April 2021 – Political Realignment and Class

A very late Financial Dashboard this month, and a bit of a crossover post. For the last couple of years I’ve used the Financial Dashboard posts to track my budget, bills and set myself goals. I feel I’m fairly well into my financial planning now, and as such posting and sharing my goals each month doesn’t make particularly interesting reading. I’ve not had time to write the Full English posts since the start of COVID, and it’s unlikely to make a return any time soon. To an extent it’s also been superseded, by Indeedably’s fabulous Sovereign Quest featuring automated daily/weekly curation (1), and Dr Fire’s Wednesday Reads (2) (as well as Monevator of course). Instead for the future the musings which used to occupy the Full English will sometimes appear here.

Some time ago Indeedably suggested I read Slate Star Codex, now Astral Codex Ten, a US-based blog about… well… most things (3). SSC/ACT has had a huge impact on my thinking (mostly for codifying some underlying cognitive trends), and I truly appreciate the recommendation. Before going any further, I would recommend reading the Book Review: Fussell on Class, and their post A Modest Proposal For Republicans: Use The Word “Class” (4, 5). In it Scott Alexander suggests the US Republican party should start using the word “class”. Here in the UK we’re already obsessed with class, so that’s less of an issue, but do the old class boundaries still apply?

The upper class is still (probably) distinct, though oil oligarchs, millionaire footballers and bitcoin influencers are blurring the view from below. For an interesting take on this, read this Reddit post (6). The middle class has allegedly been hollowed out, but I feel the old definitions of white-collar, moderately wealthy, moderately educated middle class has expanded. University educations are widespread, home ownership has been driven to the core of our political ideologies, and most people expect a few holidays a year, a modern car, and all the accoutrements of modern living. Where are the working class? With the disappearance of the industrial manufacturing sector from the UK’s landscape, the loss of DB pensions and general move away from the honourable lifetime spent working at the same company, cared for and honest, the old-working class definition no longer seems to apply. Plenty of builders, plumbers, electricians earn more than the average HR manager. Skilled manufacturing operators also earn more than the office temp.

Assuming that the old definition of the working class is kaput set me wondering how you could now classify groups, with an eye on the political spectrum. Historically the upper classes voted Tory, the working classes voted Labour. The Tories supported the upper class economic moat, whilst Labour were the voices of unions and the working class. Labour still markets itself as the voice of the working man, yet culture has moved as evidenced by the loss of the ‘red wall’ and traditionally safe Labour seats. How do we now divide up the voting public? The Republicans, and more specifically Trump through populism, has appealed to and cemented a base in the working class in America. This may be a harbinger of a political realignment – the theory that sharp changes in party ideology, power base, demographic base etc result in shifts in establish political parties on a roughly generational basis leading to entirely new power structures (7). Other authors have suggested populism, Brexit and Trump are symptoms of this event (8). The last major realignment we experienced here in the UK was in the 1970s, with Thatcher and the interventions industry and home ownership that have ultimately resulted in neoliberalism.

Working with a realignment hypothesis, I set to trying to identify for my own purposes where the new divides fell. The US working class isn’t so clear in the UK, so who are the populists appealing to? Farage and Boris Johnson are opportunistic (I won’t call them smart) enough to hitch themselves to a bandwagon towards a specific voter. That voter is typically older, less well-educated, and less-liberal. They were less likely to be working. They were more likely to either own their own home, or be in council or housing association rental (9). Odd dichotomy that.

Brexit vote by demographic, from lordashcroftpolls.com (9)

Leave voters were also more likely to perceive external and internal threats to their quality of life and standard of living. They were more likely to think life would be worse in the future, and better in the past.

