I am struggling to update this blog with regular, entertaining and relevant material, as regular readers may have noticed!

There are loads of personal finance blogs out there, but only a few very good ones. This blog won’t get into the latter group anytime soon, so I’m going to allow it to die when the domain name expires in October.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, It’s been fun.

Take care.

Mark

 

 

 

Well, one thing’s for sure – I ain’t gonna get rich (quick or slow) just by saving alone. I think it’s too late for that – I’m nearly fifty, with too much house to pay for. My own damn’ fault but it’s where we are… 

I can’t cut expenses any further – I don’t spend on usual middle class guff like subscription TV, gym membership or the like; and we have – thankfully – never built up huge piles of non-secured debt for stuff (bleddy mortgage sees to that!!).

Only other option is to increase earnings – which I’ve probably talked about before but never done anything about. I’ve been inspired by a new friend we’ve made recently who gets on with things. He works for himself in some way or other – using the knowledge he built up working for the Man, to branch out for himself and bring in the bacon, enough to feed the kids and get a couple of toys along the way.

The difference is – I think – he knuckles down and gets on with it rather than stare out of the window wishing he could travel back in time to his younger self and reveal an alternative path; which is what I seem to spend most of my time doing. Enough! He’s prepared to help in anyway he can, it’s up to me to get started.

I think months have gone by with me no further forward – so time to kick myself up the behind and get on.

I’ve posted this short – expostulation, almost – as a gee-up to myself so apologies it’s a bit low in calories. I’ll make them better again soon I promise.

p.s. Office life is rubbish.

I’m having to negotiate my holiday requests for August with my boss – he’s concerned there will be insufficient cover. (The company in general is concerned there are lots of leave requests during late July and August, especially amongst staff with primary-school children, they think there must be a pattern so they’re gonna set up a working party – perhaps hire a few consultants – to see if they can uncover some kind of underlying cause. It seems to happen the same time every year… They’ll report back in the Autumn).

And yet – despite him investing most of his time in work on creating and amending plans – there is nothing for me to do.

Nurse, the tranquilisers…

A quick one today – some tips I employ when filling the car with petrol, which I’ve since researched (a bit) and have (a bit) of science to back them up! Much of the original wording comes from a forum post on this site, the author though sadly is uncredited, it was coincidence I happened to be following some of his tips.

Only fill up your vehicle in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. All service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground the more dense the petrol, when it gets warmer petrol expands, so if buying in the afternoon or in the evening the litre rwecorded by the meter is not a true litre of fuel.

In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and the temperature of the petrol, diesel and jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products plays an important role. A 1-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for this business. But the service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps.

When you’re filling up you might notice that the pump hose trigger has two or even three settings: low, middle, and high. You should be pumping on the lowest (and therefore slowest) mode, thereby minimizing the vapours that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapour return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, a greater portion of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapour. Those vapours are actually being sucked up and back into the underground storage whilst you’re pumping, but the dial on the pump doesn’t compensate for that so you’re getting less fuel for your money.

One of the most important tips is to fill up when your petrol tank drops no lower than HALF FULL. The reason for this is the more petrol you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. Petrol evaporates faster than you can imagine. Petrol storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the Petrol and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation.

Your car doesn’t have such an arrangement. I’m not sure of the science of this bit to be honest, my guess is the vapour isn’t drawn through to the cylinders unlike the liquid;  but I can vouch for the practice from a practical point of view. By never letting your tank drop below half you always have options for when and where you fill up. We run this protocol (steady, Ed.) for both cars and found it got us through that nonsense a year ago when a tanker driver strike was talked about, and everybody panicked and emptied the forecourts of what fuel they did have. We had sufficient in reserve to be able to avoid all that madness.

Of course if you have a specific one-use only money-off voucher it makes sense to have as empty a tank as possible before you fill, but these should be the exception not the norm.

