Monday, 3 October 2016

Savings Rate is King

Example for an average savings rate.

Ie It doesn’t matter what you bring in, just what you keep. 

It also doesn't matter what you do for a living.

I read recently about Doctors who earn hundreds of thousands per year, but because they ‘keep up with the Joneses’ they spend it all, and in fact on the bottom line are no better off than you and me. This was unexpected to me, but seems to make sense - they likely have expensive houses, social arrangement, golf, the ‘right’ kind of holiday, private tuition for kids etc.

So once you work out your savings rate, you can see if you save 20% and the Doctor saves 20%, in real terms you are on a par with someone on a doctor’s salary, because your expenses overall are less and with the SR to compare, you are on an equal footing!

This was a breakthrough for me, as I had always looked at the amount saved, not the ratio. I can now see that perhaps 30% is feasible for us with ‘easy’ cutbacks and lifestyle changes, maybe more if we can increase earnings some more.

So savings rate shows us a much more realistic picture, against which we can measure goals, income and what we want to achieve. I have set up a spreadsheet to keep myself accountable on this, and can see that over the past 6, 3 and 1 month this savings rate is continually improving and the more I learn the more I hope to achieve. It won’t be easy but my mindset has really changed, as to how much we were consuming, and what we really need on a daily basis. I will update here as I go, anything I learn that has helped us and that may help you out and your comments in turn will teach us all alot too.

Do you know your savings rate? Would you take measures to improve your SR if you knew this would bring your retirement forward?

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

How much should I save and what is a good retirement age?

This is a question I have been thinking about alot lately.

Particularly as this year I decided to leave ‘the rat race’ and go freelance. It was a very tough decision, as a regular job allows security and holidays, bonuses and approval from others, training etc. I decided that I had been working so hard for so long that if I did not make a change now, I may never do so. I had also been thinking, it’s my only way to control my own earnings, so that I can decide when and how to retire.

You may or may not have heard the term Early Retirement Extreme (ERE for short) but it’s a website and a lifestyle that I have become increasingly interested in. It started with me hearing about a site called Mr Money Mustache, and once I read his site from start to finish, I was hooked. 

The simple premise to financial success is: Spend less than you earn, save and invest the difference, retire early.

Sounds simple, but many of us have thought to save 10% of our income is normal, and ‘what everyone else does’ I consider myself ‘good with money’ and I have never considered that if I were to save 50% of my income, and make this a solid goal, I could have a ‘real’ life after work, and before I am too old and wrinkly to enjoy it. 

After all, what’s the point of working your fingers to the bone and then having arthritis on that long promised cruise, or on hike up the dreamed of Peru trek?

So with this in mind, and after several years of focus on Junior, this year has been the career-changing, finance analysing big full stop, with a view to starting a new clear sentence. 
(I get the feeling that for a while it may well feel like a prison sentence...)

From June this year I knew my income would change, and I knew this freelance work was a stepping stone to the lifestyle change and early retirement we want to achieve.

With this in mind, I shaved costs and have done things like:

  • Selling items on ebay - 2 old phones which unexpectedly yielded £180, and they are  over 2 years old and not of the fruit brand variety, so I was pleasantly surprised.
  • Cutting down on groceries and wastage - we were spending close to £300 per month for 2 adults and one 5 year old, this is now close to £220 and healthful, with much less waste as I am home more to plan meals & think (thinking time is the hardest part of meal planning, isn’t it?)
  • Calling British Gas and requesting a smart meter be installed in October, hopefully this will help us save money
  • Increasing our savings and retirement amounts - a permanent Christmas standing order is in place now, at £60 per month until Dec. Then in Jan will be £20 per month until June, and start increasing then. Our retirement standing orders are higher too now, and need to go out before everything else, we simply live on the difference.
  • Reduced some of our emergency savings to be ‘enough’ and invested the extra, especially as Santander have announced they will reduce their interest rate, which will decrease in October.
  • Reviewed pension funds fees, and swapped where needed to less expensive index funds, which I have read alot about recently and seem to make more sense given that I am not an active investor, and that I don’t want a fund manager taking large chunks of my cash for their bonus. Some of my funds are still ‘rockstar’ fund manager ones, but less so.
  • Continuing to overpay on the mortgage, I know what we need to pay per month to pay it off in 10 years, so this is my target. Sometimes we hit it, sometimes not, but on average it’s been a shade under the right amount every month which I am really happy with and over the coming 3 months we’ll hopefully smash it for 2016.

