The data is in --- my average savings rate for 2020 is 58.57%. At the beginning of the year, my goal was to invest 50% of my income every month. This was quite ambitious considering 1) I live in Central London, and 2) I'm a basic income earner.
Okay. First of all, I have been tracking my spending habits since time immemorial so I know exactly how much I would spend in a month. For last year, my budget was £1,200 (Php78,000) which I've only breached once for an £8 difference in January. To ensure I would meet my monthly goal of 50%, I needed an extra £200/month income to complement my average monthly salary of £2,200. This was effortlessly achievable through agency shifts. The NHS will never run out of extra shifts so there's always one for the taking.
How did I make sure I'd meet the goal?
Covid sucks! London in Tier 4 lockdown, new Covid mutation spreading in the UK and everywhere else, many are still hospitalised and die on a daily, Christmas is de facto cancelled. When is this global nightmare going to end? Nobody knows for sure and even the medics and epidemiologists are as equally baffled. However, life has to move on and therefore, I'll review my 2020 budget and check how COVID impacted my overall inflows and outflows for the year.
Income 1 is my main salary as a nurse (after taxes and pension contribution); Income 2 is my supplementary active income (Overtimes and Agency Shifts). I automatically invest (45%-70%) once I receive my salaries (Save First) but the total invested amount will be more as I invest my end-of-month spare change as well. Therefore, my total income for the year is £34,084.72 and my total investment is £20,109.43. I've lost potential agency shift earnings of approximately £1500 due to COVID. This is because, my employer has to cancel all elective cases to convert our Operating Theatres into ITU to accommodate ventilated COVID patients. My investments are spread into 4 accounts, Investment1, Investment2, Investment3/4, and Investment5.
My top 3 expenses are rent (59%), giving (20%) and food and beverages (10%). Overall, I spent £13,653.44 which is less than my budget of £14,400/year. Without COVID, I would probably spend a bit more on eating out, Caffe Nero cappuccino, Lions games tickets and lager. I haven't bought clothes this year.
I would also like to include the total remittance I sent to the Philippines which is not entirely part of the budget table.
Reasons for these remittances are educational support for my brother, back-up support to my retired parents and opening a new business venture. Over half a million pesos sent this year.
Overall, I did well this year despite COVID. The 20K investment (nearly 60% Savings Rate) is a great achievement considering I live in Central London. Given the above data, I could retire in 8.3 years as per Networthify retirement calculator.
Credit: bendavisual on Unsplash
On my second post, I have indicated that my savings rate is 50%. This leaves me roughly £1500 to live off for a month and the other 50% allocated to various investment instruments like stocks and shares. As someone living in Central London, is this enough? Or am I eating purely rice and beans, noodles and discounted meals all day, everyday?
I'll show you.
T1 is my actual budget for the month (January 2020) based on my Earned Income last December.
Food and Beverages - £30/week; Food in the UK is cheap af if you know where to look.
High Protein Muesli, Peanut Butter, Oats, Assorted Berries, Coffee. Quick and easy. Just add hot water. Done.
There is no way I would cook in the morning.
Dinner: Meal Prep on Sunday (1-2 hours)
Chicken (Breasts, Boneless Legs), Ground Pork or Beef, Salad, Assorted Vegetables (mostly broccoli, bok choi, carrots), Salad (baby spinach, cabbage), Fruits (Banana, Apple), and Rice
Burger + eggs, Wraps (mostly beef or chicken). There is no limit on what I could prepare with wraps. Also, pasta (unlimited recipes on this).
Tea, Scones or fruits, High Protein Bar
Beverages: Naked High Protein, Recovery Protein Shake, Organic Milk, Lager, Stout, Wine
Eat-out: I am not a patron of any particular restaurant. I eat wherever I feel like eating, Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, Italian, Ethiopian, English, American, Vietnamese, Japanese or Chinese. Once or twice monthly. My favourite coffee lounge is Caffe Nero. Starbucks is over-rated, change my mind (lol). Admittedly, I do overspend on coffee about 5-6 times monthly. This is because I am more productive in coffee shops - give credit to the caffeine high - and the ambiance as well.