Another reminder, if there is a petrol truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy Petrol, DO NOT fill up; most likely the petrol is being stirred up as the Petrol is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom. At best the fuel won’t burn efficiently enough in your cylinder heads, at worst the crap will start to block up and damage the bits of your engine it comes into contact with. Again if you run the ‘no-less-than-half’ protocol mentioned above, you can just drive on and find the next cheapest forecourt.

You can see how these tips work together, as if you go earlier in the morning on half-a-tank, you’re more likely to drive straight to the pump, there won’t be a tanker unloading at the same time and there will be less people waiting so you can top up with the densest fuel on the slowest setting.

Those of us with a bit of a clue would normally by now start to consider where next years ISA savings are going to live. Chances are the current interest rate you are receiving is about to drop drastically, as it was probably only a bonus anyway. Of course the ISA provider half hopes you’ll not bother and continue loading up the same one in the new tax year, whilst it offers a paltry 0.1% or so…

At around this time of year, too, the financial pages carry a range of adverts from providers detailing their new rates, and some papers and websites have handy comparison tables to make this a bit easier. 

Well this year is no different – except for one tiny little detail. Thanks to a combination of factors the average interest rate being offered by providers is, well frankly, pathetic. Top rates of 2.0, or 2.5 might look attractive – especially if printed in a big enough typeface – but if you take inflation into account then they are in affect daylight robbery.

Inflation? What’s that? Let’s explain:-

Inflation* is a measure of how much prices rise – in affect a measure of the ‘cost of living’. A ‘basket’ of goods is used as an index, and the monthly average price is calculated**. The difference month on month is calculated as a percentage rate and reported as ‘the rate of inflation’. For simplicity’s sake this rate is actually assumed to apply to all goods and services, not just those featuring in the ‘basket’ and is taken as a measure of the cost of living***. The causes of inflation are many and complex, and beyond the remit of this post, suffice to say it happens and we have to deal with it.

How is this linked to savings? Well consider this heavily engineered and mildly preposterous example. Imagine a loaf of bread costs £1. You don’t need a loaf of bread this month, but you know you will next month. You also happen to have a pound in your pocket which you decide to put aside to buy a loaf next month. You put it in your piggy bank and forget about it. (Did I say this example was preposterous?)

Four weeks pass and you fancy some toast. You raid your piggy bank for that shiny £1 coin, go down to the shop, grab a loaf and go to the counter. ‘Just the loaf please’ you say. ‘That’ll be £1.03, please’ sayeth the shopkeeper. ‘Wha??’ you cry. It was a pound last month, you’re thruppence short. But in the intervening month inflation, conveniently set at 3% (maths is not my strong point), has pushed the price of loaves up.

Another way of looking at it is that your £1 no longer buys a £1’s worth of goods (in this case – again conveniently – only 97 pence worth of goods). Inflation has effectively devalued it, taken a chunk out of it’s value.

This is the major problem of holding cash as form of wealth. If it is taken out of circulation and just stuck somewhere, it withers and dies. Its important to realise that cash is just a medium of exchange, not really a measure or store of wealth in itself.

So how do you preserve the spending power of your cash. Well when you save it you ordinarily demand that it earns a rate of interest to compensate you for not spending it on something straight away. Knowing what you now know about inflation when you do come to spend it you want it to at least be worth the same as when you first stuffed it away. So you must also demand that that interest rate is at least equivalent to the rate of inflation to preserve the value of your savings for when you do want to spend it.

 Er, where was I…?

Oh, yeah, ISA accounts, or at least Cash ISAs. We’ll assume you want to put your money away for the whole tax year and not withdraw it – you might even want to addnto it. When it comes to choosing next years provider you’ll want to prevent yournmoney dying as laboured above, so of course you need a rate that keeps up with inflation. Sources (as they are called) forecast inflation to remain somewhere around 2.7% for at least the next 12 months, so you need an ISA interest rate of at least that.

Guess what. No-one appears to be offering that at the moment. The closest for an ISA you can transfer previous years accumulated ISA savings into is 2.5%, so you’re still short. Many others offer no where near that rate.

