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:

Continue reading

Earn While You Walk

I always have various unfinished posts and ideas sitting in my Drafts folder so this is me having a bit of a clear out.

These Boots Are Made for Walkin’

I’m not a fan of strolling but I don’t mind a bit of fast or power walking.  With the gyms locked down (prior to the recent reopenings), I added walking to my exercise routine.

One loop around the estate is a 9-min fast walk and I try to do this twice a day (rain  or shine), before I start work and after I’ve logged off for the day. I’m not walking any great distances on a daily basis – it’s probably more important to me that I push my heart rate up when I’m walking.

That said, I’ve also been on a few 6-7 mile walks on trails near where I live and last month did a trail in Yorkshire.

Get Paid to Walk

At around the time I started doing more walking, I came across an Android-only app called winwalk*. The blurb states:

winwalk is a free and easy to use pedometer that will motivate you to walk more every day and will boost your activity level

The bonus is that you can get paid with egift cards/vouchers.

Scam or real? I thought I’d try it out.

So, for every 100 steps which are tracked by the app, you are awarded one coin. Coins are coverted into gift cards.

You need 20,000 coins to convert into a gift card. The app uses the arbitrary ‘healthy’ measure of 10k steps a day to cap the amount of coins you can earn from walking to just 100 coins a day.

So just from walking, assuming that you clock 10k steps every day, that would take 200 days to accumulate enough coins to redeem a voucher. Hmm…doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort, particularly as I only average around only 5k a day?

But wait, there are other ways to earn more coins, including watching video ads, downloading and playing games and answering surveys.

I’ve been doing the latter and have found it relatively easy to earn a few hundred more coins each day, on top of the 100 coin limit you can earn from walking.

Recent  surveys I’ve answered have been quite interesting, including ones on my shopping habits during lockdown, my work situation during the pandemic and my finances (all anonymous).

You even get awarded a few coins if you don’t qualify for surveys so it’s probably worth clicking as many surveys as you want to spend/waste time on. Surveys can last from 1-15 mins – usually the longer the survey, the more coins you are awarded.

So after a little over 2 months, I’d collected my 20k coins and I painlessly redeemed them for my chosen gift voucher:

Other giftcards are available, including (at the last check, as they seem to change periodically) Argos, Tesco, Currys/PC World, Primark, Nike, Sports Direct and Spotify to name a few.

This app obviously isn’t going to make you rich but if you’re going to be clocking up your steps anyway as you go about your daily life, when you take the dog out for a walk etc, why not have your steps go towards earning gift cards? All the other stuff, eg surveys are optional and require little effort even if you do choose to do them.

A couple of notes:

  • I have the app set so it’s running in the background all the time. I don’t know if it works on any other setting
  • Make sure you bank all the coins you earn so they are added to your account. The collected coins are reset at midnight so if not banked, you could lose coins you’ve earned

Conclusion

Although I’ve returned to the gym, I’ve continued to walk daily so perhaps lockdown has helped me develop more active behaviour for the long term and as such, I’ll continue with this app a while longer to collect my coins!

[*referral link – if you sign up via my link, I get some coins to go towards my next gift card]

July 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Compared to the past few months, July has been positively ‘exciting’ and ‘action-packed’:

  • I took my car for its service and MOT – it passed!
  • I went to the hairdresser – au revoir unruly tresses and grey hair!
  • I went walking on the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail in North Yorkshire!
  • I went to a friend’s house for a socially-distanced BBQ!
  • I bought a sausage roll from Greggs!
  • I got a McDonalds delivery!
  • I went back to the gym – need to get rid of my lockdown flab and to counter the last two points!

One of the waterfalls at Ingleton

Does it feel like things are getting back to normal?

It was beginning to feel that way, until the newly imposed lockdown measures for Greater Manchester (where I live) were announced, due to some spikes in people testing positive for COVID-19. Ah well.

Despite things being more relaxed earlier in the month, I’ve still not been back in the office, nor have I visited a pub or a restaurant.

I’ve been wearing a mask – lots of confused messages about where you should wear them, so my thinking is that if in doubt, I’m just going to wear one.

