Welcome to my new series! Every month I’ll be sharing updates which will cover everything from my personal finances to what I’m currently reading.
Hopefully you’ll find some useful information along the way!
Why I’m Starting These Updates
Like many others I can’t say 2020 has delivered on my expectations. At the start of January I confidently handed in my notice at work, with the goal of travelling the world once my boyfriend’s PhD had finished. However, it turns out a three month notice period is just enough time for a global pandemic to appear, take hold and scupper all of those best laid plans!
My sights first narrowed from a two year round-the-world adventure to a two month stint in Bali. Then from Bali to Portugal. Then finally, and somewhat depressingly, from Portugal to my family’s house in Bristol. Yep, I’m in my 30s and now living back at home!
On March 17th after reading predictions of the pandemic stretching on for 18 months I decided it would be sensible to try and get my job back. The next day I awoke to frantic phone calls from my family about the surprise tube station closures and decided to move out of London 10 days earlier than planned.
This proved to be a good decision, as four days later the lockdown was introduced. In the end I managed to keep my job, but had this not happened I wouldn’t have fancied paying London rent with no income. Handily I work from home so it makes no odds whether I’m in London or Bristol.
July therefore marks four months since I placed my travel plans on hold. A whole third of the year has gone by! Back in March and April the weeks felt like months, but now I can’t believe how quickly they’re zipping past.
So as we all start to settle into a new (ab)normal I wanted to find a way to capture what I’ve been doing. I’m hoping these monthly round-ups will act as a kind of diary of what I get up to outside of the 9-5. While hopefully providing some use to others as well.
Ramble over, let’s explore what I did in July!
I’m currently in the extremely fortunate position of living back with my parents and paying £100 a month for rent. This is resulting in a sizeable boost to my monthly savings after renting in London!
Back in London I shared an ensuite room in a lovely Balham houseshare with my boyfriend, costing a hefty £525 each exclusive of bills. That’s right, £1050 for an ensuite room in a five person houseshare. London prices are mad!
My take home pay after tax is just under £2000 and even with those crazy prices I used to save roughly half. Now I’m back with my parents and have less opportunities to spend, I’m saving a little more.
In July I saved £1276
My company also match pension contributions up to 10%, so in addition to the above I also added 20% of my salary to my pension scheme. This is done via salary sacrifice and as a result it’s deducted before it ever hits my bank account.
I’d highly recommend making the most of matched pension schemes if your company offer them. By doing this for the past six years I’ve built up a pension pot worth nearly £46,000! The earlier you start the more time your money has to grow!
I can’t even imagine what the retirement age will be by the time I’m in my 60s-70s, so it’s handy to have a private pension I can access any time after I’m 55.
Despite barely going out, this was one of my most expensive months since moving back to Bristol. This was for a few different reasons. Firstly, my inability to actually go travelling resulted in far too long obsessing over minimalist packing lists! Secondly, a couple of very special occasions. Thirdly, I decided to invest in new stock for my Etsy business.
My main purchases (excluding basics like rent, food and charitable donations) are shown below.
Rohan Travel Jeans (£95) – This may seem like an insane amount of money to spend on jeans, however…
- All of my current jeans have holes (in very unfashionable places!)
- Rohan are one of the very few companies that make lightweight, quick-drying stretchy jeans suitable for travel. They also have a discrete hidden pocket. I’d still like to go travelling someday, so provided I don’t travel exclusively to hot countries I think these would be perfect to take. I’ve also practically lived in them since they arrived, so I don’t doubt the cost will be tiny when viewed relative to the number of days for which they’re worn.
Craghoppers Hiking Trousers (£58) – Still on the travel theme I was after some versatile hiking trousers. My current ones accompanied me on my Duke of Edinburgh expeditions 15 years ago, but make it look like I’m going on a safari. I was after something more discrete so ordered some black convertible capris, saving a few pounds by buying them through eBay. Saying that, at the time of writing (Aug 2020) Craghoppers actually have them at 50% off! I also tried out some skinny khaki trousers, however they looked far better on my boyfriend than me!
Gifts for a Friend’s New Baby (£70) – My best friend had her first baby at the start of July which was incredibly exciting. I bought a super cute Starsnug for her baby in the next size up ready for Autumn/Winter. I also treated her to some COOK vouchers and a nice shower gel. Finally, I purchased this lovely personalised card from Macie Dot Doodles on Etsy and made some cupcakes.