One of the reasons mooted for the lack of offerings this year is that Bank andBuilding Societies have taken advantage of the Goverment’s money to lend scheme, which has provided vast amounts of cheap credit for the banks to lend to businesses and individuals. Because of that, they don’t need our money, which is why they offer savings schemes in the first place. In effect they borrow money from savers to loan to borrowers, and make a profit on the difference in interest they set for either side of the equation. In effect then the value of saver’s money has fallen – no one wants it – and so the savings rates offered are lower.

So where now?

It doesn’t look as if anyone is going to offer an inflation-proof savings scheme between now and the 6th April. In our household we have traditionally (well the last 4 years anyway – we’ve only just woken up to the Middle Class Con) used cash ISAs to shelter savings – specifically the interest earned on them – from tax. We have transferred accounts from one provider to another to get the best rate available (rate tarts they used to call people like that). The rates offered were sufficient to at least keep our cash ahead of inflation.

This year however we are given pause for thought. Leaving it in the cash ISA system at the moment will likely erode its value to us in the future. (We are using MarkyMark’s definition of savings as ‘deferred spending’ – more on this another time). But on the other hand once it leaves the cash ISA system it cannot be returned (above the annual deposit limit anyway) should interest rates become more attractive.

I guess the answer to the problem is what do we wnat the money for anyway. If it’s for a specific event in the not too distant future it would probably best leaving it a fairly liquid form, and therefore taking the hit on interest rates v. inflation.

The alternative is, if this money is just for some unspecified ‘rainy-day’ moment it might be better to put it into something more ‘investment-y’ to realise better potential returns. But that inevitably exposes us to ‘risk’, not a concept we have so far contemplated, at least not outside Barmouth amusement arcades! It also brings in the concept of management costs and fees which need to be factored in and their affect on returns and accessibility.

I’m gonna have to man up and do some homework here. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

* originally economists defined ‘inflation’ as an increase in the (physical) money supply of an economy. It comes from when coinage – originally minted from a finite supply of precious metals, usually gold – was melted down and re-issued at the same face value but mixed with baser metals, in order to make the original gold supply go further. The physical value of the coin became debased and so merchants demanded more coins in exchange for the same goods and services.

** its actually far more complicated than that. Effectively an index value is calculated using a series of formulae based on the prices of that basket. The value on its own is of little value – at least to laymen like me. It’s the difference between indices across a period of time which is the crucial number.

*** there are actually several different indices or ‘baskets’ in use in modern economics, and at least 2 are used in UK politico-economics, depending on which one best serves the protagonist’s argument!!!

I have somehow picked up some non-serious but weird medical condition that is beyond the expertise of my local or even regional health authority, and I have been referred up the food chain. Out of the blue a letter arrived in the post for an appointment at a hospital in London. Yes; London. Not scary for some people I know but for a country mouse like me living in the fields of North Shropshire, it might as well have been Sydney or New York. It was also for 9:30 in the morning…

There was talk of going down the night before and putting up in a hotel, but Marky is nothing if not a tight-wad, so Wednesday morning (5:45) saw me standing wide-eyed and fidgetty on Stafford station platform ready to catch the Red-eye to London Euston, weighed down with a knap-sac full of breakfast goodies, a lunch box, a flask of coffee and a good book.

I had a plan to make my way to the hospital, factoring in plenty of contingency time (I hate being late for anything, I find it the height of bad manners), and having pored over maps and timetables, deliberately chose the cheaper but earlier train – hence the owl-spooking 5am drive across the Shropshire-Staffordshire border.

Once off at Euston – man! that’s a huge station, it’s like an airport – I stood a bit desolate and lonely wondering what to do next – I still had 2 hours before the appointment. Being unfamilir with London’s rush hour I decided the best option was to get to the vicinity of the hospital first then see how I was doing for time. I went to the loo – uh oh, first mistake, that’ll be 30 pence please, that was why the lady sitting across the aisle from me on the train visited the loo on the carriage a couple of times before she got off – then got sucked into the heaving mass of people joinimng the underground.

