Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Looking Back

The last couple of days have been interesting.  I decided a couple of days ago to start decluttering my online life, or more accurately, my email inbox. There were over 2300 emails in it, most of which just needed deleting.

In the process of deleting the old emails, (I've got them down to just 74 so far) I decided to do a bit of research into my online shopping history over the last few years and made a note of each online order I'd placed, as I deleted the emails pertaining to them. It was quite an eye opener.

Why do it?  Well, it was useful in order to see what a habit I'd formed with regard to online shopping and I'm hoping I can use the information to help me reduce my online spending in the future.

The information I gleaned also showed how my online shopping habits have changed over the last six years, and how the online shops I've frequented have changed over this time too, which was interesting in itself.

I started off buying online using eBay mostly and a handful of other sites, but over the last few years the amount of sites has increased to include over 30, which is quite shocking when I think about it. Although many involved just one off purchases, some I have shopped at on multiple occasions.

Without giving any figures here, (I'm way too embarrassed to do that) my online shopping habit seems to have peaked back in 2015 and the number of orders placed in the last year has reduced in number to almost half of 2015's total.  I think this might have been due to my spending less time on line since starting to volunteer in the CS.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, being armed with this information should hopefully help me to monitor my online spending in the future, and hopefully reduce it substantially. Perhaps I'll be able to get more of a balance between on and off line spending, whilst reducing both. It will be interesting to see if that happens this year and I'm recording any orders as I make them.

In addition, I haven't yet actually considered the cost of my online shopping habit.  That is a job for another day, when I'm feeling a bit more brave and have the time to trawl through my credit card statements to get a feel for the exact numbers involved.  There may be a few more shocks to come and another post too.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Currently Reading - The Millionaire Next Door - 2Oth Anniversary Edition

Having finished Suze Orman's book about Women and Money, I've been feeling inspired to continue reading books on the subject of personal finance and am currently reading this book which was recommended by a YouTuber I follow, who also happens to be a follower of Dave Ramsey's programme, namely The Former Mrs Jones.



She has recommended this book a few times in her videos and when OH asked me what I wanted for Christmas, this happened to be the only book on my Amazon wish list, so he bought it for me.

I'm not very far into it, but it is quite fascinating reading.  It is basically the result of a major survey of over 14,000 millionaires in the US and it looks at how they became millionaires, what they spend their money on (and more to the point what they don't) and what their net worth actually is and what it realistically should be based on their age and income.

What is really interesting about this book, is that it uncovers the fact that most millionaires don't inherit their wealth, but create it themselves, by being careful with their money, spending it wisely and investing it.  They don't for the most part drive expensive foreign luxury cars, wear a fancy watch or dress in designer labels, far from it, they are more like to drive a ten year old Ford, wear a cheap Timex watch and shop in local department stores for their clothes.

Now this might sound very boring and dull to many people, but what's boring about having enough income not to have to worry about money and having the financial independence to do whatever you want in life and not be a financial burden to your children.

Far from finding it boring, I find it very inspiring, as it makes you realise that it is possible for even the most ordinary person to become very comfortably off if they just take a little care with how they spend and invest their money. I almost wish that I had read this book ten years ago as my finances might have been a little different to what they are today.

What the research did find, was that quite often those who are earning large salaries are not the ones who have a high net worth of $1 million or more, because they are the ones who are often caught up in the consumerist culture, whereby they live paycheck to paycheck, using their income to buy the kind of products they think everyone thinks they should own and wear and in reality they often have very little by way of savings or investments that could sustain them should they lose their job.

Whilst reading this book I can recognise myself in some of what is written.  Spending what comes to me and not really thinking or planning for the future, hence why this year, I want to turn things around and get myself on a better financial footing.  I guess recognising where you're going wrong is a good starting point for that.

I'm thoroughly enjoying this read.  There are lots of tables full of data in the book, making it a little like a social science text book, so it might not appeal to everyone, but you can read it without paying too much attention to these and I'm a bit weird, as sometimes I like to read this kind of data.

This book has been in print for 20 years now and was originally a New York Times Best Seller, so it definitely has proved itself to have some merit.  However, although you can still glean a lot from it today, which I am doing in reading it, there have been some big changes in the world in the past 20 years, which have possibly dated it a little.

What I mean by this statement is that the internet has potentially changed a lot of things in terms of personal finance in our world today. They have created sources of income for many people, especially with such sites as eBay and the YouTube and to some extent it has democratised the art of making some serious money creating many millionaires as a consequence. I'm not sure if the book will cover this aspect of today's wealth and society, but it will be interesting to see.  Nevertheless, I think it is probably worth a read regardless. If it sets you on the right road to getting your finances in order, it's got to be worth it.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Saturday

Waking up on Saturday morning, after a busy and eventful week, but also one filled with a lot of procrastination, I decided on the spur of the moment that I needed to do something about the state of our house. It has been a bit neglected since Christmas as I haven't really done a whole lot of cleaning.  I cleaned the living room after taking down the decorations, but not much else had got done, other than keeping on top of the daily washing up, wiping down and laundry tasks.

