May 2021 Savings, plus other updates

A big influx of work has kept me really busy, and as the company I work for pivots and stretches to try to claw back business lost through 2020, deals are ever more complex and I’ve found myself working late just to get through my workload. The only evenings I’ve been finishing on time have been my gym nights – sacrificing those will affect my sanity for real.

As mentioned in previous posts, my boss has pretty much got one foot out of the door and while she continues to help when I ask for it, her mind’s not fully focused, she is obviously not as engaged as she was previously and I understand her reluctance to get involved in new (and what look to be protracted and drawn out) issues. Not her problem any more.

When sis and nephew were still living with me, it was rare for me to work long hours because we couldn’t eat too late in the evening as nephew had school. Back on my own again, I’ve slipped into bad habits which I must stop.

Anyway, I escalated my workload issue and the good news is that I will get some  support, which will take some pressure off me. I’ve also booked some days off to clear my head (and do house stuff) and it looks like I’ve picked the right time –  even Manchester is enjoying a little mini-heatwave!

A few ‘highlights’ this month:

  • I’m now ‘fully’ inoculated – had my second AZ vaccine, no side effects this time, just a sore arm for a couple of days.
  • The Fitbit my friends bought me two years ago stopped working. However, after a lengthy discussion with Fitbit Customer Services, they told me I was eligible for a free replacement (worth around £150), which arrived a week later! Very pleased with that, as I was only asking for help, not a freebie!
  • Had my first ‘harvest’ from the veggies I’m growing – this is a kind of Japanese spinach, which was so easy to grow from seed, even for me!

  • Work have announced they are reopening the office doors ‘officially’ on 21st June, subject to government announcements. Flexi-working will be introduced, with various departments scheduled to go into the office on a certain number of days (no more than 3). However, I’ve been told that if I want to, I can continue to WFH 100% – I guess they can squeeze more hours from me that way! Suits me, but I think I will go in once or twice a week to be sociable and so I can catch up with friends.
  • I had my first ‘non-family’ hug (from a friend) in a long time. It was rather marvellous.

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

I saved 50.5% of my net salary. Despite things opening up, I haven’t been anywhere and my social life has yet to be resurrected, but I’m ok with that. Increased payments into premium bonds because as mentioned, it’s looking likely that I will have to dip into my Future Fund for my property purchase, so I need to build up cash reserves.

The above includes top ups from a £25 premium bond win (yay!) and £46.37 from doing surveys with Prolific.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing holdings.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The markets were all over the place but settled down towards the end of the month.

At the end of May, my Future Fund was at £236,836, so staying steady on course.

Dividends and Other Income

A bumper month for dividends – nearly too many to list:

Continue reading

Plans are Things that Change

Thus goes the quote by Fujio Cho, the honorary chairman of Toyota.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, not just the bubble of stress I’m beginning to feel, with my boss leaving next month but about something else.

It’s resulted in me sticking my head in the sand, procrastinating. Wanting to hide.

Me, lately.

It all started with various conversations with my Mum, the gist of which you will get in the below summary of said conversations:

Mum: “I’ve thought about it and I definitely want to sell the house asap.”

Me: “What house?”

Mum: “The house you’re living in. I told you about it earlier in the year.”

Me: “No, you didn’t tell me.”

Mum: “Oh, it wasn’t you then, it must have been your sister. Did she not tell you?”

Me: “No. She’s been really busy sorting out her own house.”

Mum: “Well I want it sold. You need to move out and get your own place.”

Me: “It’s not a great time now. I can’t sell my flat as the cladding issue hasn’t been sorted. How about next year?”

Mum: “I don’t want to wait that long, just get it done. Since you can’t sell your flat, do you need a loan then?”

As a reminder, I currently live on my own in our old family home. I pay nominal rent to my folks but have been responsible for the upkeep and repairs of the house. Over the years, the house has been a UK holiday home for close members of the family to stay in when they are over on holiday.

