Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Income, Expenses and Savings catch-up for April - June 2016

Following on from my last catch-up post which covered my Portfolio Value and Net Worth from April to June, it's time to give a run down on how I've been tracking for my Income, Expenses and Savings rate. I like to track these to keep me on target for achieving my second goal for 2016 which includes the pursuit of Financial Independence.

Income - Apr to Jun 2016

In May I closed my Santander 1|2|3 account and opened a First Direct current account. This means "bye bye" to interest and cashback on direct debits, but "hello" to a nice introductory bonus from First Direct for switching. Since we opened a joint account too we got an introductory bonus for that as well - happy days. The reason for switching was because we've taken out an offset mortgage with First Direct and I wanted to have the money in my current account offsetting the mortgage (TheBF has his current account offsetting against the mortgage in the same way).

I also received some income from the profits on the sale of my house in May, which has gone straight into my Savings Stash to help cover future expenses.

I had more business expenses refunded this month, for business insurance purchased (£327.95). I also transferred funds from Paypal into my current account during June for eBay sales which I made earlier in the year.

My monthly income target (as noted in my FIRE Targets for 2016) is set at £3,332 per month, so I've continued to achieve that through April, May and June. BIG TICK!

Expenses - Apr to Jun 2016

Apologies for the tiny font size in this insert, it's the largest I could make the text while still fitting the whole table in!

Key points of note:
  • Household expenses were dramatically less in June because we moved house at the end of May and so I had less utility bills for my old house, and not all bills had started for the new one. Things will start to get back to normal in July
  • My car insurance was due in April which came out of my Savings Stash, but due to the house move I then had to pay more when I changed my registered address. Strangely the insurance is more expensive at our new house than at my old house which was on a busy road near a roundabout
  • I had some rare spending on clothes in June because I started playing badminton again and realised that I needed new kit to wear (my old sports clothes were long gone)
  • In April I went to the hairdressers to get my hair coloured and re-styled. Since it's quite expensive at my current salon, I only go about 3 times a year and I save up for it in my Savings Stash. I may try to find a cheaper salon in the coming year
  • Now that we're in our new house we've had some office and bedroom furniture to purchase. TheBF works from home so it's important that we have an office that he can work from. I have a personal aspiration to start working from home permanently within the next couple of years so I wanted to make sure that I also had a nice desk to base myself at. I used my Savings Stash to cover my portion of this one-off expense, and we're both very happy with the end results
  • I've begun experimenting with income generating activities since my time off earlier this year. These have involved a certain amount of investment up-front to get me going. The two I've tried so far are Kindle publishing and Matched Betting

Here's the split of how my expenses were covered from my Savings Stash (highlighted in yellow above) and from my monthly income:

Savings - Apr to Jun 2016
Subtracting my expenses (excluding expenses covered by the Savings Stash) from my income for each month I can see what I've got left to save into my Savings Stash and Freedom Kitty:

So my overall percentages of income saved each month are 48.73%, 64.22% and 77.39% respectively.

In terms of my savings rates into my Freedom Kitty (which will fund me in the 7 years between becoming financially independent at age 50 and being able to withdraw my personal pension at age 57), this is where I feel there is room for the most improvement. April and May were particularly low at 12.93% and 10.51% respectively, I think this is due in large part to going through the house move process where we spent more money on eating out for convenience, as well as various house related expenses.

My 2016 monthly target for savings into my Freedom Kitty is £1,000 per month. I'm pleased that I managed to exceed this target in June, but my monthly average to-date is £839.27 so I have some catching up to do if I'm to successfully meet this target for the year.

My Savings Stash usage looks like this for the 3 months:

So that's a pretty big catch-up, and I think this particular post has taken me the longest to write of all the posts I've done so far! I'm pleased to have done it though because I would like a history of my progress to look back on, as far as I'm concerned it's time well spent.

Do you track income, expenses and savings? If yes, how's it going for the year?

