5

Baby Steps

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People try to change too much at once and it becomes overwhelming, and they end up falling off the program. So gradually changing bad habits makes much more of a difference than trying to change them all at once.
-Ian K Smith

 

One of the lessons I’ve learned over and over again in life, is that if you try and change too much all at once, you significantly increase the chances of failure.

 

Think of all the people you know who’ve gone on a diet. Of that group, how many are still on that diet? Granted most, if not all, will lose some weight, but very few keep that weight off inevitably slipping back into pre-diet eating habits. Same with exercise, commercial gyms exist because most of us join, over train for a few weeks, give up because we’ve overshot the runway, and never go back again (we’ll continue to pay the bill though)!

 

Well this is the approach I wanted to avoid when kicking off my FI project. I had a rough idea of where I wanted to get to, and now I need to make a series of changes, drop some old habits, and form some new ones to enable me reach my goal with minimal changes to my current lifestyle, at least not in the short term. In the long term I know I’ll need to (think eating out, casual online shopping), and in the long run, I’ll be better for it.

 

First step was to take an honest look at my spending. So I downloaded a spending tracker to my phone and committed to noting down each of my outgoings. Although I hadn’t yet made any changes to my spending, the process of noting down every expense started to weed out the unnecessary purchases. A month of tracking gave me a good starting point, and a clear list of areas that I could make immediate improvements to.

 

Once identified, I drilled into some of the areas where I could make savings with very little consequence to my lifestyle. It seems really obvious, but why spend more for a product or service that you can get for less!? Well it turns out that’s exactly what I was doing.

 

Mobile Phone
I purchased a brand new phone, switched to a more favourable plan, and saved almost a fiver per month.

Handset: I had an old iphone 5c that was becoming slower and more unresponsive by the day, so first thing I did was post a message on Facebook asking my friends if they had any recommendations for an unlocked handset. The suggestion that intrigued me most was the One Plus Two ‘Flagship Killer’. Solid reputation and reviews at a very reasonable price, and recommended by a few friends. There’s plenty documented on the web about how fantastic it is so I won’t regurgitate, give it a google yourself. This was the one for me though. I purchased one and projected getting 30 months of use. https://oneplus.net/uk/2
○ Phone Cost: £250
○ Monthly Cost: £8.33pm

Sim only plan: First port of call is a price comparison site. Found what I was looking for on moneysupermarket. I was looking for a plan with decent data allowance, not too concerned with the minutes and texts, but that offered decent rates or add ons for calling International numbers so I can call home. I found one through Mobile Phones Direct. It was a plan with EE for £19.99 pm. Unlimited calls, unlimited texts and 16GB of data. What sealed the deal was £8 cash back per month through Mobile Phones Direct, and EE offering a £9.99 pm add-on for 500 mins international calls.
○ Monthly Cost: £21.98

Note that I still have the old iphone 5c which I plan to sell. It’s unlocked so I should manage to get £90-100 based on what similar phones are selling for on ebay. I’ll exclude this from the numbers below as I haven’t sold it yet.

Total Monthly Cost: £30.31.
Previous Total Monthly Cost: £35.30.
Monthly saving of: £4.99

 

Car
Two years ago I bought a 2002 Toyota Avensis. Living up to its reputation, I’ve had very little trouble with it (except for replacing the battery and a few lights after the initial purchase). In addition to the cost of the car, tax and fuel, it was costing me £95 pm for insurance. Luckily enough my insurance was nearly up, and the renewal quote from my current provider was even higher than the price I paid in year 1.

Not much I can do about the price of fuel and tax, but I can now shop around for the best priced car insurance.
Thanks to my old pals the price comparison sites, I secured a deal with Admiral for £676, almost halving my bill. I paid this up front whereas previously I was paying monthly incurring an interest charge. I went on to purchase breakdown cover from rescuemycar.com for an additional £31.99, and got £6.72 cashback by purchasing through topcashback.co.uk. I had a similar level of cover from my previous insurer.

Previous monthly cost: £95
New monthly cost: £58.44
Monthly saving of £36.56

 

Spotify
Well I can’t classify this as a need, but I spend  time every day listening to music. Making brekky, on the cycle to work, in the gym, and at the desk. So a decent music streaming service is preferred. The premium version cost me £9.99 pm.
I put the feelers out to friends and family, and it didn’t take me long to round up 5 others who wanted to reduce their premium bill from £10 to £2.50. So I switched my Premium account to a Family account and saved £7.50 pm.

