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Financial Independence update: October 2020

The nine best B&M Halloween decorations and costumes you can buy right now  - Birmingham Live
Working on that pumpkin harvest

As we’re in the first weekend of Lockdown II, I already look back at October with ghoulish nostalgia. I’m sure I’m not the only one. We were so close to going abroad as the Canaries came off the quarantine list as we hit half-term. Now I’m realising that life won’t be ‘normal’ for a long time – there will almost certainly be a third wave etc. At least this time around, the playgrounds, schools and childcare are open, so my adrenaline reserves are somewhat saved! But this time we have winter.

Some I’ve spoken to say their life won’t be that different (lucky them?), but for us, it means no eating out (which we were doing increasingly), no public transport, no walking around shopping areas (for weekend days out), no occasional drinks with friends, no remote possibility of going abroad, and no kids’ out-of-school activities – all the things that were stress-relieving to my sense of claustrophobia of being at home so much and of routine. It bothered Mr Firelite a lot less, I think it’s fair to say. My personality seeks novelty and socialising a whole lot more, it seems.

A flurry of spends in October was in part in knowledge of pending lockdown – eating out more at lunchtimes especially, meeting with friends once or twice for food in the pub… which was a bit constrained but definitely better than nothing (and I did feel safe, whatever that means). I also did some clothes shopping and am so glad I did now (I’m very petite and need to see clothes in person). We enrolled Firelite Junior in a one-weekly young kids’ karate club (£300 per 6 months+!) and I splurged on Halloween – an outdoor projector for our house wall, reams of webbing and spiders etc. Junior got a surprising amount of treats just collecting around our area, but was disheartened by pumpkin and spooky displays with no accompanying sweeties! We did an amazing Halloween event at a farm – it always seemed a bit of a weird mix to me, but in socially distanced times, it was perfect!

All things considered, I’m pleased with my savings rate of 62%, unsticking me from the 59% I was stuck at over the last 2 months. It’ll be interesting to see how my SR will be affected over the next month or so, the push factor being lockdown, the pull one being Christmas.

On the up?

My move to increasing equities (£2k per month) is slow but happening. Despite dabbling in a whole-market index fund last month, old habits die hard and I found myself going for a mix of mainly US and Developed Europe, with a bit of leftover cash reserves in my Vanguard going to ESG Emerging Economies. The markets are looking a bit shaky now, so I’m wondering if I should up my equity contribution over the coming months. I still have £11.5k left in my ISA allowance.

OctSepAugJuly
Cash*62500*628006370064100
Cash at 2-year+ fixed rates21600**216002160021600
Equity index funds (ISA)27045245002200019900
Bond index fund (ISA)3000300030003000
Peer lending3300330026502750
Shares660600650550
Total FI stash (not including pension)118200116000113700112,000
Savings rate: (including my contribution to workplace pension)62%59%59%71%
*Of which, 37k is for a buy-to-let deposit; **Actually one 5k fixed rate account has matured, but obtaining the money hasn’t been straightforward (irritatingly) and haven’t called them up yet.

My biggest secondary ‘income’ has actually been participating in the COVID-19 Infection Survey, which has involved being tested for COVID weekly then monthly for a year. Someone actually comes into the house! We get gift vouchers of £50 per monthly test (this also includes Mr Firelite participating in the blood test, I’ve declined) and £25 per weekly visit. This has given us £100 in vouchers so far, plus knowing that we’re test negative. Other than that, I got my first premium bonds win: £75, yay.

So it’s been a pretty good month for savings. While Mr Firelite’s job was looking shaky and redundancies were about to be announced, the extended furlough scheme has saved jobs for now. And while my job looked uncertain in lockdown round 1, it now looks fairly safe – with record numbers going to uni and international students even surpassing expected numbers. On a personal note, I am even getting better at Zoom teaching and that can’t be a bad thing. With work closing early on the 18 Dec until the new year, the hopeful me is still really, really hoping to get away abroad without quarantining on return. What do you think our chances are?

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