30 Nov 2012

Save Christmas

You may have noticed a theme to my recent posts, that's right Christmas has arrived in my house!!

Photo: its beginning to look a lot like Christmas :)

For a few reasons, you might be able to spot one above. We put it up this weekend. I know, it's not even December! But still it's fun isn't it. I've also set up my Christmas playlist and have been listening to that pretty much none stop. 

Love the waitresses:

(not the official video)

Anyway back to the topic at hand MONEY. 

At this time of year we all start thinking of gifts. Well some of us do, the rest have been thinking about them ALL YEAR!

That's right, I set my budget for this Christmas back when the snow was falling last January. So I'm not exactly sure how realistic it will be. 

What I do know is I put a measly £15 - 20 a head into the budget. Too tight? I don't think so!!! 

Let's see what we can do. 

Well as it turns out I'm not the only one in the family thinking frugally. We were invited round to my in-laws (to be), after a lovely meal with the family we got round to talking about what the plans were for Christmas. Sometimes we go to them, or my parents or we have them to us. 

Anyway they have been a little down on their luck this year, with some injuries causing them to take extended sick leave and various changes of jobs also between the family members. So it turns out that they have decided instead of buying everyone gifts they are going to do Secret Santa. Which means instead of me and my partner buying for the  whole family, we've been secretly nominated to buy for just two of them.

To cap it off they have imposed a spending limit of £25 per person. This has helped immensely! So instead of 4 presents at ~£20 each, its now £50 total.

I think this is a fab idea, not only does it help cut down on all the over enthusiastic consumerism surrounding Christmas, but no one is left out AND because each person is only buying one gift they can concentrate on making it the BEST GIFT EVER!

So I was all set to go shopping. Had a few other errands to do which just about made taking the car a respectable decision.

Spoke to my sister on the way in for gift ideas for her, she said she wants me to go halves with my brother on a DAB radio, she knew how much the one she wanted was and still insisted on it. 

YES! Finally frugality has come to the forefront of everyone's thinking. It's been one of the cores of my thinking for over a year now. How I wish i could have found it earlier.

Any way. Back to buying thoughtful gifts and wishing well.

On a broadening your mind note before I go, Charles Dickens a Christmas Carol is currently free on amazon for kindle / kindle apps. So get out that ereader / smartphone and get some reading done. It's surprisingly short but massively heart warming!

Update: For those without kindle/ smartphone you can get a christmas carol in various formats on project gutenberg, including an audio version. Both are free downloads, that Gutenberg project is totally mega and I would definitely say it's worth having a look through. Can't hurt if it's free can it?!

Stay well ("and know me better man!")


27 Nov 2012

5 things to get your significant other for Christmas

So continuing the 5 things series, let's get all Christmassy. I have the fire turned on, I am in my dressing gown. So let's all snuggle up together and think of lovely gifts that can be enjoyed by that special person in your life.

Obviously I am not going to encourage you to increase the gruesome level of consumerism that is already upon us, these will be more esoteric gifts. Ones to stimulate their brains rather than to satisfy a passing whim.

1. Encourage their passion. 

There is nothing better than someone getting on your side and thinking about what you really want. So if your significant other (SO) loves to read, or paint or whatever, encourage it. Positive progress is always good.

2. Help them make a change

Is your partner stuck in a job they hate? Still smoking 20 a day and getting a bad cough? Maybe they can't bring themselves to ask for a pay rise or simply tell that idiot in the office to shut the fuck up. Help them, a small gesture of goodwill like telling them you believe in them and that you know they have it in them to make that change can be all the encouragement they need. 

3. Inspire them to save money

I believe saving money is the cornerstone to leading a well lived life. It brings with it freedom, freedom from consumerism, freedom from debt and freedom to spend money actively. This will help them to relieve stresses caused by money niggles (interest charges on credit cards) and give them a better nights sleep. Making them a happier and more positive person.