Monday, 25 July 2016

Portfolio Value and Net Worth catch-up - to June 2016

It's been a while since I last posted one of my regular updates on how my goals or quest for Financial Independence is going. There are various reasons for the delay (yes I know excuses, excuses!):
- I was on a 4 month break from working a full-time contract when I started the blog, so had a lot more free-time available to write. Since the start of June I've been working a full week again
- I've been through the whole house sale and move process, which doesn't end on the day you pick-up the keys to your nice new house. We've been slowly working our way through a mountain of boxes trying to find places to best store everything
- I've been working on some income generating side hustles (kindle publishing and a little dabble with matched betting), which have been taking up a considerable amount of my free time because I'm new to them and learning as I go

All of the above have been impacting my precious free-time and thus the time available to write for this blog. I have missed posting about my progress I must confess, and I also feel guilty at times for letting my posting schedule slip. So I'm going to try to play catch-up on the posts about my finances and my goal progress...though it may be a somewhat slow process, please be patient!

So here's a catch-up post covering my progress toward achieving my second goal for 2016 which includes the pursuit of Financial Independence. This one is about my Portfolio Value and Net Worth for the months April to June 2016.

Portfolio Value - end Jun 2016

My portfolio includes the savings and investments in my Freedom Kitty as well as my Personal Pension, the combination of which make up my "FI Before 50 Roadmap".

Here is the end of June value of my Freedom Kitty including the interim valuations for April & May:

After maxing out my contributions to the 2015-2016 ISA in March I could make no further contributions to it. I continued to put savings for my Freedom Kitty aside in my current account during April, May and June, but because I wanted to choose a new ISA provider for the next tax year I did not actually invest during those months (more to follow on this in July's update), so the savings have not been listed here.

As you can see, the end of June value of my ISA was £14,728, which is less than its value when I did my last post in March, and overall down by -£1,282.53 on my original investment. However the value had been much better in May, having increased by £421 on March, but then Brexit happened and everything went wobbly! I'm not too concerned because I can already see improvements during the month of July so things are getting back on track again.

Here's how the Freedom Kitty is tracking for the year - I've set myself a target of £23,000 for this calendar year (Jan-Dec 2016):

At 64.03% I've actually gone backward on the progress I'd made in March (which was at 66.54%), but I have half the year to go and I'm still over 50% of the way toward my Freedom Kitty goal for 2016. With my additional savings to be added in the latter half of the year, and hopefully a bit of a rally for my investments I am optimistic that I will still make my target.

Here's how the Freedom Kitty is tracking against the overall target of £209,590:

A slight drop from 7.3% to 7.03% since March, but I think I should still be able to achieve 10% by the end of the year with a little bit of luck.

It's been an interesting few months for my Personal Pension. I decided to instruct my pension provider to cut the employer contributions being made by my Limited Company because of the period of time I was not working (4 months) and therefore not billing for any sales into the business account. Until this point the contributions had been set at £3,000 per month which is a lot to eat away from the company's cashflow, when said cashflow is not being replenished. I asked to drop the amount to £1,000 per month. Unfortunately, despite being advised that it's easy to change the regular contribution amounts when I first began the pension, there have been a few hiccups at the pension provider in making the change so my figures will reflect the sporadic nature of what has ensued! I've been promised that things are now sorted and should be consistent moving forward (not to mention apologised to with flowers and wine!)

So here is the end of June value of my Personal Pension

Even though my pension contributions have effectively been reduced to £1,000 per month from May, at the moment I am still on target to hit my overall £2,000 per month goal. This is because I have contributed an excess £3,000 across the months of February, March and April. I will need to see how things go later in the year to decide whether I'm brave enough to attempt to change my regular contribution amounts back up to £2,000 (I need a few months of consistent withdrawals by my pension provider for my confidence to be restored!)

Here's how the Personal Pension is tracking for the year - I've set myself a target of £110,000 for this year:

Great progress here since March, I've now got just under 47% of the way to go to hit my pension target for this year.

Here's how the Personal Pension is tracking against the overall target of £364,965:

I've achieved 26.15% of my overall target for my Personal Pension goal, which means I'm now over a quarter of the way there, a really nice milestone for me...happy days!

