December 2020 update

Just a few things of interest this month that impact my finances and work, and decent form by Norwich City at the top of the Championship, make it a month that I am reasonably happy with.

Tyres for 20″ wheels int cheap!

As all my money has a purpose each month, I utilised my Emergency Fund (EF) to cover the cost of two new tyres for my car. The reason for using the EF is that I keep next to no money in my current account, pretty much just what I need for groceries and petrol.

The company I bought the tyres from are based in Andorra so to protect myself I paid for them using a credit card and then immediately paid the balance off with the EF money. There were some indifferent reviews on the web but I have no complaints at all, the order process went fine and the tyres arrived three days later.

With work, I received my variation of contract making me a permanent home worker. Some of my office-based colleagues may say about costs increasing by WFH but the heating is still going to be on at the same times as my kids and wife are home at different points during the day. Electricity will increase slightly and the broadband bill will remain the same.

My company will be paying me £26 expenses per month directly to help offset WFH expenses, this is pretty handy as it means I will not have to make a claim to the Inland Revenue myself.

Additional Income Streams

  • Matched Betting £51 (Nov £137)
  • Surveys/studies £5.72 (Nov £10.21)
  • eBay £37
  • TopCashBack £13.06

The eBay income came from the sale of our old TV which had a broken screen (teenager + game console!). The guy who bought the TV wanted it to repair his broken unit so I felt happy with this sale as it helped prevent two TVs going to landfill. The proceeds went to help pay down my credit card bill 🙂

How did I do in December?

Assets

  • Emergency Fund £1,500 (£1,150.80)
  • ISA, Freetrade £3,611.82 (£3,546.79)
  • ISA, Hargreaves Lansdown £2,713.38 (£2,682.73)
  • Pensions £98,995.33 (£97,194.47)
  • SAYE £420.00 (£390.00)
  • House £350,883 (£350,883) *HPI current valuation

Liabilities

  • Credit Card -£950.99 (-£1,728.26)
  • Student Loan -£3,656.77 (-£3,806.77)
  • Mortgage -£190,092.68 (-£189,487.04)

Total Assets (excluding house) – Total Liabilities = Net Worth
£107,240.53 – £194,700.44 = -£87,459.91 (-£90,057.28)

Month-on-month

Not so much added to my FreeTrade ISA this month as I bulked up my emergency fund and paid a bit more than usual off my credit card.

My plan to clear the credit card debt in January might be pushed back to February now although it depends on additional repayments I can sneak in next month.

The pension contribution reflects an additional one per cent, that coupled with a new Vanguard SIPP I opened for Mrs Frugalist means that we are now putting 15% of our household income into pensions. That’s another personal milestone met 🙂

Future Fund

It’s nice to see the graph continuing to move up & right, this month’s gain puts me quite near the £110,000 mark and is a good way to end the year. Just over half of the gain is from the inclusion of my Hargreaves Lansdown ISA which was missing from last month’s FF.

Dividends

A late flurry of dividends this month gave me a nice fuzzy feeling as payments crept past the £8 mark for the month.

It’s nice to look ahead to the prospect of seeing how 2021 payments compare to 2020. Who knows what they will look like as amongst many things the economy will continue to be influenced by COVID-19 and also the departure from the EU.

Looking ahead to 2021

I’ll share my review of 2020 shortly and also my plans for 2021. I’m going to try and concentrate on the processes required to meet my goals rather than just the goals themselves, I think this level of planning will help with my motivation.

Guest Post

This month I had the opportunity to share a post from Martin at Studenomics, he shares his thoughts on what to look for in your first side hustle – things to watch out for and how to choose the right one.

If you are interested in writing a guest post for my blog, you can reach out to me via the contact page or by taking a look at the let’s work together page – it would be great to hear from you!

Vanity Metrics

These are metrics which serve me no purpose other than to see progress, or lack of, in the social media universe.

Alexa ranking: #1,298,570
Twitter followers: 295
Blog followers: 29

November 2020 update

Quiet month for me in general so I’ll crack on with things…

Additional Income Streams

  • Matched Betting £137 (Oct £275)
  • Surveys/studies £10.21 (Oct £16.56)

Things were a bit slower this month with my matched betting although I still made a >£100 profit which I’m fine with. I wasn’t feeling it for a good while so just dipped in and out as I fancied it.

How did I do in November?

Assets

  • Emergency Fund £1,150.80 (£1,107.69)
  • ISA, Freetrade £3,546.79 (£2,187.76)
  • ISA, Hargreaves Lansdown £2,682.73 (not recorded)
  • Pensions £97,194.47 (£94,943.49)
  • SAYE £390.00 (£360.00)
  • House £350,883 (not recorded) *HPI current valuation

Liabilities

  • Credit Card -£1,728.26 (-£2,299.60)
  • Student Loan -£3,806.77 (-£3,960.77)
  • Mortgage -£189,487.04 (-£190,668.62)

Total Assets (excluding house) – Total Liabilities = Net Worth
£104,964.79 – £195,022.07 = -£90,057.28

Yes, I have a big mortgage and the repayments are pretty hefty but the decisions around that were made pre-FIRE journey.