One key expression I read in one of many financial books recently (thanks to the "Miracle Morning" routine by Hal Elrod, but I will get to that in another post) sometime) was ‘Mind the Gap’ in terms of how much comes in, how much goes out, and keep trying to grow that gap and invest it. 
This is what changes someone to having no power to having the power to change jobs, feeling freedom and make decisions they may not have made. I know for us just having an emergency fund in place has always been helpful, I’m the sort of person that really dislikes not being able to pay for unexpected bills.

So we are now finding what ‘our’ preferred savings rate is - which by the way many early retirement websites disagree on how to calculate this - personally I divide savings into our income for the month. Right now we are hovering around the 20% rate, which I hope to increase, probably more in early 2017, as Christmas is looming (yes, I did say that). 

Mr Money Moustache has this interesting 4% annual withdrawal article. If you have never done so, spend these Winter months reading his blog from start to finish, he's an inspiration.

As to the ‘ideal’ retirement date, for me this is moveable as I want to bring it forward. I suppose I would like to be financially neutral first (ie investments & savings = the amount we still owe on the mortgage).  Then retire by 55 at the latest.

I do NOT want to be 67 when I retire. Moving towards a gradual retirement at some point would be fantastic, where we have ‘enough’ and spend ‘enough’ but don’t over-consume.

What is your ideal retirement date and how much would be enough for you? Would you continue to work, or do you have other plans? I love to hear what people’s dreams are, as for all this hard work, there should be something to look forward to at the end of it... 

Awakening - the beginning of a lifelong journey

Well it's been a while since I have written anything here, and for that I do apologise.

The early years of a little one are frantic, exciting, tiring and enlightening  what a rollercoaster of emotions! Junior is now 5, and full of excitement for life.

As to myself, there have been some big life changes this year. 2016 started with a kitchen refit (I will update soon so you can compare the old kitchen with what we have now, a big big change and so much better for family life.

Since then there has been family bad news, career lows and then highs, and the start of a new beginning for me.
I feel in a much better space to commit to writing, which I enjoy doing and is such a great creative outlet.

So the blog posts I intend to write now are centered around family life, personal finance, retirement and some freelance musings. I’d love to interact more on the blog and I hope that my posts are helpful, and will engage you to chat, comment and break up our days with some far reaching tendrils around the virtual globe. 

The post coming up next is about 'how much' to save for retirement - a topic many of us don't want to think about much, but essential, especially in turbulent political and economic times...

Friday, 27 September 2013

Mmmm, I love the taste of vinegar in the morning...! Apple cider vinegar - Fact or fiction?

Ok, so that's not true. But I have been absent for reasons linked to being EXHAUSTED... all the time... possibly a tiny teeny bit related to having a toddler running amock... is that how you spell it? Oh you know what I mean anyway... to put it simply, with Autumn arriving, it has just cemented my tiredness.

My low enthusiasm for much more than couch-potatoe-ing. And that's definitely not a word but more of a state of being past Toddler-O-Clock. One glass of red wine, dinner, some Greys Anatomy or Breaking Bad episode (one or half a one), and I am dead to the world. What weekend excitement eh.

So, this got me thinking about food, nutrition, exercise etc. Note I said thinking, not necessarily doing...
So as I love research, I researched some of it, to at least get me into the mood of 'getting to' the doing. Actually, all jokes aside, food isn't the issue, it's the thinking time involved! Between work, toddler, my business run from home, and house, and of course hubby, sometimes we just survive the day.

Is that enough?

So the point is, what can I do that's easy, quick, and will boost energy on those hardest days when the sofa is calling?

Drink yummy(ish) apple cider vinegar, that's what. Here are 15 reasons why you should. 

My main faves are:

1) easily regulate your PH balance (ie, that extra Costa coffee you had made your body more acidic, and you didn't know or care).

2) easily gets a selection of good stuff - b vitamins, potassium - which it turns out you need lots more than 1 banana a day to get the right amount (in a top 10 potassium foods list, banana comes 10th, I thought it was top 3 at least but no!!!) You need potassium every single day, because what you got, or had, gets used in a flash. So this vinegar gives you something towards that and other good stuff too. Banana vs Apple Cider Vinegar. - ok so the banana is bigger but will put more weight on if you tried to get all your potassium there...