Net Worth - end Jun 2016

I don't include assets such as car, valuables or house sundries in this calculation - it's really only the big or purely savings items I choose to include. The credit card debt listed is my monthly spend which I always pay off in full each month by direct debit. Following the house sale and purchase we've just been through, my net worth has seen a little dip because I used some of the equity from my house sale to fund my share of the stamp duty for our house purchase. Since March my net worth is down by £5,492.05, but I'm sure it will be on the up again soon as I continue to invest and of course over time we'll be paying our mortgage off which will help.

So at the half-way point through the year, I'm very happy with where my FIRE funds are at. Given that I didn't even have a plan for FIRE at the start of the year I'm really pleased with my progress. I'm looking forward to a strong second half of the year now that the big expense of the house move is complete and I am back in a paying freelance contract - not to mention the income generating side hustles which I've started.

So, I'm interested to hear how you're getting on now that we're over half-way through 2016. Have you seen much impact in your investments as a result of Brexit? Have you been enjoying the unusually hot British weather?! As always I'd love to hear from you and appreciate your comments...

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Yes I'm back!

It's been a while since I last posted, but fear not I haven't abandoned my blog - I've simply been moving house and have had no broadband until yesterday. I think it will take me a while to get back on track with my posts and I may have to do a consolidated catch-up post to get up-to-date with my finances, but the main thing is I'm back!

A historical day
This morning I set my alarm to get up at 5am to catch the last of the EU referendum results for whether Britain would vote to remain or leave. I have to confess I wasn't expecting the result as it's turned out, we will evidently be leaving the EU. A couple of things have struck me as the last results have come in...

We're now entering a period of very uncertain financial times - the truth is no-one really knows what will happen next and this is reflected in the immediate turmoil in the world markets - notably with the GB pound down 10% at the last reckoning. It will be interesting over the coming hours, days and weeks to see whether this is a temporary wobble due to the immediate shock of the result, or if this is a sign of things to come for the UK.

The other thing that I find deeply saddening is that this historical decision looks like it could end the UK union as we know it, with both Scotland and Northern Ireland calling for referendums to leave the UK and stay in the EU. It looks like the Great Britain I have grown up in could be about to change forever.

I also feel sorry for any of those from the EU currently in the UK who must now be feeling pretty unwelcome and worried for their future - particularly those who have been here many years and are an integral part of our communities. For my part I would just like to say that as far as I am concerned you are still very much welcome and I hope that anyone here in this country will be permitted to stay.

As the weeks ahead unfold who knows what else will happen - perhaps this will signal the end of David Cameron's reign, perhaps other countries in the EU will call for their own referendums, perhaps the UK will enter a recession, perhaps my savings and investments will bottom out for a while, perhaps interest rates will rise (glad we just locked in our mortgage rates for a while!), perhaps there'll be a run on the banks or we'll see some large financial institutions collapsing - financial armageddon?!, or perhaps things will stabilise much quicker than anticipated and things will trundle along much as they ever have...

I certainly will be following with great interest the developments that this historical decision has caused, and I hope that things are not going to be as bad as some have predicted, but instead as good as the Leave campaign have predicted...

More news
Following on from my previous post where I updated that we had exchanged contracts on the purchase of our new home, I can now proudly declare that we have moved in to our beautiful new home! The big move date was on 26th May and I have to say the move itself went very smoothly, much to the credit of family and friends who so kindly helped with our move.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, we have been without broadband since that date because the landline had been stopped by the previous owners and it takes about 4 weeks to get the landline reinstated in a new name so that a broadband provider can then be selected. We have both dearly missed our sturdy internet access! We did have limited internet capabilities through our mobile phone data packages, but it's certainly made me realise how many things we have that require wifi to operate, and how much data we actually use month to month. TheBF works from home so having a stable and robust internet connection is key for us.

Unpacked boxes waiting to be disposed
It's often said that moving house is one of the most stressful things a person will do in their life. So despite going through 2 house sales and a house purchase and move, I decided that this wasn't enough for me and that it was time to rejoin working life! Just one week after our move I started a new contract working on a project in an IT department for a company involved in Retail. It's a position which effectively requires a full-time week of hours so my free time is significantly impacted. This poses challenges on several levels, I will need to be very good at managing how I split my time across unpacking boxes, setting up home, writing this blog, working on income generating side hustles, catching up on reading all the blog posts I've missed, and of course leaving some time for sport and hobbies.

