Moving Tales: Part 2

In my last post about our recent house move I expressed frustration about a series of relatively minor but annoying problems that we’d had so far. The two main issues were the lack of hot water, and a mystery leak.

Shortly after posting I started pulling out wood cladding in the downstairs bathroom (part of the garage conversion) and found that the reason we had a water leak was because the pipe that took waste water from the sink and downstairs shower was not actually attached to the piping that should have routed it out of the bathroom and through to what’s left of the garage. Water was literally pouring onto the floor every time the shower or sink was used. Annoyingly, this had obviously been a problem for some time, as there were clear water marks and residue of damp that had been painted over. I called a local plumber in and had it sorted for £50, job done.

The hot water issue was slightly more complicated. Gaz and I fiddled with the boiler, we replaced fuses in mystery switches in the garage, we tried the thermostat on the wall but all to no avail. In the end I called in my regular trusty gas engineer (Telford Gas & Heating, highly recommend) to take a look assuming — hoping — it’d be something as simple as the boiler needing a service.

Unfortunately, life is never that simple. I knew that the problem was a little more complicated when, during the initial consult & having opened the airing cupboard to see the pipework to and from the hot water tank, my engineer uttered the fatal words “what on earth is that”. We were quoted circa £850 to fix the massive piping cock-ups that had been made previously, which we managed to scrape together, and the work was scheduled for this morning (9th July)

In the mean time, to keep us on our toes, the house decided to throw a little electrics issue at us. One evening after school, Izzy turned her bedroom light on and the upstairs electrics & downstairs bathroom lights went out. At first I panicked and thought the leak had reoccurred and was seeping into a light socket or something, but couldn’t find any evidence of that. Attempts to reset the RCD on the fuseboard wouldn’t work, and it’d immediately trip again. After 3 days of ignoring the issue like the nice responsible homeowners that we are, Gaz suggested it might be related to a switch in the loft that appeared to not do anything that he’d fiddled with when he was hiding some of our junk. Lo and behold, after climbing back up there and switching it off, the electrics came back on. Tada!

Anyway, back to the hot water. The gas engineer and his colleague turned up this morning and immediately started trying to make sense of the pipes while I cracked on with work. Just before 10am I emailed Gaz to tell him I was hearing a lot of perplexed “jesus, this is a mess” type noises coming from upstairs which didn’t sound great. 20 minutes later and I was called upstairs to the landing, where the floorboards had been removed to expose further pipework that I can only describe as akin to a game of Snake.

I’m not an expert on central heating installation or plumbing etc but it definitely didn’t require expert skills to see that there were Big Issues afoot. With that, on top of the work that was scheduled to be done this morning, and the reality of the state of the system, our best option (short of bumbling along with what we have for the foreseeable) is to replace the whole central heating system: pipework, hot water cylinder, radiators, possibly even the boiler at an estimated cost £5,000-£6,000. This is before we factor in the problems likely to be caused by lifting floorboards (i.e. removal of the laminate in the bedroom for access).

To say I’m furious is an understatement. That someone would knowingly misrepresent their house to get an artificially inflated sale price fully in the knowledge that we have two young children for whom hot water, reasonable plumbing and working electrics are, y’know, somewhat important; to look those kids in the eye and reel off the story of her husband’s sudden death to engender sympathy; to lie to the solicitors about “not being able to find the boiler certificate” knowing full well there isn’t one because the system was installed by an unqualified fucknugget; and, finally, leaving a “new home” card behind wishing “happy memories” when you know you’ve screwed over your buyer to the tune of several thousand pounds? Fuck, furious doesn’t even come close to how I feel.

Still, life lesson learned. Don’t be a dick and skimp to move faster (like we did), get the most in depth survey even if it costs you a small fortune in the short term. Ultimately, it may save you you a fuck ton more later on.

Lead photo by Joel Barwick.

Jumping Head First

The older I get the faster time seems to fly by, but nothing could have prepared me for the whirlwind that has been the past 6-7 weeks.

I started 2018 with good intentions. With the gift of a year’s gym fees from Gaz for my birthday, and a vague plan to get up at 6am each morning to run a few miles, I was going to be fit and active. I’d set goals for work, my bank balance was starting to settle after some client chaos towards the end of the previous year, everything was swell.

