Dry June

I have decided to have a Dry June – no alcohol for a whole month!

I love my booze (craft beer & real ale in particular!) but things were slowly getting out of control. Mrs FmC and I were consuming wine on an almost daily basis – with 1 bottle no longer being enough each time. For me that was on top of a couple of cans of strong beer – and several double bourbons would often round off the session (especially at weekends).

In the back of my mind I knew it had become a bit of an issue. My running has seriously tailed off in the last year and I’m just not getting anything practical done during my evenings or free weekends. Any excuse resulted in being a suitable time to start drinking.

An ongoing health issue made me re-think the situation too (as it so often does). There is nothing like a doctor asking you about your consumption and suggesting that it could be a factor in the symptoms you are experiencing.

I’m now half way through the month and things are going OK. The first week was certainly hard and I found myself pretty crabby and short tempered. But things have settled and I am not really missing it at the moment.

But I need to learn to drink in moderation. I love trying different beers and am a bit of a Wetherspoons spotter to boot. I don’t want to ever get to the point where I am told that I can’t drink anymore. That would be awful!

Once I retire, I look forward to more travel and more social drinking than ever before. I just need to keep it in balance with exercise and general good health.

On 1st July we are heading to Wales for a week’s holiday. We intend to do lots of walking and even climb Snowdon, all being well. But I’m also looking forward to enjoying a few drinks 🙂

100% Equities

It’s been a few months since I last posted any information about my investment strategy. Considering it changed shortly after that post, I thought it was worth a quick update.

Quite simply – all ISA and SIPP funds are now invested 100% in equities! To be more specific:

SIPP (IWeb) – 100% equities

  • 100% Vanguard U.S. Equity Index Fund

ISA1 (IWeb) – 100% equities

  • 100% Vanguard U.S. Equity Index Fund

ISA2 (Vanguard) – 100% equities

  • 100% Vanguard U.S. Equity Index Fund

I call that a maintenance-free investment portfolio!

A lot of the motivation for making this decision came from the excellent The Simple Path to Wealth by J L Collins. That book made so much sense to me and is one I will be gifting my children as they grow into adults for sure.

This really is a set-it-and-forget-it type strategy and the focus now falls on me to remain disciplined. I intend to stick to my guns no matter what the market decides to do over the next several years.

Simples! 🙂

No more car payments

Just over 2 years ago, Mrs FmC and I found ourselves in the local Jeep dealership one Sunday morning. We were considering replacing our ageing Ford Focus (which we had suffered a long-running issue with – perhaps that is what made us lose interest in it, looking back), and wanted to look at the new Jeep Renegade.

I am not one for visiting car showrooms on a regular basis, but have to admit that once over the threshold, the lure of shiny new vehicles is very tempting!

Immediately we were drawn to a carbon black model sitting at the front of the showroom, with a giant cardboard cut-out of Batman & Superman standing next to it. On closer inspection we discovered it was a Dawn of Justice special edition – based on the film of the same name. It looked gorgeous! Blacked out windows, black alloy wheels, custom upholstery and a Batman v Superman badge on the back! My inner child presented itself immediately 🙂

What’s more the price seemed reasonable for such a cool looking car – around £20K. There was apparently only 500 made for the UK market – 250 with diesel engines and 250 with petrol.

Mrs FmC loved the Batmobile too (always dangerous when you assign a fond name to something you don’t yet own!) and was encouraging me to buy it.

So, before you could sing “Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na Batman!” we were sat in front of a salesman discussing a deal and various PCP intricacies.

To keep things brief (because this is not actually the point of the post, would you believe) we bought the car. We managed to get an excellent deal: a dealer contribution of £2,250, a trade-in against our Focus of £3,000, 0% interest free credit on a 2 year PCP contract, a free boot shelf, a set of premium Jeep car mats and the cardboard Batman & Superman cardboard cut-out1 to boot! All for a monthly payment of £169. Result!

We enjoyed the car very much over the first few months. It was our first experience of owning a brand new car. We felt proud. We enjoyed the more commanding seat position compared to the old hatchback. The speaker system was better. It had built-in TomTom sat-nav. People would notice it was the ‘car from the Batman v Superman film’. But the novelty soon wore off.

As the months passed, I hadn’t realised the effect of not actually owning the car would have on us. We were more cautious where we parked it. Due to the low annual mileage we had been ‘recommended’ to agree by the salesman, we started to worry about how much we would have to pay if (when!) we exceeded it. We didn’t even seem to wash it as much as I would have expected. As it wasn’t ours, it seemed we didn’t have as much pride in it.

Towards the end of 2017 we knew our time with Batty (as it was then named) was coming to an end. Jeep had been in touch by then too. We definitely didn’t want to buy it outright. And unlike the day we first stood in the showroom and signed on the dotted line, we had changed our mind about trading it in for another new model (which is why we only signed up for a 2 year agreement – it seemed like a great idea at the time to have a new car every 2 years).

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The end of the tax year

It’s the last day of the 2017/18 tax year and I’ve achieved my goal. Hoorah! 🙂

I’ve managed to squirrel away £20K in both Mrs FmC and my own ISA accounts.

Due to some cashflow problems (i.e. peer-to-peer loans that didn’t get paid back on time!) I even had to borrow £9K from my parents. I wasn’t happy doing this (and neither was Mrs FmC, for fears of strings being attached) – but needs must. I’ve promised I will pay it back within 3 months (and I am a man of my word!).

I am going to have to tread very carefully over the next few weeks, as I have hardly any cash on hand whatsoever. So I will be deferring as much to next month’s credit card bill as I can. Thank goodness I get paid fortnightly, that’s all I can say! 😉

My plan is to try and contribute the full annual allowance into both ISAs each of the next 4-5 years, until I reach FI. They will then serve as a buffer between when I quit my job and when my main SIPP becomes accessible, 5 years later.

How have you got on making use of your tax free allowances?

Matchbook thieves

This is a precautionary tale to avoid the sports betting exchange Matchbook! Because their service leaves a lot to be desired 🙁

For my matched betting antics, I usually stick to a combination of Betfair and Smarkets. Especially as both now integrate nicely with my OddsMonkey account – making the process of laying bets super simple.

Last week was a busy one in the sports betting world – mainly due the annual Cheltenham Festival. Although I had put my own matched betting on pause for the time being (as I was busy scraping all my spare cash together in a bid to max out my ISA contributions before the end of the tax year), I had spotted a tweet from TFS linking to his Cheltenham preview post. This got me thinking – perhaps there was easy profits to be made..

So I loaded up my Smarkets and Matchbook accounts with some capital using my Mastercard debit card, as both were offering 0% commission for a limited period.

I scoured the OddsMonkey forums and various other posts to find the best offers and got to work each early morning of the 4-day festival. I’m still a novice at this lark but managed to make over £300 profit by the end of the week – which I was very happy with! Thank you ta 🙂

Then the fun began.

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