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Month: May 2017

Do you want a more wild life?

Do you want a more wild life?

Rockstar Finance You’d think I’d be happy that my life was wild enough, having just returned from a 2-week-3-city break in the US. And honestly, I’ve had a blast.

Random Acts of Wildness

A few days ago, I noticed something in my twitter feed- #30DaysWild- and I have to say, it piqued my interest.

It’s a campaign from The wildlife trusts to “make room for nature this June, no matter where you are or how busy your life!”

All you have to do is a Random Act of Wildness everyday throughout June. Their website is chock-full of ideas that don’t cost you a penny. They might as well call it ‘Getting richer for free’.

The idea of the challenge is that you can take part even just by doing something small to appreciate and enjoy nature even more. Having started walking more to get out in the fresh air, I can tell you that being closer to nature makes me happier. It enhances my ‘journey’ and brings financial freedom in closer reach because spending cash is not needed.

What are you waiting for?

I was kind of frustrated to have seen it so late into May and not have long to prepare myself. This week will feel hectic and tiring, getting back into the swing of UK time and that annoying little thing called work (anyone else tempted to buy a lottery ticket when they return from travelling?) I figured I could always take part next year.

But today, I’ve given myself a good shake and told myself to stop putting off the things that I want to do. I do not need weeks or days on end to psyche myself up. I could even get started tomorrow!

Take a walk on the wild side and join me!

So this is kind of a rushed post, not on schedule and not giving you loads of notice. But you don’t need to psyche yourself up. Why not give it a go with me and try to do a Random Act of Wildness every day in June? Reading this after 1st June? Well, tomorrow is a new day. You can start whenever you want to! 🙂

And if you don’t manage it… well, life isn’t a competition. It’s about making the most and best of what you have, and you might as well do that right now!

Money is for spending too

Money is for spending too

I work hard to earn money, I budget carefully to save money, and I’m getting a good grip on investing. But you have one life and I’m going to do my best to enjoy it!

I normally write about those first three things- earning, saving and investing- and give you a glimpse into some of my leisure pursuits too (and why I think they’re mostly frugal!) but whilst my twitter icon is a tortoise, I am an actual human being and shock horror, there are some things I like doing that cost me money.

I like spending money sometimes, ok?

Even walking costs me money now and then, cos I like to invest in a little thing called walking shoes. Also, country pubs are excellently placed for lunch!

I’m pretty disciplined at not spending money on everyday things, like takeaways, cinema trips or new handbags (although see note above re being human, I do sometimes indulge). The main thing that motivates me is the opportunity to save all that cash I could easily have let slip through my fingers and spend a wadge of it on something a m a z i n g.

I have one large indulgence that I know I’m lucky to be able to afford and that is travelling. Whilst budgeting doesn’t go out of the window, I do what I can to make sure there’s enough in the budget for us to enjoy the holiday we want to do, whether it’s a long weekend staying with friend in Edinburgh (super bargain), a break touring northern Spain (great value) or splashing out on a trip to the US of A (well I am 30 this year!)

The more you can do to get a grip on your spending and reduce your bills, the more you can use your money to get where you want to go, metaphorically and literally.

I read some awesome finance blogs and honestly find so many of them inspiring. I started out as a good saver, but I’m onto investing now and just generally have a stronger hold of my money. But not all of what I read is for me, as I’m sure not every word I write will be for you.

I don’t want to work until I drop but I’m not desperate to retire as soon as physically possible, so I pay into my pension, invest into my stocks and shares ISA, keep my emergency fund topped up, and indulge in something I absolutely love as often as I can.

Indulging in my passions

This year (tomorrow in fact!!), I have an incredible trip to New York, Boston and Philadelphia planned and I am so excited! You might read that and think it’s beyond your wildest dreams, or you might think ‘so what?’. Our lives and finances are all different.

It’s ok to spend money, that’s it’s purpose after all.

I’d love to share a post on how to enjoy New York, Boston, Philadelphia on a budget. I’ll be operating on one, but one that I know will let me do the things that are important. So I think, instead, I’ll share the cool free stuff we get up to, the stuff really worth spending your money and time on and if they’re anything I’d avoid. Maybe I’ll even be telling you a million and one things you have to buy or spend on whilst you’re there. Well, like I said, money is for spending too!

I’m sure you’re only human as well- I’d love to hear your indulgences. Jealousy inducing travel experiences (mostly) welcomed! Just give me time to recover from jet lag to respond! 😉 

What if we walked more?

What if we walked more?

I’ve decided to walk more. I decided last week and have added a walk into each day since. I’m going away next week (eeek!) so each day will be filled with a LOT of walking. It’ll be handy to build up my stamina. I’m not sure if that is why I decided to walk more, or if it was an afterthought.

