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Looking after your finances. And our planet

Looking after your finances. And our planet

Since you’re here reading this, I’m guessing that you try to consider what you can do to minimise your impact on the planet without needing to spend a lot of money.

Sometimes, I invest a little more to make green choices, and if you’re able to do that, it’s really cool. Like choosing to offset your carbon emissions, or choosing a 100% renewable energy supply.

But, making positive environmental choices doesn’t have to cost you money, and the good news is that it can often save you money. And we all love a win win situation!

After watching the extent to which we are killing our oceans and marine life in Blue Planet 2, I have a renewed energy* for making more changes that help protect our planet and I know from various news stories and twitter chatter, I’m not the only one. I may have no power to reduce how much China and Indonesia (Ecowatch.com) dump into our oceans but that shouldn’t stop us taking responsibilities for our actions.

Saving money and the environment. As easy as 1, 2… 15

There are lots of ways you can save money and the environment. Rather than bombard you with a list of a million things you could or should do, this list of 15 gives you a good selection of easy options to get started with, or to continue with, your money and environment saving efforts.

  1. Clean with white vinegar. THIS is on my to do list this year. Plastic bottles of chemical cleaners are not cool.
  2. Carry a reusable water bottle. Please tell me you do this already? Oh, and you can put squash is reusable bottles, so you’re not gonna need to take fruit shoots everywhere for the kids.
  3. Repair broken items. If this concept is new to you, start small. If you’re good at it, gift it! Fixing something that your friend or family member loves is much more meaningful than buying a new something-or-other
  4. Drink less wine. Yikes! I went there! But wine production has a huge environmental impact, mostly due to the production of glass bottles and the machinery used in the manufacturing process.
  5. Choose loose fruit and vegetables. This week, loose broccoli at Sainsbury’s was 19p per kilo cheaper than broccoli in plastic wrapping. Why wouldn’t you?
  6. Use the library and buy used books. If you have an E-Reader, its an awesome way to enjoy loads of books without a physical copy.
  7. Reflect on a purchase for at least 24 hours before buying. This is just good ol’ money advice, but hey- buying less junk is good for the environment too
  8. Walk instead of drive. 
  9. Switch off lights when you’re not using them (and yell at others to do the same! Seriously, why are all the lights on all the time??)
  10. Eat less meat. It could be a meat free day each week, or just a smaller portion.
  11. Wash clothes at a lower temperature. And be sensible about what you’re washing. Washing clothes too often is only going to wear them out faster.
  12. Eat fewer packets of crisps and bars of chocolate. They’re individually packaged in non-biodegradable packaging.
  13. Challenge yourself to get a low cost per use of every item you own. Using an item only once is NOT cool
  14. Don’t drive like an idiot. Accelerate slowly. Like, not ridiculously slowly… you know what I mean. Driving fuel efficiently is going to do wonders for your wallet as well as reducing your car’s emissions.
  15. Research your purchases. Otherwise you’ll end up with a shitty kettle or TV that makes you want to throw it out of the window. Yes, I’m talking about my kettle and TV, which I failed to properly research.

Getting started

There’s a good chance that you do some of these already, which is great! Next up is adding a few more into your normal routine.

You could add reminders into your calendar, or on your shopping list, put a post it note on your car dashboard, or just pin this post for later and come back to it.

If you’ve had any success or particular challenges in making environmental choices, or have any cool alternatives,  please do join in the conversation and add a comment!

 

*Pun not intended but I’m quite pleased with it, so it’s staying in!

The small, big wins

The small, big wins

You don’t have to look far to find some pretty incredible achievements, be it paying off thousands in debt in a few short years, amassing a million pounds plus in investments or retiring (years and years!) before hitting 40. And they’re just financial achievements.

Naturally, these are the kinds of accomplishments people celebrate, write about, and share. They’re the kind of accomplishments that you and I most likely devour word by word, reading how they did it and wondering if we can emulate that same success ourselves.

Sometimes these stories are hugely uplifting and motivating, giving us new ideas, renewed energy or even being part of our epiphany- financial, or otherwise. Sometimes, while this isn’t their intention, they can leave you feeling a little lost, frustrated or even- dare I suggest- envious.

Often, achieving these huge goals becomes easier as time passes. That’s not to say a gargantuan effort didn’t go into them for a long period of time. Just that, by the time you’re at the point of reaching this kind of achievement, you have built up momentum, you have got used to doing things a certain way, you have formed strong, positive habits, and you’re springing upwards from solid foundations.

