Festive Stuff etc

Well, work’s Christmas party has been and gone in a blur, and no, I didn’t cause any gossip this time, haha!

New Co’s party budget wasn’t as big as Old Co’s (less free booze available) but it was still a good do and we all got little Christmas hampers to take home with us which was a nice touch.

The bugs and viruses were out partying too this time of year and I managed to catch a bug that’s been going around work. I spent the entire weekend tangled up in sweaty bedsheets – sounds exciting but I assure you, it wasn’t at all unless snotty tissues float your boat (!) – and I’ve recovered just in time for more eating and drinking!

Family

This month has also seen a new addition to our family – I’m an aunt again as my sister and her husband have just adopted a baby girl! Everyone is really excited – I can’t wait to see her early next year.

Last year, I celebrated Christmas with my family by travelling to Hong Kong. I’m not flying out this year so will be spending Christmas with some lovely friends who have decided to put me up (or put up with me…whatever!).

cracker

Anyway, to those who celebrate it, HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL! To those who don’t, happy holidays!

May you all eat lots, drink lots and be merry! 🙂

Ho ho ho and all that!

 

A Not so Frugal Opportunity

When you look through FI and PF blogs, various reasons cited by people on why they pursue financial independence or want to retire early include:
  • Want to spend quality time with the family, in particular children
  • Want to be able to do things they’ve never done before or never had a chance to do before
  • Want to learn new skills
  • Want to visit places they’ve never been to before
Often, people express how it’s perhaps more important to enrich their life with ‘experiences’ rather than ‘things’ – collect great memories, not stuff.
Anyway, the fact is, I have been given the opportunity NOW (not right this minute but within the next 5 months) to achieve all the above points, but it will hit my savings rate, such that I will absolutely not hit my 50% savings rate goal and will not achieve my Future Fund target of £50k, although the markets have pretty much knocked that goal out of the window anyway!
So What’s Happening?
My sisters have invited me to join them on a family holiday.

When the subject was first brought up, I think I pulled a face, as I immediately thought of the costs and what it would do to my savings rate and my FI plan.

But when I thought about it again, I realised that not only was it an opportunity that I may not get again but that I could actually afford it, without dipping into my Future Fund and without going into debt.

The only ‘loser’ would be my savings rate, as I would not be saving (as much) money, since a chunk of it will be going towards the holiday.

Choices

As I have been pretty much living on just over 50% of my salary this past year, I’m in a position where I can choose what I want to do with the other half of my salary.

I have been choosing to save/invest it for this past year, as evidenced on this blog.

Now, I choose to spend some (not all) of it.

So I said “Yes!”

What’s the Holiday?

Next year, when I go on my usual trip to Hong Kong to visit the family, I will be there a week, where I will spend some time with my parents and my grandmother and catch up with friends out there.

I will then head out to Japan on a family skiing holiday with my sisters! Or rather snowboarding in my case!

Let me refer back to the above list:

  • Want to spend quality time with the family, in particular children
As well as spending time with my sisters, I will be spending some quality time with my niece and nephews. They’re aged between 6 and 8 and there will come a time when they will be far more interested in hanging out with their friends, rather than with their daft Aunt Weenie from the UK! This will be a great opportunity for me to create some great memories with them while I can.
  • Want to be able to do things they’ve never done before or never had a chance to do before
I’ve never been on an actual ski slope before, only ever had a few tries at snowboarding on the indoor snow slope at the Chill Factore a couple of years ago. If I were to wait til I retire, even if I were to retire early (in 10 years), I may feel that I’m too old to try this out for the first time! 
  • Want to learn new skills
I will learn how to snowboard properly! Oh and learn some Japanese words!
  • Want to visit places they’ve never been to before
I have never been to Japan!

Two boxes will be ticked off my ‘bucket list’!

When I embarked on my plan to achieve FI/RE, I realised very quickly that I couldn’t do it in the same way as Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme. That way was far too extreme, too frugal – I still want to live and enjoy my life, still be seen as vaguely ‘normal’ by my colleagues and friends.  I know this shouldn’t matter but it makes my life easier. I have enough personality quirks as it is, without displaying more!

With a decent plan and by cutting down on unnecessary expenses, I have made a relatively good start with my savings and investments, with very little impact on how I live and enjoy my life.
I was always going to continue travelling abroad for my holidays, especially as pretty much my entire family live on the other side of the world. My holidays are not extravagant – when I go to Hong Kong, I’m not staying in fancy-shmancy hotels, I’m staying with family so have no accommodation costs, (it’s a good job I can sleep anywhere as sometimes I’m on a sofa, occasionally on a camp-bed, depending on who I stay with!). When I go on short trips to Europe to get my sunshine fix, it’s to somewhere cheap and cheerful like Greece, spending as little money as possible – yes, even travelling with my own beach mat so I don’t have to pay 5 Euros for a sun-lounger!

This holiday within a holiday however will be my most expensive ever (I of course will be travelling economy class as always!).

Savings Rate
So, I will be unable to achieve my 50% average savings rate by the end of the year. Having just paid off my car loan, my savings rate was actually about to consistently start hitting above the 50% mark …until I decided to go on this holiday!

Based on what I’ve been told about the cost of the holiday, I reckon I will still be able to maintain a savings rate of around 30%, although this could be a challenge as it gets closer to Christmas…we’ll see.

30% is a still good rate compared to some, just not so good compared to what I’ve been able to achieve and rather rubbish against the goal I’ve set myself.