3) Save a bunch of money cleaning the house, and even as a lovely hair rinse and other beauty uses. Like a (ok slightly smelly) facial tonic, great hair, added to sugar scrubs, cupful in the bath and more.

There is alot of fact vs. fiction out there, old wives tales, wishful thinking, and marketing hype. So what about facts - let's check out some:

Facts you didn't know?

  • Use it as a natural 'personal lady wash' to balance things down there.
  • Rinse with it as a mouthwash to naturally get rid of dental plaque. You may also get rid of romance though. And less enamel.
  • You might lose weight - there's lots of talk out there that this works. Why? Because it helps you feel fuller for longer, and stabilises your blood levels, so less snack attacks hopefully!
  • Give it to your pets - staves off allsorts and they won't notice it in the water supposedly. Less fleas = happy everyone. 
  • Good for diabetics and lowering cholestorol - one of the key facts,
    See here for more facts.

Ok, as you expect, I have got some fab links for you to save you any work in looking into this stuff. 
But let me leave you with this:

  • ONLY buy the apple cider vinegar - regular vinegar or regular cider vinegar won't do.
  • Only buy it if it has the Mother in it. The Mutha baby. This means all the good stuff has not been processed out. The label should state this clearly. I personally buy Biona in the UK, but over in the USA the Braggs brand is popular.
  • Drink it with honey and lots of water. Only other way is neat on salad. Do not take as a shot unless you want painful throat and no more tooth enamel. I love it with water and molasses - that way I get my potassium and my iron for the day in one drink.
  • As with anything, do not overdo it! You still want some teeth, and stomach lining!
Combined with a healthy diet I'm sure it can't help to try, and at less than £3 for a big ol' bottle, I'm sure going to give it a go. I know it's not a miracle food but worth trying as an addition to my salads etc.Let me know how you get on!

My experience so far:

- I do feel more energetic - this could be down to anything, but seems to have helped somewhat.
- As a face tonic, this has smoothed my skin, so I have made a tonic with green tea and apple cider vinegar as per the link below, I'm sticking with that from now for sure, as a bottle of toner now costs me pennies.

Before I forget, a special thank you to Aurora from Freya's Rainbow for your link, much appreciated, and so nice to be in the ethical/green-minded community - thank you!

Youtube links:

Benefits of apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar Toner (skip to around 1m 40 seconds to skip the intro)

Apple Cider Vinegar Facts

Braggs Video (ok so it's self marketing, but interesting to watch. I love that Paul Bragg was a Life Extension Specialist. What a job title!)

Have a great weekend all!


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Summer porridge / refrigerator / overnight porridge - call it what you will, it's a lifesaver!

OK, I have blog jealousy right now, I am addicted to the Yummy Life site. It's really inspired me to look at what we eat and how much easier food could be...

You HAVE to check out this overnight porridge, it will make your mornings so much nicer!

I made a banana and honey version yesterday plus a fruits of the forest version. I love the idea of a pecan and maple or coconut / pineapple (hmmm would the pineapple be too acidic I wonder with th emilk though?). Anyway,Monica has inspired me to think about it anyway and since she's given 14 recipes, there's loads of... food for thought (sorry people, I had to).
I will make these for my toddler too for an easy breakfast that can be made on Sunday and last the week for the whole family.

I guess you could do special naughty ones like chocolate, caramel and nutty swirl... weekend only, mind ;o)

Anyway if that gets you addicted wait till you see the make-ahead smoothies...

Seen anything that inspired you? Let me know! I love Pinterest for these ideas, also love the make ahead salads, I will let you know how I get on when I make one.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Summer food you HAVE to try!

Hi everyone,

Well Summer is truly here and so I was inspired to make some nice food to enjoy the weather, and celebrate our little boys' second birthday with a lovely barbeque.

The dishes I chose were all easy-ish to make, Summery, zesty and flavourful so I definitely recommend you try them if you have never enjoyed them before - and even if you have - these recipes are scrummy and a true staple:

Chicken satay kebabs with real satay sauce

and that includes what I consider The Easiest satay sauce (not requiring peanut butter).
For me personally, I love Thai inspired food and so for extra properness... rather than cube the chicken, I cut it into strips and then 'knitted' it onto the skewers by piercing in folds (I hope that makes sense, the chicken ends up in S shapes on the skewer). Remember to soak wooden kebabs first.  They look amazing when done!

and a general staple for a BBQ or any time you need a dipping sauce that's truly simple yet delicious:

Tzatziki - a refreshing Greek cucumber based dipping sauce, yum yum. For me, it has, has, has to have a bit of mint in there for the true taste of Summer to really pop out and wake up your senses.