Social attitudes of Brexit voters, again from lordashcroftpolls.com (9)

My conclusion was that the new system of class is based not on qualification or income, but on quality of life and financial security. The upper class remain the upper class, generationally wealthy and able to cross borders and financial rules without issue; they are the financially invulnerable. The old middle class are now the financially secure with minimal risk to their future quality of life and lifestyle; liberal, well educated or trained, in secure employment fields where they are able to look beyond their current situation to the experiences of others and wider society. The new financially insecure class are the populist target. Underemployed or not working altogether, in temporary or insecure work, looking to try and build security in their employment, home and personal environment. Boris Johnson appeals to this insecure class, offering rhetoric of job, border and house security. He’s been quick to drag the Tories to a new working-class heartland. This new financial security class system is actually by-product of neoliberalism; right-to-buy, defined contribution pensions and raids on existing pension schemes, creeping privatisation, and changes to the broader societal contract. The ‘what does society do for me’ mentality.

That working class heartland, now hollowed out into an insecure class, has shifted from Labour to the Tories. How do Labour adapt? They continue to sell themselves as the party of a working class that no longer exists, even as they split apart as the old unions collide with the socialist-leaning environmentally conscious members in their midst. Can they shift to be a party of the middle, financially secure class? It will mean shedding their old image and tag-lines, and maybe too many of the old guard remain. Certainly I have family members who self-define as working-class Labour-supporting people, and aren’t too sure about being defined as a liberal intelligentsia.

And finally, does this make FIRE a class-rebellion? The ultimate social-climb scene? Forget the ambassador’s parties young fellows, get thee to the FI Chautauqua.

We live, as always, in interesting times.

Goals

The goals for April were:

  • Simplify and improve flexibility of online investment tracker
  • 16/8 fasting
  • Set up new ISA
  • Final repainting and touches to downstairs rooms

Checking the assets and liabilities:

Assets and Liabilities for April 2021

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. I saved around 30% of my salary, which isn’t bad considering it was a surprisingly expensive month. My net worth took a 4.5% jump as we had our property revalued for a new mortgage. New invested money went into a Vanguard account, and where it has gone into my old favourite, the FTSE Developed World ex-UK Acc Fund.

If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Goals:

Goal failed: Simplify and improve flexibility of online investment tracker 

Just didn’t get the time to do this, and am unlikely to in the short term.

Goal passed: 16/8 fasting

I did this for about a week, and it worked fairly well but was a struggle around some of my work/ life commitments. Planning to use it flexibly for the future, aiming to not eat between 8pm and the following midday.

Goal passed: Set up new ISA

Cheated a bit by going back to Vanguard, but it’s nice and easy to just add into a new ISA there. Easy to visualise, track and minimal faff.

Goal passed: Finish repainting and touches to downstairs rooms

As part of a big reshuffle ahead of an impending arrival, the downstairs rooms of our house have been touched up, and my office is in the process of moving downstairs. Said impending arrival also incurring some expenses with new furniture.

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £243.91, last month £274.70 – Same rules apply as last month, too much excitement in the middle of Lidl
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £100, last month £127.98
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £233.97, last month £294.80
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £246.48/ £54.62
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £250/ £200
  • Misc – £50/ £191.14/ £325.34
  • Fees – £300 /£476.77/ £103.62 – GMC/ RCPsych, various others

In the garden:

Everything has been bloody slow with the cold, and I’m very glad for our greenhouse. Various cucumber/ squashes seeds have been sown under cover. Companion plants, beans and next round of leafy veg coming along nicely. Potatoes sown. Everything else just ticking over, but we avoided any frosts, so no death.

Happy May everyone!

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://sovereignquest.com/#curation
  2. https://drfire.co.uk/
  3. https://astralcodexten.substack.com/
  4. https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/book-review-fussell-on-class
  5. https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/a-modest-proposal-for-republicans
  6. https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/2s9u0s/what_do_insanely_wealthy_people_buy_that_ordinary/cnnmca8/
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_realignment
  8. https://www.cato-unbound.org/2018/12/10/stephen-davies/great-realignment-understanding-politics-today
  9. https://lordashcroftpolls.com/2019/03/a-reminder-of-how-britain-voted-in-the-eu-referendum-and-why/

The Financial Dashboard – March 2021

The goals for March were:

  • Update online investment tracker and calculate rebalancing required
  • Make a few hours each week to enjoy hobbies without pressure
  • ?Modified paleo

Checking the assets and liabilities:

March Assets and Liabilities

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. March has been a long and busy month, days getting longer and lighter. Lots of DIY in the house and gardening, sowing the seeds for the summer. Looking forward to things opening up, going to the gym, getting in the pub with friends. I saved just under 25% of my salary, a slightly disappointing result, however my net worth continued it’s 2.5%/month climb. New investment money went into my Freetrade account, and where it has gone in a mixture of active positions which I’ll cover in my quarterly investment update.