We could downsize as we have a spare bedroom and an office/5th bedroom but when we looked into this a few years ago there just wasn’t much to gain if we want to stay in the current area. We’re not looking to relocate just yet as my daughter is in her final year at high school and then hopefully starting college. Renting out the spare room could be an option we considering though…

It’s not something I’d rule out in the future as I like the idea of geo-arbitrage although that comes with other considerations such as having the best dog in the world that we would have to take with us as I’d not even think about giving her up.

Month-on-month

As you can see, although my spending and credit card payments are down this month, my savings rates are down too. Part of the reason for this is a bit of lethargy, I just struggled with motivation to bring in extra money which would have been used to reduce debt and increase savings.

Thankfully, my credit card payments should be done with ahead of schedule – it’s now looking like the bulk of the balance should be cleared in December and then January will mop up the remaining balance.

Whether then to start on paying down my Student Loan or to add to my Emergency Fund is the question. My Student Loan is under £4,000 and attracts a rate of interest of 2.6%.


I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this – would you clear the loan and be rid of all debt (except mortgage) or build your EF a bit more?


Future Fund

Continued good performance from my Scottish Widows pension scheme and a boost to the Freetrade ISA saw me edge past the £100,000 milestone.

So happy about this as it is the first big milestone that I have hit on my way to FIRE 🙂

Also, just while compiling my list of assets and liabilities/debts (above), I realised that I have not included my HL ISA in my Future Fund so that’ll be added from December onward.

I have set the next milestone at £150k which I plan to make in the next couple of years. Increased pension contributions, both from higher saving rate & higher salary, plus side hustles and general market performance although the latter cannot be relied upon.

Yay! I’ve awarded myself a badge 😀

Started recording my dividend payments in my Freetrade ISA (lazy portfolio) which can be seen in the graph below. I’ll provide a breakdown of my lazy portfolio in the future showing what funds I have.

Dividend Payments

Not likely to be retiring any time soon on the above level of payments but I expect these numbers to grow nicely over time. I’ve set an informal target of the monthly dividends being enough to cover my mobile phone payment which is not much, like £5, so should hopefully be achievable in the next 12 months. I’ll then add the next notional target – over time the goal is to have the dividends covering a significant proportion of my regular expenses.

Credits

I have taken inspiration and assistance from a couple of other FIRE bloggers in the creation of my monthly updates so I’d like to take the opportunity now to say thank you.

Weenie over at QuietlySaving – thanks for providing quality posts, yours was the first FIRE blog I started reading and it was from your updates that I “borrowed” the Future Fund concept. Also a big thank you for your help with my dividend graphing (see above) – I was banging my head against the wall with Apple Numbers trying to get it right, I then went from Excel (thanks!) to Google Sheets and I’m pretty happy with the result.

You can read what Weenie’s November looked like here.

Sassenach Saving‘s monthly updates provided me with the thought of breaking down my assets and debts for a month-on-month comparison. Check out their November update here.

July 2020 update

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July was the first month back at full-time which was great news for my bank balance but I had kind of gotten used to working four days and having the long weekends! My team were amongst the first to go back to full-time with the developers and QAs returning the start of August.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

No more lounging around in my back garden on Fridays (not really my backgarden!).

Work itself has been pretty busy since returning to a five day week, but that’s a good thing as we still have customers in the pipeline.

Several people have opted to remain at 80% as they have found it is a better fit for their circumstances, I must admit that I was tempted but it doesn’t feel like the right time just now. In hindsight, the one day off each week could have been seen as a step toward semi-retirement but I am still in my wealth-building stage and I could do with the extra pay to help meet my goals.

One of the perks my company offer is the ability to buy or sell annual leave. There are typically quite a few people that take advantage of this each year and purchase the maximum additional leave of five days.

With the COVID-19 situation though, and not being able to travel, I still have the majority of my leave left so I decided to sell some back. A couple of weeks ago I received confirmation that this had been agreed and I’ll now be credited with an additional £100/month gross to my salary each month for the rest of the year.

My monthly figures are shown below, generally okay in the good areas but spending was up significantly on June. The increase in my company pension is mentioned just below…

Monthly Figures July 2020
Monthly Figures July 2020

Company Pension

Before the reduced hours, I had been contributing 12% toward my company pension via salary sacrifice. I increased my rate of contribution to 15% when my salary was cut as I didn’t want to impede my pension growth. My plan is to leave my contribution rate the same going forward meaning I’ll be tucking away a bit extra month-on-month.

Additional Income Streams

In addition to my salary, I am trying to create and nurture additional income streams.

  • FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon) Sales £51.39 profit
  • eBay Sales £14.14 profit (June £101.65)
  • Matched Betting £20.00 free bets £0 real money

eBay sales are pretty much a no-brainer, anyone can do this, and the items sold during July were all sourced from my home. I’ve currently got a stack of things to photograph and list so it’s something of a backburner task. One of the advantages of selling on eBay is their postage service – they have agreements with a few courier firms offering discounted rates which tend to be cheaper than Royal Mail. I can opt to print the postage label in store (handy as I don’t have a printer at home) and then walk to the local shop which is about 20 minutes away to drop off the item(s).

