January 2018 Savings, plus other updates

Anyone do ‘Dry January’? Although some of my friends and family did, I didn’t bother. Since I don’t drink during the week, I see little point in depriving myself at weekends. Apparently, my sister failed on day THREE, haha!

Anyway, this month I tried to lead a frugal nun-like existence. That meant turning down social events, no eating out/takeaways (massive assumption here that nuns don’t have social events, eat out or have takeaways…).

My only purchases were basic groceries (including necessary toiletries), a gift voucher (for nephew’s birthday), stamps and a pair of socks. No January sales for me.  Packed lunches for work, except for perhaps on 4 occasions where I spent less than £2 on my lunch.

On the one hand, it felt great knowing that I was going to save more of my salary this month. On the other, the frugal existence didn’t make me feel too happy and in the end, to preserve my sanity, I succumbed and forked out to see the latest Star Wars film at the cinema.

I think I already have my expenses and spending down to a decent level allowing me to save/invest whilst enjoying life – there was probably no need for me to do a frugal January but I thought I’d try it anyway. I have to say it’s not something I’ll be attempting again in a hurry, not to this extreme.

So, did my being very frugal affect how I much I saved in the first month of the year?

Yes, because I saved 59.3% – it could have been more if I didn’t have some December expenses on my credit card bill.

I know, I know…imagine if I could do this every month! But no, living like this isn’t something I would choose to do long-term, even knowing that it would help me achieve my goals quicker. I guess I’m just not in that much of a rush!

The above savings include my £25 Premium Bonds win, £16.32 from TopCashback*, £63.22 from Google Adsense (my annual payout!), £71.16 affiliate income from OddsMonkey, £130 matched betting profits, and £50 rent received.

Shares and Investment Trusts

I started investing in Witan Pacific IT this month, for some diversification.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The rise of sterling and small wobbles in the market caused my Future Fund to stay pretty much the same at £133,045, despite the capital injection this month. Whatever, I’m just going to continue investing anyway.

Dividends and Other Income

Dividends received this month: Continue reading

Economics, Libraries, plus another PB win


I don’t remember finding the subject of Economics very interesting at school, or particularly after school, if I’m honest. However, I did enjoy the type of ‘economics’ as found in the Freakonomics books, and one of the ‘you might also like’ suggestions in Amazon came up with The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford. This became the final non-fiction book I read in 2017 to achieve one of my goals.

The book occasionally got a bit too much like a school text book but all in all, mostly held my attention.

It was very much educational but in an engaging way; things I learned included the ‘scarcity power’ of retailers pushing up prices,  how and why ‘externality pricing’ works’ (eg congestion charges) and ‘auction theory’, where the example used was the UK’s 2000 telecoms/spectrum auction which became the biggest auction ever (at the time), plus an insight as to why sweatshops might not always be the worst thing for employees.

For those who love their takeaway coffee, there’s a chapter called ‘Who pays for your coffee?’ with interesting examples of how coffees/drinks are priced.

I was interested in the history of how China started its latest revolution to conquer the world, although as the edition of the book I was reading was written in 2006, it doesn’t include China’s explosion in the last 10 years.  However, even 11 years ago, China’s growth was spiralling upwards like a rocket.

Having never heard of Harford previously, I now see him everywhere doing a couple of podcasts (interesting one here about fake news or ‘facts’ which mislead), plus there was even an article by him in the British Airways magazine I was reading on the plane during my recent trip to London! I’ve probably just never noticed him or his work before, but I’ll be paying more attention now.

An interesting read in any case and I would definitely read some of his other books.

Libraries

I’ve been using my local library since the mid-1990s, when I moved back home to Manchester from uni.  Around 12 years ago, my library was at risk of closure due to council cuts – fortunately, it was saved and I started to use it more often, with a ‘use it or lose it’ view. Borrowing books also helped me reduce my spending as I no longer felt the need to buy new books.

I was extremely relieved to hear that the library once again escaped the ‘chop’ and that it was not to be one of ten libraries (yes 10!) which were closed by the council earlier this month. Very sad times and those communities will be all the more poorer for not having local library facilities.

Although my library has been saved, the hours of opening have been severely reduced and I can only feel for the staff who have worked there for many years and the people who regularly rely on using library facilities.

I wonder if Tim Harford has a theory on how libraries can be saved or run more efficiently?

