December 2022 Savings, plus round up

Happy New Year!

I was in the gym before 9am this morning – starting as I (hopefully) mean to go on, but I’m still a little jetlagged so am waking up at ridiculous hours.

Hope you all had an enjoyable festive period and NY celebrations.

Anyway, let’s just get the numbers out of the way for 2022 – I’m sure many will say good riddance to that year!

I saved 13.5% of my net salary, more than I thought I would save, given my travels and the time of year.

The above includes £48.75 from TopCashback* and £29.16 from doing Prolific surveys.

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 

It was inevitable that I would end the year with my porfolio down in the dumps.  As at 31st December, my Future Fund finished up at £225,325.60.

Here’s how it all looks at the end of another year:

Much as I’d like to forget about 2022, it’s my worst investment year so far (using unitization, I’m down 8%), but I think I need it to remind me that investing is not all upward trends and bull markets. Or fun.

Dividends and Other Income

A decent final month for dividends:

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What’s My Age Again?

I phoned my bank recently and one of the security questions asked was ‘How old were you on your last birthday?’. I had to pause, as I very nearly gave the wrong answer!

When I was 39, I was absolutely dreading the big 4-0, it felt like my life (as a young person) was coming to an end and it was probably one of the few times in my adult life that I was quite unhappy with me, myself.

However, after turning 40, age just became a number and I think I loved being in my 40s. Perhaps this was the time when I really ‘grew up’ as it were – I became a lot more confident, dare I say a little wiser, calmer and content. Other people seemed to make a bigger deal of me turning 50 than I did.

I’ve never really been one for birthdays – anyone else think that age is just a number?

One thing about the pandemic is that it feels like I’ve ‘lost’ a couple of years, like they didn’t really happen – that might be why I sometimes forget how old I am!

Still, now that I’m in my early 50s, I don’t think I feel too different from how I was in my 40s, except that I am a lot more aware of my own physical limitations.

Although my friends would agree that I am closer to the picture on the right than I am to the one on the left, I was recently reminded that my body isn’t getting any younger – I’m a woman of a certain age, going through some inevitable changes that I can’t prevent.

I first wrote about the menopause being a reason to FIRE in 2020.

Among the many symptoms of the menopause/peri-menopause are migraines and I’ve been hit twice with them this month. Badly.

Prior to that, I had (fortunately) very very rarely suffered from headaches or migraines.

I couldn’t think of anything which could have triggered these migraines. There have been no changes to my diet or lifestyle so I can only put the migraines down to me being peri-menopausal.

The migraines had me feeling like my head was about to explode, the spinning sensation made me feel sick and any sort of light was just painful. I was unable to even glance at my phone without it hurting my eyes.

I ended up spending the entire day lying on my bed in the dark, barely eating and only sipping water as I felt too nauseous.

Felt mostly fine the following day but not quite right, like I was off balance and still having to shy away from bright light.

Hopefully, these migraines won’t occur too frequently and may even (please, please!) go away at some point.

Let’s Get Physical

Aside from the migraines, I am well and generally feel physically good.

I was tempted to add ‘for my age’ at the end of that but I think I feel as good as I have ever been at any age.

Perhaps it helps that I make time to exercise.

Exercise has always just been part of my life, from being sporty at school, to getting in with a crowd of girls at uni who were into their sport and fitness and continuing thus into adulthood.

Over the years, I tried my hand at various sports/activities, the usual badminton and table tennis but also league ten-pin bowling, fencing (not the garden variety but with foils and sabres), but the hardest training I ever did was when I was doing my martial arts (karate), during my late 20s, early 30s.

When I look back, some of that training was punishing, yet I pushed myself through it and found it exhilarating, revelling in how strong I felt, how hard I could push my body and the limits it could endure. Ultimately, the semi-contact sparring took its toll and injury put an end to that (some of those injuries might come back to haunt me when I’m older), and so began my long-standing love/hate relationship with the gym.

It’s life in the Gym, but not as we know it…

For a long time, going to the gym for me was a healthy social event as I had a close group of friends who attended the same classes. However, over the years, we slowly drifted to other gyms, although we continue to meet up for social outings and maintain an active Whatsapp group.