Getting back to normality
So now it's time to settle in and get into some sort of routine where I can hopefully fit in everything that I would like to do. One of our first challenges is putting all the furniture that's still displaced around the new house into the rooms where it will eventually reside, and of course unpack and dispose of the many, many boxes still waiting to be unpacked in pretty much every room of the house! Please be patient with me while I endeavour to return to normal, my posts may be a bit sporadic for a while but I am trying!

More boxes - waiting to be unpacked!
In the meantime, do tell me what's been going on with you?
I'm also interested to hear your thoughts on the EU referendum result - the UK was clearly split on the vote, obviously slightly in favour of "leave" - it's really interesting to hear thoughts from the different perspectives, I'd like to try to keep an open mind on these things...

Friday, 13 May 2016

Busy times

Time for a quick update post to let everyone know that I am still alive and very much here! I'm sorry for the slow-down in posts over the last week or two, but there is good reason with some breaking news...

TheBF and I have finally exchanged contracts TODAY on our new house!

That's a giant step toward achieving my number 1 goal for the year! We are both incredibly happy, particularly because the journey to this point has been fraught with problems and stresses. There were several times over the last few weeks when we thought that the chain we were in would collapse and our dream home would disappear from our grasp. Luckily, the stars appeared to align today (despite it being Friday 13th!) and the contracts were finally exchanged.

In the UK, the key part of the house sale/purchase process is the exchange of contracts, with the completion date following either on the same day or within the days/weeks thereafter. In our case, we now have a completion date just under 2 weeks from our exchange date (near the end of May), so now we're going to be very busy packing, boxing everything up and moving our things into storage ahead of the big move day.

As well as doing a lot of chasing with Solicitors and Estate Agents and packing over the past days and weeks, I've also been working on a side hustle which is new to me - I'm having a go at Kindle publishing and this has also been taking a lot of my time. Hopefully I'll be getting my first books published soon and will see whether my hard work has paid off in getting some returns on my investment. I will keep you all posted!

As soon as I am able I will be back to "usual business" with my blog posts, I have 1 update post for March still to post (about how I invested my money in March) as well as all of my posts for the month of April. I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still here and will be raring to go again once the house move is complete.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Income, Expenses and Savings for March

Each month I publish the following regular progress updates toward achieving my second goal for 2016 which includes the pursuit of Financial Independence:
1. Portfolio Value and Net Worth as it stood at the end of the previous month
2. Income, Expenses and Savings achieved for the previous month
3. My Investing Choice for the previous month's savings

This post covers point 2 above: Income, Expenses and Savings achieved.

Income - Mar 2016

This is likely to be the last month I'll benefit from cashback for my direct debits from the Santander 1|2|3 account* (£12.10), because I'm changing banks in order that money in my current account can be offset against our new mortgage as we move house.

It's another nice month for interest at £37.53 which is due to the fact that I had the profit from my flat sale sat in my account until it was transferred to my ISA.

Income was further supplemented by an expense that I'd previously forgotten to withdraw from my Company account to cover costs associated with office working from home (£208). I also sold my fitbit on Ebay in February and withdrew the money from my Paypal account in March.

My monthly income target (as noted in my FIRE Targets for 2016) is set at £3,332 per month, which I've easily managed to achieve with £256.30 to spare - mostly thanks to the business expense repayment.

* The Santander 1|2|3 account offers 3% AER (variable) interest when the balance on the account is above £3,000 (on balances up to £20,000) as well as cash back for selected monthly direct debits (1% for water, council tax and Santander mortgage; 2% for gas & electricity; 3% for mobile, phone, tv & broadband). More details and the terms and conditions about the product are available on the Santander website. This is not a referral or affiliate link, this is provided purely for information purposes only.