Now despite knowing where I was going and walking in what I thought was a purposeful manner (I’m a tall bloke so even my leisurely pacing is fairly brisk) practically everybody else overtook me, all scurrying somewhere like busy worker ants. I had read that city living makes everyone move faster but it was eye-opening actually witnessing it. It was also a pleasure knowing I didn’t have to move at that speed everyday.

Any ways without further incident I was seen at the hospital fairly efficiently and with the delightful prospects of further appointments in the Metroplois in the next few weeks found myself back out on the pavement by 10 am. My return train wasn’t due to leave for another five hours so the whole city was mine for the taking.

I droped into a Costa coffee shop (I find the monotonous familiarity of chain coffee shops somehow reassuring, especially whenever I’m in a foreign city) to review my options and phone home, then decided to re-enter the underground and head up to Trafalgar Square and take a wander round the National Gallery – as it was free, and I didn’t have an eight-year-old in tow for once.

What it says on the sign – no idea who the girl is though..

I’d already scoped out its prospects on line before leaving for London, so knew it was a good place to while away somw free hours. It was a fantatsic couple of hours to be honest – I didn’t rush round and try and do all of it – it’s too big, but I could linger over those paintings that caught my eye, regardless of how famous (or not) they were. There were a surprising number of nudes and topless ladies on display in many of those paintings as well which is always a bonus.

Lunch was taken alfresco from Markys butty Box situated immediately outside the Gallery, in the weak February sunshine watching the street performers in the Square (I sat behind them; I could see them but they couldn’t really see me), while just down the road the Union Flag fluttered briskly above the mother of all Parliaments. It was all there – black cabs, red buses, Japanese tourists and pigeons; the lions, the fountains and above it all Lord Nelson standing defiantly in the wind.

It wasn’t that gloomy – I was shooting into the sun!!

I’d got myself to the centre of the craziest, liveliest city on the planet with absolutely no problem, and more importantly little expense (I figured that after transport costs I’d contributed less than a fiver to London’s coffers – sorry Boris!) and was actually enjoying being there. OK it had cost me a day’s annual leave, but I can always make that back thorugh working flexi.

All in all I felt pretty chuffed with myself and my self-reliancy.

I must do this again soon. Oh, wait a minute – the post has come and look! yes there it is. Another appointment – no two appointments. Looks like I’ll be back in a month’s time. I wonder how I can exploit my new-found skill in enjoying cheap day trips to London. Maybe I should start a website…

January is over now – the time for hibernation is past. The days are getting imperceptivity lighter. The sun is rising fractionally a little more to the east every morning now. Its time to shake off the winter covers and get moving again.

Its a little early for New Year it not falling on the 21st March of course (Bloody Pagans – Ed) but I’ve formed a few resolutions that I intend to keep this and every year from now on.

1. ‘Spend less than you earn’ – So obvious it’s almost painful, yet it’s taken me till recently to realise this is an effective way to some sort of freedom. I’ve put it in quote marks to show these are not my words. They appear all over the Financial Blogoshpere so any one could lay claim to them. It doesn’t matter anyway as they are simply a distillation of the Micawber Principle, viz:-

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

2. Invest the Rest – notice I say ‘invest’ not ‘save’. Saving is merely deferred spending in that you have a bit more control over when the money leaves your hands. Its better to have some savings rather than none of course, as a bit of unallocated cash in reserve gives you some power and control when faced with life’s little quirks. But savings on their own aren’t going to free you from the yoke. I’ll explore this area in detail another day. Investing on the other hand may bring freedom closer, as investing is intended to achieve greater returns on your money, albeit at great risk of losing every penny so allocated.

3. Reduce the amount of Stuff in your life. A personal bugbear of mine. Not only is the unconscious consumption of tat draining your wallet and the planet’s limited resources, but so much of it comes either with built in obsolescence, or requires constant feeding in the form of subscriptions, updates or maintenance. Better to reduce the amount of stuff in the first place. All this drains your energy. You can extend this to relationships as well if you like – better to have a few deep meaningful real relationships than constantly reacting to the trolls that follow your internet profiles.