If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Goals:

Goal passed: Update online investment tracker and calculate rebalancing required

I’m terrible at keeping my tracker up to date (now done), and I really need to get into the habit of updating it when I do my budget spreadsheet. Recently I’ve been selling some positions, and it’s shown that my current tracker is not built to handle such active antics. Probably a goal for next month.

Goal passed: Make a few hours each week to enjoy hobbies without pressure

This was a really simple and nice thing to do for myself. I’ve got a lot more done on projects and hobbies, and felt more relaxed without the internal cognitive pressure and subsequent procrastination. Fewer goals and more downtime.

Goal failed: ?Modified paleo

A bit of an odd goal. A few years ago I went paleo for a couple of months, but having dug into the evidence base wasn’t convinced by the literature or the theory. I also tried 5:2, where the evidence of the benefits of fasting on hormone response (particularly insulin and the steroid-aldosterone pathways) and cell senescence is much more solid. That stalled when I struggled with brain fog and general hanger – it was a serious challenge on night shifts! Over the past few months I’ve been reading a variety of books about nutrition, particularly ‘The Warrior Diet’ (reasonable concept, shit scientific background and execution) and stuff on 16/8 fasting. I’ve changed some of my diet, but need to take this a bit further.

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £274.70, last month £187.75 – Not really groceries, just lots of stuff from the middle of Lidl/Aldi
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £127.98, last month £117.88 – Since the new COVID changes in Wales we’ve been doing lots of garden/park coffees and takeaways (fish and chips FTW) with friends. Whoops!
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £294.80, last month £123 – Given this includes a full years insurance I’m pretty happy with a slight overspend
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £54.62/ £210.55
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £200/ £250
  • Misc – £50/ £325.34/ £65 – Bits for the house
  • Fees – £300 /£103.62/ £144

In the garden:

Finishing digging over soil, and first outdoor peas gone in (potentially a bit early given the recent snow). Raked over the lawn and re-sown. Mulched flower beds. Greenhouse glass cleaned, and it’s now packed with germinating seeds.

Goals for next month:

  • Simplify and improve flexibility of online investment tracker
  • 16/8 fasting
  • Set up new ISA
  • Final repainting and touches to downstairs rooms

Happy April everyone!

The Shrink

The Financial Dashboard – February 2021

The goals for February were:

  • Make a few hours each week to enjoy hobbies without pressure
  • Test intermittent fasting
  • Organise remortgage

Checking the assets and liabilities:

February’s Assets and Liabilities

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. February started pretty miserable, the cold weather and lockdown leaving me in a proper funk, little motivation to do anything. Reading blogs like Weenie’s, it sounds like I wasn’t the only one (1). I’m not one to spend my way out of a malaise, so it was actually a pretty frugal month. I saved over 40% of my salary, and I’ve been making some overpayments on my credit card plan from overtime money. New investment money went into my Freetrade account, where it’s sat while I work out where it needs to go based on my rebalancing act/plan.

If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Goals:

Goal passed: Make a few hours each week to enjoy hobbies without pressure

This is something I would recommend for everyone. I’m a very goal driven person, and I motivate myself by setting goals and internal deadlines. This can lead me to get stressed over my ‘made up’ deadlines for doing essentially irrelevant things; repainting a wall, repotting daffodils. By making a few hours a week to just do things if/ when I feel like it, a lot of things which felt like chores I now enjoy again. It’s theoretically a ‘mindful’ process, focusing on the moment rather than wider requirements and activities, but mindfulness has definitely got overblown.