My small, big win

I realised today how much bigger the small wins are than we give credit for. Because I’ve done something that, for ten years, I didn’t have faith that I could do. It sounds like the smallest, most irrelevant thing that someone could tell you.

Today, I made a pie.

For ten years, I avoided making pie, specifically making pastry. I don’t believe it was deliberate, but at some point I erected a barrier in my mind and never questioned it. The barrier that said ‘you’re not a pastry maker’.

Perhaps this is the most ridiculous thing you’ve read. How someone could spend 10 years of their lives avoiding making pastry out of fear? I wasn’t even aware I’d built this up in my mind until I gave myself an ultimatum to use my rolling pin, or else it would be banished from my house.

Though there can be few more simple achievements, it has genuinely set the tone for the year. A tone that says more is possible than I permit myself to believe. 

In itself, it is a small win, but it paves the way for more success.

More small, big wins

So the pie is probably irrelevant to you. That’s fine. It’s big deal to me, because it’s my barrier that I broke down.

Unless you have a similar irrational fear of making pastry, I don’t particularly recommend making a pie. However, I do recommend identifying what barriers you have in your mind and taking the first small steps to your big win.

Maybe your fitness is really low. Choosing to go out for a run is a big win.

Maybe you overspend on takeaways. Choosing to home cook a meal in favour of another take out is a big win.

Maybe you’re living paycheck to paycheck. The first time you can weather an unexpected bill without resorting to borrowing more money is a big win.

Maybe the fear of losing everything is stopping you from investing. The first investment is a big win.

The incredible journey can’t begin if you don’t take a step.

 

It’s a new year. You don’t have to feel ready for it.

It’s a new year. You don’t have to feel ready for it.

As you may have noticed, we’re a few days away from the start of a new year. I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should set resolutions or goals or challenges. Partly because I did that last year, and partly because only you know what your mindset is right now. Maybe it’s the year for a resolution and maybe that just won’t work for you.

I’m just going to talk. Because sometimes it’s good to pause and think about how you feel about the new year. Whether you feel confident, optimistic, anxious or fearful, or have a mixture of feelings.

Success and happiness don’t always look like we expect them to

Sometimes life doesn’t go to plan. And sometimes it does, but we don’t expect it to feel as it does.

In 2016, my husband and I had our most financially successful year in our then 5 years of marriage.

It was also the hardest due to a period of unemployment, ill health, family crises and a life lost too early.

I have been extraordinarily fortunate in many respects, but life isn’t plain sailing for anyone. Our huge financial achievement seemed irrelevant and unimportant.

This time last year, I couldn’t muster excitement for the new year. I couldn’t orientate my thoughts towards moving forward with greater purpose, or clarify my goals. Maybe you know this feeling too. You don’t have to feel like you have to kick start, reboot, triangulate, or any other fancy word for changing your life. You can just keep tackling each day, because in the tough seasons of life, that is more difficult that broaching a life altering mission in the good seasons.

Do you feel ready for the new year?

You don’t have to feel ready for the new year. Most years, I haven’t. It is only having a different feeling, an excitement for January, that has made me recognise that I don’t normally have the same thirst for a new year that many writers at least have you believe.

This year is different. I don’t know why, and if I work it out, I’ll share the secret! But for possibly the first time ever, I’m actually excited about January.

But you don’t have to feel ready. You don’t have to be excited or feel like you need some life altering challenge to tackle. If January is a month to get through that gets you closer to spring, then know that you aren’t the only person to have ever felt this way. You will get through it and spring will be a month closer.

You don’t have to deprive yourself of niceties or burden yourself with a challenge that you feel that you’re supposed to do in the most miserable month of the year, which is how January has always felt to me.

Take care of yourself. Keep tackling each day. And if periods of time come when you feel energised and excited, seize them as they appear.

This new year, I don’t have a resolution, but I have a renewed enthusiasm for looking after myself.

I don’t understand why the start of this year feels different and I don’t feel like January is going to be a chore. Nothing ‘amazing’ is expected to happen, there are no big events, and the main thing on my mind as a ‘2018 must-do’ is re-potting my cactus without a) prickling my fingers and b) killing it. Suggestions in this regard most appreciated!

Take time to appreciate what you have

This isn’t a golden bullet and some days, in spite of everything I have, I find myself feeling a little lost and lifeless. Honestly though, the most powerful way of creating happiness is recognising how lucky you are.