4. Look after what you have. Having reduced your Stuff to a few well-loved well used things, look after them. Something I have not been a shining practitioner of in the past. Find out how they work and how to keep them working.

5. Don’t rely on someone else to fix it for you. Get stuff sorted sooner rather than later. There’s an axiom in the business world about doing small jobs straight away, then getting them out of the way so they don’t clog up your brain. That goes for all aspects of life as well. Anticipate problems. Plan ahead and always, always have a Plan B.

6. Look after yourself. I realised I haven’t taken a single pill this year. Not even an aspirin. I appreciate I’m lucky enough not to have something serious wrong with me, of course, and I hope to continue that as long as I can help it. I think looking after your body is better than any medicine. Keep positive and a sense of humour. Keep active, everyday. Get some fresh air, even this time of year (clue – wear extra clothes), look after your teeth, your back, your insides. Don’t eat processed food – you never know what’s in it. Cut down on the booze and caffeine or at least switch to fewer servings of the decent stuff. Above all take time out for yourself.

That’s probably enough to be getting on with! Now, must go and lie down – they’re threatening snow again…

Ah January. The long, cold month of self-introspection. In Waterstone’s yesterday there was displayed this array of New Year titles.

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Well if you never thought inadequate before just take a look at this lot. Everything from ‘I can make you thin/rich/famous’ to detoxing to slimming to changing your thinking. It also includes a few classic self-help perennials as well as the frankly bonkers secret-type books.

But I say ‘Stop’. It’s too soon to be thinking of major changes in your life. We’ve only just got Christmas out of the way, and are in the middle of January – Winter proper in these Northern Latitudes. Its still dark and cold outside, it’s even snowing.

I believe this is a time for reflection and even contemplation, not wholesale changes. A time to stay by the fire and look after yourself. Carry on eating those Christmas left-overs including all the chocolates, the cake, pies and cheese that you over-bought. Any opened bottles of port won’t keep either. Don’t binge on them, just enjoy them. Don’t feel guilty just because some newspaper is running a series of ‘couch to London Marathon in 3 months’ type nonsense.

Pre-Industrial Revolution workers knew what winter was about, they stayed in doors and took it as easy as their lives would allow, notwithstanding the work on the land they would be expected to do. They would continue to eat well and make merry as much as they could. They certainly wouldn’t be shocking their system with faddy eating regimes. Or observing ‘Dry January’ FFS.

This is why I don’t really consider the 1st of January as a new year. Cosmologically nothing is different from the day before. We are often still in the middle of Christmas holidays – it’s only the 7th day of Christmas according to the traditional reckoning – and in our house we still have all the decorations up, and some family still to see. In our house we find New Year’s Eve something of damp squib, probably linked back to that Millennial non-event of 2000. Or maybe I can’t stay awake after 11:00 anymore!!!

This certainly isn’t a time for dieting – our climate isn’t right yet. Short days and long cold nights – going to and returning from work in darkness – is a time for comfort food and staying in. I think that’s why many dieters give up after a while. Eating salads and steamed fish in January is depressing on most fronts. Give me hearty stews, cooked breakfasts and more cake!! Mind you I’m skinny as a rat at the best of times so it makes no difference to me!!

Rather than rush out and buy all these depressing books, take the time instead to rest up a while. Use the dark nights and cold weekends to spend time contemplating and taking stock of your life. Fill up the bird feeders and sit with a cup of something hot and watch them for an hour. Go for walks or read. Gaze at the stars. Play games; sketch or write if you are so inclined. Listen to music. Plan the veg patch. Many of these activities border on light meditation as your mind wanders where ever it will. That’s no bad thing. It’s a good time to work out where you are in life and maybe where you want to be. Don’t act though – it’s not time yet.