Goal passed: Test intermittent fasting

This wasn’t particularly to lose weight, but because I’ve been reading lots about cell senescence recently, and the cardiovascular and glucose-metabolism benefits of periods of fasting. I tried this month, and it definitely doesn’t work for me. In the past I’ve tried 5:2 fasting on a friends recommendation, but found I get indescribably hangry, and lose all ability to concentrate. This time I tried a 16 hour fast four days a week, going 8pm to 12 noon. I didn’t get hangry, but I did lose all productivity. I also found I was ravenous by noon, and tended to eat twice what I would normally for lunch/dinner. I don’t think this is a good thing for me; it seems to suggest I’m highly dependent on dietary intake to maintain my blood sugar for functioning, but in the absence of a couple of weeks off to fast without productivity consequences I’m a bit stuck. I went through a period of eating a diet which could best be described as ‘modified paleo’ a few years back, so I might go back to that drawing board and do some further reading.

Goal passed: Organise remortgage

For various administrative reasons we have been on a split pot mortgage since we moved into our current property. This meant two different interest rates, fixed for two different periods, with different charges. One came out of it’s fixed rate offer last year, and the other (the larger) is due to revert to standard tracker rate in June. It’s therefore time to change. We had a look through the usual price comparison sites, and then spoke to a specialist financial advice company for medical types, who put us on to their broker. Who were London & Country (2). Who seem to be the people pretty much everyone use. Either way, we’re moving from the combo of 4.09% (small pot)/ 1.68% (big pot) to a combined 1.65% mortgage, fixed for five years, which will start from the day our old deal ends (fingers crossed). Wholly satisfactory result.

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £187.75, last month £181.70
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £117.88, last month £100
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £123, last month £123 – remarkable consistency given it’s mostly odd eBay parts
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £210.55/ £78 – Gifts for friends
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £250/ £255
  • Misc – £50/ £65/ £96
  • Fees – £300 /£144/ £302

In the garden:

Continued tidying ahead of spring, but also started to germinate my first lettuces and other early crops. The bluebells and daffodils are starting to come up, and everything feels a little bit more alive.

Goals for next month:

  • Update online investment tracker and calculate rebalancing required
  • Make a few hours each week to enjoy hobbies without pressure
  • ?Modified paleo

Happy March everyone!

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://quietlysaving.co.uk/2021/03/02/february-2021-plus-other-updates/#more-5951#
  2. https://www.landc.co.uk/

The Financial Dashboard – January 2021

The goals for January were:

  • Cut down on takeaway spend
  • Make plan for clearing credit card debt
  • Exercise five days/ week
  • Revisit emergency fund allocation

Checking the assets and liabilities:

January’s Assets and Liabilities

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. Wales continues in lockdown (six weeks and counting), so there’s no frivolous spending on dining out or trips away. I managed to save just under 30% of my salary, as much went to recoup some ‘float’ funds which were spent over Christmas (I don’t count this as saving). I’ve opened a new regular savings account, but for this month my money went to paydown my 0% interest credit card. New investment money in the Freetrade S&S ISA went to increase previous holdings.

If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Goals:

Goal passed: Cut down on takeaway spend

Bit of a simple one this, and passed easily, partly by ordering cheaper takeaway (swap that indian for a fish and chips), and partly by reducing the number. We’ve had a lot of vouchers come through from JustEat and Deliveroo, but that is a very slippery slope.

Goal passed: Make a plan for clearing credit card debt

As of the end of January my credit card debt stands at £3,431. This was one transaction – buying new windows for our house – and is on a 0% interest card with 20 months interest free left to run. With this in mind I’ve decided to pay it down over minimum twelve months. I will pay £100 a month direct into the account, and a further £250 into a Principality Thank You savings account (1). This is an online regular savings account available to NHS staff in South Wales with a 1.40% interest rate. I’ll stooze the interest rate, and at the end of the year pay off the credit card (2). I’m also working a fair bit of overtime here and there, so that will go direct into the credit card (currently about £100-300/month after tax).

Goal passed: Exercise five days/ week

I’ve now got a routine where I exercise before work every day, and I feel fresher and healthier for it. It also makes weekend lie-ins a proper treat.