4. Encourage work on a side hustle

As I mentioned above saving brings freedom with it. Having a side hustle can give you extra money and provide that longed for purpose that your day job doesn't fulfil. Maybe someday you'll earn enough from this side income to quit the day job and take it up full time. Or it may just come as a nice little add on to the usual paycheque helping to pay for lifes emergencies / indulgences. 

5. Tell them the goals that you want to achieve with them.

Sometimes sharing with your SO the things you would like to do with them can be the best thing of all. Always wanted to see Uluru? How much better would it be with her/him right by your side. Creating memories for you to share til your grey and old. If your grey and old already you can always tell the grand-kids!

I hope this helps you realise that the best part of Christmas giving isn't really the gifts. It's really down to the love that you try to embody in presents. You don't really want to give gifts, you just want to see the look on their face as they open it. 

25 Nov 2012

5 Things series, starter for 10!

I've always wanted to have a nice little series of posts that can have awesome bullet points (Love bullet points).

So here we go the 5 things series.

Starter for 10 as Paxo loves to say, isn't actually ten things I hope that hasnt confused you.

Let's start of small hey. Maybe.... 5 things that would make the world brilliantly awesome and save the planet!!!!!!

1. Stop all motor sport.

Why? Think of all the fuel / money wasted and technological advances that have come about through just F1 racing. If this amount of thought had gone into solar panels I think there wouldn't be an energy crisis.

Why it's unrealistic. People LOVE motorsport. My first thought whenever someone says this, is it really a sport? I think it's more of a competition. There's skill yes and you have to be physically fit, but surely there are better ways of spending BILLIONS of pounds each year.

2. Don't allow private jets to fly.

Why? Does it matter that you get somewhere that much quicker? Can you not just get a 1st class flight? Again think of all the wasted BILLIONS on flights for one or two people, how inefficient and wasteful. There doesn't seem to be any reason to have a private jet. 

Why it's unrealistic. They see me rollin' they hatin' . This mentality is so basic. If you have no idea what that means, basically the rapper thinks people are jealous of him because of his money. Well just to let you know, I don't care

3. Have more national holidays.

Why? Holidays are awesome! In a lot of families the holidays (Christmas/Thanksgiving) are the only times that everyone gets together. There should be more of this! Spread the love.

Why it's unrealistic. Businesses want Money, to get more money they work longer hours or more days. This means less holiday, boohoo.

4. Free broadband for all.

Why? BROADBAND IS AWESOME, wi-fi is awesome. It should be available to everyone, for free. 

Why it's unrealistic. Rolling out broadband is pretty expensive. Someone has to pay for it unfortunately. So either you can pay your monthly subscription, or the government could pay for it and tax you more. BOO! 

5. Your only allowed to get one present at Christmas (in total).

Why? Everyone is uber-spoilt over the Christmas period. There is a lot of pressure to get EVERYONE the BEST presents ever. People even go into debt to be able to afford to buy their family presents. Enough is enough, 1 present for each person. It's like secret Santa but for the world is how I envisage it. I can tell your worried that this one present will be crap right? Well no, if everyone only has one person to buy for, then they can put all the thought into that one. 

Why it's unrealistic. People are stupid, they think that Christmas is a time for treats and not a time for thinking. STOP BUYING STUFF YOU CAN'T AFFORD! Even if it is a present! It doesn't matter.

So once I am KING OF THE WORLD, I will implement these 5 things and the world will be sorted in a jiffy. 

Or maybe we could all just be a bit more thoughtful in life, cut down on the amount of fuel we waste, reduce our fancy pants holidays to reduce wasted plane journeys, prioritise our family above sitting in front of the tv and cut down on the number of people we buy superfluous gifts for. 

Is it that difficult? Not really if we think about things a bit more.

Stay well.


P.S. Did you spot I didn't use bullet points? Maybe I don't love them that much.

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/boklm/486646486/

19 Nov 2012

Thinking Net

It's a common mistake and something I've only recently come to. Thinking net is really the big concept behind all things purchasing / income generating.