I always knew I would need to move out sooner or later – later rather than sooner though, according to my plan.

My FIRE plan has always accounted for the fact that I would either be renting or with a mortgage once I’d FIRE’d. Originally, I planned to continue to receive rental income from my BTL property upon retirement, but I came to realise that I would find it too much hassle, so I decided that, at some point, I would sell it and use the equity to buy somewhere to live.

Cladding Schmadding

As I wrote here, my flat is caught up in the cladding safety issue. It doesn’t actually have any dangerous cladding but building inspections have revealed that it doesn’t meet the new fire safety regulations. Until this is rectified, I (and the other leaseholders) must pay for a Waking Watch (fire wardens), which has nearly tripled the service charges we have to pay, and we will also have to pay for the building to be made safe, whereby a safety certificate shall be awarded.  I cannot sell my flat without such certificate.

Since I can’t sell it, I will have to borrow more against the BTL but am uneasy about this because I still don’t know what the final property bill will be yet. The rental income I’ve been getting over the years has been put aside for ‘property purposes’ but this is now earmarked to go towards the final as-yet-unknown cladding bill. I dread to think what that might be.

Because of these factors, it’s looking inevitable that I’m going to have to use part of my Future Fund to fund my house purchase.

The thought of it makes me feel sick and depressed.

Feeling Low

This has really been getting me down. My Future Fund is not meant to be used now.

Yes, I acknowledge this is a first world problem, not a ‘real one’. I have the funds to use, so what’s the problem? The problem is that it’s messed up my plans, and I feel like I’m starting to spiral out of control.

I need to get my head around everything, adjust my plans (and my thinking) so that I feel like I know what I’m doing again.

Why Now?

I’ve always known that at some point in the future, my folks would want to sell the house, but why now? With my Dad’s heart issues one year which resulted in a cancelled trip and with no travel being allowed in 2020, it’s now been over 4 years since they were last in the UK. They used to have regular holidays, lasting several months, enjoying the British summer (such that it is), and avoid the worst of the scorching and humid summer months in the far east.

Clearly, absence has not made the heart grow fonder, and for some reason, their friends were always telling them to sell up and transfer the funds to Hong Kong (though what business it is of theirs, I don’t know…).

I think the pandemic has accelerated the timeline of the house sale. I reckon had my folks been able to make their trip over to the UK last year, I don’t think they’d be wanting to sell so soon.

However, it’s probably now unlikely that my Dad would rush to make the trip over at his age now – the effects of lockdown have made him years older – perhaps one more trip, perhaps no more, I don’t know, so I guess it makes sense for them to get rid of their last asset in this country.

Would I not want to buy the family home? Much as I love the house, it’s too big and way out of my budget and if my folks were to sell it to me cheaply, it would cause sibling friction and that’s best to be avoided at all costs.

Bank of Mum and Dad

I tried explaining several times about the cladding issue with my flat and each time, my Mum’s answer was that the issue would be resolved with her giving me a loan.

The first (and last) time I borrowed from my parents, I was 20 years old and the loan was used to buy my first car.  This loan was paid back (as are all loans to family members).

I had used my own money to purchase my first property (the one I had with my ex), so it doesn’t quite sit well with me that in my 50s, I’m left with no alternative but to borrow from my folks to buy a house. I’m sure this might be normal for some people but it just doesn’t feel that way to me.

Perhaps it’s a bit of foolish pride – I would have much preferred to have done this all on my own.

Plan of Action

As already mentioned, I need to take action to bring some semblance of control back.

I don’t have a lot of cash in my Future Fund, just some in premium bonds.  A week ago, (randomly timed before the markets started to wobble all over the place), I cashed in on some profits in some of my ISA investments, in preparation for when I might have to use the cash. As a mainly buy and hold investor, it was hard to sell but needs must.