Expenses - Mar 2016

Points of note this month:
  • No council tax again because it's paid over 10 months rather than 12 by direct debit (not sure why, Councils seem to work it out this way for some reason)
  • I needed to pay the garage to fix and replace some of the wheel bolts on my car this month - I discovered they'd gone bad when I took my car to have the tyre replaced due to a flat a couple of months ago, this is exactly the sort of thing my Savings Stash is for (phew!)
  • My grocery bill was about £100 more in March than I spent in February, I need to keep an eye on this moving forward - it would be nice to try to keep this cost down a bit if I can. Part of the reason for the extra cost was because I hosted a Ladies Dinner and Film evening at mine, this is a monthly thing I do with 4 of my family/friends, so every 5-6 months it's my turn to host
  • March was a busier month for me entertainment wise, we took Mum out for a nice Mother's Day lunch, I had a trip to Cardiff visiting a friend and I went out for St. Patrick's Day with friends
  • My Savings Stash covers birthday and Easter expenses. I also used it to get a certificate for my gas appliances which I needed for my house sale
  • My cash spend was the same as last month at £40

Here's the split of how my expenses were covered from my Savings Stash (highlighted in yellow above) and from my monthly income:

Savings - Mar 2016
Subtracting my March expenses (excluding expenses covered by the Savings Stash) from my income for the month I can see what I've got left to save into my Savings Stash and Freedom Kitty:

The overall percentage of my income I've been able to save is 50.01%, that feels like a pretty solid savings rate again this month.

As I mentioned last month, the savings rate I'm really interested in is the amount going into the Freedom Kitty which is what will fund me in the 7 years between becoming financially independent at age 50 and being able to withdraw my personal pension at age 57. At 26.47% the Freedom Kitty rate is lower than I achieved last month (31.46%), but I'm not going to worry about it too much because I was only £50 short of my £1,000 monthly target for savings into my Freedom Kitty.

My Savings Stash usage looks like this for the month:

As well as the usual money in and out, I decided to shift some of my emergency funds from the Savings Stash to my Freedom Kitty so that I could take full advantage of my ISA allowance for the 2015/2016 tax year, you can see this reflected in the table as the £1,123 out.

Well, after my second month of tracking my income, expenses and savings rate I'm feeling pretty pleased with how things are going. On the whole I think I've managed to keep my expenses reasonably low (low for my normal spend rate anyway) and now that I have made a plan for how to get to FI it's really nice to document how I'm getting on with achieving it on this blog.

Did you have any last minute dashes to shift money around for the tax year end? Did you fill your ISA allowance? This is the very first year I've ever filled my ISA allowance and I have to say, it feels good!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Portfolio Value and Net Worth - March 2016

Each month I publish the following regular progress updates toward achieving my second goal for 2016 which includes the pursuit of Financial Independence:
1. Portfolio Value and Net Worth as it stood at the end of the previous month
2. Income, Expenses and Savings achieved for the previous month
3. My Investing Choice for the previous month's savings

This post covers point 1 above: Portfolio Value and Net Worth at the end of March 2016.

Portfolio Value - end Mar 2016

My portfolio includes the savings and investments in my Freedom Kitty as well as my Personal Pension, the combination of which make up my "FI Before 50 Roadmap".

Here is the end of month value of my Freedom Kitty:

As you can see the total amount I'd invested into my Freedom Kitty by the end of Feb was £1,200. In March with the ISA year end looming I managed to contribute a whopping £14,810.53 in order to max out my ISA allowance for the year.

The reason I was able to do this was because I sold my flat (which I had owned since 1999) earlier this year and I made some profit (after putting aside money to cover what I anticipate will be the capital gains tax liability). I have had the money from the flat sale sat in my current account while I decided whether I would likely need it for my upcoming house purchase with TheBF. As we progressed through March it became evident to me that I should be able to use some of the money to pump into my ISA without causing us any problems with the house purchase (mostly because we're using our mortgage to cover up-front costs).