Goal passed: Revisit emergency fund allocation

I last looked at how my cash savings and emergency funds were flowing back in November 2019. Since then I’ve moved my accounts around, the savings landscape has changed (3% interest rate on my old Monmouthshire account!) and I’m close to hitting my emergency fund goal. With that in mind, I’ve redrawn my cash flow and how I’m going to structure my emergency funds.

Cash flow. Amazing what you can do in Powerpoint.

This gives a rough idea of where my money flows. I use two main bank accounts to distribute my expenses and provide a predictable and trackable flow. Bills and investments are paid first. I use ‘pots’ for predictable future expenses; saving cash for things like MOT and car servicing, professional bills etc. I also run a £500 float ‘pot’ in my secondary account, which acts like an overdraft of just-in-case money each month. Beyond that my emergency funds are split into instant access, <24 hours to receipt and 3-5 days to receipt accounts (i.e. the money arriving in my main bank account). I ultimately want to have a division of £500 float, £5,500 <24 hours, £6,000 three-five days. From where I’m currently sat I’ll need a further £1,500 premium bonds and £1,300 in cash savings accounts. A goal for this year as part of my annual plan.

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £181.70, last month £331.35 – Back on track
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £100, last month £70
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £123, last month £455.11
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £78/ £359
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £255/ £89
  • Misc – £50/ £96/ £50
  • Fees – £300 /£302/ £304

In the garden:

Working over raised beds with new compost (and removing a lot of general rubbish) where they got thrown together with anything I could get my hands on previously. General mooching.

Goals for next month:

  • Make a few hours each week to enjoy hobbies without pressure
  • Test intermittent fasting
  • Organise remortgage

Happy February everyone!

The Shrink

References:

  1. https://www.principality.co.uk/savings-accounts/everyday-savings-accounts/thank-you-online-saver
  2. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/stooze-cash-credit-cards/

The Financial Dashboard – December 2020

The goals for December were:

  • Clear the garage and store the project car
  • Read a book three evenings a week
  • Cut down on takeaway spend

Checking the assets and liabilities:

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. December was predictably expensive. Here in Wales we’ve been under full lockdown since before Christmas. I appear to have made up for my inability to go out or visit friends in purchasing gifts and wine. Despite this I managed a 26% savings rate, with a paltry 1.12% increase in my net worth. This month also sees me top my all time max net worth, previously set in September prior to lots of DIY spending. My Monmouthshire regular saver has now matured, and instead I’ll probably direct that cash to pay off the new 0% credit card. I chose to pay for new windows on a 0% card rather than raiding emergency savings so it would preserve my buffer. New investment money in the Freetrade S&S ISA went to increase previous holdings.

If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Goals:

Goal passed: Clear the garage and store the project car

We had been using the garage as a dumping ground for materials and waste while we continued renovations. With the house work done the state of the garage was making my skin crawl. This was compounded by a call from a family member to evacuate a 6ft by 6ft by 4ft family heirloom for storage. Clearing the garage took the full week between Christmas and New Year, and two trips to the dump (thank God they were open). I get anxious that the garage-queen project car will dissolve at the sight of road salt, so now she’s safely tucked up with the trickle-charger hooked up, surrounded by properly sorted tools. Bliss.

Goal passed: Read a book thee evenings a week

Continued to read Dan Jones’ The Plantagenets, which is taking a while given it’s an absolute monster of a book. I’ve really enjoyed making this wind-down time in the evening, and feel better for it. Need to include more positive goals like this.

Goal failed: Cut down on takeaway spend

Not a chance. Welsh national lockdown prompted us into another round of takeaways ‘as a treat’. There’s not much else to do to mark the passing of the weeks or have as a little treat. Will have to keep attacking this.

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £331.35, last month £218.11 – Christmas exuberance
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £70, last month £74.50 
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £455.11, last month £470.33 – Van hire to rescue the heirloom
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £359.05/ £108.46 – Presents, presents for everyone!
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £89/ £98
  • Misc – £50/ £47/ £442.05
  • Fees – £300 /£303.99/ £131.98 – A GMC Christmas present

In the garden:

Built a new log shed! And generally turning over the soil and tidying. Put up bird netting to separate the wild birds from our fowl. Planning for the spring.