As a consequence, the state of the house was starting to bother me, so after spending an hour in bed with my latest book (got to be done) and once OH and LB had headed out with the dog, I decided it was time to just stop worrying about the mess and get on and do something about it.  I always find it easier if I've got the house to myself, as I have a free rein.

I didn't even bother with breakfast.  I just threw some old clothes on and got started.  I did a general pick up and sorted some dirty laundry before getting out the hoover and tackling the upstairs, stairs, landings, hall and kitchen floors.  I wiped down all the cupboard fronts in the kitchen. The dog had made them a bit of a mess shaking herself off after muddy walks. I then mopped the wooden floors in the hall, stairs and kitchen, cleaned  and mopped the downstairs toilet and upstairs bathroom and replaced the towels.

After 3 hours of non-stop cleaning, it felt so good to be back in control of my house.  I hate that feeling I get when everything is getting on top of me.  I rewarded myself with a late brunch of a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea.  It doesn't take a lot to get your world back on track, just a bit of focus and some elbow grease.

There are still jobs that I want to do, such as deep clean my kitchen cupboards and worktops, clean the reception rooms and blitz our bedroom, but for now my panic over the state of the house has been quelled for a while.

The remainder of the day was spent cleaning a couple of pairs of leather boots that I wear all of the time, one of which had been really neglected and was looking very scruffy and muddy.  They came up very well and I've returned them to my wardrobe for the first time in over a year. They usually get thrown in the shoe box in the hall and used for dog walking, but  I've decided I like them because they are so comfortable and easy to wear and I want to prolong their life as long as possible, which means taking more care of them,

Later, after walking the dog and putting away some clean laundry, I got a shower and got changed and we went out for supper and to the cinema to see the new film about Jackie Kennedy, starring Natalie Portman. (LB was sleeping over at a friend's house, so we had a rare night to ourselves).  I'm not sure we made the right choice of film, but it was a nice mix of getting things done and taking time out for ourselves.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Getting My S--- Together

This year, as I mentioned in another post, I'm trying to get my financial life in order.  I've plodded along for years, not really giving much thought to the future, living on a day to day basis and to a certain extent there's nothing wrong with this approach, as it does make you appreciate daily life, but the death of my friend a few weeks ago, has made me re-evaluate quite a few things in my life.

Reading Suze Orman's book has also influenced me, I have to admit, but I've also thought about these things myself in the past and intended to do something, but just haven't bothered until now.

Last week, I applied for some term life insurance. I've not actually had a proper policy for many years, if ever if I'm honest and I've been lucky that it has never been needed. I've had the odd small life assurance policy here and there that have paid out small sums and I was covered when I was employed if anything happened to me, but in recent years my cover has been minimal and more recently non-existent.

Now many people may consider life insurance unnecessary, and if you've got no dependent children and have paid off your mortgage then I might agree, but we have a dependent child and we haven't paid off our mortgage, so I thought I'd better do the grown up thing and get some to make sure that my loved ones won't have any financial worries should anything happen to me.

I chose enough cover to pay off our mortgage (or extended mortgage, if we extend it to pay for building work later this year) and provide a year or two's living expenses (at a minimal level might I add). I am committing to it for a term of 15 years, which should see LB through to adulthood and hopefully our mortgage should be completely paid off well before it ends.

The way I see it is that as a parent and a partner, it is my responsibility to do this for my loved ones and I haven't until now.  Yes, it's a commitment, but one I can change or cancel if my financial circumstances change, but it is one that will give me peace of mind that they will be taken care of if anything happens to me, despite the fact that I'm not the main breadwinner.

Another thing that has influenced me to finally do this, is that I am getting older, I am getting diagnosed with different medical conditions, (hypothyroidism and high cholesterol to date) and who knows what might be next. Each additional health issue will inevitably cost more in insurance terms from here on in, so now is as good a time as any to get started.

In many respects, I wish I'd done it years ago, as it would have been a lot less expensive, but I didn't. I've chosen and signed up to a policy and am just waiting to hear when they'll take the first payment out of my account. It's not super cheap, probably on a par with our pet insurance, but nothing in life worth having is, and to put the cost into perspective, the premium is only twice what I pay out every month on charitable donations currently, so I guess it's time that charity began at home.

In addition, I figure that I can easily spend the amount in question, dribbling it away each month on unnecessary purchases, so at least spending it on something I deem worth having, will mean that less money is available to me to spend on trivial things that I really don't need. In this respect, as someone who is trying to reduce the amount of 'stuff' in her life, it's a no brainer.

I'm gradually growing up I think. It's taken a long time, and there's still a long way to go, but hopefully I'm now heading in the right direction and taking responsibility for myself and my loved ones.

Friday, 20 January 2017

A Dramatic Day

Today, I went into the Charity Shop as a favour to the manager, as he was really short staffed. I'm trying hard not to do 3 days per week, as it is just too much, but he was a bit stuck this week, so I agreed to go in.