After that challenges of 2016, I know that  I’ve never appreciated any year as much as I’ve appreciated 2017. Rather than telling myself not to count my chickens until they’d hatched, I realised that many of them had already.

That doesn’t stop me getting more chickens in the future and maybe I won’t keep all my chickens forever. But it does mean I’m going to enjoy and appreciate the good times. Even when they may be a little mundane to outsiders!

You’ve heard this before because it’s true

Increasingly over this year, I have become more and more aware of the abundance and opportunity in my life. I’m far from the first person to say this, but recognising the good things in your life and being genuinely grateful for them does much more for happiness than measures and metrics.

I’ve always hit (or come extremely close to) the financial targets I’ve set myself but finally I may have learned that money doesn’t equal happiness. And when you look a little beyond the numbers, life is altogether more exciting.

How are you feeling about the new year? 

 

 

2017: A year of ill discipline… and self doubt?

2017: A year of ill discipline… and self doubt?

Well you’ll no doubt have noticed that the year is drawing to a close, and as it does, I think most of us are thinking back over whether it has been a good year or not.

A year of ill discipline

For me, there has been no year since 2010 (when I moved out and no longer relied on my parents’ financial support) where I have been less disciplined financially.

I am in the fortunate position of having developed certain habits, admittedly, that make my spending look pretty frugal. But I have not pushed to make the best used of every pound that has come into our household, not made the most efficient windfalls that come along now and then. When insurance prices have come down for example, or when replacement items have come in under budget.

Not only that, but if you pop by my blog now and then, or follow me on twitter, you’ll notice I’ve lost my discipline of posting here regularly too.

 

A year of self doubt

Perhaps my self doubt is the cause of my ill discipline. You see, last year (and the start of this) I was unemployed. Being unemployed, but in the fortunate position to not need to work to cover our bills, was like a mini taste of early retirement. And I realised that maybe the relentless slog to early retirement wasn’t the way I wanted to live my life. Of course, I want financial comfort, and the freedom of choice and flexibility. I’ll continue to be a good steward of our resources. But I won’t sacrifice quite as much of our today.

 

Was anything about this year good?

Looking at those two things, you’d think my year had been pretty disappointing. But it hasn’t. In fact, it’s been a great year for me personally.

The slight let up in focus on the pennies has made day to day life more relaxed, more focussed on what is important to me. If you’re the sort of person that has money spinning round their brain all the time, seemingly without an off switch, you’ll know how much of a success that actually is.

This year, my husband got his health back, and I got a new job. 2016 felt like we were wading through treacle that was slowly setting. It was tough and frustrating and some days we felt that all we could do was put on a brave face and trudge on. By comparison, we have glided through 2017. And jumped and leapt and danced. We have recovered and made up for lost time and we’re ready for whatever is next!

What else? Well writing a bit less was a deliberate choice. And instead of writing, I’ve gotten into a board gaming group, which has provided a lot of fun this year. AND, I’ve spent more time my with my sister and nieces. The eldest is learning to read, and being part of that is such a huge, huge privelege. I can blog any time in my life. She will only learn to read once.

So I put less than I could have in investments? Big deal!

 

 

The perfect gift for minimalists (and people who realise they have too much stuff)

The perfect gift for minimalists (and people who realise they have too much stuff)

I should start out by saying I’m not a minimalist. With the exception of my blog, which hasn’t seen a sniff of a post for around 6 weeks, every part of my life seems crammed with stuff. I most definitely fit into the camp of ‘people who realise they have too much stuff’, and I have realised this for a couple of years.

Now, I could have answered the question in a 140 character tweet (a minimal response, as it were), but though the answer is simple, the feelings behind it are not. (I also liked the idea of a minimalist pin to fit the theme. It actually suits my attitude towards designing pins, an activity that adds annoying clutter to the blogging journey. Anyway, I digress…)

So what is the perfect gift for minimalists and people who realise they have too much stuff?

To my mind, there is one answer and that is: Time.

Why?

Oh you know the answer to this! But still, I can’t help but answer it!

Time is the most precious thing we have. It’s why I’ve been quiet lately, as I’ve been spending more of my time with family and friends. It’s easy to forget, to think money is important, but money is the thing we get in exchange for our exceptionally precious time. Yep, time is the winner here people. And it’s the best gift you can give.

But what about experiences, that’s a great gift too, right?

