October 2022 Savings, plus other updates

Had a little flutter on a one-horse race

Another month, another Prime Minister in charge.

Let’s hope he’s in there long enough for Mrs Sunak to be choosing the wallpaper, so things can calm down a bit.

A mostly uneventful month, with quiet weekends spent tidying up round the garden, raking leaves etc. Until last week, where I was out for a work’s leaving do one night, the Manchester FIRE pubmeet the next and then a curry night with family and friends. I’m not used to being out three nights in a row, but thankfully, I was sensible and didn’t overdo it!

After doing so well in the ‘great-company-to-work-for stakes’ by pulling out all stops on the Dubrovnik trip, work is now playing at being not-so-good guy by indirectly trying to ‘persuade’ people to head back to the office again. They have asked that all those who were provided with (rather expensive) office chairs during the pandemic to return them asap.

The question, “But what will I sit on when I’m working from home?” has been met with, “Well you can always come into the office…” – see what they did there?

During lockdown, the lease on a section of the office wasn’t renewed and was blocked off, so the reduced space meant that not everyone could fit it anymore and hybrid-working was the way to go.

However, a large section previously filled by banks of filing cabinets has now been cleared so more hot desks can be squeezed in, meaning that the number of people allowed back in at any one time has increased.

Very annoying as I’m quite happy working from home most days.  I duly returned my chair but not before I picked up my own from a second hand/office refurb place.

My replacement chair is in mint condition and cost 180 (RRP £700). I could have gotten a much cheaper one, but I considered how much more time I would spend sitting on it than on my own sofa, and deemed it was worth investing in something comfortable, ergonomic, with full lumbar support etc. That was a discounted price as me and a colleague bought at the same time and also, with this company, cash is still king.

Anyway, how did I get on with my numbers in October?

I saved 17.3% of my net salary. I’ve been nowhere near my goal of average 25% savings rate and with my living expenses pretty much as low as I can comfortably make them (and they’re only likely to go up over the next year), it looks like the days of decent savings rates for me are well and truly over.  I will keep at it howsoever I can.

The above includes £58.04 from doing Prolific surveys and a £50 premium bond win – yay!

Shares and Investment Trusts

No changes, I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund

‘Rishinomics’ (or is it ‘Huntonomics’?) appears to have calmed the markets down a little but we’re definitely not out of the woods yet. We have to get through this loooong winter of discontent.

My Future Fund ended up at £219,164, now minus 5.6% YTD, so an improvement on last month.

Dividends and Other Income

Thankfully, the dividends continue to roll in.

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Getting Smarter With Money

A recent post on Monevator gave a review of Eat The Rich, a 3-parter on Netflix which documented some of the insane and crazy events in 2021 around the GameStop meme stock, events which momentarily shook the US hedge funds industry.

Straying outside of my usual dystopian/sci-fi/zombie TV comfort zone, I binged all the episodes and found it quite entertaining, although those ‘rappers’ got far too much airtime in my view.

During the whole wild rollercoaster trading period of the GameStop, I did jump on the bandwagon briefly with a small investment gamble but far from revelling in the excitement and willing it to ‘go to the moon’, I just wasn’t cut out to embrace the ‘cult’ and I sold as soon as I saw a bit of profit.

I even joined r/wallstreetbets, the reddit forum where members shared their massive wins (and losses) to see what it was all about. I’m a gambler at heart but what people were doing there, some throwing their life savings at the meme stock, was just foolishly reckless, although some appear to have made a lot of money, probably from the alleged ‘pump and dump’ strategy employed by same.

After watching the last episode of Eat The Rich, my eye was caught by another ‘similar’ programme, Get Smart With Money, which had the blurb: “Financial advisers share their tips on spending less and saving more with people looking to take control of their funds and achieve their goals.”

I was surprised to see that FIRE ‘celebrities’ such as Pete Adeney (aka Mr Money Mustache) and Paula Pant (of Afford Anything blog/podcast) were involved.

Have to say that I quite enjoyed it, in a confirmation bias kind of way, I guess. I didn’t learn anything new, but it was good to follow the progress of the people taking the ‘advice’.

The Guardian didn’t give it a very kind review, but I guess that’s to be expected. As you can imagine, the documentary was squarely aimed at folks who aren’t having to choose between heating and eating, who don’t see Martin Lewis as a messiah – it’s for people with some means to improve their finances if they only had a bit of guidance and know-how. The concept of FIRE is extremely niche, as you can see from the comments section whenever there’s a FIRE article in mainstream press.

Living Costs

I don’t think I’m going to be in any real crisis due to higher living costs but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be unaffected by the increases, so I need to do what I can to keep my costs down.

I started drafting this post when Kwasi was in charge, but nothing’s really changed for me with Jeremy’s mitts on the nation’s purse-strings.

With food prices going up, every other grocery shop is now just a top-up, ie main shop in Morrisons or Tescos one week, basket top-up shop in Aldi the following week. I’m not sure why I haven’t been doing this before, I’m just shopping for me so I don’t need to buy a trolley-full of stuff every week. This has made me use up what’s in my cupboards/freezer rather than keep the cupboards brimming and has reduced my average monthly food shopping bill.

Been doing more batched cooking with a mix of winter-warming soups and stews on the menu and only planning on using my oven at weekends.

Previously, my energy direct debit had been £67.74 a month. With the Government energy subsidy, my new DD will be £21.66 so my bill has pretty much gone up by the expected 30% (without the subsidy). I still have a credit balance of around £150 which I will just leave there as that will be eaten up when I do eventually turn on my heating (holding out for November no less!). Much as I’m tempted to invest the £40 odd I’m ‘saving’, I think I’ll be putting it to one side, especially as government help is now only until April 2023, not the two years as promised previously.