My gym sessions are now solitary affairs and I’m fine with that – I’m self-motivated and currently go 2 or 3 times a week.

From previously loving and enjoying exercising, I have to say that these days, I’m often just enduring it, just waiting for the endorphins to do their thing afterwards! I exercise because I know it’s good for me and because I’ve spent the day on my backside, be that work or in front of the tv/pc.

One thing which does motivate me is that I can’t let those gym membership fees go to waste!

Use It, Don’t Lose It

I’m really mindful of age-related muscle loss, which happens to both men and women as we get older, so my routines have moved from doing a lot of cardio to a lot of weight/strength training.

For women, weight training has apparently been shown to help delay the onset of osteoporosis, help with certain types of arthritis, boost metabolism, improve posture and strengthen pelvic floor muscles (which will help with preventing ‘little accidents’  sometimes experienced by the elderly).

I’m not lifting big weights, they range from 14% up to 80% of my body weight, so just heavy enough to make me feel tired/struggle a bit after several sets of reps – 22kg barbell (for standing overhead press and front row), 20kg kettlebell (for squats), 7kg dumbbell (for bicep curls), 12kg kettlebell (for walking lunges) and 2 x 15kg, or 2 x 20kg over a shorter distance (for farmer’s walk).

I guess I could probably push myself harder but don’t feel inclined to do so as 1) I’m not as strong as I used to be, and 2) for fear of injury because injuries just take so long for me to recover from.

My joints no longer feel like I can push them to their limits – I don’t have aching joints as such, but I definitely would if I wasn’t careful! I no longer have the bravado or confidence of youth to just give the heavier weights a try.

I do like the weight training, it’s the cardio I’m not too fond of. I do a bit of running on the treadmill, just 2km or sometimes 15-20 mins power walking. I don’t feel like I need to do much more than that, plus my Fitbit tells me that I have ‘excellent’ cardio fitness for a woman my age.

Although I do a bit of stretching at the end of my gym sessions, I probably don’t do enough and I feel like I’ve somewhat neglected this part of my exercising over the years. I’ve recently started making time to do some stretching, not every day but most days, practising some yoga poses, hip openers etc. I have no interest in joining actual yoga classes – have tried them in the past and didn’t particularly enjoy them although I felt the benefits of some of the poses/stances.

Wait or Weight?

I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life and I’m finally (sort of) resigned to the fact that I can’t ever get back to the weight I had been maintaining for over 20 years of my adult life.

As long as my body shape and dress size remain mostly the same, I think I will try to ignore the scales and just focus on fitting into my clothes.

More of the Same

When I finally FIRE, I can see myself continuing with the regular exercise (as a habit/routine) – perhaps even be a bit more active.

More activity will be necessary as I think some of my other hobbies and interests will involve a lot of sitting around (unless I binge-watch boxed sets standing up!), so I’ll need to get the balance right!

I’ll be able to go to the gym in the day so I don’t have to battle through the late rush hour traffic to get there – get the exercising out of the way so I can get on with my day to do whatever it is that early retirees do, ie anything they want! 🙂

 

Decluttering My Life

The sale of my parents’ house, the family home, has finally completed.

An offer was accepted the day after it was put up for sale (slightly above asking price) yet despite there being no chain on either side, solicitors and incompetent bank personnel contrived to drag the whole process out for another 5 months.

I’m sad but mostly relieved that it’s all done and dusted.

In a way however, I was glad it took that long as it gave me (and sis) the time to clear out the house and boy, did we need the time! There were DECADES’ worth of family things to sort through.

“Stuff”

Despite not having lived in the house permanently (or for more than 3 months at a time) for nearly 20 years, my parents still had full wardrobes and personal items in the house. We spent hours and hours painstakingly going through it all to keep, bin, or donate. There were numerous video calls, as my Mum didn’t want us randomly binning things…yes really, even things she didn’t even remember owning!

