So it’s time for another monthly roundup post. On a personal level this month has brought a lot of change. Although that’s something I think we’re all quickly getting used to!
Read on to learn more about what I got up to in August along with a few thoughts on the economy.
Nationwide’s latest house price index has revealed that in August house prices hit an all time high. This is due to growth of 3.7% in August. A ‘mini-boom’ following lockdown. This means the average house in the UK now costs £224,123.
The theory goes that lockdown has made some people re-evaluate where they want to live. Abolishing stamp duty for properties below £500,000 has also made buying more attractive.
My family have been on the fence about selling and moving to Cornwall for a while. Early in August they decided to take the plunge and put their house on the market. To everyone’s surprise they received an offer for the full asking price within two weeks!
It’s certainly a good time to be selling, but it’s become a tough market for first time buyers. Removing the stamp duty for everyone has caused first time buyers to lose their normal advantage until April 2021.
I’ve also seen a lot of people commenting that it’s now near impossible to get a mortgage with a 5 or 10% deposit. Instead 15% has become the new minimum. Some lenders have also brought in restrictions around gifted deposits.
Therefore many first-time buyers are deciding whether to sit tight and save more, or utilise the government’s Help to Buy scheme on new build properties.
As furlough eases off, the housing boom is expected to end. In fact the Office for Budget Responsibility (the government’s official forecaster) predict house prices could drop up to 22% by the second half of 2021.
The earliest I would personally consider buying would be May next year. Just in time to secure another £1,000 bonus from my Lifetime ISA! Sadly, even if prices drop, a lot of first-time buyers are expected to struggle due to higher deposits likely being required.
Fortunate enough to be in a stable job? Keep building your deposit so you can make the most of any opportunities that arise!
Stock Market & Gold Price
Late in August the American stock exchange reached new heights, with the S&P 500 Index closing at an all time high. It seems a bit mind boggling to me that this is the case in the middle of a pandemic!
Certain stocks such as Tesla seem to entering a Bitcoin-like bubble. My boyfriend invested in Tesla a couple of years ago. This month his investment achieved over 6x its original value!
I don’t personally invest in individual companies, instead choosing to reduce risk and guesswork by investing in index funds. Over in the US everything has been going up so consistently for the past 10 years, I do wonder what the trigger will be for that confidence to break. I know the S&P 500 only represents the 500 biggest companies in the US and many tech companies have benefited from the pandemic, but it seems so detached from the actual economy.
I found this episode of Planet Money’s ‘The Indicator’ podcast quite insightful on the subject.
The price of gold also reached new heights in August. It seems this may be linked to concern about the decreasing value of the dollar along with the potential risk of inflation due to all of the quantitative easing currently going on. Quantitative easing is where the central bank creates new money and injects it into the economy in order to help keep things afloat. You can find a more complete explanation on quantitative easing here.
I’d highly recommend the video below for anyone who is interested in understanding a bit more about how the economy works.
I wouldn’t personally invest in gold as I choose to invest ethically and adopt an investment strategy that avoids speculation and guesswork. However, I do plan to keep an eye on inflation, as I worry about it potentially devaluing my savings.
As mentioned last month, in March my boyfriend and I gave up our room in London to go travelling. Those plans fell through, but we’re very lucky to now be living back with my parents in Bristol.
We each pay £100 towards rent/bills, with food costs on top. I was fortunate to be able to keep my job and as a result my savings are now increasing far more rapidly than they have before.
My take home pay after tax is a little under £2000 and back in London I would typically save £1000 a month. However, due to some of my investments increasing, this month I actually saved more than I earned! This shows the value of making your savings work!
In August I saved £1993
My company match pension contributions up to 10%, so I also pay in 10% of my salary each month via salary sacrifice. After six years of consistent saving my pension pot now stands at £46,349.
This month I was also happy to receive a £50 award voucher from work for my contributions to the account, which was a lovely gesture.
After buying quite a few things in July, in August I spent hardly any money outside of my normal living costs.
I wasn’t tempted by the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme. Although I did venture into my local Fish & Chip shop for the first time when I had a Friday off work. The weather was rather gloomy so I enjoyed my day off indoors making chip butties and watching films!
Earlier in the month I had cancelled my Disney+ membership, but I paid £5.99 to renew it so I could catch up on a couple of films I hadn’t managed to see. If you’re interested, the films I watched are all listed at the bottom of this post!
My STA Travel Refund
As I’ve mentioned previously, due to my travels plans being disrupted I’m currently awaiting a refund from STA Travel for my return flights to Bali. Between myself and my boyfriend this totals £1300.
Initially I thought I’d made progress in August, as when speaking to them on the phone (Friday 14th) they said I should expect to receive the money within 30-60 days. However the following week the company collapsed!