Well, you know how retailers know how to trick us into buying stuff we don’t want or need? They’ve clocked our switch from stuff to experiences and are now merrily manufacturing experiences for us to buy.

That’s not to say no experience ever is worth paying for, of course I don’t mean that. I just mean that taking part in some kind of experience on the same day as 10 other people, that’s been designed and marketed as an experience… well, I’m not convinced it’s always the best use of your time or money.

Giving an experience as a gift can also cause problems on when to use it before it expires. So, you lose the enjoyment by having to wrangle something into your calendar that suits certain experience providers’ calendars. Red Letter Days and Virgin Experience Days- I’m looking at you here!

So you’re going to only give time as gifts this year?

I never said I’m any good at this. Just like thousands of other people, I buy things that I know I don’t need to buy, that the recipient may not have a need for, because I know they will still love it and I want to spend my money (already exchanged for time) on something they will absolutely love.

In this respect, I am a selfish giver. I give because I get joy from giving. Unfairly, I don’t consider that the person receiving the gift will need to store it with all the other gifts they  have received, and likely don’t need, and all the stuff they already own.

I am cramming their house with stuff. I know from personal experience how hard it is to get rid of gifts that have been lovingly chosen by someone for me. And yet, I have not completely learned that not buying a gift is sometimes better.

This is what I tell myself. It is how I have reduced my gift list, replaced some of the material gifts with time, and have become more cautious with what I buy.

I get better at this each year. For a number of years, my friends and I have each paid for ourselves to go somewhere nice together or do something fun, rather than buying each other Christmas gifts. I have met up with my mum and sister, arranged day trips for my neice and cooked meals for my Nana when she was with us.

And even with my love for buying and wrapping a lovely gift, I have loved giving (and being part of) these gifts of time.

Any ideas?

You know your friends and family better than I do… and lots of you will be more creative than me. Here are some of the things I’ve done and plan to do over Christmas (and throughout the year, in fact!)

Babysitting I-O-Us, spa days, orienteering, baking cakes and home made pies, visiting museums and gardens, visit to the zoo, go on a hike, have a garden party, host a board game night, go to a pub quiz, afternoon tea, sunday lunch, have a film night, brunch, go to the theatre, watch a meteor shower, enjoy a sunset, and a visit to a food festival.

Think about what the recipient would appreciate, your time doing something on their behalf (like cooking or babysitting) or time doing something with you.

Now some of these involve spending money, and it’s up to you whether  you want to pay for someone else, or whether it suits you both to each pay your share and treat the experience as a gift to yourself and each other. Let’s face it, many of us are in the habit of exchanging £20 gifts, so you may as well each keep your £20 and use it towards tickets, lunch or whatever you decide to do!

What do you think?

There are tonnes of articles out there giving you advice on gifts and the perfect Christmas. Quite honestly, only you can decide what gifts to give. But I’d be interested to know how you tackle gift giving for those who don’t need anything and whether you’ve been able to tame any selfish gift giving tendencies (I can’t be the only one!)

Repaying the mortgage one chocolate-free biscuit at a time

Repaying the mortgage one chocolate-free biscuit at a time

If you have a mortgage, there’s a good chance that you’re somewhere between these categories:

  • Content with paying your monthly payment
  • Have found a good balance between overpaying on your mortgage along with the other things in your life that are important
  • Want to do everything you can think of to get your mortgage paid off as quickly as possible

It’s fair to say that we were closest to the third category; wanting to do everything we could think of to get our mortgage paid off as quick as possible.

In spite of the completely valid and logical arguments to the contrary, this was what felt best for us. We would undoubtedley have a higher net worth right now if we’d more heavily prioritised investing, but even knowing what we know now, we wouldn’t change what we did.

There were two areas we decided upfront would remain in our budget; good meat and travel. In these areas, we’d look for good value but we would always commit to spending a certain amount (and there was no need to bat an eye lid when the horsemeat scandal arose because we’ve never eaten a findus ‘beef’ lasagna!)

Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that travel (and overseas travel at that- I like to be warm when I’m exploring!) still requires quite a large slice of the budget. A slice that, cut out on its own, would save having to snip every other area of the budget, including chocolate biscuits. But we both agreed they were important enough to protect, to the detriment of other items.

On two moderate incomes, it would require some quite extreme saving in other areas to tackle the mortgage with the ferocity needed to get it shifted asap.

