Utilities – Renewal time

Well, it’s that time of year when I need to review my utilities and find a new rate for the coming year. I was on a fixed price deal which fitted my criteria last year. With all these rate rises and the way that electricity is climbing in price I feel like the utilities are pricing in the electric cars we will be driving in the next few years already. Electricity prices are rocketing away when I look at the kWh rates compared to the Gas prices being quoted.

When I looked at electric/hybrid car costs, none included the utility charges. You have to go to a 3rd party site to find a comparison calculator to find out the real cost of running a car.

My current energy supplier is one of the ‘big 6’; the fixed deal was fine but when I went to review the alternative tariffs for this year, they are saying that the standard variable rate option is the best for me! Well, that’s a surprise, as that is normally the worst deal. (Or is that just another marketing fake news item?) The fixed price deals they are offering add £20 per month! to my bills (when I currently pay £40 pm – that’s just too much!) and have removed all the ‘discounts’, ie dual fuel & paperless billing. I have also noticed that they don’t offer me all the plans that are available via the comparison sites – so they are trying to stitch me up by only offering limited more expensive options via their own site! – Rip OFF ! For that reason alone I am moving supplier this year, I have been pondering it for a few months anyway but this puts the cherry on the cake.

My current supplier’s cheapest alternative offer – a ‘smart meter’ plan – well, sorry but I am not having one of those. I was speaking to someone yesterday who said that they swapped to a smart meter and their fuel charges have gone UP. They also have the problem of moving supplier resulting in the meter becoming useless. These marketing quotes of smart meters saving you money is rubbish. If you don’t monitor your fuel usage then, ok they may be an eye-opener for you and enable you to save money when you realise how much fuel you are using just on ‘tick over’. But if you are like me and watch your fuel usage and take regular readings then you will find that a smart meter will MAKE NO DIFFERENCE.

So bye bye ‘Big 6’ and hello alternative, disruptive supplier. Ok, it means moving to a variable rate plan but with no exit fees I can monitor and move around if the rates seem better elsewhere. The move will save me £90 which is reasonable and on par with past renewals. It’s not the largest saving on the table but I am happy to pay a little bit more if the supplier has ECO credentials & customer service that they actually live up to.

I will become a utility ‘rate tart’ for the next year and see how the utility market runs. I have researched having solar panels as electricity is my highest use fuel source but it does not pay. My house isn’t south facing, so I will not get the ROI that’s possible with a south-facing roof. Shame I don’t have a large garden as I could do what all those farmers around me are doing (filling their fields with solar cells). I could setup panels in my garden. But, hey I wasn’t thinking about that when I first bought my house nearly 10 years ago. I will just continue to look at other options to reduce and conserve home fuel.

While reading other blogs and articles I found this:

utility-graph

Source: Santander and Bloomberg Article

Between 2006-2016 the cost of U.K. gas and electricity swelled by over 70% and this is without the huge increase in alternative fuel vehicles and the time bomb of closing power stations.

Advertisements

Sept 2018 Update

Its been a long time since I last posted, mainly because the summer has been good and I’ve been out and about enjoying it rather than weekends writing posts.

I’ve not lost my FI path, I am happily trundling along. I have been shuffling funds around in between outdoor activities such as sorting out my garden and enjoying the warm weather. I have been reading about other’s travels (ourtour & dossers diary)  and looking at what I would like to do when i reach FI freedom.

I still feel depressed by work and the environment with ‘The Man’ just continues to go downhill. My micro-manager boss announced out of the blue that he was leaving (not even working his notice properly) – the office grapevine is that he was asked to leave. A new external boss was announced, all cloak and dagger behaviour. The announcement was in the form of an all company email! They didn’t even tell the team affected first. The new boss started last week. Wow, what a change, the new boss is never in, in fact they hardly ever speak to any one in the team/office. Its a plus and benefit in one sense for me.

The plus side is that my fitbit charge is saying that my resting pulse rate has gone down quite a bit since the arrival of the new boss, maybe because I’m not being micro-managed every hour of the office day. Yay!

I so feel like quitting the job though. Its not the best place to work but it seems that there isn’t a good workplace at the moment. Watching people around me on the road to burnout. I am not going to work in London which is the only set of job offers on the table. I don’t want the commute.

I meanwhile am trying to stay positive when outside the office.  Trying to focus on stashing my cash, sorting out my tax return and prepping to leave – keeping that eye on FI freedom. Everyone around me in the office is in a panic and fearful of losing their job – if they want to lay me off, they can. I can go do something more useful instead, like cycling and getting fit.  I am using the fitbit to prompt me to increase my activity levels as I feel unfit and unhealthy. I will not let ‘The Man’ get me down.

There is more to life than working for ‘The Man’ so need to focus on the escape dreams and plans. I have been planning some holiday time – a week in the Lakes (so I can go walking and cycling with family). Also a short trip to London to see a show and some museums and experience some sights and delights. As others have said, there is no point living like a hermit and so frugally that you feel unhappy but also there is no need to splash the cash and waste money when some canny discounting and voucher surfing can undercover the deals to keep the cost down and the experience count high.

