A recap of the last few months and a look at my income and expenses.
Image by Amber_Avalona via pixabay
Well. Well. What a start to the year, eh? I think it’s fair to say that when I wrote my “keep calm and carry on” post at the beginning of March, I was underestimating just how big this coronavirus would be.
Ignoring the virus for a minute, we’ve had an eventful few months.
First, my fiance and I got married! So that was fun. Very glad we were able to get that sorted before the lockdown started. We were planning a reception in the summer but that suddenly looks very unlikely in the current climate.
Second, we started the visa application process so she can stay in the UK after she finishes her PhD. Fingers crossed all goes well. Annoyingly (but understandably) the coronavirus pandemic has closed down the biometric centres, so she can’t attend to get her fingerprints taken, and so can’t get a visa. In theory, this shouldn’t affect the visa decision, just delay it by a few months. Luckily she still has several months left on her student visa, and even if she didn’t, the UK government has recognised that this is a problem and has automatically extended any visa that was going to expire in the next few months.
I’m lucky enough to not be too badly hit by this pandemic just yet.
My networth has obviously taken a hit since the highs of February, but I’m fortunate enough to be in the early stages of the accumulation phase. Comparing my networth today to what it was two months ago, I’m only down about £6,000 across my ISA and pension. That’s approximately what I saved throughout all of 2019, so in theory shouldn’t take long to recover.
In terms of job stability; the funding that pays my wage would have been applied for, approved and granted at least two years ago, so I think my salary and job are safe for the duration of my contract. That’s great in the short term, but unfortunately my contract finishes at the end of this year. It’s time to tighten the belt and get adding to my emergency fund, because who knows what the job market will be like at the end of 2020. Plenty of people are predicting a recession. Thankfully I have about a year’s worth of expenses in cash already (and another £8,000, ignoring the £2,000 government bonus, sat in cash in a Lifetime ISA that I would rather not touch, but it’s there if things get really bad), so that should be enough to keep things afloat. I was thinking of switching careers after my contract ran out. Suddenly not so sure that there will be any jobs to take me!
All UK universities have essentially closed their doors since the government announced their social distancing measures a few weeks ago. As a result, I’ve joined the many people suddenly working from home and becoming very familiar with Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Most of my research uses supercomputers spread across the UK, so I can work from home just as easily as from the office. If anything, not being constantly interrupted by my manager or by colleagues means that on some days I’m more productive! However, I am missing my comfy desk chair in the office. Sitting at the dining table is certainly not the same.
I’ve decided to make these updates quarterly , rather than monthly. I don’t live a very exciting life, and it felt like I was just repeating myself each month. In theory, it also means I have more time to spend writing other posts for this blog. However, since this pandemic really took hold in the west, I don’t feel particularly inspired to write anything. I was planning, for example, a short post about my changing views of FIRE/financial independence, but it seems kind of pointless in this current situation. I wonder if other bloggers feel the same, as I’ve noticed that my Feedly has not been as full recently.
A solid, consistent start to the year! The miscellaneous £500 in March is part of Ms FIRE’s contribution to our wedding.
|Groceries & Toiletries||£278.72||£252.67||£290.00|
All pretty normal, apart from the cost of the visa. £1052 to apply, and another £1000 to pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge. The government announced in the March budget that this is going to increase to £1560 in December. I’m glad that we were able to get the application in and beat this price increase, but I’m not looking forward to how much it will cost us when we have to apply for the next visa in around 2.5 years time.
My savings rate for January was a respectable 17.4%. In February, an even better 22.8%. And, if we hadn’t had the visa expense, then March would have been an excellent 43.6%! But alas, it was an unavoidable expense, and brought my overall savings rate for the quarter to -1.4%. To be honest, it isn’t actually all that bad; my savings in Q1 were just about enough to cover the cost of the visa, and looking forward, I should be in a good position to save well in Q2.
One of my ongoing goals is to read at least one book a month. To help keep myself accountable, I’ve decided to track my progress here in these reports. I started off well in January, finishing three books, slacked off a bit in February and only finished one, and then completely fell by the wayside in March and only read half a book. Must do better in April!
First, I finished The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. This was a very different book from the typical fantasy/sci-fi stuff that I usually read. It’s essentially a memoir about a couple who lose their house, their job and all their money after a long protracted court battle. Then, with very poor timing, the husband is diagnosed with a rare and incurable brain disease. With just ~£50 a week in benefits to live on, they decide to just do something crazy and walk the South West Coast Path. As you might imagine, £50 doesn’t stretch very far. They have to camp in the wild every night, and splashing out on fish and chips one evening may well mean that they have to live on a pack of wine gums the day before their next payment comes through. It’s a depressing read at times, but the book does have some uplifting moments and gave me plenty to think about.
I then read Heroes by Stephen Fry. This is the second in his Mythos series, which retells ancient Greek myths. It was fun to revisit some myths that I had studied long ago at primary school (Hercules), read some that I had only heard of in passing (Jason and the Argonauts) and also to read several more that were new to me. Maybe not as good as the first book though, so I would recommend reading that one first.
The Road by Cormac MacCarthy. I had watched the film, starring Viggo Mortensen, several years ago, so when I saw it on sale on the Kindle store I had to give it a try. Turns out, the book is even bleaker than the already very dark film! The story is set several years after some sort of catastrophe has wiped out most life on Earth, and follows a father and son as they struggle to survive life on the road. It is gruesome and terrifying in certain parts, and tender and loving in others. Certainly recommended if you get the chance.
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. I read the first eight Discworld books a few years ago (up to and including Guards! Guards!) but got burnt out and haven’t read any since. That changed in February, however. I decided on a whim to read through this on my kindle rather than lug The Secret Commonwealth on the train; it’s a very hefty book! I couldn’t tell you why I skipped ahead to book thirty-something in the series, but I can tell you that it was an enjoyable read. It was very similar to how I remember the previous Discworld books. If you haven’t read it yet and you’re a Pratchett fan, then it’s worth a read. If you haven’t read Pratchett yet, I would recommend starting with Mort, Guards! Guards! or Wee Free Men, if you want to get into the Discworld series, or Good Omens if you want a standalone book.
I’m now reading The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman, a sequel to the excellent His Dark Materials trilogy. As I said above, I’m halfway through (no spoilers please!) and so far it is a good read. It’s somewhat different to the original trilogy, but similar to the prequel, La Belle Sauvage, that came out a few years ago.
I also have the following still leftover from Christmas on my to read pile:
- A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie
- The Eye of The World, by Robert Jordan
This section is usually pretty easy to write; just briefly mention whatever I have planned for the next month, and then boom, done. Not so easy this time! Who knows what the future will bring. It It looks like these social distancing measures will continue for the next few weeks at least. I’ve read some reports speculating that they may last for up to three months, then get relaxed for a few months, only to be tightened up again over the autumn and winter.
Over to you
That’s all for now. I hope, all things considered, you have had a reasonable start to the year (at least, as good as you might expect in these odd times!), and thanks for reading.