Cutting coffee and avocados out of my budget would be completely redundant advice for me. I have no time for takeaway coffee (my default walk speed is power walk, I don’t want hot liquid sloshing about) and can’t stand the consistency of avocados so I really can’t tell you how go about cutting these out in a pain free way. I’ll leave that for a coffee/ avocado lover to share with you!

To be honest, the point of this post isn’t to stop you eating chocolate biscuits either. It’s to share how cutting a tiny expense made more difference than just the saving from biscuits.

Chocolate biscuits

Presumably in a moment of madness or flash of genius, I decided chocolate biscuits would get substituted for non-chocolate biscuits. We didn’t go five years without a chocolate biscuit passing our lips (come on, this is chocolate biscuits we’re talking about!) but biscuits without chocolate became the norm.

On the face of it, it sounds almost completely irrelevant. Deprivation for the sake of deprivation. 85p for a pack of chocolate milted milk biscuits compared to the non-chocolate covered ones at 40p is never going to make a real dent in the mortgage.

In actual fact, it turned out to be the most important expense. Because when we made that deliberate decision not to buy something we like to save 45p, we took away a lot of the impulsion from more expensive impulse purchases.

A share bag of crisps might only add a couple of pounds to our overall bill, but it completely wipes out the saving on the biscuits. So, we’d be better off treating ourselves to those chocolate biscuits after all (which has started feeling pretty luxurious when they’re only in the biscuit tin once a month) than throwing in a more expensive treat that has just caught our eye.

The other stuff

When you’re looking at how you can save 45p per week, those bigger expenses/ potential savings come under scrutiny. Do we need to spend £12 per week on wine? Two fewer bottles would save more than going with chocolate-free biscuits for a year.

We made do or went without lots of stuff that would have been lovely to have at the point of purchase but quickly become part of our new, higher standard of normal.

We kept our second hand crockery and rickety ironing board. We cut down monthly magazines, we wore and wore and wore (and are still wearing) clothes. We never succumbed to the allure of sky or other TV services. We chose less expensive smart phones and mobile contracts and other technology. Slowly but surely we compressed our weekly take away/ eating out habit to a handful of times per year, seemingly an impossible task at the outset.

And when it got too much, if a day was too testing, we’d slip in some of our previous normalities. Except they were no longer the norm, they were treats and consequently went further to easing bad days.

Gently stretching your savings muscle

Some people choose to go hell for leather when they start a new challenge, whether it be exercising, quitting a bad habit or improving their finances. And it works well for them. I found more of a yoga approach to finances more effective.

All the things I just talked about cutting down that would make for a pretty painful existence done in one go, were gradual changes. Gently stretching, little by little. Until eventually you can’t remember a time when you couldn’t touch your financial toes (but you’re sure all those chocolate biscuits you were eating weren’t helping!)

I’d love to know what you think, what works and doesn’t work for you, whether cutting chocolate biscuits was a step to far or if you’re a frugal queen that makes all their own biscuits anyway?

Every house doesn’t need a lawn mower

Every house doesn’t need a lawn mower

Why do we all (most of us) feel the need to create an island out of our home, with everything in it that we could need?

On the street I live in, house after house after house has their own shed, filled with their own bikes (rarely used), their own lawn mower, their own hedge strimmer.

Inside, people keep their little-used pianos, a library’s worth of books, a gym’s worth of equipment, a catering company’s worth of crockery. Even with several years pruning my possessions (with my very own sacotuers) and diligently considering new purchases (or so I thought), my house is still full of stuff. And yes, I have my favourites and most useful things that get used day after day after day. But I have way way way too many ‘occassional’ items.

I sometimes kid myself that I am a lightly treading consumer, that I limit my environmental impact to the slimmest amount. And whilst it’s true that I own things longer than most people perhaps do, and derive glee from reducing my cost per use of items, I’ve just had a bath and could see 9 lotions, potions and bottles just at the end of the bath. Above my head, should I have looked up, as well as in a shelving unit alongside the bath, and in a little hidey hole underneath are dozens more. I know this is a bit of a tangent- I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t own your own shampoo! But how on earth have I, someone who owns one mascara and one eyeshadow pallette, managed to amass so much of this kinda stuff??? What the frick?

Until recently (when I acquired one for free that was taken to the tip and is still in full working order!?), I shared my dad’s garden strimmer. It saved me buying and storing one, and saved one needing to be produced for me. Why is this unusual though? Why do we need to have our own one of everything? We’d all have more money and space if we shared more.