Another Win

And finally, a good start to the year with my first Premium Bond win of 2018 – just the £25 but it all adds up! I hope to get many more wins over the year.

O.O.O plus another PB win

Out Of Office

Blogging’s going on hold for a bit as I’m off on hols to Hong Kong (for around three weeks). My holidays are all budgeted for, although this particular one is going to blow my budget… we’ll see anyway!

I’m really looking forward to the break as I’ve not had a single day off since I returned to work in May and as we all know, weekends just aren’t enough so my brain is a little fried!

As usual, I’m stressing a little (I always do before I go away) but once I’m on that plane, I’ll be fine! Can’t wait to catch up with the family and also to soak up some rays and warm weather, hopefully get rid of some of these winter blues!

November’s savings and numbers update will likely not appear until the second week of December, assuming I get myself semi-organised upon my return!

I’ll catch up on my reading and comments when I get back.

Another Win

Anyway, I’ll end this brief update with the news that I got another Premium Bond win – yay! Just a £25 prize but better than nowt!

My Premium Bonds represent the small (10%) cash element of my portfolio, not likely to earn much in the long run (although I live in hope!) but safe and stable (strong and stable??) compared to the rest of my portfolio, which is pretty much all in equities.  Here’s to more wins!

Anyway, catch you all when I get back! 🙂

Retire at 40?

I’m way past 40 so it won’t be me! But who watched Channel 4’s 30-minute programme, shown on Monday night, ambitiously titled ‘How to Retire at 40‘?

I won’t go into the programme details myself except to mention that I didn’t think much of it, but there are some interesting discussions here and here, from bloggers who were actually featured (briefly) on the programme and one who missed the cut (unlucky, Huw!).

Watching the programme and seeing the young folk featured on it, I was reminded of how when I blundered into embarked on my own career in my early 20s, the very very last thing on my mind was retirement (although following my older sister’s advice, I joined the company pension scheme as soon as I was able to).

Traditional

I’m from the traditional/common way of thinking – go to school, go to university, graft for 40 years, retire in my mid-60s.

Nothing wrong with that way of thinking – it’s what many people do. I have been fortunate in that my 20+ years career (so far) has been largely fulfilling and enjoyable, and I have made close and life-long friends through work.

Despite spending most waking hours at work, I’ve been able to enjoy my life, including go on holidays every year, have enough time for family and friends, have hobbies etc. I have always been able to maintain a good work/life balance.

I will admit however that much of my life was fuelled by debt but that was me being stupid with credit cards until I came to my senses and paid them all off.

Throughout my career, I have never minded working for The Man/The Woman, although I guess I’ve been fortunate with my bosses in that they’ve all been pretty reasonable people (most of the time) and people who I respected. I may not be so fortunate in the future.

Be my own boss? No real desire to do that, sounds like too much hard work!

Anyway, what got me thinking about early retirement a few years back was stumbling across MMM and then wondering what I would do if I suddenly started to hate work and be fed up with the 9-5? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to just walk away?

Options

Well, without sorting out my personal finances, my only option would be to keep plugging away another 20 or so years until normal retirement age (67 for me). Ok if you like/love your job; not ok if you have health issues or dread going into the office every day, although of course, you can always switch jobs if this is the case.

I’m hoping that saving and investing hard now will build up a big enough pot which will allow me to choose to stop working full-time at age 55-56 (my stretch target) if I’m fed up with work by then. Some may not think this is early retirement but I consider anything <60 as early!

In the event that I’m not mentally ready to give up work then (like Jim from SHMD) or if I’m just content doing what I’m doing, I might choose to just carry on working and continue to save and invest. That’s the thing – I’ll get to choose.

I don’t think there’s such a thing as ‘too much’ in retirement funds (I won’t be anywhere near the lifetime limit!) but ‘too little’ would be a miserable scenario!

I’m barely two months into my new job and things are looking good so far but I must keep one eye on the future. I’ll be eligible to join the company pension next month so a few more £££s in the pot there.

Another win!

Anyway, ending on a good note: another month and another Premium Bond win for me (any wins for you, FiL?).

I won £50 so I’ll be lumping this in with other cash to be used to buy investments.

In it to win it, like the lottery only you get your money back (subject to inflation!)

Have a great weekend, all!