Goals for next month:

  • Cut down on takeaway spend
  • Make plan for clearing credit card debt
  • Exercise five days/ week
  • Revisit emergency fund allocation

Happy January everyone!

The Shrink

The Financial Dashboard – October 2020

The goals for October were:

  • Fix the bits on the cars I’ve already bought parts for – I’m terrible at buying parts and then never fitting them
  • Sell five things
  • Read a book thee evenings a week

Checking the assets and liabilities:

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. This was a tough month. My employer has finally remembered they overpaid me, and took the overpayment off this month’s salary. I’m going to dip into the money I set aside when I was overpaid to cover me for the month. We also had a large number of expenses relating to the renovations, some unexpected, which led us to dip into our emergency fund. Given all this my savings rate for this month was -18.14%. There’s more renovation costs to come, and some health issues might require a private medical expense, so it’s going to be a lean couple of months. The usual cash regular savers were topped up, and new money in the Freetrade S&S ISA went to increase previous holdings.

If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Goals:

Goal failed: Fix the bits on the cars I’ve already bought parts for

Goal failed: Sell five things

Goal failed: Read a book thee evenings a week

These were all write-offs. I’ve been doing a 90-hour work week, with renovation work on top. Roll on next month.

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £216.97, last month £181.42
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £65, last month £97.16 – Still spending too much on takeaways, easy to do when the house is full of dust and chaos.
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £129.54, last month £147.72
  • Holiday – £150, spent £17.63, last month £118.99 
  • Personal – £100/ £280.50/ £87.26
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £43.70/ £50
  • Misc – £50/ £705.75/ £604.72 – Further renovation costs
  • Fees – £300 /£629.75/ £268.60

In the garden:

Shut everything down for the winter, harvesting off the last of the squashes. I’ve got chinese cabbage, kale and winter lettuces on the go in the greenhouse.

Goals for next month:

  • Fix the bits on the cars I’ve already bought parts for – I’m terrible at buying parts and then never fitting them
  • Sell five things
  • Read a book thee evenings a week
  • Cut down on takeaway spend

Happy November everyone!

The Shrink

The Financial Dashboard – September 2020

The goals for September were:

  • Fix the bits on the cars I’ve already bought parts for – I’m terrible at buying parts and then never fitting them
  • Exercise four times a week
  • Sell five things

Checking the assets and liabilities:

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. My pay appears to have levelled out, but yet to be asked to pay back the previous excess. After a couple of months of falling net worth as we spent on house renovations (new windows, some structural stuff, remodelling two rooms), my net worth increased by 5.23%. This was entirely due to an increase in the (paper) valuation of my home, which I take from Zoopla/ Nationwide data. My savings rate for this month was 21.93%, not too shabby considering the spending. The usual cash regular savers were topped up, and new money in the Freetrade S&S ISA went to increase previous holdings.

If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Goals:

Goal failed: Fix the bits on the cars I’ve already bought parts for

I continue to collect car parts, but work life has been busy and home renovations take up the majority of my spare time. Hopefully next month this will happen.

Goal achieved: Exercise four times a week

Regular exercise continues to have a huge impact on my general wellbeing. I’ve tried to get four sessions a week in exactly, but life is too unpredictable, so only an average has been possible. Now I’m in the habit hopefully it remains.

Goal failed: Sell five things

Again, too caught up in other things, but I did at least give some items away. Once renovation work is finished I should able to have a proper clear out.

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £181.42, last month £175.55
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £97.16, last month £84.95 – Mainly takeaways and eating out with friends whilst we still could
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £147.72, last month £144.72 – Minimal travel these days
  • Holiday – £150, spent £118.99, last month £78.44 – A little holiday
  • Personal – £100/ £87.26/ £123.76
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £50/ £50 – Repayments begin
  • Misc – £50/ £604.72/ £70.25
  • Fees – £300 /£268.60/ £129.97– Another month, another pound of flesh to work

In the garden:

Left to run wild. Marrows the size of your thigh. Time to get the scythe and spade out.