Previous monthly cost: £9.99
New monthly cost: £2.50.
Monthly saving of £7.49

 

Gym
I was happy paying a local gym £52 pm on a rolling contract, until another in the area ran an offer. £25 signup fee and £25pm if you join for a year. It even has a pool, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi which my previous gym didn’t 🙂

Previous monthly price: £52
New monthly price: £25
Joining fee: £25
Monthly saving (over year 1): £25

 

TV & Broadband
Got rid of Sky TV, hung onto broadband.

Previous monthly cost: £66.40
New monthly cost: £37.40
Saved £29 pm.

 

Transport
Long story short, we moved to a new place recently. This place has a garden and storage for the bikes, old place didn’t. So now I cycle to work every day. It was a conscious decision, our main reason for moving was so that we could use our bikes again. Was previously spending around £75 pm on tubes. I’ll still get the tube maybe twice pm now.

Previous monthly cost: £75
New monthly cost: £7.40
Monthly saving: £67.60

 

To summarise the monthly savings:
• Mobile phone: £4.99
• Car: £36.56
• Spotify: £7.49
• Gym: £25
• TV & Broadband: £29
• Transport: £67.60
• Total: £170.64

 

Which this handy tool tells me adds up to £49,625.31 if invested in an asset that returns 6% over the next 15 years (the number of years between now and my target FI date). Not bad for a few simple changes!

The Fire Place

London

5 Comments

  1. You’ve done really well here!
    On first inspection of my finances there wasn’t all that much easy low hanging fruit to cut out like this but I managed to optimise a few bits and it’s a never ending process really with constantly renewing your insurance for the best deals and so on.

    Try going through top cashback or similar cash back website to eek a few more pounds out of that as well!

    I found most of the cut in expenses came from truly elective spending such as clothing (used to £50+ per month, now practically £0. I have zero interest in clothes or fashion so no idea why I ever spent so much on this!), Going out and holidays. We still go out and have holidays it’s just that we choose cheaper things and places to do/see. Dunno about you but generally I find most activities or places very pleasant as long as I’m with people I like so what’s the point in going to fancy exclusive places and paying your life away?

    Cheers and best of luck with future optimisations!

    • Cheers TFS!

      I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts/suggestions for frugal holidays? Due to circumstances, we had to wait till quite close to the time to book our holiday this year so it ended up costing much more than planned. I’m a sucker for the sun, and like to steer clear of resorts, so any suggestions would be very much appreciated!

      Also planning on going to Iceland next year to see the Northern Lights. Will start planning soon, hopefully I can source a good deal.

  2. Hiya,

    Croatia used to be pretty cheap if you want to some sun. I went years ago and loved it. I heard Bulgaria is good/cheap and has good beaches as well. As usual look out for small independent places or Air BnB – although even that seems to be getting much more expensive nowadays! – so maybe a bit of digging is required here.

    We’ve just been holidaying in the UK or visiting friends abroad the last two years so have kept costs down that way, although realise that advice is not desirable/actionable for everyone for different reasons! Saying that our friends are getting married in Dubai early next year so that is going to blow a huge hole in our 2017 holiday budget.

    Having said all of what I said about reducing our holiday spending, I have no regrets ever on spending money on travel. It’s an experience to learn about new places and grow as a human being IMO so it’s always money well spent. Much better than on a new car or something like that anyway! Although I have always found when we blew money on swanky holidays we had no more (or no less, mind) fun than when we go cheapo.

    It’s not the hotel where you lay your head that is important but the people, culture, landscape etc…
    I’d always recommend staying one up from a hostel if you are doing any travelling type holidays (although a nice hotel always good if you are just having a beachy hol!)

    We’ve been talking about the northern lights for years but never got round to it, it’s definitely on the bucket list. Have to wait till the kid is a few years older and take her for a memorable experience I think! I’ve seen some decent deals out there, again the money for that amazing experience is an easy “it’s totally worth it” for me.

    Looking forward to reading all about it 😉

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