I will continue to keep a positive outlook and get some FI updates on here to show how my fund is growing. I feel I am making progress this year and now have to tackle moving my old paid up pension funds to a SIPP. I saved my full ISA allowance last year so need to do the same this year and I’ve just re-mortgage my BTL and reduced the payment so the margin is better and will help to offset the increased BTL taxation. I will look to sell the BTL when I have given up my job and have dropped down into the lower tax band.

So glass of red wine in hand I will enjoy this evening and plan my weekend ahead. What red wine you say!! A glass isn’t too unhealthy…. plus the wine didn’t cost me anything. It was payment for letting my neighbour use my garage to store some of their ‘stuff’ while they had work done on their house.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Mid life crisis

all I keep reading at the moment is mid life crisis problems with jobs. It seems I am not alone with the feelings I have and the job I do.

Last year, in my late 40’s, I found myself in a similar position, having worked for my current very large private sector company for 10 years. Despite an excellent salary, I found myself bored, demotivated and bracing myself for yet another few years of constant organisational change. With no desire or passion to start my own business, I was encouraged to look for another role outside the organisation and what I found was far worse. Infact, my peek at the outside world made me realise that I should not take for granted the colleagues I worked with, my internal reputation and credibility, and the benefit of understanding how to navigate and get things done in a large complex organisation, all of which would have to be established if I moved somewhere new. So instead, with the support of my husband, I have put together a five year escape plan which involves paying off our mortgage and piling as much money as I can into my pension. In the meantime I am doing my best to manoeuvre myself onto some interesting projects and focusing on my work life balance and well being. At the end of five years, I’ll be over 50, institutionalised, and will no longer fit with the brave new world which will make me a prime candidate for redundancy! Best advice is to have a goal (or a dream) and a plan of how you are going to get there and don’t delude yourself that the grass is always greener.

This is a Response comment to someone who says they are fed up with their job but feel tied due to their age, financial responsibilities and lack of opportunities. I feel the same as the response, I look elsewhere yet see jobs are worse, the grass is not greener outside, the current job is vile and the politics is getting worse and I am trying so hard to keep smiling and just tick over as I feel so bored my brain switches off as soon as I walk through the office entrance. I just nedd to take the money, focus on things outside work to try and bolster my spirits and demeanour and plan my FI route out.

just another 2 months before I can sort my BTL mortgage out and become more flexible and save a space much as I can while I have a salary. Make the most of it and quit the rat race. Have some time off, then look for something interesting to do.

 

 

Holiday time !!!

It’s that time of the year when I ditch work for 2 weeks and get away from it all. The work s*** gets me down so this holiday will help me recharge ready for the next onslaught of politics and madness.

i have been enjoying the sun, timed it right to get the great May weather in the UK. I’m in Scotland enjoying the slightly cooler temps but still plenty of sunshine and blue sky days.

i have spent the time reading up on other FI blogs and the ourtour ventures. I do wonder about a motor home or camper and travelling, it would work well where I am now. I have driven up to Scotland and now spent the whole time either walking or cycling so haven’t used the car once. Just hired a place to stop, but wonder about a camper?

I have seen many people with camper vans touring, mainly Dutch couples. I have never done this before, although my family (aunts, uncles and cousins) have had campervans and travelled around. I have only ever camped (tent) or hired a static van on a site. With the sky so blue and the day so open for anything I look at my FI options and what I really want to achieve.

i want to escape for the same reasons Jason did on ourtour. The stress and s*** of the office politics and stupid management targets. I could spend all day reading, walking, cycling and seeing the sites. It is so restful and I just don’t want to go back to work.

i have surprised myself by doing over 182 miles on bikes over the past week! So good for the soul and health. Meeting people and sharing experiences and sights. Could do this every day.  Would be so much fitter and healthier in general.

Some great cooking, meals out and picnic spots. I ponder even more the camper travel life, would I enjoy it all the time or should I opt for a similar ourtour style, mix it with a uk base and the odd contract job. Choices, choices..

i want to get my BTL mortgage sorted so I have no restrictions on it, I.e. min salary and payment flexibility …. oh and a good interest rate…. then I can relax… at the moment I have to have a min salary of £20k as a mortgage condition. My FI income does not fit that criteria.

this holiday is making me really think over my future path and the directions I wish to take as part of an FI future.

make hay while the sun shines ….

Off to explore, enjoy life and generally reflect on the place I really want to get to…  I will worry about the s*** of work when I get back.

buzz…buzzz…buzzz…..

Gender Pay Gap anyone?

I know its been a while, my blog posts are pretty sporadic at the moment. Mainly because I haven’t much to say and I am just keeping my head down and saving hard so I can jump off the treadmill that’s work.

I’m not sure if anyone has been looking up their employer declarations and seeing where they stand on the gender pay gap issue?

Mine was quite enlightening – my current employer has a gender pay gap of 35% ! Yet the female ratios are over 60% at all levels. So how does that stack? Looking back through my employer history I started working for a company with a 1.5% gender pay gap and over the years that has moved to 1.6% to 2.3% to now which is 35%! Just shows what happens in a ‘small company’ and one with no formal response or plan to change this.