I'd also not yet invested the money I'd saved for the Freedom Kitty in January and February so these contributed to the figure. So the money I was able to put into my ISA in March broke down as follows:
  • Flat sale profit - £12,135.00
  • Savings from January - £678.78
  • Savings from February - £1,048.22
  • Savings from March - £948.53
  • TOTAL - £14,810.53

Within the 2015/2016 tax year I have paid a total of £16,010.53 into my St. James Place ISA. The ISA allowance for the year is £15,240, which means that the up-front fees for my ISA came to £770.53, which looks to be an initial fee of 5%. I don't yet have a benchmark to compare this up-front fee against, but I will certainly be paying a lot more attention to both up-front fees and ongoing fund fees from now on.

Due to the up-front fee, the current value of my ISA is less than the total amount I have invested by -£706.53, I'm hoping to see this deficit disappear over the course of the coming year, but who knows what may happen!

I have decided to consider an alternative ISA provider for the 2016/2017 tax year, so I've got some research to do in order to pick a good one!

Here's how the Freedom Kitty is tracking for the year - I've set myself a target of £23,000 for this calendar year (Jan-Dec 2016):

At 66.54%, I'm now about two thirds of the way to achieving my Freedom Kitty goal for 2016 with 9 months still to go. Though of course I have been helped along the way to this target by the money from my flat sale.

Here's how the Freedom Kitty is tracking against the overall target of £209,590:

It's particularly satisfying to see the percentage for my overall Freedom Kitty target shoot up from 0.54% to 7.3%. With 9 years 3 months to go until my desired FIRE date, I think this is a healthy percentage to be at. If I can manage 10% of the way to the £209,590 target by the end of the year I'll be very happy.

Here is the end of month value of my Personal Pension:

In March the monthly pension contribution from my business account was £3,000 again. This is great because my monthly target is £2,000. As I mentioned last month, I'm not currently working on a contract so there's no income into my business account due in March. I've decided to postpone starting a new contract until after we've moved house, which means it's likely that my business account will not have any sales income until August. For this reason I have asked my financial advisor to reduce my company's pension contributions to £1,000 per month with this change taking effect in May. However, for now at least, I'm ahead of schedule for achieving my pension contributions target this year.

Here's how the Personal Pension is tracking for the year - I've set myself a target of £110,000 for this year:

I've got about 65% of the way still to go to hit my pension target for this year. My ability to achieve this target looks like it will really hinge on how soon I secure a work contract after our house move.

Here's how the Personal Pension is tracking against the overall target of £364,965:

I've achieved 24.59% of my overall target for my Personal Pension goal, next month I should hit a nice milestone of 25%, and that will feel good!

Net Worth - end Mar 2016

I don't include assets such as car, valuables or house sundries in this calculation - it's really only the big or purely savings items I choose to include. The credit card debt listed is my monthly spend which I always pay off in full each month by direct debit. This month sees an increase in my Net Worth of £4,007.66 since last month, a nice increase largely fuelled by my pension contribution I suspect.

Overall March was a very positive month for me in terms of my increasing Portfolio Value and Net Worth. The challenge now is to keep up the good work, which could be tricky with the big house move fast approaching and the uncertainty over when and what my next paying contract will be.

How's your net worth looking at the end of quarter 1? How are your portfolios fairing with the recent turbulent times in the markets? As always I'd love to hear from you and appreciate your comments...

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Goals progress update for March

Here is my monthly progress update where I provide a review on how I'm getting on with my goals for 2016. This post is reporting on my progress as things stood at the end of March this year.

1. Experience the joy, satisfaction and contentment of living with my partner (TheBF) for the first time
  • Accepting suitable offers for the sale of my house and TheBF's house, with both proceeding to sale completion - Following on from the disappointment of losing the buyer for my house in February, I quickly got it back on the market. It's quite hard work having people coming round to view the house as I always feel I need to run round beforehand tidying and cleaning! Within a few days of my house being back up for sale I had 3 appointments to view booked in, and in just over a week of relisting the house I'd accepted a new offer. Things have moved swiftly since then, the survey has already been carried out by my buyer's mortgage company and the sale is now progressing nicely. TheBF's sale is also proceeding to plan, the mortgage has been approved for his buyers and the survey is booked to take place in April

  • Finding a new house to buy with TheBF which meets all our purchase criteria
    - In early March we were house hunting in earnest. Initially we focussed our efforts on viewings in a neighbouring town about a 40 minute drive from where I currently live. As we reached the point where we were ready to put an offer on a house, I realised that my heart was really yearning to stay in my hometown and I had a bit of a "wobble" moment. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get excited about moving somewhere that far away (even though I know for many people this is not far at all), and there were a few teary moments (on my part!) as TheBF and I had a heart-to-heart. Luckily for me I have the best boyfriend ever, I am so thankful to have such an understanding and caring partner, and we swiftly refocussed our efforts closer to home.

