Murmuration*

The recent banking internet disasters at TSB, Visa and Tesco, plus this interesting post from The FIRE Shrink got me pondering the other week.

My emergency funds are predominantly split across TSB and Tesco Bank (with a bit in Nationwide) and my debit card is Visa.

So what would happen if I did have an emergency and I couldn’t get to my money because of various banking meltdowns?

Ok, unlikely that they would all go down the pan at the same time but it could happen? I do still carry a bit of cash these days but it’s very rarely more than £20. I decided I needed a back up plan but that I needed to look beyond the ‘old banks’.

New Bank

Again, I have The FIRE Shrink to thank for pointing me in the right direction.

He had as one of his monthly goals: “Set up a Starling / Monzo / Atom / Revolut account”.  I’d heard of Monzo and Atom before but thought I’d do some research on all of them. Revolut didn’t appear to have a UK banking licence so they were out of the running. Atom looked ok but for fixed term savings.

So it was a toss up between Monzo and Starling, both having similar features as a current/day to day bank account app.

I suddenly recalled that I’d read something about Starling and it was this inspiring BBC article about the challenger bank’s founder and CEO, Anne Boden. Well, that was my decision sorted – I’ve got to do my bit to support women in finance and tech!

Obviously this wasn’t the only reason why I chose Starling – the debit card is linked to Mastercard (would Visa and Mastercard ever have a meltdown at the same time??), no charges for overseas withdrawals, interest paid on balances, (although nothing to really shout about at 0.5%, it’s better than Monzo’s zero) and it was voted ‘Best British Bank and Best Current Account Provider in 2018’.

There are also some other nifty features on the app which I won’t go into as I haven’t tried them out yet but I’ve heard a new feature just developed will be the ability to attach notes and images of receipts against transactions which sounds intriguing.

Also, there was something about Starling that didn’t look gimmicky, perhaps seemed a bit more ‘traditional’ (in a good way),  plus there are Boden’s banking credentials too.

As I was drafting this post, coincidentally, this popped up on my Twitter feed:

Just as well I got my application in last week and avoided the stampede!

Application

The whole onboarding process took about 10 mins. It probably would have taken less but in order to verify my account, I had to send a video selfie and since I’d just got in from the gym when I applied (hair still wet and uncombed, make up half on, half off), I spent a few minutes making myself a bit less scary more presentable before I sent it, haha!

The following day, I received a text confirming my account had been set up and I was able to start playing around the app, transferring in money, setting up payments etc. My card arrived 3 days later.

All very quick and easy, with minimum fuss.

Uses

I’ve opened up this account initially to be a back up emergency account. What’s interesting is that I’ve got a free pre-approved overdraft of up to £5000 – well that is an emergency back up and a half! Obviously interest is paid on what you borrow but great for peace of mind.  I also plan on taking the card away with me, just in case I need some cash overseas.

I already find that I feel comfortable with this app (the first banking one on my phone) and I see the possibility of it being used for small purchases in the future.

My main current account would continue to do the major heavy lifting, ie direct debits, all bills, groceries, petrol, etc but we’ll see, anyway.

Anyone else got any experience with any of the challenger banks or banking apps in general?

*A ‘murmuration‘ is a flock of starlings.

[Disclaimer – I have no affiliation whatsoever with Starling Bank and this is not a recommendation to download the app, just an account of my experience with the Android version. There are no referral/affiliate links in this post – EDIT: here is my referral link which lights up a heart on my app!]

I Like Driving In My Car…

I thought I’d do a post about my car as it’s just had its MOT.

It passed but under the new rules introduced last month, there were some ‘advisory’ notes, one of which was that one of the tyres was balding – seeing as this would need replacing anyway (and for safety), I got a new one for £80.

I got a 50% discount off my actual MOT as I’m on a monthly service plan – in the days when I wasn’t on such a plan, I recall all too well how I used to just put my car services  (and repairs) on my credit cards, which didn’t get paid in full back then. Ouch!

Since I no longer have to sit on the slow-moving M60 every day, I find that I really enjoy it when I do get behind the wheel these days. Commuting via public transport (tram) is fine but I do miss being in the privacy and comfort of my own car.

Time’s Up?

I wrote about all the cars I’ve ever owned here back in 2014, but have nothing to add to that post because I’m still driving the same car, which is now 6 years old.

Six years is usually the length of time I keep my cars before I would buy my next car (a new one), usually because the current one was getting too expensive to fix mechanically.

I realise now that I wasn’t great with getting my cars serviced on time (or went to ‘cheap’ garages which weren’t really ‘cheap’) because, well, I was trying to avoid putting large amounts on my credit card and I didn’t have an emergency fund to cover the costs. Of course, foolishly by not getting the cars serviced when they should have been (or properly), they were undoubtedly deteriorating a lot quicker. Hence the service plan for my current car so I never miss a service and all the affordable payments are spread over the year.

