2016 Year in Review & 2017

So it seems traditional that at this time of year people take the time out to look back over the last year, assess where they are and look to make some New Years resolutions that they can break within the next month or two 🙂 For me, I don’t do resolutions at this time of year, after all why wait for one specific date to try and make changes to your life – surely it is better to constantly review and look for ways to improve it?


So, 2016 is the first year that I have a complete track of every single penny I spent over the course of a year (I started tracking mid / late 2015), and so this is the first opportunity to take a look back on costs over a full 12 month period.

Unlike most people I seem to be one of the few who is not fussed about New Year – I don’t make resolutions, I don’t do my years performance etc. now. I enjoy the extra time off but that is it, my new year I try to coincide with the tax year end for simplicity as it also keeps me focused on trying to optimise my taxes!

What I have taken from 2016.

So 2016 has been a challenging year personally, but I am taking this gap in work to look back on the year, the changes and challenges and to give me some practice time before my official new year starts! From a financial point of view it was a very good year indeed with some great performance, and starting to reap the rewards of investments that were sown some years ago. I know 2017 won’t live up to this year on that side as I haven’t had the available cash to invest (ok, I chose to spend it instead, not the point… honest!). From a personal point of view and very bluntly, 2017 can’t be any worse than 2016 🙂

So what are some of the key lessons I have taken away from this year?

Lesson 1: Tracking your expenses isn’t that hard.

So for over a year now I have tracked, to the last penny, everything I have spent. I’ve read a lot about tools that the US bloggers use to connect into bank accounts and visa cards etc. to track, but I wouldn’t trust them – the thought of something that can access all of my financial records? No thanks! I am also not sure they are even available here in the UK.

The most important thing is to get into the habit. Having now done it for so long it’s become easy – I get a receipt for everything, or email myself when I have spent or make a note. The trick for me is to not wait until the end of the month and try to do it in one go. I have a lovely spreadsheet to track all of my expenses, with the categories highlighted, automatic total calculations (and yes a pie chart to see where the money goes), as well as a countdown that shoes how much money is left to the month end, and what my predicted savings rate is. It also calculates how much money I therefore have per day. It really focuses the mind when you see you have say less than £3 per day to live on, or that you predicted savings rate drops every time you buy food. Go out for a few beers? £20 spent for a good evening, but it goes into the spreadsheet, my “Alcohol out” total ticks up, and my available to month end cell ticks down.

I do use a credit card for a lot of purchases, simply for the rewards, however I either transfer the money straight onto the account, or into another savings account specifically for the purpose of paying off the visa bill. This way the money is out of sight, out of mind and no nasty surprise at the end of the month when Mr. V. Bill lands at my door.

Lesson 2: Expect the unexpected.

I’ve always been used to having something come up that has caused me to spend more money than I expected in a month, and I always used to view it as a one off. Since tracking my expenses it has become clear that every month there is some form of one off. The problem is that this knocks down what I can put into savings as I then spend it on something else. Not only does this show the need for an Emergency Fund, but also by tracking I now have captured some of the one off expenses I may have “forgotten” about. This means I can also predict my expenses next year more accurately. I won’t change my budgeting approach, but does mean that I make sure things are setup and things I hadn’t thought about before. Having tracked for over a year there should be no unexpected bills or such like (other than maybe car maintenance etc.) that form part of the “normal” so it should truly be unexpected things.

Lesson 3: Never underestimate growth – but don’t bank on it!

According to my totals from the end of the last tax year, I have smashed where I thought I would be with another 3 months still to go. This is also despite having made lower contributions than my forecasts said I would and yet both my net worth and my dividends have grown this year way ahead of my expectations. I look at the dividends that have been paid out over the last year and it is also way over what I had expected. I don’t expect a repeat of this next year simply because I have not put much into my ISA this year, so I know I will be disappointed next year.

It’s not a steady increase as has been shown many times before, and in past years I have been hit with dividend cuts so I know its fickle, and that is where world trackers and ETFs will reduce your risk and make life less complicated.

Although I think that my target date in 2025 is still highly unlikely, the growth of both capital and dividends over the last 12 months does make me think that maybe, just maybe, it will work….

Lesson 4: I spent HOW MUCH?!?!

Having now tracked my expenses for the last 12 month, I can see in cold hard excel cells just how much I have spent across each area. I won’t go through every single item, but I will highlight a few things.

Expense 1: Mortgage. Not surprisingly in London the mortgage was the single biggest expense over the last 12 months. We aren’t moving any time soon, and the mortgage renewal isn’t up for a while so right now I will just keep chipping away at it in small amounts. Every £4 extra I pay off the mortgage saves me 1p a month in interest charges. I know a lot of people would just view this and probably not bother to change their habit or pay off, but that’s 1p of extra capital that is then being repaid. To date almost 1 year has been knocked off the mortgage term and this is just going to keep going down – the debt snowball reduction is starting to pay off. Never dismiss even the smallest amount.

Expense 2: Holidays. Ok, so this was an expensive year on holidays, but I do enjoy my holidays, and we had quite a few including some very special and memorable ones. Holiday’s are also one of the very few times I can switch off from work and everyday life – so it’s a great way to recharge the batteries. It also acts to remind me why I want to be FI – being able to do what you want when you want is a wonderful feeling. I don’t expect to spend anywhere near the same amount next year (partly the majority of the ski trip has already been paid for) so this should help boost the savings rate.