    So I'm delighted to share the news that we have now found our dream home in my hometown! We entered negotiations with the vendor and agreed a purchase price, so all that is left now is for the purchase process to go ahead alongside the sale of our 2 houses. I think it will probably be a couple of months before we actually complete and make the move - but this goal is WELL on the way for 2016 and I couldn't be happier

2. Gain the freedom to choose what I use my time for, removing the necessity of doing work that does not inspire me simply because it pays the bills

  • Pursuing financial independence - On target...
    • Create a 2016 financial plan/budget [by February 29th 2016]   {PREVIOUSLY DONE}
    • Create a "FI before 50 Roadmap" containing steps I need to take to become Financially Independent before the age of 50 [by March 31st 2016]   {PREVIOUSLY DONE}
      - Both of the above plans can be found here
    • Follow the 2016 financial plan/budget - Mostly achieved for March. Detailed Income, Expenses & Savings breakdowns will follow in upcoming posts - only the headline figures are noted here.

      Income wise, it was a really strong month, helped by the welcome news from my accountants that I had not yet claimed back my expenses for home-based office work, I was really pleased about that. My target monthly income is £3,332 which I achieved and actually managed a little bit extra (£256.30 more than target).

      My overall target for monthly savings is £3,000, breaking down into targets of £1,000 for the Freedom Kitty (I achieved £949.69) and £2,000 for the Personal Pension (I achieved £3,000). This means I've exceeded my overall savings target by £949.69, but the split of how I achieved this was slightly unbalanced compared to my plans. It's important for me to save into my Freedom Kitty because this is what's going to enable me to stop working earlier than my pension retirement age of 57 - it needs to be big enough to support me for 7 years

  • Researching alternative options for spending my time which could eventually help to replace my current mode of work
    • Create and maintain a blog site to track my goals and interact with the online community
      • Research suitable blog site & how to use it, and set-up blog {PREVIOUSLY DONE}
      • Deliver at least 1 post per week on average - Achieved for March! I published 5 posts which means I'm still on target for achieving an average of 1 per week since I started the blog
  • Research new alternative sources of repeat income
    • Generate at least £1 this year from a new source of regular income - I didn't receive any new income in March. I did however spend time investigating how kindle publishing works as well as reading about matched betting on Richard's blog (Live Happy Save More).

3. Become a better person by the end of the year, than I was at the start of it.
Can be measured in terms of knowledge & skills gained, health & fitness improved, relationships circle expanded & strengthened, internal beliefs challenged & reviewed, positive habits created

  • Completing a personal development challenge with my sister (100 day challenge or something similar) - Following on from last month's update, my sister and I have now set a date to work together through the daily practices in The Magic* by Rhonda Byrne. We start on April 1st and will finish on April 28th. During March we set-up a board using Trello ready for us to track our daily progress and share thoughts. Trello is a great tool to easily do this and best of all it's free!

  • Reading at least 6 new books - With a little bit of extra reading time required on the last day of March I managed to finish my first new book of the year The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich* by Timothy Ferriss. I really enjoyed this book and it was a real eye-opener for me - it is possible to break away from a 9-5 office job and earn a good income with less time and effort required. I can see though that to achieve this I need to put in effort up-front to get set-up with a product and business process that will allow me to earn from it with very little effort on my part. I'm hoping to be able to put some, if not all of my learnings from this book into practice. I'll assess my effectiveness in doing this, based on whether I'm writing my blog from a beach in the Caribbean or from my office at home this time next year ha ha!

    In terms of my reading goal for the year, I'm a little behind where I need to be, but I know with the Magic Challenge that I'll be finishing my second book in April so I should be back on track by then.