FBA takes a little more effort and this months sales were generated from a couple of sets of Joe Wicks saucepans which I had purchased from Dunelm Mill a while ago in a sale. They had been sitting around at home for ages so I finally decided to get them sent in and listed. Glad I did as they both sold within a week on being received at the distribution centre.

Matched Betting – I only just signed up for this at the very end of the month and I am still working through the tutorials from OddsMonkey* (this is weenie’s affiliate link as I’m not yet a Premium member). Thus I have only unlocked some free bets and yet to realise real money that I can withdraw and invest.

Future Fund

This is something I picked up from weenie over at quietlysaving, after finding out what it is and what kind of things it includes I have decided to start tracking my own future fund (thanks weenie!).

This month, I’ll just report the figure – seems little point in me creating a graph for just one data point! 😀 – which is £90,129. I’m pretty sure this number will increase as I have to analyse my Hargreaves Lansdown ISA as I currently have holdings there which are ring-fenced for my kids.

Included in this figure are my pensions (excluding my defined benefits pension), ISAs, and cash savings. I won’t be including my CrowdCube investments as the investments made here cannot currently be liquidated. Also excluded is the equity in my home.


What kind of side hustles or income streams do you have? I’d be very interested to hear what you are up to in order to speed up your journey to FI.


Also, if you haven’t already, find me on Twitter @ithefrugalist and give me a follow – I’ll be sure to say “hi” and follow you back 🙂

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June 2020 update

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Some good news on the work front this month, my team were told we would be returning to 100% hours from July – yay!

By Skitterphoto on pexels.com

The entire workforce was put onto 80% time/salary at the start of May as a precautionary step to protect the financial wellbeing of the company. I was initially worried about the financial impact this reduction in hours would bring but we have coped fine thankfully, my wife picked up extra shifts so it lessened the blow a bit.

How did I perform financially? I’ve put together a few figures to try and establish some benchmarks for future months, there may be a bit more detail for some areas than others at the moment but I’m working on that.

Spending

This covers our expenses such as groceries, travel costs, pets, and any other discretionary spending for the month. Not sure how this would compare to other families of four but it is the lowest for amoutn spent in a month this year – not sure if that’s because we have been doing less or if I’ve messed up the tracking somewhere!

Travel costs are really low at the moment as my wife is cycling to work, I’m still working from home, and we have declared our car off road with the DVLA.

I anticipate a much improved accuracy for spending in July as I have taken up the use of an app called “Emma” which utilises the open banking here in the UK to amalgamate transactions and balances across mutliple accounts. More on this app in another post, but it you’d like to take a look and sign-up in the mean time, please use my link* as I earn in-app points 🙂

Credit Card

I was a little hesitant in adding this category as I feel a degree of shame about getting into credit card debt. In fact, I have carried around this type of debt since my twenties, occasionally paying off the balance in full only to build it back up again. But, as Vicki Robin says, “No shame, no blame”!

Decided to use some extra money we had to pay down the debt a bit more aggressively this month than we usually would. Feels good to see that number come down and also get the balance below 25% of my credit limit.

Having been listening to the ChooseFI podcast for a little while now, the idea of using travel reward credit cards has grown on me but I still harbour a “fear” of the cards and the trouble they can cause without sufficient will power.

Company Pension

I use salary sacrifice to make the most of my income, this reduces the amount of income tax I have to pay as my salary is effectively reduced. My company offer a 3% contribution match which I take advantage of plus I add a decent percentage on top of that.

The scheme is run by Scottish Widows and typically does okay but the 2019/2020 year ended in a negative performance percentage. This resulted in my pension pot losing a few hundred pounds despite the contributions.

Emergency Fund

Contributions to my EF were low this month, mainly because I forgot to add the money 😦

Note to self: automate this to avoid the same happening again!

Pretty much all the podcasts and books talk about setting up an EF to cover three to six months of expenses, this feels pretty daunting when starting out. My first target is to cover one month’s worth, then I’ll aim for two months. I feel much more inclined to keep going when the goals are achievable, they don’t have to be easier but achievable none the less.

ISA, Freetrade

I opened my Freetrade ISA in May and added a further £310 to it during June. The cash balance was invested in funds according to my portfolio strategy which I’ll talk about in another post. I don’t have a magic link for Freetrade but if you are interested in opening an account (in the UK) then message me and I’ll send one through, we’ll both then earn a free share worth between £3 and £200 – nice!

That pretty much rounds out my thoughts on my June finances, a bit late in getting these written down and published but heh-ho 😀 Next month, I intend to get round to this a bit earlier and making small incrementally improvements to my systems should enable this.


Quick question for you, do you use reward credit cards? If so, what have they enabled you to do, what places have you visited courtesy of using these cards rather than using a debit card?


Thanks for making it this far! Let me know what your thoughts are on financial updates and the kinds of things you measure.

Have a great week 🙂

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