Then, on the spur of the moment, we decided to go and view a house.

With my mortgage deal ending in March and the kids getting to the point where sharing a bedroom is impractical, a house move has been in our near future for a while. I’ve had my eye on the local property market for 18 months or so; I had my list of requirements and I was ready to house hunt. Not ready enough though, it would seem, because having decided to view a house — and realising it ticked a variety of boxes, including ones we didn’t know needed ticking — the chaos that ensued knocked me completely for six.

We jumped head first and made an offer on the New House and after a small amount of haggling, we were accepted with the New House being removed from the market on the condition that we put our house on the market and sold it within six weeks. A generous move by the seller, but still… six weeks to tidy, market and sell a house that was definitely not ready to be sold.

And so my 6am starts to go for a quick run suddenly became 6am starts to clean the house for a viewing. My gym time became “waiting around for the photographer” time. My already busy calendar quickly filled up with appointments, packing, prepping and tidying.

We finally had an offer on ours last Thursday: the eve of the 6 week deadline. We countered and received a follow up offer which we accepted on the Friday, bob on 6 weeks. Nothing like cutting it close to the bone. Now we just have to hope that the legal bits ‘n’ bobs progress smoothly and we can exchange and complete without a hiccup. I have every limb & digit crossed…

Lead photo by jens johnsson on Unsplash

Back to Budgeting Basics

Feels like ages since I’ve talked about budgeting, and for a reason… with excess spend on frivolities, a loan to pay off two credit cards one of which I didn’t close and am steadily filling back up, an expensive honeymoon (which I barely contributed towards) back in October 2016 and the increased cost of US-based services since the Brexit vote, it’s obvious I’ve had my head firmly planted in the sand. Or up my arse, if you like.

But I have a problem. And not just the problem of big scary debt which I promised myself I’d never get hooked into: the problem of a mortgage deal that ends in just over 12 months time and only self-employment income to prove my ability to buy or re-negotiate. If I have extra debt when it comes to sorting out a new deal, nobody is going to touch me. All of my mortgage over-payments will have been for nothing.

So I have a year. A year to do all the things I’ve blogged about doing a million times: reducing outgoings, making my projects successful (or closing them down) and putting any ‘side’ income straight into debt reduction.

And as that won’t be enough on its own, I have no choice but to go back to full scale frugality as per maternity leave income levels: meal planning, £20 a week shops, turning the heating down to 19 degrees and putting on an extra jumper… the kind of money saving stuff I used to do as par for the course.

I know I can do this, I’ve done it before. So why does it seem the most daunting of all my plans and goals for the year?

Twenty-somethings

I followed a bunch of bloggers on twitter today. My grand plan is to follow, be inspired by their energy and regular posting, and thus start posting regularly again.

Hahahahaha.

Realistically, however, I’ve already noticed a worrying trend amongst these ~cool~ bloggers: they’re all young twenty-somethings with no kids, no mortgage and very few of the responsibilities and boring bits of life dragging them down.

(That’s not a diss on these bloggers, rather just a reflection on my own boring existence.)

Of course this made me think back to my own heady days of popularity and millions of pageviews and comments and general life-validation through the medium that is the blog, and I realised I too was a young twenty-something with no kids, no mortgage and few responsibilities.

Obviously the key to being a successful blogger lies somewhere in that revelation… time to sell the kids and the house I guess.

Ohai August

You’d think having not blogged for over a month I’d have a huge array of exciting developments to fill you in on.

Unfortunately, however, my life is just chores, bum-wiping and work, and I’m too lazy to make anything exciting up so you’re not disappointed by my very existance. But in a nutshell (for those interested in the monotony and the mundane) I have:

  • Agreed to do the Macmillan ‘Brave the Shave’ to help raise money so that they can support those suffering from cancer. A charity close to my own heart after they supported my maternal grandmother in her final weeks. I’m not sure what bravery is involved in voluntarily removing one’s hair, but if I can make a few quid doing something fairly simple, it’s all good.
  • Wasted a LOT of hours (when I should have been cleaning, parenting and/or sleeping) playing Stardew Valley. It’s the only game to have held my attention for longer than an hour in well over a decade. Love it, and love that it’s 100% by a lone indie dev. You can see what my farm looks like if that’s your bag.
  • Drunk too much, eaten too much, and exercised too little. And have put on about 10lbs for the privilege. Currently holding myself accountable by posting daily(ish) sweaty selfies to instagram. Feel free to nag me if I skip a day.