Have you ever thought, what if we walked more? Not in place of driving, to tackle a challenging trail or to achieve a lofty goal. Just… walked?

I had this thought and then hit obstacles. Mental roadblocks, if you will.

Obstacle 1. Wednesday

It was Wednesday when I made the decision and almost stopped before I had started, as a couple of errands took up a chunk of the evening. It felt important though, so I threw my water bottle in my bag and headed out for a short brisk walk. I didn’t walk as far as I’d intended to after bumping into some friends and spending 20 minutes talking. Even so, it was worth it to get out and interact. I’ve since mapped my walk, and it turns out I did 1.24 miles. It’s not far but further than I would have gone sat tap-tap-tapping away on the laptop.

Obstacle 2. Thursday

On Thursday, I again had doubts. With an osteopath appointment in the evening and the prospect of feeling a little bruised and therefore not in the mood for walking, I decided I’d use my lunch to walk. After eating my packed lunch quickly, I had 45 minutes to get out in the fresh air and sunshine. I was surprised my route clocked up 2.46 miles. Turns out you can cover a fair amount of ground in 45 minutes.

Obstacle 3. Friday

Friday again was a struggle. It’s a wonder I get anywhere with so many doubts! I thought about how I could wangle in my new extra walk and decided detours between errands was the way to go.  I’d have preferred to have covered more than 3/4 of a mile, but I still felt the fresh air and exercise did me some good 🙂

Getting over the obstacles

If you’re like me, you may occasionally frequently get described as stubborn. I decided to be stubborn about factoring in more walking to my days.

Walking is too often an ‘event’ and it’s my fault. I use language like ‘lets go on a walk’ and ‘we should do that walk one day’. I talk about walking when I could just get up and walk. I walk to and from work each day, but my thoughts are tied up in what the day will bring or what is on my to-do list for the evening. On my new walks, I’ve been clearing my mind and enjoying where I am.

Like I said, this walking more isn’t really a mission or challenge. I don’t have a goal as such. I just want to live in, be aware of and enjoy the moment more. I don’t want to look back and regret I spent my 30’s looking at a screen in so much of my spare time.

People spend their time reminiscing about childhood and dreaming about retirement. But the messy bit in the middle, the bit we’re in right now, this is the fun bit. This is the best bit of our lives.

I’d love to take credit for coming up with something so deep, but this is my husband’s pearl of wisdom. I think he’s right. I know I’m guilty of spending time thinking of the past and planning the future. Being in and enjoying the moment, enjoying the good days and even the dull and difficult days is what I’m turning my attention to more and more.

What if we walked more?

I would love discussions with people about where we’ve walked to, what we noticed, new routes we’ve found, and where we’ll go next. Rather than about the latest episode of prison break.

Maybe it’s just me, but even when I’m switched off and relaxing at home, I’m not really. In my mind, I know there are a hundred things I’m not doing at that moment that I think I should be doing.

Going for a walk feels like me caring enough about myself and my emotional and physical well being to take some time to look after myself. I’m sure I’m not the only person who knows they should exercise more, but is too wrapped up in ironing, cleaning, washing dishes, mowing lawns, etc. If our health is so important, why does it rank below washing dishes on our to do list?

Do you know what I reckon? I think you’d be better off eating off disposable crockery for a week so you don’t have a thing to wash, and using that time and energy to just walk instead. I reckon the following week, your energy levels will have improved enough to handle both. That’s a pretty small investment in your health, if you ask me. Cheaper than joining a gym even.

I think a lot would be better if we walked more. Physical fitness, stress, energy levels, emotional well being, our finances, relationships, vitamin D levels, sleep quality, awareness of our environment, community. I’ll be honest, I think Amazon and Netflix would suffer for it. But it doesn’t feel such a loss, compared to the gains we’ll get.

Enough nattering from me for now, I’m off out for a quick walk before bed time!

What do you think? Are you up for walking more?

 

 

 

How to stop bad days ruining good money habits

How to stop bad days ruining good money habits

Bad days, weeks, months and even years are a part of life. Money more than likely isn’t your chief concern when you’re having a bad day but it can be so frustrating to see you financial plans delayed or destroyed when you’re working so hard. It can be especially damaging if you were already struggling to get a grip on your day to day finances.

But how do you save money in sub-optimal conditions? Or to put it another way, how do you keep hold of your hard earned cash when life is throwing shovels full of shit in your direction?

I’ve revisited this post a few times, sometimes to add to the advice and other times as a reminder to myself. When I originally posted it I almost postponed publishing because I couldn’t polish it as much as I would like thanks to my ongoing back problems. Just do your best on the day you’re in. There will be opportunities in the future to do better.