A couple of my friends are tightening their budgets as they have one eye on that ‘C’ word – yes, I mean Christmas – so one of our planned social outings has been cancelled, which is fine by me as I’ve had to fork out on some unexpected work-related costs recently.

Death Pledge, aka Mortgage

The one expense that I might get anxious about is my home mortgage – I only fixed it for two years so my 1.25% runs out the back end of 2023.

Why didn’t I fix it for five years? Well, how was I supposed to know that rates would shoot up like they have, I thought I’d be able to get a better five-year deal when my two-year expired! Oh, the things we would do in hindsight!

I wish this was a chart of my investment portfolio, not of interest rates!

I’ve done a stress test on my mortgage and the numbers suggest I can live with an interest rate increase of up to 8%.

Beyond that, my standard of living would start to go downhill, and I’d have to dial up the frugality, cut back on the nice-to-haves, go majorly into frugal nun mode.

I’m caught in a first world dilemma – carry on throwing my spare cash (assuming I’ll have spare cash after all increasing costs) at the ailing stock markets so that I can continue to build my pot and aim for FIRE and hope/wait for a recovery? I have faith that it will recover…

Or throw the spare cash at my mortgage as overpayments, to cushion the blow of increased future interest rates/pay off my mortgage quicker?

Note – my FIRE plan does not include me being mortgage-free from the outset, it’s always been part of my retirement budget.

Anyway, with no overpayments currently being made, all things being well, by the time my two-year deal comes to an end, I should be at 60% LTV, which usually unlocks deals with better rates.

However, we know that things are not going well, that UK house prices are likely to fall drastically and assuming my property is revalued when I come to remortgage, (although I’m not sure if this is still the case if I stay with the same provider?) there’s a chance I might not get the coveted 60% LTV.

So, throwing more at my mortgage could be worth it, but even then, I’m not sure I can pay off enough really in one year to make a real difference.

As with many things in my life, I’ll probably just do something in the middle, not committing to one or the other, just muddling some sort of balance which I’ll be mostly comfortable with, and which will allow me to sleep well at night.

What are people doing to cut expenses/keep costs down?

September 2022 Savings, plus other updates

September was a month of mixed emotions – sadness and joy.

Sadness

I felt sadness over the death of her Majesty – I’ve always had a fondness for the Queen and needless to say, it brought back the raw grief of losing my dear old Gran last year.

Joy

I mentioned in my March update that I was among several employees who picked up an award for ‘exceptional services’ in 2021 and that my ‘prize’ was a trip to ‘somewhere in Europe’. More on this later.

Anyway, how did I get on with my numbers in September?

I saved 13.9% of my net salary – birthdays and social outings this month meant that I was not able to save as much. The above includes £80.13 from doing Prolific surveys, a £10 lotto win and £55.52 affiliate income from OddsMonkey. It will be interesting to see how things will look over the next few months as higher costs of living really start to bite.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No changes, I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund

A ‘mini’ budget was announced by the Government and everything went pear-shaped.

Quel horreur!  By month-end, my Future Fund had plummeted to £213,243, now minus 8.2% YTD!

Nothing I can do really except to keep on keeping on – I didn’t sell anything and continued to invest as normal.

Dividends and Other Income

Dividend income was like a little beacon of light shining upon these gloomy times!

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August 2022 Savings, plus other updates

I’ve not had a proper break from work in a while and my brain was in dire need of some R&R so I decided to use up some holidays this month.

For the first few days, I had absolutely nothing planned (apart from a dental check up) and just relaxed by pottering around the house and garden, catching up on my reading (thus achieving one of my goals) and binge-watching Netflix (finally finished ‘Orange is the New Black‘).

The next few days, I met up with friends, colleagues and family for coffee/lunch and even ventured out for some (intentional) clothes shopping. Despite picking up a couple of items in the sales, I remembered how much I really dislike shopping for clothes so I shan’t be doing that again any time soon unless there is an absolute wardrobe crisis!

I squeezed in several gym sessions in the mornings and it was nice to have the place quiet and mostly to myself. Tried skipping at @KidCocoa’s suggestion and I think my calves have to get used to this new exercise as they were well sore afterwards! Ouch! But yep, very good for a bit of different cardio so I’ll work at it.

Anyway, that week was probably a sample of what retirement might be like for me and I liked it!

The rest of the month was just a bit of a blur with work and heatwaves.

So, how did I get on with my numbers in August?

I saved 18.3% of my net salary. The above includes £90.18 from doing Prolific surveys. I can see things going downhill from here due to increased cost of living but we’ll see how I get on.

Shares and Investment Trusts

When I ended my Dogs of the FTSE experiment I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with the portfolio at the time.

Anyway, I decided to offload some of them (for an overall profit) and used the resulting funds to buy iShares FTSE UK Dividend ETF. This ETF holds the stocks I sold, so now I have fewer positions to keep track of but I should still be getting some semi-decent dividends. For those interested, the stocks I got rid of were MNG, RIO, VOD, BHP and BATS.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund

I’m glad I wasn’t celebrating too much with the rise in markets last month as they inevitably wobbled back down. Fortunately, not all the gains made recently were lost.

My Future Fund dropped to £230,325 by month end and if I listen to the ‘noise’, it sounds like it might continue to spiral in a downwards trend.

Dividends and Other Income

Dividend income continues to roll in regardless.

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