For afters? A British classic:

Strawberry fool - After looking at a few recipes, I decided on this one. I first tried fully combining all the ingredients (into a pink fluffy cream pudding), and this was lovely. I then tried a more layered technique like the image above, which I preferred from a looks point of view, but also because you get different textures.

Here's my result - a smaller portion for a more waist friendly treat:

I also wanted to share with you the M&M cake I made for our little ones BBQ birthday party. I found this on Youtube, I am such a YT addict these days, and I knew I had to make it - here's my finished one:

One tip I would recommend is a) do not do this with a nearly 2 year old who when helping decorate nearly eats all the M&M's and devours the (already melting) buttercream... and b) take it out of the fridge a few moments before cutting, it was too hard for me to cut after we sang happy birthday

I followed this recipe on YT to make the cake and it was well worth it - all the kids rushed forward to have a look and get a taste, very excited!

Enjoy the warm weather and do share any BBQ or other Summery recipes that you have been enjoying!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Top 5 Savings Now Posts - Have you read these?

Hi everyone.

I finally got round to tecchy-mode and was checking the stats on my site to see what you folks enjoy reading the most.  So this weeks' post is about sharing the most popular blog posts so that new readers can have a read through and existing readers can perhaps get inspired:

Washing up liquid for £0.10p.
Yup, a whole 10 pennies. Maybe these days it's £0.15 with inflation!

Bagels for £0.05p & Comfort food ideas
Another popular one and bagels can be eaten all year round, so yummy you will never go back to store bought!

Bulk buying bonanza - save on shopping
This is one of the key ways to reduce that shopping bill, try to start in June and see if you can stretch that shopping budget.

Cashback site - Quidco
This is one of the leading cashback sites, have you joined yet? Don't buy a thing online unless you go via the Quidco 'doorway' first.

and by far the most visited page is....

Shabby Chic Kitchen
By far one of the most viewed articles on this blog, I'm glad so many others share my passion of shabby chic and got to see my journey with this kitchen! So much more to be done still.

So there you have it, I hope these articles inspire you in some small or big way, drop me a line if you have any challenges you are trying to beat right now, or have your own blog to share x

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Are you ready for Christmas?? (I did say that, so did it get your attention!)

That's right. The old chestnut of, 'oh it's Summer Christmas is aaaAaaaAaaaAaages away'. Well, it's not! Not when you consider that the average family spends around £300 on the seasonal festivities and gifts.
Where will that money come from when the time hits?

  • How much did you spend last year?Are you still paying it off?
  • Did you eat or drink everything you bought for Christmas AT Christmas? Or was some still being eaten in January or even February?
  • Did everyone enjoy their gifts?
  • Did you charity shop or sell amny of the gifts you got given?

The reason for my post it, if you start planning now both in terms of finances and gifts, you can make Christmas 2013 a much less expensive and more enjoyable experience.

Here are some ideas that might get you started in the thinking-about-it-as-a-minimum-starting-point:

- Start saving now - a regular saver of £30 a month will help massively and be less painful than paying for it all out of November and December wages (and January and February and March....)
- Start collecting ideas - Check out Pinterest and start pinning ideas now that might come in handy - I''m thinking big jars full of goodies like: Christmas flapjacks in one, a 'movie night in' in another (ie popcorn, dvd, chocolate, unusual facts about the actors of the movie), peppermint sugar foot scrub in another (brown sugar, olive oil, peppermint oil, MIX!), a bath salts treat in another (SO easy to make - some bath salts from the £1 store, some aromatherapy oil, mix  - DONE!), some vanilla essence in a bottle (250ml vodka, 8 vanilla pods from ebay, split pods, store in cupboard for 5-6 months, shaking gently weekly). I will blog from Summer onwards with ideas to keep you inspired. What about a jar full of homemade laundry powder? Grated soap, some borax, some washing soda crystals, some baking powder, some aromatherapy oils...  This link even has a lovely printable, too cute - see pic below!