Even physical de-cluttering can wait as no-one has any money for you to sell your stuff on to anyway, unless you are a sofa company offering interest-free credit, of course. Simply make a note of what you want to chuck and think about how you are going to shift it nearer spring time.

Oh and try and stay away from the telly – that will only exhort you to change your sofa, book a foreign holiday or build a scale replica of the Titanic in only 79 weekly parts.

This latest row over Starbucks has led our increasingly clueless government to fall back on the moral issues of tax. What moral issues are they then, Dave?? All Starbucks are doing is using the current tax legislation to minimise their tax bill. It’s not just Starbucks, loads of other companies are doing the same thing, Google, Amazon to name but two others (notice how all three are American in origin? Is this a Daily Mail-esque tirade against Johnny foreigner again??). The same thing happened a few months ago with some comedian sticking his earnings in an off-shore – but perfectly legit – tax account. He was hounded by the press in a fury reserved for child molesters and eventually closed the account? WTF? How’s that immoral?

So is it immoral for me to put my savings in an ISA account instead of a bog-standard taxed saving account? I hardly think so, but the logic is no different. We now hear that Boy George may use his Autumn Statement to announce new headlines er I mean measures to close these loopholes, and to try to wrong foot the Opposition. Because that’s what its all about of course – not embarking on a long term but fiscally prudent plan to generate sustainable growth, balance the books and pull out of recession – but give Millybland a bloody nose on a Wednesday lunchtime.

Geez. And they moan no-one turns up at polling stations these days….

One solution is to simplify the tax legislation in the first place. Some estimate that the tax statute book runs to 11,000 pages, most of them generated by one Gordon Brown (remember him?). As clever as he thought he was big multinationals can afford to employ even cleverer
people to find the gaps and ram straight through them. If there weren’t any gaps in the first place on the other hand….

But that puts the left in a dilemma. A hugely complicated tax system needs a lot of public sector workers to maintain and administer it. (I should know, I’ve worked on the computer systems supporting this stuff for over two decades) Each new ‘duty’ requires a big computer system to work it, and a lot of people to maintain and program those computers, even before we consider the work force on the other side of the keyboard trying to use the damn things.

The unions – basically, along with the benefistas, Labour’s core vote – won’t like anything that threatens their jobs, so its in Millybland’s interest to keep the complicated tax system, and all the other systems Brown built, in place, even when they let the big boys laugh all the way to the Cayman Islands.

So basically George, Ed’s stuck in his own painted corner. Don’t worry about him. I think this is one problem you can definitely blame on the previous administration. Go for a really big (autumn) statement. Really start cutting some crap from Whitehall.

That would be a moral thing to do.

Oscar Wilde might not necessarily be someone you’d like to be trapped in a lift with for too long, but he did have the odd eye for a truism. I refer to his essay ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’, in which he bemoans the state of humanity at the time of writing. Buried amongst the talk of socialism, artists and such like is this little quote;

 Property not merely has duties, but has so many duties that its
possession to any large extent is a bore.  It involves endless
claims upon one, endless attention to business, endless bother.  If
property had simply pleasures, we could stand it; but its duties
make it unbearable.

Well blow me Oscar if you haven’t hit the nail on the head. He’s dang right of course. In essence, you don’t own property – property eventually owns you.

I reached such a conclusion the other day. It was another Sunday and the cleaner would be visiting the following day. So began a mad hour tidying up the house. I was struck –almost to the point of meltdown – about how much stuff we had here, Stuff I could not actually see a purpose for. Papers, correspondence, catalogues,  toys, clothes, kitchen utensils; the list was endless. I thought ‘Where does all this stuff come from?’ when of course the actual burning question was – ‘Where the hell does it all go?’

That’s why the wife and I have decided to have a clear out. Not just a cursory review, but a deep and lasting purge.  Wilde is right, keeping this stuff actually consumes mental and spiritual energy, so it’s got to go.

Unfortunately that brings me on to another question – where should it all go? I’m conscious that just chucking it adds to land-fill, the last thing I want to do. So the alternatives are to try to sell it, or pass to charity shops.