I have a long way to go, but I’m trying to consume less. Not just for the financial benefits, but for my own sanity (I find clutter very stressful) and for the environment. Getting better at sharing isn’t easy when no one needs you to share anything with them. So here’s where I’ve dipped my toe into the communal pool:

  • Owning different board games to the ones owned by friends, and playing with non-board game owning friends
  • Pledging to lend some of my crockery to a friend the next time she throws a family party
  • Lending accessories to my sister on special occassions (honestly, being the big sis, I don’t think I’ll be able to escape this, but I secretly love it!)
  • Lending films and books to people who will enjoy them
  • Taking our own towels when we stay with friends. Some friends did this when they visited us so we wouldn’t have to wash once used towels. I appreciated it so much, I’ve pinched the idea when we visit! 🙂
  • Sharing our suitcases with family when they go on holiday
  • Borrowing my aunt’s smoothie maker on the odd occassions that I feel like making smoothies

Every house doesn’t need one of everything. Virtually every house needs less, not more. This kind of attitude can help save a lot of money, not just by sharing those little used items with others, but by helping you realise you don’t even need to share some stuff because it’s completely unnecessary. Those contraptions that turn courgettes into spaghetti are a fantastic example.

If you’ve got any more ideas, anything you do or are trying, to get away from the ‘my house must have one of these of its very own’ mentality, please do let me know! I sure could use the inspiration…

Looking after ‘current you’ without sacrificing ‘future you’

Looking after ‘current you’ without sacrificing ‘future you’

Current vs futureAre you wrapped in the day to day life of the present version of you, or constantly planning the fate of future you?

Well, current you and future you is and will be the same person. You shouldn’t neglect either version of yourself.

Fortunately, I’ve found there are things you can do that are good for both current you, and future you. Who doesn’t love a win, win situation?

My natural tendency towards ‘future me’

Growing up, I saw my parents have to make decisions. Like the decision to replace windows one year instead of taking a family vacation. And they gave me my own decisions to make from a young age. Like the decision to have a £1.20 comic bought for me, or to have a pound coin that I could use however I wanted. (I almost always took the pound. I almost never spent it. There was something always more appealing in the future).

I presume it’s this environment  that taught me that a short term decision could be regretted in the longer term, which means I now have a strong sense of future self.

The downside of being future focussed

Having this strong sense of future self has been incredibly powerful at stopping me spending money on junk and giving me a strong financial footing. Present me is pretty thankful for the decisions that past me made. Every version of present me makes decisions for the different versions of future me. For example, tomorrow me will be happy to have a sandwich made by past me (still future me at the time of writing). 80 year old me will be happy that years and years of past mes paid into a pension.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been feeling pretty exhausted. So much so that, on one Sunday, I gave myself the task of doing nothing more than getting dressed and buying bananas. And that was it. I was pooped!

This weekend, I’ve decided that current me is no use to future me if she’s too exhausted to function. And so, I’ve been investing in the important areas of my current life. I’ve reaped immediate dividends but, rather unexpectedley, set future me up to receive recurring benefits.

Exercise for physical and mental health

Health is the greatest wealth but its an account that many of us fail to top up frequently or regularly enough. Investing in your physical health today will see immediate benefits for your mental health, as well as future benefits to your physical health. It’s just a case of choosing something that’s right for you.

One of the things I’ve been doing this weekend is learning how to use a foam roller, deliberately improving strength and spine health. A by product of this has been a calmer and more positive mental state.

Future me has very little chance of being fit and healthy if current me neglects my physical fitness and emotional wellbeing. This time last week I felt lifeless and lost. Right now, I feel balanced, energised, and ready to tackle the week.

Nutrition

We all know we shouldn’t eat too much sugar or fatty food or drink too much alcohol, etc. It’s easy to do these things mindlessly when you’re focussing relentlessly on future you. Before you know it, you’re opting for lazy, cheap, low nutrition options that leave you lethargic but craving more.

Current me has the priority this weekend, so I’ve coughed up and bought ingredients for a delicious and luxurious breakfast of fresh fruit, yoghurt and granola with fruit juice and my energy today has far exceed the energy I had yesterday. Breakfast is one of the areas where I have to make myself spend more money.

A box of £1 mutlitgrain hoops may last the week but there’s a reason that I don’t last the week- it doesn’t contain enough good stuff. I’ve been guilty of lapsing back to my cheap and lazy ways, but this morning’s breakfast (and how I now feel) is a much needed reminder to think about what nutrition I put into my body. Is there something you cut corners with to save yourself five minutes and a few pounds at a cost to your health?