Goals for next month:

  • Fix the bits on the cars I’ve already bought parts for – I’m terrible at buying parts and then never fitting them
  • Sell five things
  • Read a book thee evenings a week

Happy October everyone!

The Shrink

The Financial Dashboard – August 2020

The goals for August were:

  • Read three books
  • Exercise four times a week
  • Sell five things

Checking the assets and liabilities:

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. I was overpaid this month, so I’ve put the excess aside to wait for it to be requested back. This led to an ‘artificial’ savings rate of 50.76%. I think it should be closer to 20% with my new salary. My net worth fell slightly again, by -2.61%, as we put a load of our house renovation work on 0% finance. The usual cash regular savers were topped up, but I’ve now moved money out of my old Nationwide account and into premium bonds. New money in my Freetrade S&S ISA went to open in Vanguard’s FTSE All World.

If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Goals:

Goal achieved: Read three books

Completed The Intelligent Investor (finally) and then read two fiction novels which have been sat at my bedside for many months. Now alternating between Dan Jones’ book about the Plantagenets, and Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception. Eclectic.

Goal achieved: Exercise four times a week

I achieved this on average, and feel better for it. Exercise has a huge effect on my mental health. I’m going to keep it on for next month to continue the momentum.

Goal failed: Sell five things

Too caught up in doing other things, I’ve actually acquired more stuff. I spent a weekend helping my father clear out some of his storage, and in doing so found some items I thought I’d already sold. Happily they should actually be worth something, so I’ll try to sell them this month.

Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £175.55, last month £227.54
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £84.95, last month £36.50 – Eating out to help out
  • Transport – Budget £250, spent £144.72, last month £279.02 – With the dramatic reduction in commute I’m cutting my petrol budget
  • Holiday – £150, spent £78.44, last month £0 – Long weekend away seeing friends
  • Personal – £100/ £123.76/ £91.66
  • Loans/ Credit – £50/ £50/ £0
  • Misc – £50/ £70.25/ £741.96
  • Fees – £300 /£129.97/ £370.91– Indemnity for work

In the garden:

Massive cut back, harvest of potatoes and tomatoes. Not much left now. Once the house work is done the next job will be further garden changes; new patio and planters.

Goals for next month:

  • Fix the bits on the cars I’ve already bought parts for – I’m terrible at buying parts and then never fitting them
  • Exercise four times a week
  • Sell five things

Happy September everyone, where has this year gone!

The Shrink

The Financial Dashboard – July 2020

The goals for June were:

  • Tidy the loft and begin to clear
  • Read three books
  • Audit regular spending ahead of job change
  • Track building work spending accurately

Checking the assets and liabilities:

July AssetsJuly Liabilities

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. My savings rate according to my spreadsheet this month is -26.33%. This balances last months 86.9%, and is down to some payments coming out of my account late. My net worth fell slightly (-2.3%) which probably represents all the spending we’ve been doing on builders, plumbers and electricians. My usual cash regular savers were topped up, but our joint First Direct account has now finished. We’re going to use that money for DIY, topping up the emergency account, and ultimately start paying down our mortgage. New money in my Freetrade S&S ISA went to open a small position in Unilever (before it jumped about 8%) and DS Smith.

If you fancy a free share, sign up to Freetrade with this link (I also get one).

Goals:

Goal failed: Tidy the loft and begin to clear

Actually got round to this one, and have found a lot of books and items I will never use again. These will go on Gumtree, Music Magpie (or similar), or be given to charity shops. De-clutter time.

Goal failed: Read three books

I am still reading The Intelligent Investor. Close to the end now, and rewarding myself with some fiction. Should be done this month.

Goal achieved: Audit regular spending ahead of job change

My change of role is actually reducing my pay slightly. With that in mind I’ve followed Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert’s advice, and audited my direct debits and standing orders. I was previously paying £100/month on gym memberships (a couple for different purposes). With lockdown many of these were temporarily frozen, and it’s given me time to assess what I wanted and what I was using. I’ve simplified my membership down to a single one for £65, which I’m hoping will be enough to motivate me to do more.

