Sunday, 11 February 2018

i lost my job* / a reminder about self care

* a totally click-bait title, I admit. And I apologise for the heavy dose of humble-bragging in this post.

A couple of weeks ago I lost one of my side-hustles, after a string of unpleasant WhatsApp messages and respectful but cold replies (those replies were my side of the conversation, I hasten to add). It was not an amicable divorce. But I'm honestly very glad. The tiny hole in my budget (£6 each week) is a fair exchange for the evening I'll reclaim that I can now spend on myself.

Working 4 evenings per week after my full-time job was beginning to take its toll. Whilst I haven't actually spent my newfound Thursday evening freedom at home or relaxing, I do feel a little less like I'm treading water. I'm putting in more hours at work, but that means I can take entire days off to spend on myself. I'm no longer forced to squeeze grocery shopping into a two hour slot on a Saturday afternoon (along with every other person on the planet, it seems). If I want, I can cook something more elaborate than a (batch cooked) microwave meal from my freezer. I don't, but the option is there.

Losing this little job got me thinking: What am I willing to do for money? How much is my time really worth? What won't I sacrifice again?

An hour of my time, according to my full time job, is worth about £11 before taxes. In the evenings, I under-value my time at £7 per hour. Looking after children, cooking dinner and being one step ahead of mischievous 5-year-olds is actually more taxing than my day job, but with no one is willing to pay much for that.

I babysit and nanny because I enjoy it. I do my day job because it pays the bills I enjoy it. I'm no longer going to do things for money that I don't enjoy; in this case, if I don't click with a job, I'm not going to accept cash from it for long. There's no point being miserable, and there's even less point putting energy into being so happy and creating an aura of everything is absolutely fine in a situation I'd rather wriggle out of.

In the future, I'm not going to sacrifice my sleep, my social life, or my sanity. I need at least one free evening per week. I don't want to get home after 9pm. I want to have the flexibility to see my friends if I want to (or read books because, let's be real, that's what I mean by 'friends'). I've said before that I'll put myself before my earnings, and I've failed. This little adventure into self-care (and the lack of it) has taught me otherwise.

my version of self-care: books, bed and country walks alone with my thoughts

And before you roll your eyes at 'self-care', because I've seen a lot of 'self-care bashing' going on, consider this: when you're on a low budget, earning money becomes your sole focus. You need money to survive, but what's the point in surviving if you're not healthy and happy doing so? I don't earn minimum wage, so I can't understand what a low budget really is. But I have a limited budget, and I need to take care not to wear myself thin making it stretch into all the pots I want it to fill (because, thankfully, the pots that need to be filled - mortgage, utilities and food - fit well within my budget). Sometimes I need a reminder; sometimes I need to set that time aside specifically for me, otherwise it'll be filled with - you guessed it - another side-gig.

I could never work this £6/week into my budget because it was such an unreliable income source. All side-gigs are unreliable, hence the 'side' part of their title. I long for the day that I can stop worrying about the amount of income my side-jobs are bringing in, but until then I'll continue trying to balance everything plus my well-being. The odd lapse of judgement is there to remind me that I need time for myself, and I shouldn't worry about lost earnings and definitely shouldn't feel guilty about it.

Until next time, please remember to speak and think kind words to yourself and to others~

Sunday, 4 February 2018

monthly budget: january 2018

I've never done this before so OK HERE GOES (being open about personal finances online is daunting and potentially a really bad idea but, c'mon, this is anonymous and I overshare anyway!)

This is inspired by the openness of MoneyBabe - because I find reading about other people's budgets and successes really inspiring.

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January was a mixed month (aren't they all?!), which I'll write about later. I think my income and expenses reflect that. Let's take a look at some numbers!

Groceries: I didn't spend a tonne on food. Normally I don't - I'm mostly vegan, scour the supermarkets for reduced items, and my mum grows most fruit and vegetables on an allotment. But for some long stretches this month I haven't been able to eat much, so my cupboards and freezer haven't needed restocking. The only benefit of chronic illness?!

Babysitting: A fairly lucrative month. I'm hoping it will be pretty consistent.

Allowance: Yes, I still get an allowance. I have no idea why. Don't look at me like that.

Mortgage: £600 is close to the maximum I can consistently overpay my mortgage by until June, when that will drop by about £40-50 (I can repay 10% of the mortgage total each year without charges).

Council Tax: It's high because, after moving mid-year and the council making a mess of discounts and dates, I've been forced to cram 6 months of payments into 4 months. THANKS LOCAL COUNCIL, I swear Council Tax is the most unorganised of all departments EVER.