Rent, Internet, Others (Fixes, Cleaning materials). A little under £700 for a rent in Central London (shared-accommodation). Criminal right? Although, this is inclusive of utilities! I know this type of living is undesirable to many people but I prefer to walk to work as opposed to wasting time traveling to and from work 4-6 times per week for 45-60 minutes each way. I may consider moving out once I get married. For now, it works well for me despite the cons. I am paying £80 for my phone and internet, which is steep. I would be eligible to change my plan at no cost to an upgraded phone for a lesser monthly bill at £40 in 3 months. Household fixes don't happen a lot, and if it does, my landlord will fix it for me.
Health is the most important investment and therefore, should be a priority.
This covers my gym membership, Protein, supplements, etc. Budget increases when it is due for my annual eye check-up and bi-yearly dental care. Healthcare is FREE in the UK.
Remittance - Mostly for my brother's school fees, extra for my parents' medical bills if needed, friends in financial difficulties, extra help to deserving students from my previous Alma Mater, and other charity giving.
Seldom used, I walk. If I ran out of travel card credit, I top it up with £20.
NMC at £120 yearly, Indemnity Body £17 monthly.
Pub, Sports Bars, Meet-ups, Professional Sports, Video-on-demand. I must admit, I over-spend on this, especially when my team has a game (£15-£20 per ticket). I am also planning to join a Rifle Club this year which is not cheap. Nonetheless, most of the things I like are free i.e. art galleries/exhibitions, museums, arts/street arts, reading books and the like.
Cashflow - leftover money.
I could do whatever I want to do with this. Go on a date, eat-out (again), shopping (not really, I hate shopping. It is stressful). Cashflow for my next out-of-town trips (mostly hiking), paid events, replace broken gadget accessories or torn/stained clothes.
Bottomline is, a £1500 monthly budget in Central London is more than enough to live a non-restrictive lifestyle. There are extreme versions of FIRE, but I don't like it. I'm a singleton, no kids or pets to look after. I don't own a house, so no repairs, insurance, service fees nor mortgage to pay for. I also do not have any debts, no overdrafts, never owned a credit card. And I follow minimalism which, in a nutshell, owning less stuff or worldly possessions and living a life based on experiences. My personal circumstance is something to consider because everyone is different. And my version of a good life could be your version of a bland, pathetic life not worth emulating, or could be that my version is still extravagant that needs modifying. It really depends.
The admin behind the reddit handle r/UKPersonalFinance created a personal finance flowchart as an illustrative guide to financial planning in the UK setting. At a glance, the chart looks overwhelming but it is actually easy to follow. More importantly, r/UKPersonalFinance has a wiki as resource for further reading and guidance to tackle each step. If you've heard about DaveRamsey's baby steps, in comparison, there are a couple of variance but the over-all similarity is outstanding.
Why is this significant for me? In healthcare, we follow gazillions of protocols - from escalating deteriorating patients, to grading wound pressure sores, to determining compos mentis, to estimating post-surgical survival rate, to optimising patients with multiple co-morbidities, and so forth. These protocols, simplified into flowcharts work and allowed clinicians saved millions of lives. Similarly, I believe that the PF flowchart when used with intense focus, saves one from financial ruin.
Clearly, this is a "common sense" guide towards financial planning but it is a painful reality that a lot of Filipinos are trapped on the short burst of pleasure from consumerism and are fearful to hop on the bandwagon of investing because of preconceived ill-beliefs about it.
I am now on steps 5 and 6 which is a commendable milestone. But if I could go back in time, I would definitely punch my younger self in the stomach for wasting too much time indulging on wasteful activities instead of building wealth. Nevertheless, I finally found the light (lol) and I could only look back and be grateful for what I have now and about to achieve.
Is the chart helpful?
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