It was a very quiet morning and pretty uneventful.  I left around 2.50pm and as I was walking down the high street there was a crowd gathered around a local cafe.  At first I thought it was a party as there was a bit of shouting, but then I noticed that there was a car embedded in the front of the cafe.  I could hear people around me on the street saying how it would be a miracle if no one was under the car, but I didn't stick around, as it seemed ghoulish to stand around watching. (Some people didn't seem to have a problem with taking photos of the scene on their phones, however)

As I reached the station a fire engine, paramedic car and an ambulance were speeding to the scene and the air ambulance was circling above.  I must have missed seeing the accident by minutes or even possibly seconds.  I felt a bit shaken when I got on the train.  I rang the shop to tell them I was okay, just in case anyone told them about the accident and they might have been wondering if I'd been involved. (They hadn't even heard anything about it, but it had been very quiet in the shop as everyone locally was probably looking on at the scene)

When I got home, I checked out the local paper's online site, to find that there had indeed been someone under the car, who had subsequently been cut free and was being treated at a local trauma centre. Hopefully, she'll be okay. A bit of a dramatic day to say the least.  It makes you think about how precious life is. You just wouldn't expect something like that to happen whilst sat outside of a cafe having a coffee.

Needless to say, I'm glad to be home safely for the weekend.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Birthday Glamping Adventure

We are now back from LB's 14th Birthday Glamping adventure.  On Saturday, OH and myself, along with LB and 7 of her friends spent the night in these cute little glamping pods on a nearby campsite.

Most of the girls cycled there and back with OH along the canal close to our house.  I got the long straw and took the car rammed with all of the gear we needed for our one night stay. I think I overdid the food shopping a little, but we'll have plenty of leftover food to eat up in the next week or so. (Mainly bacon, eggs and breadcakes, might I add).




Here's a picture of the outside of OH and I's little 'cocoon' pod. Very basic, but very sweet and the beds, although small were very comfortable.  I got a pretty good night's sleep.  We had a heater, electric light and a kettle in there too, which was useful.



Above is what it looked like when we'd got ourselves settled in for the night with obligatory hot chocolate, hot water bottles and a couple of my handmade cosy quilts. I knew they'd come in useful sometime.  With my new laptop and dongle, we were even able to watch a couple of episodes of Designated Survivor on Netflix, just like on a regular Saturday night. It was great.

I was also able to imagine a little what living in a tiny house might feel like, although these weren't really big enough to live in. The girls cabins were a little more spacious and a bit better equipped. They had more beds, a mirror and a fridge too.




The girls all hunkered down in one of the pods (we hired two for them) for the most part and played games and chatted.  I don't think they hardly used the laptop, which is a good thing really.  They had a game of football rounders and a few games of hide and seek around the campsite.  You can imagine the excitability of 8 teenage girls let loose in the dark on a campsite.  I did insist that they at least stay in pairs though throughout, for safety reasons.



They also had roasted marshmallows around the campfire that OH got started and we ate grilled chicken, hotdogs, salad and baked beans.  Here's the makeshift cooking station we set up to make the food.  Not quite camping as you know might know it, due to the fact that we had electricity.



This morning we woke up to persistent rain so it was a leisurely breakfast of tea, cereal and pastries in our respective cabins, before getting up and ready and packing everything away into the car and eventually coming back home and back to reality.

I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  It got cold at times, but it made me fully appreciate the luxury that is a nice thick sweater and thick woolly socks.  The simple things are always the best. That's our parental duty done with regard to birthdays for another year. Next year, it's going to be a simple affair at home hopefully.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

A Small Household/Food Haul

My order from the new online ethical/organic company arrived as notified on Friday. The delivery service was exceptional and only took a couple of days.  It would have been quicker, but I delayed a day as we were going to be out.

Here's the box. I love getting parcels, even if it is just groceries.  It feels like Christmas opening them.



The items inside were well packaged with biodegradable packaging, which I reuse for my eBay sales for the most part.  Once removed, here are the contents of the box. No messy spillages this time thankfully.



I separated out the household/toiletry products and food products to show what I ordered.



The household order included 5 litres of my favourite eco laundry liquid, eco kitchen towels, 500mls of a new to us natural shampoo that I wanted to try and 15 bars of natural hand made soap.  They actually sent 20 bars, so I need to let them know that they sent too much, which I will do the moment I get a chance.  I'm happy to pay for them, although it was their mistake, as they'll get used eventually. This isn't actually my usual brand of soap. I prefer the Suma natural soap, but this brand, which is very similar, was on offer at £1.49 per bar, which was a really good price as they are normally over £2 everywhere I've seen them. Hence why I bought such a large supply.



The food part of the order contained the items above. As you can see the 3kg bag of rice is huge. We do eat quite a bit of it here though, so it will all get eaten eventually.

Overall, I was very happy with the order. I was also offered 10% off my next order if I order again within the next 6 weeks, but I don't think I'll need anything that soon. I'm pretty sure I will be ordering from them again at some point in the future though.