Other members of the family didn’t have full wardrobes or cupboards but had left so many sentimental items, including things going back to school and university days.

It wasn’t just the bedrooms which were full of stuff – both garage and shed were full of things accumulated over the years. I found 3 fully equipped toolboxes, two faulty lawnmowers, a brand new leaf blower, a Calor gas heater which I last saw when I was a teenager and so many garden tools.

Various household items and furniture from house-moves which family members had said they were going to ‘pick up at a later date’, but which ended up just being stored there permanently.  I even found two large boxes of things belonging to our cousins who had never even lived at the house so who knows how (and when) their stuff ended up in the garage! A WhatsApp message to them threatening to bin everything had them travelling up from London to collect!

Mum wanted me and sis to take some family ornaments – we said no, but in the end, took a couple each. She couldn’t bear to part with some others so these will be shipped to Hong Kong for the family to sort through themselves.

Anyway, among all the junk in the garage were several large boxes which belonged to me, from when I had moved back home after splitting up with the ex…

Our garage looked a bit like this…except more boxes stacked on top of each other

My Stuff

So what was in these boxes, which had just remained hidden from view, unopened and gathering dust for nearly 15 years?

A load of things I had forgotten about, including:

  • My old diaries, which I had meticulously kept from age 12 (my handwriting was so neat!) to my late 20s. This might be a reason why I enjoy blogging as keeping this journal is a bit like a diary. Anyway, I’ve packed these treasured memories away, except that I know where they are now!
  • A shoebox rammed full of love letters from the ex, written before mobile phones and the internet. I obviously couldn’t bear to throw them away when I left him but briefly peeking at one of them was enough for me to immediately shred the whole lot in one go!
  • Loads of photo albums, plus easily 1000s of loose photos still in their Truprint envelopes, along with all the negatives. Back then, when you didn’t have the luxury of getting perfect digital photos, you kept all photos which were developed, including blurry ones. Well I did, anyway!
  • My large comic collection and various sci-fi/fantasy memorabilia – in the 90s, I was really into my Marvel comics (before Marvel became mainstream). I wouldn’t mind reading them all again and some of the signed editions might be worth something.
  • Hundreds of CDs and boxed sets of DVDs galore, I could have opened a small shop!
  • ‘Old tech’, including a mini-disc player, Sega Gamegear, a couple of pre-iPod music players and a Playstation 1. Also the radio cassette recorder the family bought me as a going-to-uni gift, still in working condition!
  • A decade’s worth of paper payslips – I have no idea why I kept those.
  • Some old credit card and bank statements from 2006. I know why I kept these – they were to remind me of how bad I was at managing my finances and how I can’t ever let myself get like that again. The credit card statement showed 24% interest charged (I was only making the minimum payment) and the corresponding bank statement for that month showed a fee charged for going over my overdraft limit and another fee for a bounced direct debit – horrific! I felt stressed and a bit sick just looking at those numbers. I don’t know how I was able to live like that without spiralling into despair yet I did, for most of my 20s and 30s before finally getting my finances under control.

More Stuff

I’ve only mentioned the stuff that was hidden in the boxes in the garage.

I of course had a lot of belongings in the house and as I was effectively downsizing from a 4-bed detached house to a 2-bed semi (with no garage), I desperately needed to declutter.

Cue Marie Kondo and her tidying up book!

Whilst I didn’t follow the book religiously, it helped me enormously as I wouldn’t have known where to start.

The decluttering began slowly but then I got in my stride and started to get a bit ruthless.

In the end, I pretty much got rid of 50% of my belongings.

Discarding half of my wardrobe was pretty gut-wrenching but did I really need 20 dresses or 30 t-shirts? A couple of those dresses were still new with tags, yet I couldn’t remember when I’d bought them!

Sorting out my clothes took an entire weekend as I spent time trying many items on to decide whether I wanted to keep or donate – only a few didn’t fit me which made the choosing process harder! In the end, 6 full bin bags of clothes went to charity and I discovered ‘new’ (to me!) items to wear, which had been hiding at the back of the wardrobe!

The same culling was done with my shoes, books, CDs and DVDs.