From this month, the chunk of money I normally invest in my ISA will instead be lumped into premium bonds to add to my cash pile. I can’t bring myself to stop investing entirely so I will leave the small standing orders that pay into my ISA (and my SIPP). I’ll also continue to invest any extra bits of cash from my side hustles and also carry on investing any dividends received.

So, when it comes to dipping into my Future Fund, the premium bonds will be used first, then uninvested cash sitting in the ISA, then finally as a last resort, sell more equities if required. Or should I sell the bonds? Not figured that out or looked into that yet.

Remortgage

I’ve contacted my BTL mortgage provider and have received confirmation of the amount extra I can borrow, which I’m (mostly) comfortable with. However, as this isn’t the full amount of equity I could have realised from my flat sale, it’s unlikely to be a big enough deposit I would want to put down on a house.  So it looks like a family loan will be required.

However, once I am able to sell my flat, I will be able to pay the loan back in full.

House Hunting

I’ve registered with various estate agents and looked online myself – houses are being snapped up really quickly and I’m finding that some appear on websites already Sold STC or Under Offer.

Due to social distancing, for houses I’ve wanted to view, I’ve been placed on a waiting list as I guess viewings have all been restricted.

I’m sure something will come up. I might not be able to stay in the area as house prices are mostly out of my budget but who knows, I may be lucky and the right property will come up and I’ll be quick enough to pounce.

Control

Despite how it all seemed at first, I do have an element of control as I’m the one who will need to put the house on sale and I won’t be moving out until I’ve found a place to buy. The ‘chain’ also only impacts the property sale, not on the property purchase, since the funds to purchase the latter are not reliant on the sale of the former.

I reckon I will need to reconsider my costs (and my lifestyle) as I may have to tighten things up, while I adjust to change. My anticipated mortgage will likely be marginally more than what I pay my folks for rent right now so no material change there – it’s the initial costs of a new home which are going to be the killer, plus any other house costs which might have to be sorted once I’ve moved in.

And once I’ve settled in, a kind of normality shall resume so that I can continue on my FIRE journey in earnest.

Phew!

I feel a bit better for writing that.  The uncertainty of it all still scares me but things will become clearer in time. I hope it will soon feel like it was my idea to move in the first place and at that point, I think I will feel a lot more comfortable.

Some heart-felt thanks go to @indeedably who reached out, provided me with a friendly soundboard and ear, and made me see some of the positives, where I could only see the negatives.

Onwards and upwards.

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

April 2020 Savings, plus other updates

Another month in lockdown and I’m finding living and working like this has become quite normal.

The latest WI Magazine cover which seems quite apt

The latest all employees’ call with work mentioned plans being devised for people to return to the office once it’s been deemed safe to do so but I have mixed feelings.

Yes, I miss being in the office – miss printing stuff off to give my eyes a rest from the screen –  miss my colleagues and being out of the house, but I can’t say that I’m looking forward to returning to travelling on public transport. I’ve applied for and received a refund for my annual travel pass in any case.

Anyway, in a full month of lockdown, how did I get on with my numbers?

I was able to save 59%! All those occasional little work lunches, Friday after-work drinks and social outings do add up and since I wasn’t spending, I was able to save a lot more.

That said, I wasn’t able to max out my 2019/20 ISA – I think I got to around the £16k mark which isn’t bad, as anything over £15k is good for me.

The above savings includes top ups from yet another £25 premium bond win (4 months in a row!) and £63.15 affiliate income from OddsMonkey* (thank you to all who signed up via my links!).

Shares and Investment Trusts

A couple of new investment trusts added to my portfolio, namely Murray International Trust and Templeton Emerging Markets IT, both showing decent discounts when I made the purchases.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

So much doom and gloom in the news globally yet the stock markets are doing their own thing. Whether this bounce-back is temporary or not is anyone’s guess.

My Future Fund stands at £179,924, an increase of over 9% from last month! I’m still down by around 4.4% year to date but that’s not too bad.

Dividends and Other Income

A few more dividends got cancelled this month but others thankfully continued to roll in: Continue reading