In addition to that, my essure has been signed off (the mysterious pain and bleeding stopped) and Oliver has finally finished nursery and is due to start school in September. Scary to think of my baby boy being old enough for school, but it couldn’t come soon enough. Paying out hundreds of pounds a month for childcare is gut-wrenching and not in any way helpful for overpaying the mortgage.

I reinstalled my laptop recently in a desperate last-ditch attempt to speed it up before I give up and replace it (which I can ill afford to do). After clearing out a few years of accumulated shite, converting to free open source software to cover stuff I no longer have the license to (Photoshop), and using Chrome as my primary browser (from Firefox)… well, it seems to have done the trick. Touch wood.

I decided a while back to redevelop this blog and my professional site into one big site, but after getting to 99% completion I decided against it at the last minute. Pondering how commercial and personal identity fit together isn’t a new thing — I’ve waffled on about it on here for years — but merging still makes me feel censored when it comes to discussing things of a more personal nature, so it’s not yet a path I’m willing to go down. This does mean my pro site will get a mini makeover (as soon as I have time to do it) though, woo!

I guess that’s all folks. See you again next month.

Depressing money crap

I’ve just come off the phone to my current mortgage provider. I rang up to see how much I’d likely be able to borrow if I wanted to purchase a larger house using equity in this house as a deposit.

I was hoping that because of my regular overpayments to my mortgage as part of my ‘mortgage free in 5 years‘ thing, and my reasonable income for a working mother of 2 with my experience level, that I might be able to secure at least enough to upgrade from my tiny 2 bed to a medium sized 3 bed.

Unfortunately, because I am now fully self-employed, any income I’ve received over the past few years in full time employment no longer count. Because I spent much of the past 2 years in full time employment with only self employment on the side, my official SE income for 2014-15 for example is just £1700 (despite overall income being much, much higher).

So, as it turns out, despite my reasonable financial status, repeat steady business and an average income more than enough to sustain my house & kids etc, I don’t even qualify for my existing mortgage deal let alone a new one.

I understand why affordability checks are in place on mortgages: to prevent people getting in over their head and ending up bankrupt and the bank losing money. But it makes absolutely no sense to me that they can’t look at the bigger picture in terms of income and net worth. Because I blew all my savings on a website I can’t even put together a bigger deposit.

Time to kick my mortgage free thing into gear and get back on the money-saving track, I guess.

Mortgage Free in 5 years: half of every invoice goal

Having announced my intention to return to 100% freelance from October, it might therefore be surprising to hear that I’m also going to be attempting a pretty radical goal to try and drastically increase the amount saved to use against my mortgage balance: I am going to try and put away half of every paid invoice each month for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know if this is entirely sensible with the cost of hot desking to think about, my car insurance due in November and the dreaded bank-draining event that is Christmas just around the corner but I’m becoming increasingly aware that I’m not doing enough just bumbling along tucking away passive income. However, with something in the range of £1600+ worth of bills at the beginning of every month, after contributions from Gaz towards his half of the utilities and Karl towards childcare, I’m going to need to earn £1800 as a minimum (per month) to be able to cover the bills and put half away. That’s not including irregular and/or business expenses.

To get me off to a head start, last week I tucked away £500 into my ISA. It wasn’t quite half of the weeks income but with travel to and from Brighton and the inevitable cost of food etc while I was over there, I knew I’d need a bit more in my current account to get by. However, I did what I always do when I go somewhere “new” and I over-spent on stuff I didn’t need, so I need to start setting myself a budget for these occasions too. There has to be a happy medium between radical frugalism (is that a word) and free spending…

I considered cam-girling to pay my mortgage

I’ve just been moaning on twitter about hitting a bit of a ‘blogging wall’ after 3 weeks of doing pretty well on my Septemblog challenge. In doing so, it occurred to me how lucky I am that — minor ‘every day’ life niggles aside — the only thing I can think of to moan about today is not having a topic to write about.