There was a huge box full of folders of ‘admin’ – I shredded stacks of old bank statements, work pension docs and old insurance certs/policies. Again, no idea why I kept so many years’ worth; probably just because I had the space to keep them.

I tackled the kitchenware and crockery – so many sets, some brand new just hidden at the back of cupboards. Sis took some (I decided not to argue when she just took the Le Creuset pot which I had my eye on upon ‘rediscovery’!), I took some for myself, with the unwanted pots, pans, utensils and sets of crockery passed to friends who had kids starting university and also my ex-brother-in-law who had just bought a house and who was after anything for free!

If I had been organised and had the mental capacity for it, I could have probably made some money selling the unwanted furniture, CDs, DVDs and clothes.

But I just needed to get it out of the house asap, so what the buyer didn’t want as part of the purchase went to charity, with the charity collecting large items of furniture for free. Things which couldn’t be donated went to the local tip/recycling centre – I was doing full car-loads every weekend for a couple of months.

As I had registered for Gift Aid with the charity (British Heart Foundation), I’ve been getting emails from them as they’ve sold items I’ve donated – so far, £429 has been raised, so I’m happy my junk has gone to a good cause.

Cathartic

I have to say that I felt a huge sense of relief after the whole decluttering exercise. Not only was there space but I think I felt space in my mind too.

I experienced so many emotions as I came across things (and memories) from what I consider a ‘previous life’, namely my adult life before I discovered FIRE.

Looking at my collections, my belongings, all those things I owned, I think I was a very different person back then – I obviously was not in full control of my life (not financially anyway), yet I don’t recall there being a lot of unhappiness, although of course, there was some.

Decluttering Part II?

I’m sure some people will think that my new home is cluttered (I see my sister’s face when she comes round, ha!) but in my mind, it’s cosy and homely and nowhere near what I think ‘cluttered’ means!

The good news is that having gotten rid of so many of my clothes, I haven’t felt the urge to buy anything new. I’ve yet to complain that I have “nothing to wear”, although that day will come – I’m a woman after all, haha! :).

I did recently buy a pair of boots (using birthday money) to replace a beloved pair which had lasted 30 years. It was my first shoe/boot purchase in over 5 years!

Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t still get rid of more things – perhaps I’ll do another decluttering exercise, in say a year’s time.

I mean I’m sure I don’t need all those knives (I have 10) in the kitchen but don’t feel like doing anything about that right now.

And some things I’ve just stuffed in some boxes in the shed, out of sight, out of mind…

I know Saving Ninja did the whole Konmari thing when he and his missus sold up to move to Sweden.

Anyone else try Kondo’s methods to help them declutter?

March 2022 Savings, plus other updates

In my world, March was another good month – funny how just a bit of sunshine really lifts the spirit.

Courgettes and leek sprouting, with the help of recycled toilet roll tubes and food cartons!

I tentatively planted a few seeds and these are doing well already.  Hoping to do more over the coming weeks.

There was good news work-wise – firstly, I got paid my (discretionary) annual bonus.

Secondly, I was among several employees who picked up an award for ‘exceptional services’ in 2021 – our reward will be a trip somewhere in Europe (once Covid restrictions have died down), so that’s something to look forward to. It would be great if it’s a country I’ve never visited before.

Anyway, with one quarter of the year over already, let’s take a look at my numbers:

I saved 34.1% of my net salary.  The above includes £92.99 from doing Prolific surveys.

Previous years have seen me achieve a savings rate of over 60% or 70% during bonus time, but although I would have loved to have been investing more while the markets are still down, the large majority of the bonus will have to go towards some critical work which I’m getting done in a couple of weeks (sorting out my unsafe driveway).

Shares and Investment Trusts

No changes here, I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Did the stock markets hit rock bottom last month?

Who knows but signs of a recovery propelled my Future Fund back up a little, finishing at £232,209 by month end, pretty much back to where I was at the end of 2021. Check out that ‘W’!

Dividends and Other Income

I love seeing my dividends roll in and it was another decent month for income:

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