Another would be some homemade eye make up remover (maybe jojoba oil, rose aromatherapy oil. water, witch hazel)

- Make a list - Start adding ideas for presents onto a list. This could be in your diary, on Evernote, on a document on your pc. Just somewhere so you don't forget! I like to take photos when I see a present idea, and Evernote it so I know what to look at around Christmas time.

- Buy now, save later - That's right. How about buying items at boot fairs or on ebay, or making some of the gits now and keeping them to one side? Vanilla essence, laundry powder etc can all be made now.

OK, so that's probably alot to even think about right now.

So how about just two baby steps?
  1. Start a list
  2. Start a regular savings account

Make life easier on yourself - take just these 2 steps now, to save your sanity in 7 months time.

Yes I am mad, but this will hopefully at least get you thinking about the subject and saving your whole family some stress come Christmas time. I will try to think of other ideas as the months go by too so we can all work on it together.

Have a fab week everyone x

Saturday, 20 April 2013

My diary, my colours, my rules!

I'm a stationery addict as I have said many times before, and I think anyone who loves crafts or stationery, probably enjoys having notebooks and/or a diary and the coloured pens etc that go with it.

For me, a Fliofax was ok but just too expensive to maintain, so I wanted to have my own diary that I could custom make to fit how I like to make notes. For example, I might not want to write notes on the same section as today's date, personally I like to keep just my schedule on the date/day of the week. So I bought a pocket sized Moleskine, because I loved how durable they are, and I created a week to a page diary. On the right is the actual days of the week, then on the left is for notes, to do items etc. At the beginning of each month I have a month on 2 pages view. So that way, I can outline what is happening that month, note what days I am working, note any birthdays coming up etc. I also then mark that information on the actual day of the diary.

I can get creative decorating the outside of the notebook, using different colours, materials, quotes etc, and I have a little collection of them now, which has grown over the years. I can go back and check anything I need to, and it just doesn't feel the same when you do that with Google Calendar. I guess I am more of a visual person, so out of sight out of mind, which is why leafing through the diary daily helps me keep on top of to do items.

Youtube and Pinterest have inspired me massively - you can really see how creative people are with their hobbies/arts etc. I think for now I will continue on this line for diaries, as my 'electronic age' seems to have been a few years ago and I am reverting to type!

How do you organise your daily tasks, is there anything you absolutely couldn't live without to keep you on top of things? Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Anyone for coffee? Create a shabby chic coffee bar at home

Hi all, and hope you had a fab Easter!

Now the Easter break is over, and I have finished a bunch of stuff for work and my other business customers, I felt like I could get creative again even if just for a few hours here and there.

In the past few months have discovered a world of interesting videos on YouTube, from making soap to making your own diaries. I had looked before, but not had the time to try out these things properly. Wow, people are amazingly creative!

In my family we have a soap maker, so I was very inspired to try and create some soaps - I have now made a basic castille soap, and in 3 weeks time it will be ready to use, so I will report back here with the results and more info on another blog post.

Anyway, all this to say that with the extra time, I decided to copy an idea I saw on Malitose79s videos (Organising tip of the day), she made a coffee bar and I loved it! Anything shabby chic is great by me, so I thought I would come up with a project to do something similar.

I had already bought some chalkboard a3 sticker sheets and this was the perfect way to use some of them - I didn't even know you could get chalk pens, these are so amazing and much better than regular chalk! My stationery addiction is now 100 times worse, so I think most things in my kitchen are now going to get chalk labels...

I got the green oilcloth from Dunhelm Mill, it's a great vintage cutlery design, and I bought half a metre I think, and have lined drawers with it, done this coffee bar, made some cash envelopes (for the Dave Ramsay Cash Envelope System) and still have loads left. Oilcloth is fab, I will need to get more...

Then I reused my Bonne Mamman jars as I love the lids so much, i think they are always so pretty especially if you have a group of them. You do need to make sure they are sterilised if they are going to store liquids, dry stuff you can be a bit more relaxed with a quick wash in soapy water.

The coffee bar is a great idea, it can be as customised as you like, maybe even a tea bar instead? A very specialised selection of fine teas, perhaps some mini marmalades? I plan to get some sugar lumps, some thin pots to store cinnamon and also some of those coffee syrups like hazelnut, then it will really feel like Costas.

And maybe as a result I will save a ton of cash!

What are your latest projects and where do you get inspiration?