To explain more I saw a post a couple of weeks back either Retweeted by the savvy scot or by Elaine. I can't seem to find it at the moment so if you know of it please drop me a comment. 

Anyway, it was all about how you must to think about how much your life will improve by overall not just the initial hit, which normally leads to buyers remorse or impulse buying.

I'm not explaining this very well let's get an example going: 

Rob over at SEI (who is great btw) was rather candid about his wages recently. So I'll use him :D. He says he earns £18k a year, not too shabby for his first job out of Universtiy I thought, but I bet some of you are thinking - how the hell does he live on that. 

So maybe Rob goes looking for another job. At the moment he has quite a low cost of living. But he goes chasing the big bucks (possibly with $ / £  signs in his eyes?) in the big old city of London. He can easily get a job here earning £25k say. Wow you might be thinking or kerching at least! But let's think this through a second. 

At the moment he saves £7.5k a year, a phenomenal amount! But say he's now living in London, his after tax on £25k will be £19532 , his student loan contributions will knock him down to £18632.

He's put accomodation down as ~25% of his total costs. This will unfortunately skyrocket. London prices are ridiculous. A room in a house will cost you £500 a month or more (source: rightmove.co.uk). This will push his costs up from ~£3600 (which includes gas/elec/council tax!) to say £35 a month gas/elec (if he's sharing a house I think that's fair enough) + £500 for the room + his share of council tax/water say £50 a month. Which is £7020 a year. Crikey! Almost doubled.

So we're down to £11,612, if we say a 5% increase on the other costs/ food costs that's £3055. That leaves him with £8557.

Woohoo! He is Just over £1000 better off A YEAR! 

If you can't tell that's sarcasm it's time to start watching blackadder again. 

Don't forget this means he has no transport costs. After speaking to a friend he averages £30 a month, which seems to be about right, although I'm sure Rob would walk or cycle half the time at least. So say £15 a month for him. This brings that £7k payrise down to a paltry £877. Yes he has increased the amount he saves a year.

But only by £73 a month. In the mean time he has had to move house, misses all his great northern friends and will probably have to learn cockney. I feel sorry for him and he hasn't even done it!

This is what thinking Net really is, taking into account the total of the costs that changes in your life make. Not just the initial savings or increases in income.

Obviously this thought process ignores the fact that Rob is awesome at saving money. Also that you will probably start earning more as you get more experienced at work, sometimes you have to pay your dues first.

But this thinking net holds true for other items in life that are supposed to save you money. Like wood burning stoves.

Stay well


18 Nov 2012

What's it for?

There are several reasons I have started myself on a path to financial independence. But above all I would say that it is my own pursuit of happiness.  

I first became aware of the real meaning of happiness when I read Aristotle's ethics. I have to say at 15 I didn't really get it. Why would I want to not pursue the latest gadget like the (then) newly arrived mobile phones. Why would I waste my time exploring nature and learning; when there are pretty girls to be turned down by woo.

But now I still don't fully get it, hey I'm no philosopher! What I have got out of it and what it's taken me so long to realise is that happiness is really all there is in life. If you are doing something that is not making you happy or inversely not doing something that would make you happy, something has gone wrong.

It finally dawned on me about 7 years ago that this was the case. I was sitting at home with a hangover after yet another night on the town being turned down by girls wooing young ladies. I realised that it isn't worth it.

Not the wooing young ladies part. But wooing these particular ladies. They haven't realised yet that the bar scene is ultimately completely unfulfilling and just moves your hard earned cash from your pocket into the local pub/club's. Whilst leaving you dehydrated and with a slightly larger beer belly than when you started. 

Then I decided to think about the things that are really important to me. 


Not necessarily in that order. So I thought what can I tackle first. Being single I couldn't really start thinking about children so I started actively trying to spend more time with my friends and family. Before I always let myself be approached, now I try to arrange meet ups, especially if I haven't seen people in a while.

