questions were asked and it became evident that Grenfell Tower’s flammable cladding was not an isolated case and that many other buildings in the UK incorporated this unsafe material.

The government deemed that all resident apartment buildings were to be made safe and any dangerous cladding material had to be removed.

With a sense of dread, I wondered if my own property, the flat I let out to tenants was affected.

Well, it’s taken 3 years for me to find out.

Wonder No More

I can’t say I was too surprised when I received a letter from the building management agents confirming that my property did not comply with the new government fire safety guidelines. If property developers can get away with using cheaper materials, they will.

What did surprise me was that the costs to become compliant would fall entirely on us leaseholders of the property.

The freeholders will pay nothing.

New Costs

The service fees which I pay have been increased to include the cost of two fire wardens who patrol the perimeter of the building 24/7. These patrols will continue until the building has been made safe.

I guess that’s some small consolation to people like my tenants who have been living in a potentially unsafe building all this time.

Help!

I’ve read articles where leaseholders have been told that costs could amount to over £40,000 each – of course each property will be different (eg depending on the number of floors etc) but this could put a MASSIVE dent in my FIRE plans.  Could this even signal the end to my FIRE plans?

But ‘help’ is at hand…

The government has established a Private Sector Cladding Remediation Fund to help cover the cost of replacing the unsafe cladding – the building management agents have made an application on our behalf so we await approval for our share of the fund.

However, who knows if it will be enough, even if we are successful?

The unsafe materials must be removed and replaced as a necessity but any costs over and above the fund allocation will be footed by the leaseholders. By me.

I await the estimated replacement costs with some trepidation.

Note that from a money aspect, I will ultimately be fine and it won’t be the end of the world for me. Yes, forking out tens of thousands of pounds will set me back majorly in my plans but is not going to bankrupt me or anything like that because I have savings and investments to fall back on. Being on the FIRE path has meant that I’m in a far better financial place to deal with the unexpected.

I’m also not looking to imminently sell my property (without the required fire safety certificate, I’d only be able to sell to a cash buyer in any case, who would be in a strong bargaining position) and not looking to re-mortgage my property (lenders would not  currently touch me with a barge pole).

From a safety point of view however, I couldn’t imagine living somewhere which was not safe and having to worry about it on a daily basis, like some others.

It’s looking increasingly likely that my plans will be impacted but I guess I’ll just deal with it when I know what it is that I have to deal with.

Any other leaseholders being affected by this?

 

September 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Compared to last month’s ‘activity-filled’ calendar, September was on the quiet side.

The only things of any note were:

  • My nephew went back to school and all was well until during the second week when he came home with the lurgy and we had to self-isolate. Fortunately, he was able to get tested within a day and his results (negative) 48 hours later so there was little disruption to the household.
  • I had a little homegrown ‘harvest’:

  • And did I mention that I managed to hit a little milestone this month? More on that later…

Work had my brain fried most evenings so all I’ve felt like doing after logging off was slumping on the sofa watching ‘comfort’ TV – I rewatched/binged all 4 seasons of ‘Heroes‘ (“Save the cheerleader, save the world!“) and have just started to rewatch ‘Battlestar Galactica‘ (the remake, not the original camp 70s show).

I did however keep up my gym sessions so haven’t been entirely unhealthy!

Me and Sis have slowly started to add more to our shopping – an extra packet here, a couple more tins there – in anticipation of a second lockdown and in case people start going mad again stockpiling like they did in March and April (which seems a lifetime ago).

Restrictions haven’t eased off in Greater Manchester, with cases continuing to rise. Life (as we know it now) will just go on.

So, how did I get on with my savings in September?

I saved 56% of my net salary – very good, but considering it was a month of doing pretty much nothing, I was surprised I didn’t save more.

The above savings includes top ups from £60 Matched Betting profits (from last month) and £72.72 from affiliate income from OddsMonkey* (thank you to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

I sold my holding in Murray International Investment Trust (MYI) for a small profit (reason being that MYI hasn’t done so well compared to other global ITs and while the yield of >5% is tempting, I’m not sure it will be maintained). I swapped it for SPDR S&P Global Dividend Aristocrats ETF (GBDV). I topped up other existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

After reaching my £200k milestone, the stock markets went all jittery and did their best to spoil my little celebration.

By the end of the month, my Future Fund had dropped to £199,167 – it could have been worse so I’m ok with that, although it seems I wasn’t the only one who ‘flirted’ with £200k, only for it to skip out of reach again!

Dividends and Other Income

An average month for dividends:

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August 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Another month has passed in this strange year.

Some ‘interesting’ things which happened in August:

    • I ate in a restaurant (thanks for the 50% discount, Rishi!). It was nice to dress up and enjoy a pleasant evening outside of the house. Something I’ve missed a lot.
    • I put petrol in my car! I filled up the day before lockdown and haven’t really driven anywhere so it’s taken this long to use up my petrol.
    • I grew something edible and ate it! So excited as I’ve never had green fingers!

My runner beans!

    • I baked! I don’t normally do baking – I reckon the last time I baked anything was in school during one of my disastrous Home Economics classes! Anyway, I baked some healthy breakfast biscuits, which even my sis and nephew enjoyed!
    • I bought some books! I don’t tend to buy books because I use the library. Although I’ve enjoyed reading ebooks on my Kindle, I really miss holding a physical book in my hands so not knowing when my library is going to reopen, I succumbed to buying some books which I’ve been wanting to read in a while.

Can’t wait to get my teeth into these (not literally!)

    • I tried a couple of recipes with Gousto* (50% off your first box and then 30% off your first month’s subscription if you sign up via my link – while offer lasts). My sis does most of the cooking duties and we didn’t want to start getting takeaways for variety so I’ve subscribed to Gousto on my friend’s recommendation to cook some different meals. These have worked out really well – I’ve cooked some meals I never would have dreamt of cooking (all delicious so far!) and at a decent price (cheaper and healthier than takeaways for definite). I’m on a fortnightly subscription but weekly or monthly are available.
    • I was Employee of the Month – who needs to be in the office to put in a good shift and be recognised? 🙂

As there’s been no change to the lockdown requirements in Greater Manchester, I’m still only leaving the house as necessary, still not been back into the office yet although I am actually looking forward to when I do eventually go back in, just to see some different faces.

Anyway, how did I get on with my savings in August?

I was able to save 47.1% of my net salary – there was quite a bit of spending, including gifts for a couple of special birthdays, some bits and pieces for the garden and some purchases I made the back end of July on my credit card.

The above savings includes top ups from a £75 premium bond win (woo hoo!), £50 Matched Betting profits (from last month), £57.69 from affiliate income from OddsMonkey* (thank you to all who signed up via my links!) and £20.20 from TopCashback*.

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 

Big rises in the stock markets meant that my Future Fund jumped up to £197,334, but with some market wobbles this week, I’ll be lucky if I finish as high, come end of September.

Still v-shaped!

Dividends and Other Income

A better month for dividends:

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