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Out of what's remaining, £250 goes STRAIGHT into a monthly savings account. I'm also shuffling some savings around, following an afternoon of interest rate comparisons. Next up: tackling this year's ISA!

As I said, not a bad month financially but not great personally. In the coming months (once I'm more confident about the general expenditure that comes with owning a flat and living alone again) I'm hoping to set up a solid budget so I can plan how much to save. Until then, I'm kinda winging it and being VERY frugal.

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Until next time, please remember to speak and think kind words to yourself and others~

Sunday, 28 January 2018

what i read: january 2018

I read loads in summer 2017, and then in the final few months my reading tailed off remarkably... buying a flat is stressful and busy, that's for sure! I haven't done a reading round-up since August 2017! But I promise I have been reading, which you can catch up with on my Goodreads.

I'm trying to make a conscious effort to read more in 2018: instead of staring at my phone (or resisting the allure of napping) during my commute, I'm trying to read, and I've set myself a goal to leave my desk at lunch at least 3 times a week in favour of reading in the staff room. Both of these things are proving challenging, even though they are tiny changes. Sometimes the smaller resolutions are the hardest!

On with the show: what I've been reading this month!

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The Autobiography of Henry VIII - Margaret George

I began the month ploughing my way through this 900-page tome. I started this at Christmas and, once I'd got through the slow beginning, raced through the first half. Towards the latter part, however, I was starting to lose interest. The pattern of Henry's marriages, I'm sure has been commented on before, was starting to get repetitive: intense desire, followed by disappointment and boredom, and finally disgust/betrayal/death, before a time of waiting for it to just end.

The same could be said for this book, but that would be too harsh. It was very enlightening, albeit rather negative towards its treatment of women (though this would be accurate to the beliefs and actions of the time period). I didn't know much about Henry VIII beforehand, other than his ridiculous marriages, dissolution of the monasteries, and the whole shebang with the Church of England. I finished the book more informed, but the ending certainly didn't come too soon. A middling book, I rated it 3/5.

The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry

First and foremost: I loved Cora in this book! She was unconventional, eccentric, intelligent and inquisitive; her debates with Reverend Ransome were carefully laid out so as to emphasise neither side too heavily - Perry allowed the reader to make the decision between science and religion.

The atmosphere was as absorbing as the main character, and I found myself longing to be transported to the Essex marshes at the turn of the century (serpent or no serpent). The love triangles I could have done without, as I felt there were plenty of other (more interesting) storylines to contend with. The ending wrapped most things up nicely, however, but with just enough to allow a possible sequel(?).... I wouldn't necessarily read a continuation of Cora and William Ransome's storylines, however, as I far prefer to leave them be.

I rated this 5/5 and then changed to 4/5 because, whilst I loved it whilst I was in Perry's imagine d Aldwinter village, with distance it just didn't measure up to a 5 star rating.

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That's all I read this month! I'm currently reading Prophecy, the second in S J Parris' series featuring Giordano Bruno working with Elizabeth I's spymaster, Francis Walsingham. I read the fifth (the last) book in the series last September and rated it 4 stars, and the second book in December (3 stars), so I'll have a review of the rest of the series over the coming months.

Until next time (hopefully a monthly budget update because £££ is all I think about other than reading right now!), please remember to speak and think kind words, and happy reading!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

a sunday round-up

Hey! Happy Sunday - I hope you had a great week! I'm here with a few things I've been loving recently:

Library stuff
I love the library because a) free books and b) a place to meet new people. Two articles I read this week covered both those things!
  • Since I started volunteering at my local library, first running an IT drop-in and later during the Summer Reading Challenge, I've met so many new people. I really enjoy chatting with regular visitors, getting to know people and catching up with the library assistants. The appointment of a minister to address loneliness in the UK is big news (in some circles) but I have a sneaking suspicion that the importance of libraries won't be noted... I agreed with every point of this article about libraries tackling loneliness!
  • One of my resolutions this year is to actually read more books from the library - in 2017 most of the books I read were ones loaned or donated by friends. So although this BookRiot article is kind of the opposite of what I'm aiming for, I know that once I start borrowing.... it is very difficult to stop!

FIRE and money stuff
"ANYONE can be frugal with what they have now, and on the salaries they make now", and the importance of "[shifting] our mindset to one of being grateful for our jobs, hopeful for the future, and [cutting] back on all the frivolous things that distracted us from our future goals". Amen!
  • Podcasts were a big feature of my life last summer, but I'm listening to fewer now that I'm not home so much (I prefer listening while I'm eating dinner, cooking or pottering about at home, rather than commuting). Last weekend I binged on a load of The Fairer Cents episodes and I love their take on finances and feminism! Plus, they're hilarious and have some very interesting guests and interviews.