It’s easy to save money when you had a great night’s sleep, a productive day in the office, the sun is shining and your pre-cooked bolognaise is defrosting in the kitchen. At least, it’s easier. If the day has gone well, it’s easier to push through tiredness to do something financially sensible. It’s easier to avoid the pull towards retail therapy and mindless spending. But saving in sub-optimal conditions? Now that’s a lot tougher.

There have been swathes of time where I’ve not found it easy to make good financial decisions. Where circumstances have been sub-optimal and saving has been hard work. Like I mentioned above, I have problems with my back after a seemingly innocent injury a few years ago. Until this point, I had always recognised how fortunate I was to have my health, although it is something we cannot fully appreciate until we lose it. I woke one morning at 3am in agony and that pain stayed with me for several weeks.

Some days I have a searing pain down my shoulder blade has a searing pain that saps my energy all day.

The question is, when life hits us with inevitable challenges, how to we find the energy and focus to make good financial decisions, when what we feel like doing is eating a tray of krispy cremes and ignoring the fact that the car insurance renewal is due and the price you’ve been quoted is a joke?

Here are a few suggestions to stop bad days ruining good financial habits:

Buy the right treats

It is easy to waste money on things intended to lift your spirits but make sure you’re spending money in the right places. A new handbag, pair of shoes or PS4 game isn’t going to help your situation (although the PS4 games would at least provide some distraction). Eating a tray of krispy cremes may sound good in theory, but neglecting your health is going to have negative consequences overall.

Instead, use your money to make your situation easier. When my back was bad, we’d buy microwavable rice pouches as well as fresh pasta and sauces to make cooking in manageable. We spent more on groceries, but we still ate well without eating out or buying takeaways all of the time. 

Eat a banana and drink some water

If you can choose a banana when what you really want is a bar of chocolate, and a glass of water when you want a coffee or can of coke, it’s not only cheaper but it is better for your health. Keeping yourself from becoming sluggish with a sugar crash will help stop you making lazy decisions that cost you money.

Know when saving money will cost you money

You could expend a load of energy making a meal from scratch for the lowest price possible. But if that leaves you without the energy and motivation to even lift a finger in the kitchen the following day, the cost of a takeaway will far exceed the money you saved the previous night.

It might not be the very cheapest option, but purchasing a few more convenience foods mean you’ll avoid caving in and buying a takeaway and will save you money in the long run.

Keep your goals manageable

It is better to keep inching forward than draw to a halt. Don’t expect yourself to move mountains everyday and don’t give yourself too hard a time if you spend more than you would like; it is only money, after all!

Consider your larger goals and what small things you can do (or avoid doing) to get there.

Money can feel completely irrelevant when you’re in a lot of physical pain or carrying a heavy emotional burden. I find it helpful to have non-money related goals that were cheap or inexpensive, but that helped me deal with the situation.

For example, when I first hurt my back and couldn’t work, I would get up in the morning, have a shower and get dressed (a challenge in itself). Then I would go for a short walk before lunch. Achieving these things helped the physical pain, made me feel more positive, and didn’t cost me anything to maintain.

Give yourself some leeway

Beating yourself up or feeling guilty that you’re spending more than you want to (or saving less) will leave you feeling demotivated and you might find it takes longer to get back to a place where you can push yourself to save more and spend less.

Accept that your situation means you’re going to let yourself have a little more flexibility (remember- you’re in control) for the good of your own emotional and physical health. Because lets face it, financial wealth isn’t much good if you don’t have those other two things.

 

These are the things I have learned over time and I’m sure they will serve me again in the future. If I can find out how to completely avoid bad days, I’ll let you know (maybe this is how I’ll make my millions?) I really hope this is helpful if you’re struggling to find the energy and motivation to save money when life and events conspire against you. If you have any other suggestions, I would absolutely love to hear them. But right now, I’m going to lie down and rest.

How have you kept on track with your financial plans when everything’s going pear-shaped or have you let them fall by the wayside? 

Wanna get rich? Hitch a ride!

Wanna get rich? Hitch a ride!

One day a few years ago, I was idly standing by the roadside, looking back how far I’d come and feeling pretty chuffed with myself.

I’d been auto enrolled in a pension since I was 19, I socked money into savings each month, I had an automatic over payment set up for the mortgage and had a decent budget that was improving year on year. Sure I could have been doing better, but I wasn’t doing too badly either. You can probably tell I felt pretty smug about it all.

I was minding my own business when along came this American guy with a mustache on a bike. “Hop in the trailer” he called. “I’ll give you a lift”.

As Pete peddled away and I rattled around in the trailer, he asked me what the hell I was doing about my debt emergency. My debt emergency? I didn’t have an emergency. I only had a mortgage. I overpaid every month. We could almost survive on one of our wages. What was the emergency? We might as well live a little since we were doing so well. We’d earned bottles of wine here, deserved meals out there, a cinema trip now and then, and we do love travel…

Did you hear the sound of a penny dropping then?

