Filthy Lucre

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

It’s an oft repeated quote by Mr Micawber from the oft read book David Copperfield which I finally got round to completing last year. I find it very apt because no matter how hard I try I repeatedly find myself in resultant misery due to month on month over expenditure. I sat down with my Moleskine (an extravagant purchase?) last night and listed all my regular monthly outgoings.

Here’s the list:

YMCA Junior Football Club Subscription – £16.00
TV License – £12.12
Home Insurance – £37.74
Son’s School Bus Pass – £44.50
Mortgage – £109.08
Sky TV/Phone/Broadband – £111.02
Loan – £179.38
Bank Charges – £6.00
Life Policy – £35.40
Water – £37.07
Electricity – £40.00
Gas – £82.00
Spotify Premium – £9.99
Mobile Phone Subscription – £34.00
Contents Insurance – £15.76
Gas Service Charge – £20.11
Car Lease – £151.99
Council Tax – £136.00

Total = £1078.16

This total represents 65% of my monthly income although in May I make my final mortgage payment so that’s a reduction in outgoings of £109.08. My wife pays for all the food that comes into the house for our family of 4 (as well as my gym subscription). I’ve looked at this list and wondered where I can make savings. Perhaps looking for new insurance providers, cancelling my landline phone or even reducing my Sky package – but I would miss the football (why do I have to pay for so much crap from Sky before I get what I really want – the football or soccer for the benefit of my American readers?)
The rest goes on an allowance for my son, petrol amd mostly other miscellaneous spends which I don’t really plan for but tend to be made on impulse. The loan is going to last for approximately another 5 years after I finally decided to consolidate my credit card debts which I’d had for years but never managed to get on top of until recently.

The question is, how can I improve the quality of my life and the quality of my family life by adjusting my spending and outgoing? I’m not looking for specific answers, in fact I’m probably doing and writing this as a means of self-help to, like my debsts, consolidate my thoughts and find the solutions myself. I like travelling, near, far and wide, eating great food (which we largely do at home) and drinking great wine. I can see the Moleskine becoming a receptical for a flurry of ideas after this as the answer lises in lists, planning and not being lazy. The first list is what lies above, the second one will be the plan for the next adventure!

Berlin

Tomorrow C and I are off to Berlin for a 2 night City Break. Already booked a table for Thursday evening at the number 1 rated restaurant in Berlin on Trip Advisor, Restaurant Heising and have a tour of the Reichstag booked for tomorrow. I’ve got the day off today as well to sort things out and prepare and my lists are playing a blinder! The excitement is cranking up and tonight I’m driving to Nottingham to drop my son off while I’m away – he’s staying with my parents and also my brother’s family while C’s son is on a school trip to Normandy in France. Hope to post some great photos and travelogue. Watch this space!

List, at last!

The feeling! The freedom! The…the…the sheer joy! I’ve done it, I’ve made a list! OK, it may not be up there with Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ list but I bet he didn’t feel so blissfully empowered as I do having completed mine. You see, I am, after all, Lazy Bill. I don’t usually do things such as lists, I am, generally speaking, disorganised; I just do things when I have to with a minimum of preparation or pre-oganisation. But with my list in hand, I can say “I’m Prepared”, I have a plan and I’m going to make it work!

Right, I’ve calmed down a bit now, the euphoria is wearing off. So what is this list, I suspect you’re all wondering, that is causing such elation? Well, I’ll tell you. Next week, my wife is taking me to Berlin for a few days as part of the celebrations for my impending 50th birthday. We fly from Liverpool to Schonefeld Airport on Wednesday, spend a couple of nights at the Grand Hotel Esplanade and return on Friday. Now, normally when I go on a trip, I just get a large bag out the cupboard, scan my wardrobe, put a few clothing essentialls inthe bag, a shirt or two, t-shirts, toiletries and before I know it I’ve got enough clothing and accessories to last a month long cuise through the freezing Norwegian Fjords and crossing the Atlnatic for a sojourn across the Caribbean. But that’s not how it is this time…Oh no. this time I’m travelling light and I’m planning ahead!

Last Saturday we went to Manchester and I bought myself a 40 litre bag, just the right size to take into the cabin and this will carry my ‘stuff’ in its entirety.

My new North Face 'hand luggage' bag
My new North Face ‘hand luggage’ bag

The bag cost £120 and it has all the right dimensions get in an Easyjet cabin for free, so for a return journey that’s a saving of £50 so it’s already saved me about 40% of its value! And the list? Well, about 5 days ago during a quiet period at work I got a piece of paper out and made a list of all the clothing and toiletries I’m going to take. I’ve transferred it all onto useful little app called Wunderlist and I’m good to go! I’m even tempted to pack my bag now, a full 5 days before we set off just so I can feel doubly organised (and probably doubly smug).

It’s a little thing but in some ways means much to me that I’ve discovered, on the eve of my 50th birthday, that a little bit of forward planning and preparation has taken the stress out of a process I’ve always considered a dull and stressful chore which is one of those requirements that cause stress and anxiety which is at the root of my laziness and underachievement. Yes, it’s true, I avoid stress and anxiety like the plague so if its not worth doing I don’t do it and if it has to be done I do it at the last minute in a rush of stress fuelled adrenaline.

So, it’s goodbye stress and its goodbye anxiety. Lists are the future. If only I’d known 35 years ago.

Lists

One thing I’ve noticed about blogs, especially since I’ve been hanging around these parts, is the prevalence of lists. I have to say, I like lists and most of the ones I come across are other people’s rather than my own and it is rare to find one that fails to capture my interest. As soon as I read a list it makes me want to create a list myself although I rarely do, to be honest. Although my wife does most of our shopping and thus creates her own dispensable shopping list, at weekends I get to choose a recipe and create a list of my own; usually of ingredients to shop for before we set off. I’ve taken to using the notes app on my phone to write them but once used they rarely get looked at again and aren’t particularly inspiring to me or probably anyone else for that matter. But there is something quite fulfilling about writing down an ingredient on its own exclusive line before pressing the return key to add another essential constituent part of the same list.

Lists are usually vertical, perpendicular. This is surely the best way to write a list, one item on top of the other as you don’t need to use punctuation marks and the app automatically capitalises each item to ensure all parts share equal importance. Make a list horizontal and you are immediately having to insert dreary commas, full stops and with only the first item starting with a capital letter your are in effect writing a sentence. So a list must start from the top and end at the bottom, one item per line.

So what makes a list interesting? Well, the first time I came across lists in earnest was on reading the book Hi Fidelity by Nick Hornby which was all about lists of old music and records for different circumstances and situations. Give a list a reason and suddenly it’s contents have purpose and meaning not just to its author but inspire thought and conflict in its readership. 10 songs to listen to when you’ve been dumped by your significant other…10 movies to watch which represent the modern zeitgeist (or something like that), it’s entirely your subjective call. No 2 lists will ever be the same or certainly will not be in the same order so there is something different to contemplate in every one.

So I have decided I am going to make lists myself. Not right now but soon enough even though I am itching to do one immediately. If you really want to…watch this space, I’m excited (mmmm, lists).