Both present different dilemmas. Passing to charity shops is a bit of a cop-out, as I think this just passes the problem onto a voluntary organisation that could probably do without having to sort out my junk for me.  I’ve seen how people take advantage of this. I’ve seen voluntary organisations hold jumble or rummage sales to raise funds and then end up with a huge load of junk they’ve had to dispose of.  So although it’s a worthwhile solution if it raises funds for the charity the quality of the Stuff you donate has to be thought about.

Selling Stuff second-hand is also a hit-and-miss affair. I did a car-boot sale about a year ago. We carefully sorted out decent bestselling toys and games and a few clothes that we no longer needed, assuming they would be of interest to someone. Well, what an eye opener that experience was! I sold very little, the sum profit from the event for me was about £27, after attending for about four and a half hours. Few people appeared to trust that the boxes of games and jigsaws were complete (and, to be fair to them,  it was difficult to convince people they were). And the other stuff was difficult to shift. In the end I would accept almost anything just to cover my petrol costs and the pitch fee.

So the lesson is that Stuff, once brought, appears to have little second-hand value. Once you buy it, it’s yours. For ever. So from this we should determine to stop buying so much Stuff in the first place.

This is going to be difficult with that great orgy of Stuff-buying about to descend upon us at the end of December. The hall floor already resounds to the thud of another catalogue hitting the deck. Luckily as I am home first these go straight into the recycling bin before they start to clog up the magazine rack. Or someone’s wish-list….

This year we have made a pact, following on from the decision in the last post, that Christmas will be a more modest affair this year. I don’t want to still be paying for it come next Easter!! And more importatntly I don’t want the house clogged up with stuff that rarely gets a look at. May as well leave it in the shop for someone else.

So let’s go. Let’s not buy so much stuff this year, huh? Give land-fill a chance.

We are approaching a cross-roads, my wife and I.

She works at the same place as I do, and is equally pissed off with the place. We have both worked here for a couple of decades and seen many changes – none of them for the better. We can vouch for the toxic nature of office based working as commented on by Ermine some time ago. We are subject to the same (mal)practices as anywhere these days.

Yes, the money is good but I am now in a stage of life where my time is more important to me, and burning it away at someone else’s bidding is the last thing on my mind. I have convinced the wife that she ought to consider the situation from the same viewpoint. In an extreme case we could live off my salary, whilst she stays at home, although ideally we would want to punt for a situation where she brings in some income, but doing something she really wants to do, not feel she has to do.

She wants to explore the possibility of setting up as a homemade cookie/cake maker, which I want to encourage. She’s doing some prep work already, even whilst drawing a living wage, because this is an area where health and safety /food hygiene, for example, needs to factored in from the start. We’ll start small and see if it floats.

So we’ve started discussions on how to achieve this. We’ve set a date in the future (her 50th birthday) at which point she would walk away from the job. That’s 18 months away. Between now and then we have a lot of preparatory work to do in setting ourselves up as a one-income family. This will involve hammering down outgoing costs, and stashing as much of her remaining salary as possible. We need to get innovative in solving the problems we face on a daily basis – transportation, food, utilities – but there’s plenty of advice and inspiration amongst the PF blog cloud to draw upon. We’ve been a bit lazy here to be honest and have made all the middle-class mistakes – big mortgage, two new cars, rural living costs, young child (only kidding!) but I’m gonna work damn hard to make this work.

We also need to become more self-reliant in stuff like home-maintenance and suchlike, so we are not at the mercy of other people too much. We have installed things like a water-softener and pressurised heating system in the house, without calculating the true cost of their life-time maintenance needs, so that’s a mustachian punch in the mouth I’m owed, for a start.

…and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you…that ye may have lack of nothing. 

As the good book says (1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 Verse 11).

I’ve got my work cut-out, but I feel even now a sense of relief that my wife feels the same as I do. It’s much better to do this together than trying to work against each other (that’s enough West-Coast hippy-dippy nonsense, Ed.)

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