For so long, I thought of our luxuries as living a little, when in fact we were living a lot. We we were spending a shed load of cash that we could have been growing in investments or wiping out our mortgage debt. We were living a life that was an “Exploding volcano of wastefulness.” I tried to keep quiet and listen- partly to learn what this mysterious guy had to say but partly to avoid getting called a complainy-pants. As time passed, I got used to the bumpiness of that trailer. Sure, it was uncomfortable. But a little discomfort is good for you. Hitching that ride made me a little richer. In time, it will add up to becoming a lot richer.

I hopped out of the trailer feeling I’d traveled a million miles from where I’d been. Figuring how far hitching that first ride had taken me, I cautiously stuck out my thumb for the next driver going my way. My next driver was another mysterious sort. A British accent, cutting with sarcasm and with a surprising taste in music. Asking what we were listening to, he told me it was “Now that’s what I call financial independence“. I nodded, telling him I’d got “Now that’s what I call Christmas” at home. He didn’t comment.

He went on to talk about ridiculous spending stopping people from being rich. I wasn’t guilty of getting tattoos, betting or even wasting days in shopping centres, but he made an excellent point. Millions of people do spend money on ridiculous things. Some of the money I spent was on ridiculous things. I was doing OK. But I could do a hell of a lot better than OK. Doing better than OK would give me the option of escaping the prison camp.

After hitching my second ride, I was on a roll and my eyes were opened to getting to a better destination and having a better journey. That’s when I met Ty. He gave me a high-5 as I hopped in. He and his wife we forging a path for their family. They were extremely disciplined, not only thriving on one income, but chalking up some serious investments too-  getting rich quickish, he called it. A story he told really stuck with me. He told me about how when his Grandpa had passed away, 80% of his and his Grandma’s items were discarded.

I thought about my home, rooms filled with the things we collect, things forgotten, things kept for a ‘just in case’ moment that may never arrive. I’d love to think I have a long and healthy life ahead of me, but if I do meet my maker sooner than I’d like, it would suck for my parents to have to deal with excess amounts of crap we’re accumulating. It was a kick up the arse to get rid of stuff and to stop accumulating more. I’m not even sure if I said goodbye as I got out of the car, my brow still furrowed in thought.

 

Without really thinking, I held out my thumb to see who I could hitch hike with next. Was there really much further left in my journey? By the time Amanda pulled up, I’d used my redundancy package to payoff the final bit of my mortgage and was living on one income (much harder than I was anticipating, it has to be said) whilst looking for a new job. Thriving on one income was something Amanda knew a lot about. Well, she’d been doing it for 16 years! She was telling me about her awesome weekend where they’d gone the whole two days without spending a penny, and they’d had a blast. At the time, I couldn’t fathom how 2 days of no spending money could change your future finances. It was later that I came to realise it wasn’t really about those 2 days at all. It’s about regularly choosing to do free things and making not spending more normal. Getting rich centsibly. She even invited me to tell my story and listened with interest.

 


 

If you wanna get rich, there is no magical solution. There’s working hard, saving hard and looking at things in the right way to make both of those things easier.  When I was younger, I wanted my success to be all my own, but as I get older, I realise how foolish it is to ignore the wisdom of others.

There are countless bloggers out there all sharing their experiences and view points that you can learn a lot from. And that’s coming from a smug know-it-all like me! Some won’t be going in the same direction as you.

There will be a few who drive through a puddle as they go past you or don’t pay you the slightest attention, as though you’re a bug on their windshield. Luckily they are not the majority. Unless your aim is to be a rich jackass too, just let them keep driving and be glad you’re not obliged to listen to how awesome they are.

Hopefully there will be people who you can, in turn, give a metaphorical lift to.

By hitching a ride with these guys, my finances have improved, but more importantly, my life is richer too. I can see excesses more clearly, I have less desire to keep buying junk, and I find not spending money incredibly liberating. Perhaps you’re happy cruising along on your own, but you will get so much from listening to people who have already traveled along your route or gone a different way that you didn’t know about.

I have been particularly inspired by Mr Money Mustache, The Escape Artist, Ty from Get Rich Quickish and Amanda from Centsibly Rich (all featured above, in case it wasn’t obvious). You should hitch a ride with them if you haven’t already.

 

I feel like the metaphor would be incomplete without mentioning the driver of the (financial) party bus, J-Money, who’s gathered the financial rockstars together in one place. Everyone is different and you might not like all the songs, but there is bound to be one that talks to you… And that one might be the one that helps you get rich.

So tell me, is there anyone you’ve hitched a ride with that I should hail down next?