Another easy way to look after the present version of yourself is simply drink more water. I’m guilty of failing to take in enough fluids usually, so I’ve deliberately upped my water consumption. Current me is better hydrated and future me will benefit from not having spent money to hydrate myself as well as the reinforced habit of drinking water.

Family and friends

Money can’t buy relationships, at least none with meaning. I can think of a million and one things that need doing at home, but those things can wait. It is all to easy to put off investing in relationships, especially when your budget is designed around maximum savings. However, taking your foot of the brake now and then (in a controlled manner!) will most likely to be money well spent.

On Friday, we met up with another couple for a quick (but delish) bite to eat followed by a film. Our friends have a great sense of humour and a night of laughter was a cracking start to the weekend. In a daring bout of extreme luxury, we ate out for a second consecutive night on the Saturday. Whilst board games will probably always be my favourite couple’s activity, you can’t beat sitting down over a meal and just connecting without distraction. It was bliss, made even better by no washing up to be done.

How does this help future me? Well, having the prospect of a meal to look forward to on Saturday evening made us super productive in the day, which we’re really going to benefit from through the week. Never mind limping through the chores of the day, we powered through washing, ironing and a major declutter (several bags will be carted down to the charity shops this week!)

Cutting bills and expenses

If you’re super focussed on future you then like me, you probably don’t enjoy the feeling of constantly spending money. We’ve enjoyed how we spent our money this weekend, but we haven’t let all fiscal prudence go out the window.

We remembered to take our 3D glasses to the cinema to avoid buying more, we chose glasses (rather than a bottle) of wine with dinner on Saturday, we cut the cost of food shopping using cashback vouchers from our credit card, and we switched onto a cheaper energy tarriff that will save around £15 per month.

This meant current me was relaxed and enjoyed how we spent our money, without leaving future me wondering if she’s been fogotten.

How are you balancing future you with current you?

I think I’ll always need to give myself little reminders not to forget about current me, but this weekend has shown me that thinking about the current version me doesn’t mean forsaking the future version of me. Do you have a stronger leaning towards the current version of you or the future version of you, and how do you strike a balance?

Women! Are you using all your financial power?

Women! Are you using all your financial power?

I’m super excited about this post because I have learned to invest and I know other women kicking it, so you can too. I don’t want you to be chickening out at this point, so if your natural instinct at the word ‘investing’ is flight, please don’t respond. Stick around for a few minutes; it might change your world!

You are strong, intelligent, capable. Do not shy away from this.

Usually, when I write my posts about money, I try to be balanced, I try to be polite, and I try to be gently encouraging. I try to take account of the fact that everyone’s circumstances are different, and I try to be inclusive in how I write (whether I am successful or not is another matter). I try to not upset anyone. But this is important, and its something I feel strongly about. I see and hear strong, intelligent, capable women shy away from investing because they don’t believe they can do it.

So women, ladies, chicas, bitches, femmes, whatever we’re calling ourselves, this is a battle cry for us all to become more courageous and make sure we’re using all our financial power.

Frugal is fine. Investing is incredible

Don’t get me wrong, we ladies have some of the most beautifully colour coordinated budget spreadsheets, can make one large chicken feed an army of 5000, and have a small but impressive collection of fleece pyjamas to help us abstain from central heating. But mention investing, and we lose our confidence and strength is replaced with fear and doubt.

I used to be guilty of this. I was 100% convinced I would lose all my money, that I would never be able to understand what I was doing, that it was too complicated for me.

Perhaps it comes from times when men would hunter-gather and women would protect and nurture. Putting your money in a savings account and being frugal with your expenses is how that manifests today. But we live in world where we all provide, all protect and all nurture. It is time for us to learn that we can be better providers when we dare to take carefully balanced risks.

One of the greatest financial powers there is is investing. It might even be the greatest power

Being able to feed your family on £50 per month is epic. But it takes one heck of an effort to do that month in, month out. I know I’ve never managed it.

But when you invest your money, it earns more money for years and years and years to come. And that money it earns, also earns more money for years and years to come. And so it continues. And the more it continues, the easier it is. Easier than keeping your grocery bill to £50 quid whilst inflation continues to rise, that’s for sure.

Why is investing so financially powerful?