This time last year I was still trying to come to terms with the realities of lone parenting: mentally, physically and most overwhelmingly financially. Scraping together every spare penny to deal with having to pay all the bills myself, and a bunch of other crap that all seemed to hit at the same time, not least a tax fine/bill of over £950 because of a cock-up I’d made on a previous year’s tax return.

I was broken, financially and (nearly) mentally, and desperately trying to save every penny for massive impending solicitor and IFA bills to finalise the transfer of equity and re-mortgage my house. Bad times.

Anyway. At times — where I was not sure how to make my full time salary stretch any further, and I’d already worked my evenings away doing dev on the side — I would brainstorm ideas that would be low (mental) effort for high return and time and time again found myself pondering the realities of using the world’s (supposedly) oldest profession as a second sideline: I even googled story after story of past and present cam-girls and amateur porn stars to figure out the ins and outs of the industry.

I’m not particularly shy and I have zero issues with nudity. I am, shall we say “intimitely familiar with myself”, and not bothered who knows it. Most of all, thanks to years of other people helping themselves to my body, it isn’t that huge a step to give it away. Seemed therefore a logical jump to turn that into something that could earn me money with little outlay for tech or setup. I could potentially earn hundreds of pounds which would keep the little ones fed and a roof over our heads for a little bit longer.

But I didn’t do it. And while I have since joked about it with Gaz and indeed on twitter, I don’t think I could. If nothing else but because old wounds are healing, and I’m not sure having money in my back pocket is worth opening them up again.

Earning ‘passive’ income

I talk about passive income every now and again on my blog, so I thought I’d talk about what it means to me.

What is passive income?

Passive income is money I ‘earn’ without the need to specifically do anything to get it. That is, income that just drops straight into my bank or PayPal account without having to intervene or work or any other unpleasant and/or boring activity.

Why do you need passive income?

As I’m now (mostly) self-employed again, I don’t have the stability of a guaranteed monthly salary to depend on. Passive income is important to me because it allows me to build an emergency pot — while I’m busy doing actual, billable work — to fall back on should I be unable to work for any reason, e.g. kids, health (physical or mental); it also means that if an unexpected bill or the like comes in I have something to draw from. Eventually when this ‘pot’ is big enough it will be used to pay a lump sum off my mortgage as part of my goal to be mortgage free in five years. At the moment, all passive income goes straight into this ‘pot’ (it’s an ISA, not a literal pot).

How do you earn passive income?

I have two sources of passive income at the moment:

  1. Income from my premium mail form sales
  2. Income from adsense advertising

(I earn dribs and drabs from affiliate marketing which many see as passive income too, but more often than not the effort required to get to this point far outweighs the pennies I get back.)

Of these two sources, advertising is obviously the easiest. I dropped the provided code from Google into my blog sidebar, mail form site, WAHMweb etc and watch the pennies trickle in. Making money from my mail form is rather different; although I generally don’t do anything month to month to drive those sales, obviously I had to write the form in the first place. I also occasionally have to drum up sales, which I’m not particularly great at (because of laziness, not necessarily lack of skill). The required initial effort and occasional shameless plug are not “passive” but in terms of overall work I don’t do a significant amount month on month.

How much do you get?

It’s taken me a year to earn £60.10 through adsense so it’s hardly lucrative, but £60 is better than nothing.

adsense-payout

The mail form makes the most money out of the two (although still not making me rich): I’ve had 12 completed sales since it launched in February, totalling £228. After subtracting fees (£11.63) and ‘software’ costs (£107.32) there’s a total ‘profit’ of £109.05.

Clearly I’m not going to be retiring off the back of this passive income any time soon, but it’s income I otherwise wouldn’t get.

Are you going to do more?

My grand plan is to open up a member’s only section on my mail form site, which will give users more customisation options and the ability to generate custom forms and add more/better functionality. This requires effort and energy and at the minute I’m struggling to drum up either, because I’m about as low as the time I cried into my wine.

I also have a couple of other content-focused sites which I may or may not choose to work on over the course of the next year which should bring up my income from advertising.