One of the benefits of my new job is a shorter commute, so I’ve reduced my monthly fuel budget. I’ve been putting money aside for holidays, and that has gradually been accumulating, so I’m going to hold off adding to that for now. I’m not completely sure what my new salary will be, so if further pruning needs to happen it will come at the end of the month.

Goal achieved: Track building work spending accurately

I have kept a google sheet for this, and input all our spending. As with any grand design, there’s been a fair creep in budget.

Budgets

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £227.54, last month £237.31 – We’re continuing to spend lots on groceries as we host rather than eat out
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £36.50, last month £56.50
  • Transport – Budget £460, spent £279.02, last month £432.65
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £91.66/ £137.18 – Random tat
  • Loans/ Credit – £0/ £0/ £0
  • Misc – £50/ £741.96/ £724.15 – Building supplies, and the builder
  • Fees – £300 /£370.91/ £347.17– GMC/ Royal College

In the garden:

Everything has sort of been left to grow wild while we focus all spare hours on DIY. The pumpkin patch is now the pumpkin third, engulfing all in it’s spread. Sunflowers are just ending their thing, but are doing a good job of acting as climbing support for french beans. To top it off we have loads of lettuces, and the first of our tomatoes.

Goals for next month:

  • Read three books
  • Exercise four times a week
  • Sell five things

Happy August everyone, where has this year gone!

The Shrink

The Financial Dashboard – June 2020

The goals for June were:

  • Tidy the loft and begin to clear
  • Read three books
  • Update my investment tracker spreadsheet and sync with allocations
  • Explore overpaying mortgage

Checking the assets and liabilities:

Assets JuneLiabilities June

These are taken, as always, from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. My savings rate for this month fell back to 22% thanks to DIY spending, with my total net worth increasing by 1.4%. I’m actually astonished my net worth increased given our spending on the building work (currently at £2k). The usual cash regular savers were topped up (pretty happy about my 5% and 3% now), but my First Direct account is coming to an end, so we’ll start overpaying our mortgage instead.

Goals:

Goal failed: Tidy the loft and begin to clear

This got pushed down the priority list, but remains a goal.

Goal failed: Read three books

Still wading through Intelligent Investor. Currently 350 pages in, but I find myself needing to read it in small chunks to give me time to digest.

Goal achieved: Update my investment tracker spreadsheet and sync with allocations

I’ve moved into the 21st century, and transferred my investment tracker spreadsheet to google sheets, incorporating it’s price lookup function to track my worth in real time. Quite nifty, and I’ll share some images in my Q2 update.

Goal achieved: Explore overpaying mortgage

Having spoken to our mortgage provider we’re going to aim to channel spare cash from our joint account into overpaying our mortgage. It’s a split pot, and part is currently on the standard variable rate while we wait for them both to come out of their teaser rate period. That (much smaller) SVR part is on ~4%, while the rest is on 1.69%. We’re not going to beat that with savings rates, so it makes sense to try to clear down this debt.

Budgets

  • Groceries – Budget £200, spent £237.31, last month £176.91 – A pricey month, with lots of nice meals in cancelling out our usual eating out.
  • Entertainment – Budget £100, spent £56.50, last month £16.50
  • Transport – Budget £460, spent £432.65, last month £237.36
  • Holiday – £150, spent £0, last month £0
  • Personal – £100/ £137.18/ £65.74 – Mainly gifts
  • Loans/ Credit – £0/ £0/ £0
  • Misc – £50/ £724.15/ £71.45 – Building work
  • Fees – £70 /£347.17/ £295.49 – Amazon Prime, some other membership fees

In the garden:

I’ve been keeping up with watering, but everything else has gone to pot, so it’s now a riot. I planted far too many courgettes, squashes and pumpkins, and they have exploded to colonise most of the end of the garden. Ditto tomatoes in the greenhouse, which now looks like a tropical rainforest. Lessons for next year.

Goals for next month:

  • Tidy the loft and begin to clear
  • Read three books
  • Audit regular spending ahead of job change
  • Track building work spending accurately

Happy July everyone, I hope you’re all keeping well,

The Shrink