Let just do a couple of quick sums. For funsies. (BTW, I’m super cautious. Maybe we have that in common? Anyway, that means there’s a good chance I’m way under-egging what you’re going to get from investments)

If you pop a nice little £50 a month into a savings account, its a great start. After 25 years, with a rate of 0.5%, you’ll come out with £15,978.59. A nice chunk of money, right? Good job on the protecting and nurturing front.

But, take advantage of your financial powers by stock market investing (feel free to make your own superhero cape or throw your head back and roar like a lioness- whatever works for you) and that £50 could grow to £29,406.04, assuming a 5% return.

The same resources go much further and you’ll nearly double your money. And that calculation is even with me failing to have courage that the stock market will continue to yield an average of 7% annually, so it could well be worth a helluva lot more.

There’s enough inequality without bringing it upon ourselves

I don’t deny that it is appalling that in 2017 there is still such an embarrasingly wide pay gap, that mothers get overlooked for promotions, and that females have to work harder to earn the respect of their male co-workers. It might not be true in 100% in workplaces but it is way more normal than it should be.

However, we cap our earning potential further by failing to have the courage to invest, to seize a little piece of financial equality, to omit one of the greatest financial powers at our fingertips. It’s  something we have control of, so why aren’t more of us seizing that control?

Why do we let that little voice in our head tell us its not for us, that we can’t understand it, that knowing our luck we’ll lose every penny we ever had? To that voice I say IT IS FOR US AND WE CAN UNDERSTAND IT!

Don’t just take my word for it!

Don’t believe me? Check out superhero Feminist Financier, the oh so sassy bitches get riches, and educator extraodinaire she picks up pennies (who is also a mom, so you can’t be using kids as an excuse).

We are all different but we are all capable of understanding how to invest, as long as we believe we can.

Where do you start? I thought you’d never ask! I came up with an investing guide for beginners, with all the stuff I wish I’d been able to read all in one place.  Beyond that, the world is your oyster. Don’t stand by, a helpless onlooker to financial markets. Stand up and soar, be a beacon for other women who have yet to make the leap.

If you, or the women in your life, are amazing investors (or even brave beginners) shout up and share your story. Let’s inspire more to do the same. If you’re a bystander, join in the conversation too. We can tackle this together. I’d love to hear from you all, whatever your journey!

 

 

Is life too short to blog?

Is life too short to blog?

Do you ever find yourself wondering if life is too short to blog? I’ve wondered it since starting to write almost a year ago.

There is one reason why people blog, and that is to reach people. There are many reasons for wanting to reach people- to help them, to connect with them, to make money from them, to show off, to build a community, to inspire, to persuade, to receive validation, etc. But if we didn’t want to reach people, if we were writing for the pure joy of writing, we wouldn’t need to hit publish on our posts, wouldn’t need to put our words out there on the world wide web.

It is both easy and difficult to reach people. Easy because so many people now have access to the internet. Difficult because there are billions of other pages out there vying for people’s attention.

To build a blog that people read (and I mean more than 10 or 20) takes a lot of time and effort. The pursuit of readers consumes a lot of your time, and I’d wager that, before you started blogging, you didn’t spend hours on end at a loss for what to do with your time.

And so, this question of whether life if too short to blog has been on my mind. Rather than thinking about how I can attract more readers or constantly considering new topics, should I let it all go and get on with ‘living’. Many people who start a blog do just that, and who could blame them? I decided that when I went on holiday earlier in the year, I’d take two weeks off. No signing in to check stats. Nothing scheduled. No plans to draft. At. All.

Throughout the two weeks, ideas popped up here, there and everywhere. Good ideas too, better than some of the posts sat in my drafts. Time spend travelling, on a train or in an airport departure lounge, was greedily gobbled up penning words to paper.

Staring at a laptop screen night after night isn’t conducive to interesting posts about money. Following the same routine, talking with the same people, and reading the same news source isn’t either.

It makes sense now, but when life is dull, writing is dull. When life revolves around writing, rather than the other way around, THAT is when life is too short to blog. But when life inspires you to write, then that is exactly what you should do! I might not be wedded to a schedule that every ‘how to be a successful blog’ tells you that you need to be. But when I write, I’m going to enjoy it!

 

What’s my why for blogging? Well that’s not as straight forward an answer as I thought. I guess I’m arrogant enough to believe what I write could help people not just improve their finances, but improve their lives too. That’s what I’ve gained from others and what I want to give back. I want to be that next article someone pours over when they’re trying to repay their mortgage or work out how to start investing and have it just ‘click’ with them. What about you?