The work world is just demoralising at the moment, so many people I know are under threat of redundancy and someone who I use as a benchmark for jobs, a contractor, is currently between contracts and says he is struggling to find work. He hasn’t known it so bad. He normally only has a small gap between contracts but this time its been over 3 months and counting. I was also talking to a temp at work this week and she said this is the first job she has had for over 5 months when last year she was working nearly every month. She is now looking for a permanent part-time job and has a few interviews lined up.

Can you really trust these government stats that say unemployment is at its lowest. How can that be when there are so many redundancies happening and also imminent? Toys-r-us, maplins, etc…

Is this statistical massaging?

Closer to home, I have continued to save hard and making inroads on the path to FI. My ISAs are looking ok – not great but my vanguard funds are not star performers. I’m on the slow growth path rather than star buys and having to change deal to move to the next star fund.

With the new tax year started, I am now collating all my tax info for my tax assessment form. I cannot believe it but its been nearly 5 years since I became a landlord by using some of my redundancy payment as it was the best investment choice at the time. It’s now time to remortgage and want to find a deal which ticks the boxes; good interest rate, no redemption penalties (so I can sell up if the rules become too onerous), ability to over pay so I can be fully flexible. Oh and no minimum salary requirements as I could end up being a contractor in the next few years or FI and living off my generated income.

I have started doing some house updates on my own place; painting, repairs and general maintenance, so I have been busy offline and enjoying what was the ‘summer’. I need to have a good review of my FI situation and setup my goals for this tax year.

I will have a good look and post an update which is long over due.

 

 

 

 

 

Yet another depressing pension statement

Why oh why do these pension statements get more annoying to read each year.

Yet again the pension forecast is less than last year as they have now dropped the growth forecast <! again !>. Each year the annual pension forecast falls even though the pension fund value increases. This is one of my old AVC schemes which just becomes a joke. They have even put an example illustration of a negative growth rate.

An ex-work colleague was telling me to get a valuation on my old work DB scheme (final salary one). She is looking at taking the money out of the scheme because the number is so huge….. Well, I’m happy to keep mine as a DB scheme as at least I know at the moment what my pension will be when I reach pension age. She has a hubby who probably has a DB scheme too so when shared she may find that cashing in hers may be worth it as part of a couples financial plan. As a singleton, I don’t have that option so have to rely on my own schemes to fund my retirement, if I actually reach it.

My current plan is to combine all my separate DC pots nearer retirement age and look at a draw down option to supplement the DB scheme + state pension. At the moment, I have consolidated them down to a manageable number of accounts but still retain some risk mitigation. i.e. not have all my eggs in one basket.

I will continue to plough money in there and take the benefit of tax relief and take the max I can from my employer for their scheme which is 5%.

 

How long?

Wow, I have just seen that I haven’t posted anything since September. Shows how I have gone off-grid and just existed over the past few months.

It’s not that I have dropped my mojo for FI, it’s there and kicking. I have just reviewed my year and my net worth has increased by 6%. Not as good as some who managed to get a double-digit growth rate but I am pleased with my progress.

This year, I have re-balanced my portfolio and moved them into lower fee funds and tried to consolidate my finances and up the amount I save into my pension(s). It’s nice to see the graph plotting their growth upwards. I am trying to make my savings work harder for me.

I have scheduled the payment of my tax due, my HMRC SA form was submitted ages ago so my normal ‘xmas gift’ from the tax man was my statement letter landing on my doormat on the 20th December reminding me how much I need to pay by the end of Jan. It’s higher this year due to the changes in BTL rules and the taxation changes on savings.

I need to sort out my spreadsheets and publish my monthly results. This month my expenses have gone up (xmas gifts/spending) but I have still managed to save too. So I can feel pleased I have ended the month on a positive note and ended the year in a better financial state that I started it.

I am trying to remain in good spirits, ‘the Man’ I work for just gets worse by the day so I just hang in there and just laugh to take the pressure off and stop me going completely mad. I have started doing some yoga in the evenings to release the pressure value and feel better for this.

I should have been at work today but couldn’t get there due to the snow/weather. I am so glad I didn’t attempt to otherwise I would have sat on the A14 watching the snow and everyone else sitting there going nowhere for 5+ hours. I called my boss to tell him I wasn’t going to be in, he just said he wasn’t even attempting to go in and was working from home.

I can access my work email from home so found out that only 1 person for our department managed to get into work and that’s because his commute is a 10 minute walk! At least there isn’t a big expectation – well if there is – the company culture doesn’t seem to rub with the employees. I don’t think there were many in work and most of the senior boss are all on holiday this week anyway so whose there to complain!?

I don’t have any holiday left to use for this so I will just have to take it as unpaid leave. That’s fine, I can cope with that – my savings rates are doing well and at some point I will just pull the plug. There are plenty of days where I feel like saying “stuff the job, I’m off” because I have an FI buffer.

The day I step off the treadmill will be a great one – one to celebrate big time!