My car is fairly economical, I do under 5000 miles a year in it now, half of what I used to do. Road tax is £30, insurance around £300 (my post code is classed as High Risk). It’s still in a good condition aside from the usual wear and tear, or shall I say ‘was’, since someone recently bashed one wheel arch causing a dent and someone else reversed into it, cracking the front registration plate – both times when my car was parked up. The car park I use next to the tram stop has very tight spaces and I now only park there if I can get in one of the slightly wider places.

Next Car

Since there’s nothing wrong (that I know of) with the car, I’m not looking to replace it just yet.

In this community, people preach about not buying new cars, not getting cars on finance or not getting cars at all but I don’t rule out the possibility of replacing my current one with a new one. And on finance.

However, if I was getting a new car, even though I would be able to buy outright with cash, I’d probably go for a 0% finance deal – yes, these are available! Pay it off monthly and pay the balloon at the end.

I might consider upgrading to an automatic – have never driven one before but I like the idea of not having to worry about clutch control when I get older, haha! Depends on the cost of the upgrade though.

I’ll even take a look at electric vehicles but only if the prices come down dramatically – not that I would ever get one but a Tesla costs the same as a one-bed apartment in Manchester!

Yes, I know, I know, blah blah blah about depreciation of new cars but I’ve never bought a car as an investment, so I don’t really consider that the price drops as soon as it leaves the forecourt. I don’t include my car as part of my net worth, it’s just something I’ve bought that I use. That happens to cost a lot of money.

The least I’ve spent on a car? £1.6k. The most? £13k (including the finance).  It’s not as if I’m getting high end luxury models!

And no – not having a car is not an option, not if I wish to continue to have the quality of life to which I am accustomed and independence.

Still, I might consider getting a used/nearly new car for my next motor, to save a grand or two. Will see what’s on offer when the time comes, what my funds are looking like, where I am with my FIRE goals etc.

May 2018 Savings, plus other updates

After what felt like the longest winter ever, we were able to bask in a glorious and sunny May!  Being a ‘sun worshipper’, I enjoyed hours of reading and topping up my tan in the garden. It’s probably just as well that we don’t have that much sunshine here normally, else I’d get absolutely nothing done over the weekends!

And who didn’t shed a tear watching the Royal Wedding? Ok, maybe it was just me! I’m a fan of the TV show Suits so still can’t believe ‘Rachel Zane’ has married a prince!

Anyway, how did I get on with my savings this month?

I saved 36.3%! My average savings rate has now gone down to 48.5%.  Had a couple of unplanned social outings and as mentioned last month, I had to pay my sister back as she’d booked and paid for my ‘holiday within a holiday’ (a few days in Thailand). These next few months are going to be rather ‘spendy’ so I probably won’t be able to tighten up the finances until after the summer.

The above savings was topped up with £24.80 from TopCashback*£500 matched betting funds (used to invest in Freetrade as per my previous post), and £133.91 affiliate income from OddsMonkey (thanks to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The markets have been going up, although shenanigans around the world might make it go down again. Whatever. In any case, my Future Fund has jumped quite a bit, now at £143,620, steadily making progress towards my next big milestone.

Dividends and Other Income

Dividends received this month: Continue reading

April 2018 Savings, plus other updates

Ok, so I had some second thoughts after reading some of the comments from last month’s post about pulling out all stops to top up my ISA, so with just a few hours to go before the tax year deadline, I opened a cash ISA account – nowt like living on the edge, haha!

Sadly, I wasn’t able to max my ISA, but I did add another £2.5k to make it over £17.5k (moved some of my emergency cash over and withdrew some matched betting funds) – I’m in a better position than I was before so thanks to all who made me reconsider and not dilly dally! 🙂

I went for Nationwide Building Society as I already bank with them so it was quick and easy to open the account – interest is 1.4% (Nationwide gave me an extra 0.1% loyalty bonus – woo hoo, I guess!) and the account has limited access but I’m ok with that.

Let’s see how I get on with this tax year’s ISA – I’m going to have try to top £17.5k now, aren’t I? Eek!

Anyway, how did that affect my savings this month?

I saved 45.3%! My average savings rate has now gone down to 51.1%.  I have now booked my holiday to HK – have paid for my flight in full (most of it via my ‘holiday fund’) but my sister has paid for my ‘holiday within a holiday’ (a few days in Thailand) so I’ll need to pay her back by next month.

The above savings was topped up with £1020 matched betting funds (I withdrew some cash from my betting and exchange accounts) and £68.54 affiliate income from OddsMonkey (thanks to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The markets must have recovered a bit – after months of going backwards,  my Future Fund now appears to be heading in the right direction again at £138,939, back on track towards my next milestone.

Dividends and Other Income

Dividends received this month: Continue reading