This should only be for the next four or five months, after which ‘normal’ savings rates should be resumed.
I know this holiday flies in the face of being frugal and striving for FI but I just feel that it’s an opportunity that I can’t let pass, not while I’m fit and healthy enough to go on such an activity holiday.

All the more reason for me to save/invest that much harder in 2016!

Incidentally, this is my 100th blog post! Yay! 🙂

Festive in the Far East

I had a fabulous time catching up with the family in Hong Kong. It was only the second time I had spent Christmas over there and it was great.

Shopping centres were relatively quiet

What did we eat on Christmas Day?

I don’t know about anyone else but we had turkey, roast potatoes, sprouts etc, washed down with lots of mulled wine! There were 16 of us altogether, 4 generations (oldest 89, youngest 5) so it was the usual noisy fun!

Aside from spending time with the family, I didn’t do much – went to the cinema (watched ‘Big Hero 6‘ with my sisters’ kids and also watched ‘The Hobbit‘), went out for drinks a couple of times and ate out a lot (Vietnamese, Chinese AND Japanese!).

Two very differing views from my sisters’ apartment windows!

One thing that I did notice was that there wasn’t the usual ‘frenzy’ in the shops that we see on Boxing Day – there were no sales (aside from the usual ones) and shopping centres were not any busier than usual.

I managed to resist shopping pretty much all together – my spending was mostly on eating out and travelling.  The only thing I bought were some souvenirs for colleagues – they wanted ‘Fortune Cats‘ (or ‘Maneki Neko’ to give them their original Japanese name).  They’re supposed to be good luck talismans so I’ve kept one for myself – kinda cute and hopefully will help bring me good fortune for 2015!

It’s always a little sad to say goodbye to the family.  My sisters are always asking why I don’t move over there but while I love visiting the country, I wouldn’t like to live and work there, despite the humongous wages and the 15% income tax! In a similar way, I wouldn’t like to live and work in London, but I like visiting the place – that’s just me.

Still, it won’t be too long before I see them again, most likely in the summer.

Sibling Wealth and My One Extravagance

I think I’ve mentioned somewhere in my ‘About Me‘ page that out of all my siblings, I earn the least amount of money. They have all carved out hugely successful professional careers and now live the life of well-to-do ex-pats in Hong Kong.  

Am I jealous of their wealth and success? I can honestly say no, I’m not.  
In fact, perhaps I’m a little ‘weird’ in that I love to hear how well they are doing, how they’ve expanded their little ‘property empires’ (both in Hong Kong and in London), their numerous exotic holidays and their expensive homes. I was like this even when I was up to my eyeballs in debt – my debt situation had nothing to do with their success after all, it was all my own doing!

I have a very good relationship with them all and they don’t go on about their success, or make a big deal of me earning far less.  In fact, the only person who does mention our different earning rates is my Mum but she thinks she doesn’t! Earning stacks of cash has never been a huge deal for me – of course, it’s always nice to have more but I’ve never been driven by money.

Exquisite Tastes

My sisters are into their bling,  Jimmy Choo shoes and designer handbags. The designer handbags I own are gifts or ‘unwanted’ items.
Anyway, it was my sister’s 40th birthday a couple of months back. Sibling tradition has it that if the person celebrating a special birthday doesn’t know what present they want, they will get something that’s bought by the other siblings. Sis said she would look for some nice earrings and has finally found the pair that she wants.

Yep, some very nice earrings.

Except they are from Tiffany & Co and cost £570! Yes, £285 each! And the picture above is not actual size as they’re a lot smaller!

As the ‘poor relation’, my contribution will be £100….

When it was my 40th, I didn’t know what to ask for so I got the surprise present of a silver ring. It too was from Tiffany & Co but I’ve no idea how much it cost. I wear it every day so it’s probably best that I don’t know…

My One Extravagance

I have only ever purchased one expensive item and that is a watch which I bought with a bonus I received from work nearly 10 years ago.  The bonus also stretched to pay for a holiday in Spain for me and the ex, and paid for the front porch to be fixed.

Not a penny of it was saved and none of it was used to pay off the debts I had at the time – what did I know about financial priorities in those days, eh?  Bit of a shame, as I can’t see me ever getting such a big bonus again – it was a one-off for a project I did in Stockholm and I don’t travel like that for work any more.

So was it £1000 well spent on a watch? Definitely not – my every day watch is a £45 Casio Baby G digital – I wear the expensive one for special occasions.  Still, I know for a fact that it’s unlikely that I will ever spend that amount of money for a mere “accessory” again.  


Anyway, I’m just thankful that there are no more 40th birthdays left in the family, although in several years’ time, it’ll be the start of the 50th birthday celebrations – perhaps I need to start saving up now!

Shopping Isn’t Everything

I was in Manchester city centre this weekend. I don’t often go unless I have to but I had 3 specific tasks – to pick up my contact lenses, to speak to someone at the bank (in person) and to renew my driving licence at the post office.

I parked just outside of town as it was cheaper and so I could walk in as it was a lovely autumn day, warm enough for me to be in short-sleeves, so I guess that’s really warm for Manchester!

I walked through the shopping centre, past all the shops and it was nice just to look at what was in the windows without being tempted to go inside, browse and end up buying.

I was home by noon, having achieved my 3 tasks and not spent a penny more than intended (my licence renewal was £24, my parking cost £2).

I reckon I’m firmly in the ‘Need not Want‘ camp shopping-wise – what I need to curb next however is how much I spend buying presents for people!