I’ve therefore gone back to my credit card company to try and pursue a claim. If this doesn’t work I’ll need to claim through my travel insurance.
You can find my latest update in full at the bottom of this post.
Vegan Apple Crisp – My family have an apple tree at their allotment, so for the past few weeks we’ve been trying to find creative ways to use them up. I found a super simple recipe for apple crisp which was very tasty. I used vegan butter (Vitalite) and it turned out perfectly!
I’m also a big fan of coring apples, piercing the skin and popping them in the microwave for four minutes with some raisins, cinnamon and sugar inside. Use a plant based milk with Bird’s custard powder to make up some delicious custard to go on the side and you have a great vegan dessert!
I mentioned last month that at the start of July my best friend gave birth to a baby boy. He’s now getting cuter by the second and I took a camera around to take a few pictures. We managed to take a few nice pictures of him sleeping and hopefully next time we visit we’ll be able to capture a few smiles.
I also took a LOT of jewellery pictures which I’ll go into in more depth in the Side Hustle section.
My family have found a bungalow they are considering buying, but it needs some updating and reworking of the rooms.
I used the free app ‘Magicplan‘ to plan out what the bedrooms could look like. It also helped with checking what furniture would fit. It has an incredible 3D feature which allows you to visualise the room as if you were walking through it. I think my dad thought I’d transported him to the future!
Once we had a good idea what sizes would work, my boyfriend helped to teach me some basic skills on Photoshop. This allowed me to tweak the floor plan in line with the new suggestions.
This helped my family to visualise what could be done with the space. It allowed them to engage a builder to provide a preliminary idea of the costs associated the work.
It was fun to start learning how to use Photoshop as I’ve always been quite daunted by it. You can see the before and after by sliding over the image below!
Over the summer my mum’s been having a sort out as she has boxes and boxes of old photos. Her aim is to select the best ones and create some memory albums. I sorted through a whole mound of pictures and picked out my favourites.
Towards the start of August my sister got a new job and moved to Cornwall. However just before she left the new stock I purchased in July arrived. I therefore managed to convince her to do a spot of jewellery modelling before she left.
She also had a voucher for a delicious vegan cream tea from Earthcake, so we enjoyed that in the garden between the photo sessions.
In the end we photographed about 80 items, doing them in batches of 15 in between her packing. It was a bit of a mission as I was trying to only use 15 earwires. This involved a lot of fiddly assembling and disassembling, but I’m super pleased with the results. The earrings I’m selling are big and bold, so it was great to be able to show them on a person. I gave her four pairs of earrings as thanks for her time.
For the thirty of so listings I already had online, I added the pictures so people can get a good sense of what they look like.
For the new items I also need to take a series of close-up shots from different angles. I’m finding this challenging as my boyfriend sold his camera equipment in preparation for us going travelling. I usually photograph the jewellery against a white background, with minimal editing done in Lightroom. However ,without a flash and macro lens it’s been tricky. I’ve therefore started experimenting with other backgrounds, such as trees and brick walls.
The photography is taking a long time and so far I’ve worked through 17 items, but not listed them yet. It would be great to make significant progress in September as Christmas is not that far away.
I also watched this video on Etsy SEO. I’m keen to understand what I can do to try and help my listings gain visibility. I’ve now created an account with eRank and plan to learn more about Etsy SEO in September.
In August I sold 0 items
To help support my family with their decision making on moving house, I took a daytrip down to Cornwall. It was a very long day but we got to visit three properties and checked out the local area.
We visited Looe beach which was very beautiful, despite the rain. I also got to sample a Cornish pasty which was delicious!
After spending the last few months just walking around my family’s local area I decided that August was the time to get on a bike. I only cycled for around an hour or so, but it was great fun.
I found cycling in London a bit terrifying, but cycling on Bristol cycle paths was much nicer. I’d love to try cycling all the way to Bath, but I might need to work on my fitness with a few shorter cycles first.
What I Read
- This is Going to Hurt – It was insightful to learn about the experiences of an NHS doctor working on the frontline. It really makes you appreciate the sacrifices some people make in their personal lives to help others.
What I Watched
With a couple of days off and some very long car rides, I ended up watching quite a bit of TV in August!
- Floor is Lava – This American game show is pretty hilarious and I flew through the episodes in record time
- Chewing Gum – I really enjoyed this comedy about life in Tower Hamlets
- Normal People – Great romantic drama about two Irish teens
- Frozen 2 – Who doesn’t love a Disney musical?
- Homeward Bound – Fun rewatch of an old classic about three pets that trek across the Sierra Nevada mountains to make their way back to their family
That’s all for August. I can’t quite believe we’re now two thirds of the way through the year!