  • Losing 10lbs in weight by the end of July and maintaining the weight loss through till the end of the year through good diet and exercise

    Unfortunately I made no progress with my weight loss in March - not helped by the fact that the Easter Bunny brought a fair bit of chocolate! I review my goals every day and the fact that I've not found motivation to get going with this goal has been bothering me a lot. So I spent some time in March investigating options which might help me such as Weight Watchers (which I've used successfully before), Slimming World and calorie counting style diets. I've pretty much concluded that a menu plan of my own choosing will be the best option for me, because I can make it flexible, plus I really don't want to have to spend money on a diet group. So I'm working on a personalised plan to get me going and I've also started indoor running for 20 minutes on most weekdays. Let's see if I have more to report in April!

  • Going on at least 12 planned "date nights" with TheBF in 2016 - we've been pretty busy this past month with the house sale and purchase process, so it's not really been the right time to plan any big dates. However, we have done two very fun date nights which practically organised themselves.

    We went to watch Speedway Racing thanks to receiving complimentary tickets (TheBF belongs to a biker group where the tickets were offered in the forum). INTERESTING FACT: Speedway bikes have no brakes and 500cc engines which can accelerate faster than a Formula 1 car to 60 mph! It was a really good night, particularly when we were given the opportunity to go and watch two of the races from the centre of the track.

    Our second date night was at Festival Hall in London where we saw one of our favourite comedians Dave Gorman. We watch his show on the TV channel "Dave" called Modern Life is Goodish, it's definitely my kind of humour, particularly with his powerpoint slides!

    So I think I'm going to consider these 2 dates as progress toward this goal (even though I didn't specifically arrange them) since they were so good, and at the end of the day, the reason I set this goal was because I thought it would be fun for us to do some new things we hadn't done before - and these were definitely new!

    {DONE AT END OF MARCH: 5 dates}

  • Going on a family holiday to France where I can spend quality time with TheBF, my parents, my sister, brother-in-law and niece - we'll be doing this in August

  • Researching and booking a mini-cruise with family - I've put my research into mini-cruise options on hold while TheBF and I are focussing on our house move. It doesn't feel like the right time to be arranging or booking any trips. I should be able to get back to this later in the year

  • Introducing a routine of regular meditation

* affiliate links, if you purchase through these links the cost to you will be the normal Amazon price but I will earn a small commission for directing you to the product

4: Use my unique personal skills and abilities to help others achieve happiness.

  • Offering tips, support and conversation online through my blog, social media accounts and getting involved in the FI and Personal Development communities - I've signed up to the emails or feeds of the FIRE blogs I've found so far that I like to read. I try to get some reading in every day and I enjoy participating in the conversations in the comments if I find I have something to say

  • Offering tips, support and help offline through any face-to-face opportunities should they arise, (meet-ups, coaching, training, speaking engagements) - In March I attended my first FIRE Escape meet, arranged by Huw at Financially Free by Forty. For anyone who hasn't been to one of these yet, if you're in any way interested in Financial Independence, Retiring Early or just talking about money, ways to increase income and save I would highly recommend it. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly, and it gave me an opportunity to find out how other people approach the same goal as me, we were able to share tips and experiences. There should be two further FIRE Escape weekends later this year and I'm hoping that they'll be on weekends that I'm free as I definitely plan to go along again

  • Supporting my chosen charities through a spread of donations totalling £350 this year - as at the end of March I've donated £95.52 to my chosen charities. I need to be saving £87.50 per quarter to achieve this goal, so I'm ahead of where I need to be, I think I'll easily end up donating more than £350 this year

So it's the end of quarter 1 already, 2016 seems to be flying by. I'm very happy with my goals progress to-date. I think my biggest achievement so far this year has actually been taking the plunge and setting this blog up! I'm looking forward to tracking and achieving more of my goals in the rest of the year and sharing my progress with you.

How has the first quarter of 2016 gone for you? Is it just me, or do you think that this year has gone really quickly so far? I wish you well in your endeavours for the rest of the year, and would love to hear from you if you feel like leaving a comment...