Gifts for my Sister’s Birthday (£23) – I went halves with my mum on a waffle maker and bought a loose leaf tea strainer as well. Rather than buying any edible gifts I made another batch of cupcakes.
Stock for my Etsy Business (£144) – More details below
Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes – I’ve been trying to hone my cupcake making skills over the past few months and I’m very pleased with the outcome! Tasty vegan double choc cupcakes, with a texture that’s a cross between a cupcake and a brownie. Yum! I used this basic recipe, substituting 25g of self-raising flour for cocoa powder and using a chia seed egg. I also added a whole heap of dark chocolate chips. Keen to make them extra special I added chocolate vegan buttercream and piped some wording on top.
Vegan Victoria Sponge – After many claims by my mum that it’s impossible to cook cakes properly in her oven, I had success with this vegan victoria sponge. I used raspberry jam and a slightly more basic buttercream in the centre. Delicious! Albeit a little more moist than a traditional sponge.
Sourdough Loaves – Although I can’t claim to have been involved with the whole process, I did also help my boyfriend with the shaping and marking of some sourdough loaves. One was apricot and walnut, the other olive and herb. I had the benefit of going second, so added lots of flour to the top before marking it. I was pretty pleased with the result!
Rather than buying a card for my sister’s birthday I decided to paint one. Here’s my attempt at paying tribute to the various plants she’s accumulated on what was formerly my bookshelf.
Around 7 years ago I started up a jewellery business while I was looking for work after university. When I say ‘business’ I should emphasise that in the whole time it’s been running I’ve only made around fifty sales! I was keen to stick to the rules and registered as a sole trader, which meant filling in detailed self-assessment tax returns for tiny sums of money! I stopped selling several years ago, but considering the investment in stock and website hosting I was down over £1000.
However, I’ve always kept the stock and now that the government allow you to earn £1000 tax-free from trading I thought it would be worthwhile starting it up again. I’ve therefore renewed all of my old listings and updated the postage prices. I also decided to spend £144 on some additional components I thought would sell well. With more people shopping online I’m hoping to target the Christmas gift market.
In July I also made a decision not to renew the hosting for my web domain. It would have cost $229 and given I have no way of generating traffic this didn’t seem worthwhile. Instead I plan to stick to selling through Etsy. I’ll keep paying for the domain name though, as that’s under £10 a year and keeps my options open if I change my mind.
In July I sold four items, totalling £43.50 inclusive of P&P.
I took the day off for my sister’s birthday and we went on a family roadtrip to Glastonbury. Despite only being an hour from my family’s house I’d never been before, so it was lovely to explore a new area. The weather was perfect and we had a picnic at the top of Glastonbury Tor. We also explored the nearby Chalice Well and gardens, which were beautiful and very peaceful.
What I Read
- The Other Half of Augusta Hope – My sister gave me this book for my birthday and I found it a really fascinating read. It was intriguing to have an insight into Burundi (which I’d never heard of before) and led to me researching the country further off the back of reading it. With so much negative press around refugees and migrants it’s always interesting to learn about the realities of the hardships many people face on a daily basis.
What I Watched
- Hamilton – I paid £5.99 for a month’s subscription to Disney Plus so I could watch this Broadway musical. I’d been keen to see it in London but the prices were through the roof, so I was excited about the opportunity to watch a recording. It exceeded all of my expectations and I’m now obsessively listening to the soundtrack. If you want to understand everything which is going on I’d highly recommend watching with subtitles. No matter how much your friends/family protest!
- Bedknobs & Broomsticks – I spotted this classical musical on Disney Plus and gave it a re-watch. It was even better than I remembered from when I was little. I also found myself humming tunes from this for a few days after!
- WALL-E – Another re-watch with my Disney Plus membership. The film felt quite ahead of its time with its portrayal of humanity escaping a planet filled with rubbish. Thankfully there seems to be growing awareness of the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling. Hopefully that will help to prevent this from becoming a reality.
- Far too many episodes of Friends & Made in Chelsea!
So that’s it for this month. Let me know if you have any suggestions for other topics you’d like me to cover. I’ll catch up with you next month for the August instalment!