In an ideal world, by the end of 2015 I’d like to be making at least £100 per month in passive income so that I can increase my mortgage overpayment by that amount. I have a lot of work to do to get there…

My Ideal Home

With at least two of my friends in the process of buying a house at the minute, and my place full to bursting with accumulated STUFF since Gaz moved in, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking lately about what I’d like out of a home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not moving any time soon. For starters I’ve only had my mortgage about 6-7 months, and securing that was hard enough. Secondly, now that the bulk of my income is from self-employment I’d need to seriously beef up my accounts before any mortgage company would come near me (although hopefully by the time moving is an actual possibility, I’ll have paid off a significant chunk of my mortgage) Still, a girl can dream!

So here goes…
In an ideal world I would have a big kitchen. I do a lot of cooking and food prep, so want a huge cooker and a ton of surface space. I’m also a big believer in the kitchen being the hub of a home, so there needs to be room for a dining table and a small sofa. Something like the traditional kitchen in this local property (left) or the more modern open plan kitchen from Real Homes mag:

big-kitchens

I would love a playroom for the kids. I dream of being able to shove all the kid’s toys away in a room and forgetting they exist (the toys, not the kids). It’d also mean I could bring some of the toys back out of their bedroom, which would give them a dedicated uncluttered sleeping space.

playrooms

1: Hugo’s Retreat (very slow to load)
2: Our Land of Nod Playroom
3: 35 Awesome Kids Playrooms

Once the kids have got their own playroom, and the dining table is tucked away in the kitchen (or a dedicated dining room if I wanted to be really posh), my living room can go back to being a grown up space. I don’t actually use my living room all that much but when I do it’s normally for entertaining guests or relaxing. It would need to be cosy, comfortable and have space for all my books (present and as-yet unbought). It would have to be clutter-free and ‘unfussy’, because too much stuff stresses me out. I like:

living-room

1: Another local home
2: 5 home feng shui tips to create positive energy
3: Err…

Although I have a thing about red in living rooms, so would need to decorate all of those!

I’d also need a dedicated office space. A room with a lot of natural light, space for my whiteboard on the wall, big enough to take two desks:

home-office

1: Studio Makeover: Before & After
2: 33 Crazy Cool Home Office Inspirations
3: 45 Awesome Workspaces & Offices

Obviously I’d also need a garden with extensive lawns for the kids (and inevitable horde of bunnies and guinea pigs), a master bedroom with en suite, space for at least 2 cars, garage for storage/conversion into a home gym, at least one guest bedroom so that cakefest-ers don’t have to sleep on my kid’s bedroom floor…

I guess I need to hurry up and get that mortgage-free thing sorted.

Hoard Mode

As I woke up to another sale on my premium mail form yesterday, I felt like I’d received a fresh kick up the bum to start actively working towards my mortgage free in five years goal again.

It’s not that I’ve not been working at it — all sales of the form (minus PayPal’s extortionate fees) are routed to my ISA where it sits til I can pay off a chunk of the mortgage — but I’ve not been doing anything to increase that passive income which is going to be the key to paying off the mortgage; I’ve not released stage 2 of the mail form functionality, and my other two projects are stalling while I get back on my feet too.

It doesn’t help that I’m currently in hoard mode: that is, because my financial future is less secure now that I’m self-employed again I can’t help but keep hold of every penny. I don’t want to move money out of my current account in case I need it quickly, and I don’t want to move what’s in my ISA onto my mortgage debt because if I have a sudden unexpected bill or a few dry months I’ll need that fallback.

I’m being paranoid. I have plenty of work and my bills are being paid. I just seem to be stuck on the thinking, and not on the doing… perhaps another spur of the moment decision is in order.

Kick up the arse

I spent nearly an hour on the phone on Tuesday night with a friend of mine who’s asked to remain nameless (I don’t know why, maybe he thinks you’ll all call him up asking for financial advice too?) Following my comfort spending confession he’s given me a bit of a virtual kick up the arse and set me a challenge (and as we all know, I can never turn down a challenge).

In an attempt to curb both my comfort spending and procrastination, I’m under instruction to:

  1. complete one project and/or
  2. log one months worth of budget figures
  3. and document my progress on here

…before I’m allowed my next glass of vodka.

I’m not sure this challenge is entirely fair. I mean for starters, vodka is important fuel for my growing body. Secondly, doing number 2 actually means pulling my head out of my bottom and unlocking my online banking which I managed to accidentally lock myself out of (but am currently too deep in a river called denial … or something) to do anything about.

But I said yes, so here goes.