Anyway, how did I get on with my numbers?

I was able to save 61.6% of my net salary!

The above savings includes top ups from yet another £25 premium bond win, £50 Matched Betting profits (from last month), £35 football predictions winnings and £24.54  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 

Ups and downs in the stock market, with it ending on a down, just as I was running my numbers!

So a bit of a dip from last month, with my Future Fund standing at £191,900.

Will it go back up or continue to fall? It’s anyone’s guess!

Sitting at the top of a rollercoaster and about to go down the other side?

Dividends and Other Income

Remember when I said that I hadn’t really been affected by any dividend cuts?

I spoke too soon!

Continue reading

“Lockdown” Dogs of the FTSE + Random Shares

My last update on my Dogs of the FTSE experimental portfolio showed just how badly this strategy can perform in certain markets.

Whatever, I’m still following the strategy as an experiment and I intend to document the bad times as well as the good.

As another reminder, here’s the Dogs of the FTSE strategy:

  1. Choose the ten FTSE 100 shares with the highest yield (subject to my criteria*)
  2. Invest equal amounts in all ten shares
  3. Hold for a year (give or take a week)
  4. At the end of the year, sell the ones no longer in the top ten, replace with new shares with highest yield
  5. Repeat from step 3

[*criteria being that shares already in my portfolio are not included, nor any where a dividend cut has been announced]

Note that this is my ‘fun’ portfolio and represents less than 1.5% of my Future Fund.

New Pooches

Time to set up my new Dogs of the FTSE 2020/21 portfolio!

So, in accordance with the strategy:

Eight Dogs Set Free (Sold):

  • Evraz plc (EVR)
  • Imperial Brands Group (IMB)
  • Persimmon plc (PSN)
  • Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG)
  • Aviva plc (AV)
  • HSBC Holdings plc (HSBA)
  • ITV plc (ITV)
  • BT Group plc (BT.A)

Total received from sales = £1,518.96

Total Dividends received = £185.26

Loss from original investment = £295.78 (14.7% loss) – ouch!

It was horrible pushing the ‘sell’ button to ditch those stocks at a loss but I am committed to the strategy so did it in an ‘unemotional’ way (although in my mind, I was screaming “Noooooooo!”)

Also, it was really difficult swalllowing the 3 x £9.95 trading fees (three of the Dogs were still with AJ Bell).

Ok, next, in accordance with the strategy:

Eight New Dogs Rounded Up (Bought): 

  • National Grid (NG)
  • Rio Tinto plc (RIO)
  • United Utilities Group plc (UU)
  • M&G plc (MNG)
  • Phoenix Group Holdings plc (PHNX)
  • BHP Group plc (BHP)
  • Vodafone Group plce (VOD)
  • Anglo American (AAL)

Hmm…pretty much miners, insurance and utiilities.

The first three are Dogs which made an appearance back in my 2018 portfolio – can these old Dogs be taught new tricks in this current market climate?

So here’s how the Dogs of the FTSE Portfolio 2020/21 looks as at today:

Best of breed or mangy mutts? Pretty much looking like they’re the latter right now but it’s early days yet!

I think I should still manage quarterly updates as before so those interested can see how the portfolio is doing.

At least finally, the entire Dogs portfolio will now be on Freetrade, so I can buy and sell without any fees.

Random Shares

Speaking of which, my Random Share Portfolio is made up of free shares awarded to me whenever someone signs up to Freetrade* via my affiliate link, bagging us both a random free share (worth between £3 and £200) in the process.

Two free shares I received recently

Here’s the full portfolio – it’s gotten a bit too big to do a full copy and paste.

Own a Piece of Tesla!

To celebrate Freetrade’s 200,000th customer, anyone signing up to Freetrade before the end of the month via my link* will get the chance to receive a piece of Elon Musk’s company for free – each share is currently worth just under £1,300!

All you need to do is sign up via my link, fund your account with £1 and complete a    W-8BEN form (to declare you don’t pay US taxes).

Good luck! 🙂

Thanks to all who have signed up via my link in the past – hope you all got a decent free share!

Until next time – hope you’re all keeping well, keeping calm and still investing!