Cashew butter
Since I stopped eating dairy (and, coincidentally, stopped feeling like utter crap) (still trying to work out 100% what's the deal with my digestive system though) I've been trying to find something to fill the void left by cheese sandwiches. Yes, I take a packed lunch of sandwiches to work; no, I don't get fed up with it and I don't lack imagination. Enter: cashew butter. This had been kicking around in my parents' kitchen cupboard for... a year... or two.... so yeah, the use by date was long gone but thankfully the oils haven't turned rancid. It'll never match my love of peanut butter, but it's something different!

Longer days

OK, so there's not much to see of it right now but the fact that it's dusk at 4:30pm now instead of 3:50pm is a HUGE deal to me. I'm still never outside during daylight hours during the week (lunch at my desk is the worst habit I began in 2017 and something I SWEAR I'm going to stop sometime in 2018) but soon I'll forget what this perpetual darkness is like. And then I'll start longing for cosy* winter nights again. *except they won't be cosy because I rarely switch the central heating on. Until then, I'm enjoying watching dawn during my bus commute. Soon I'll see the sunrise! And then actual sunshine.

So this is a bit tenuous. But I was walking from the station to work on Thursday and heard an actual blackbird singing. Singing! Sitting on a television aerial and using its vocal chords to produce a melodious sound. It's that thing that birds do that I'd totally forgotten about! Because I am rarely outside in daylight anymore. I'm looking forward to lots more of that as spring and summer approach (remind me of this paragraph when I am cursing the dawn chorus for awakening me at 4am in June).

Lower than expected bills
See that little footnote above about my disinclination to switching on the central heating in my flat? That, plus the fact that I'm out 7am-8pm most nights means my bills are waaayy down. About 95% of my £15 this month were standing charges, but I'm being debited £41/month. The good thing is that all the credit sitting on my account gets 3% interest. (I'm with Tonik - they offer cheap and renewable energy, but my customer review is TBC)

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And that's all I've got! This week was an alright week, not great but getting there. This weekend... not so great. But onwards we must go!
Until next week, please remember to speak and think kind words~

Sunday, 14 January 2018

let's talk about patience

(Hey I'm back for yet another weekly post, but don't get too comfortable: I'll probably disappear again soon)

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Patience. It's not a trait I always exhibit. It's not even a trait I infrequently exhibit, especially since I began living alone. I want dinner to be ready now, not in 20 minutes, and definitely not in 45 minutes after whomever I'm eating with has arrived home from work, had a cup of tea (British, remember?), showered, checked emails, and maybe snuggled with the cat. I'm sorry (well, slightly), but my dinner is going in the microwave before my coat is even off and hung on its hook.

So. Waiting for things. Biding my time. This was a skill I had to relearn in the summer of 2017 when I was miserable and stuck in limbo and waiting, waiting, forever waiting for ~legal and financial things~ to happen so I could become a homeowner and leave the rental world behind. Patience, therefore, is not entirely new to me.

The keys to patience, I think, are distraction, gratitude, and acknowledging that everything takes time. 

You don't eat a cake 5 minutes after you've put it into the oven. You don't even eat a cake 5 minutes after taking it out of the oven, because you've gotta let it cool completely before the all-important icing. These things I know and appreciate. In the meantime, I do the washing up, wipe the surfaces, read a few chapters and maybe take a nap. And when that cool, iced, delicious cake is ready to be sliced and eaten, I'm grateful for my earlier patience. I'm grateful I even know how to make a cake!

But in terms of finances, I'm not the most patient person. I see what my savings could be worth after 3 years at a certain interest rate, and I want it now (ignoring the fact that I'm terrified of investment, but that's another topic). I want to have the security of a nest egg, and I'd rather not wait 5 years. Hence the 12+ hour work days, 4 side-jobs, no wifi and TV, hunting for the cheapest utilities, and trawling the supermarket reduced sections. And in the meantime, I'm grateful for my solid grounding (thanks to my parents, my upbringing, the education I was able to receive, the support I have) and I distract myself (did I mention the 12+ hour work days?)

Life is, no shocker, a long journey. At least we hope. I shouldn't need to distract myself to avoid becoming impatient. I have my sights set on early retirement or part-time work I enjoy, or at least having the time and resources to hike/cook/snuggle with cats whenever I want, but it's going to take a couple of decades. It's time to play the long game.

At the moment I'm reading an 'autobiography' of Henry VIII, written by Margaret George. I learnt about Henry VIII at school, sure, but other than having an inordinate number of wives and reforming religion (oh, and he had a fairly large waist) I didn't know much about him. 900 pages documenting his life, embellished of course, and I'm tapping my foot because I haven't reached my savings goal yet.