What really got me was the quote: "Never let the grass grow long on the path to your friends house" I don't know who said it but it's awesome. Love it. 

I also realised that none of these things were necessarily to do with money. Yes, I might need to be able to buy petrol to get around. But it's not like I buy my friends or I can buy a loving partner. 

So as money is not a big thing for me, I decided to try and utilise it as best I could. 

Long story short, it didn't work for years!!! Not because it was the wrong thing to do but because I wasn't being conscious of my spending. So I started tracking my spending. To some degree it worked. I cut back a little. It really wasn't until I started reading Mr Money Mustache that I realised how much I was wasting. Not just my money, but my time as well.

So I have renewed myself, I am stringent and conscious of my spending at all times. It makes me realise all the alternatives available to me and how much better they are. Just a little thought before purchasing can create a lot of spare cash. 

Which can then be saved, compounded and used to become financially independent. This will then allow me to spend more of my time on the things I love. In the mean time I'm going to do all I can to use my time productively to increase my happiness whilst minimising my unnecessary spending to the reduce the time it will take to reach the FI milestone.

This life is now the norm for me and I have to say that I feel a lot more content than with the one I had before.

Stay well.


16 Nov 2012

Great Work!

Goals. I'm sure we all have a lot of them.

As you may have seen, I've been tracking mine for a while now and I think it's about time I started celebrating. Sure, it's no the time to indulge myself. But I have hit a lot of my (short-term) goals.

It's been about 6 months maybe more since I started the £250 challenge, and I have to say it's going great. 

For the first time in my life I have savings - (maybe only for a short time) but it's enough to make me think that if I carry on like this, with improvements in my still quite unfrugal budget (Mobile phone!!) then I could really make that big life changing step and retire before I'm 50. 

So how have I done it? Well to be honest I couldn't really tell you, it's the little things. Shopping around for car/ home insurance saved me ~£300, getting a cheaper gas/electric contract probably another £200 and other things I can't even remember.

But the biggest change that's really been with me from the start (so I guess not a change?) is just trying to live below my means. I've always shopped at Aldi rather than the big super market (own brand beans taste loads better!!). I've always rather put a jumper on than stick the heating on, it's just the way I am.

Not to say that I don't enjoy treating myself, I love a good quaff of beer now and then. It's not such a big priority to me anymore as it used to be.

So if you're struggling with reaching your financial goals, give yourself a little credit for how well your doing. It is definitely worth it to keep going. Hey guess what it can make you find things about yourself you didn't even know (I'm now a pretentious blogger, who knew?!).

Stay well


1 Nov 2012

Indulgences / Temptation

It seems Briton is spending itself rotten at the moment who would have thought we're only just out of recession. 

So I thought I'd get involved!! But in my own way. I love indulging my thoughts having a look through the latest gadgets, or maybe some new shoes. But the difference is I have the mindset that I can't afford these things. 

Why can't I afford them? Am I really poor. Well no, I have a good job. I earn a decent amount, I've worked hard to get where I am and I hope am going to get further up the career ladder. 

So? What's the problem? Why aren't you busting down the road in your brand new puma's or writing this on the new ipad 3 with 4G technology? 

Well... there is a problem I have to admit. I cannot bring myself to spend my hard earned on such frivolous things, especially when I have much more important things in my life.

Like what? You might be thinking, you've worked hard, treat yourself go on! Worked hard? How can you measure that. Yes I think I have worked hard, maybe a little too hard, but I always think I could have done so much more. How can I justify treating myself? I don't think I can. I already have so much. 

Come on people. When you were 8 would you have ever believed that you would be walking round with a star trek style communicator that allows you to talk to someone on the other side of the world!!!! If I think about it I kind of can't believe it now. I think it works through pixie dust though!!

Maybe I am already treating  myself, I cook up yummy meals for myself every night and get to hang out with really cool friends and my life is generally pretty awesome. Would it be improved with the latest gadget? I think not.  

I love looking though.