In my spare(?!) time I transcribe service records of crew lists of Royal Navy ships in WWI. Often I'm faced with a page recording 25 years of a man's life in dates, rankings, promotions, comments on his behaviour and why he may have been discharged. An entire naval career, one hundred years later, and I'm struggling to wait until I go hiking in March.

Sometimes, I just need perspective. This will all pale into a distant fog-like dream when I'm sitting my a fireside in Wales, savouring my days of peace and solitude.

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I hope you've had a great week! After a relaxed but not ~relaxing~ Christmas break, my weeks are starting to get veeerryyy busy again. But busy is good, because busy means less time to fill and more money earned! Which is what I'm all about ;) Until next time, please remember to speak and think kind words to yourself and to others, and take a break from rushing and filling time (do it for me, because I'm the biggest hypocrite) and remember that everything will happen, given time.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

personal finance: a personal problem

Hi, my name is Abigail, and I'm excessively interested in personal finance blogs.

You'll remember my stint of No Spend, and I'm currently (maybe, kinda, not really) doing the Uber Frugal Month Challenge for the second time (I mean, every month is an Uber Frugal Month in my world, but this January comes with a daily email from Mrs Frugalwoods too). I really like saving not spending money.

When I moved out of my parents' home in early 2017, I figured that as long as I could cover my rent, bills and groceries that was all that mattered. I forgot about saving for a deposit for a home, mortgage costs, transport, getting sick, having any enjoyment in life, getting sick again.... introducing: PF blogs. I fell down that rabbit hole and my entire outlook changed. I had money on my mind 24/7, and it wasn't always fun.

I read personal finance blogs, scroll through twitter accounts, and listen to podcasts like its my job. Like I'll get paid to do so. Like I'm about to find the ~holy grail~ of frugality and suddenly £10,000 will appear in my savings account, just for reading damn post.

Therein lies the problem. Frugality is about the long game; I'm somewhat impatient at times. I've wanted to write about personal finance for about a year. I treat it like a game, because everything else in life is gamified, so why not your savings too? But, really, there's nothing new that I can add and I've got a whole lot to learn (investing, investing, why am I afraid of investing??)

I'd love it if everyone stopped spending, started saving, and became frugal and environmentally conscious. That's what I'm all about - but there's not much fun in reading (or writing) about how I'm dealing with my lack of money right now. My cold, perpetually dark, silent flat isn't the most inviting to guests, either literal or those on the internet. Neither is my no wifi, no TV licence, read-or-stare-at-the-wall lifestyle.

That's where I'm at right now. I've slimmed my reading list down to Frugalwoods, occasionally Broke Millenial and a couple of others sporadically. From time to time I still disappear down the rabbit hole of PF blogs, but without wifi that's a rare treat when I visit my parents for the weekend.

Personal Finance bloggers are changing people's outlook on spending and saving, but the real holy grail is to save more than you spend, and to do it wisely (dear brain: that means INVESTING). I'll still dabble in sharing my journey, but in 2018 I'm trying to think about other things too.

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I hope your week has been lovely and that you've met the new year with positivity! I figured out this week that among other things I'm possibly intolerant to milk protein so it's time for me to say goodbye to dairy products (my beloved cheese! custard! lasagne!) I'm still mourning their loss, this  is a very difficult time for me ;)

Until next time (will I be blogging regularly again?? ~who knows~ but probably not, ha!) please remember to speak and think kind words and think of your wallet and the environment this week!

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 big achievements & 2018 little goals

Hey, it's 31st December. We're here (on this date, and on this blog) again, and I'm glad.

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2017: big achievements
  • Moved out
  • New job
  • Secondment at work
  • Addressed my physical health
(there were small things too: I cut off all my hair, I lived with less, I read 59 books, I cut my internet addiction, I stopped eating meat 95% of the time)

I think my 2017 best nine on instagram sums it up: My Not So Perfect Life was a much-needed quick-read; I ate a lot of pasta and spent a lot of time at libraries; my favourite time of the day was whenever I was outside; and, finally, down there in the lower right corner, I realised my dreams for early retirement and living someplace in the middle of nowhere in Wales.

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2018: small goals
  • Don't be complacent. Don't get comfortable
  • Bathroom renovation
  • Sort finances
  • Walk. Hike. Be in awe of nature
  • Raise money for charity
  • Put up some damn curtains
  • Get a diagnosis
  • etsy? (it's always a goal I never achieve)
Looking forward to 2018. It's an even number, so in my book it's already a positive year~