Expense 3: Alcohol. This was actually lower than I was expecting it to be given the year however it is still pretty high. It’s not healthy to drink too much too regularly but I know I wouldn’t cope not drinking, it’s part of my lifestyle! Seeing just how much I spent on booze was sobering (excuse the pun, I couldn’t resist!) – this could add further to the FIRE pile, however I know I can’t cut this completely, so see dry run 2 below!


As I have said before, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, however I will use the next 3 months as ground work for the new tax year. This is a useful way to prepare and get setup for success for the new tax year. In particular this is going to help me get ready for the Go T’ Pub ISA that I want to run next year – this year not one month since April would I have been able to put in what I want to, so that is not a good start. A steep hill to climb.

Dry run 1: Savings. Each month I will aim to put into my current ISA the same amount that I plan to put into the Go T’ Pub ISA and see if it is realistic. With some holiday booked and a few other challenges I am already aware of this being a real challenge, but its important to setup for success as best I can. If it is unrealistic now, then I will start with a lower amount and if there is extra add it in. Not ideal, I would prefer to push hard to put the maximum I can in, but I want to be realistic.

Dry run 2: Reduce my alcohol expenses. This needs to average out over the months, as I tend to buy when the offers are on so it comes in peaks and troughs. I am going to aim to reduce my “Alcohol at home” budget by 25%. This really is going to be a challenge as the whisky collection has been hit hard over the Christmas break and so I do need to buy some more soon(ish) which will hurt.

Dry run 3: Reduce my “Other” expenses. This is going to be a lot tougher one as these really are other things (e.g. the Weekend FT, a taxi home from town etc.). There was a large one off expense in this category this year which won’t be repeated so this is a little bit of a cheat, but you never know what the future holds, so I will still focus on reducing this.

How about you? How was your 2016? Have you put in place your New Years resolutions, and if so, why do you do them now rather than around the tax year 🙂


Decembers Income and Expenses

So, firstly I hope everyone had a great Christmas break? It was certainly a very busy December for us – we squeezed in an extra week of holiday, a surprise birthday celebration with an overnight stay, a number of social evenings, and a couple of Christmas lunches – ensuring we have enough leftovers to last for some time!

Although pay comes in early in December, I treat it as not hitting my account until the usual date so that I don’t spend too much! I am still waiting for one more Visa bill to land but I believe I have set aside the funds for all of this already (and covered in this months expenses), so hopefully no unpleasant surprise coming in the new year!

So, onto the details.


So as always I had my steady Salary drop into my bank account, always nice.  I don’t include any of my personal ISA dividends in my income statement, that is just part of the growth of those portfolios.

The income thrown off by my other half is included, however this is an incredibly small amount at present (less than 1% of income) so it is more of a statistical error but gets thrown at the mortgage to chip away a little more at a time.

So, steady as she goes on income – very slowly creeping up based on the income from my other half’s ISA.


Item Notes Amount
Things I choose not to avoid* Mortgage, Insurance, shared bills etc. – yes, we could move somewhere cheaper, not have insurance, reduce our bills a bit and so on, but we are where we are. 42%
Groceries All the food and other stuff needed for home 5%
Alcohol for home Home alcohol consumption only 0%
Bicycles / Car related Any costs related to either the bikes or the car 0%
Alcohol Out Generally, its the pub…. 3%
Eating Out I include purchased lunches in this as well as meals out etc. 2%
Other My catch all for anything I may have missed…. 16%
Holidays Any spending related to holidays, flights etc. 8%
Savings Anything left over! This includes money into ISAs, mortgage payments and non relief pension contributions. My company pension comes out before it hits my bank account so isn’t included, nor do I include the “top up” of money when my money goes into my personal pension (i.e. I put in £100, I register it as £100, not the £125 that gets credited in my pension) 24%

* This covers a number of things that I would class as essential for me. Yes, I could move to somewhere cheaper to reduce the mortgage (which in turn would reduce the insurance I have to pay), yes I could reduce my bills by switching energy supplier etc. but it comes down to what I am happy with. There are a few other things in there that are classified as essential that others may object to, and so I have just lumped it into there.

The Details

So what to make of this month?

My standard stuff shows no change that my essential cost of living remains at 42% – hopefully this will remain this way as there isn’t a lot else I can trim yet.

Groceries would have been a lot lower but this is a reflection of Christmas and all the food we got in for that – plenty now in the freezer, and still working through some of the cheese!

Alcohol was surprisingly low as well, although we were away and so food and drink for that came under “holiday”.

Eating out was very low this month due to going away a lot, and also a couple of lunches provided courtesy of work due to meetings and workshops, always helpful.

Holiday. So some more time off and away at a self-catering location – it’s a lot cheaper in winter as not many people want to do it then!

Other. Ok so this was a lot higher than I was expecting and hence the savings rate dropped so much. This was further fall out from November working its way through – a bit of a shame otherwise I would have had what I consider a great December but it is what it is.

Savings. So a little lower than expected with the further fall out from November, but still I won’t complain too much – I am in a fortunate position and I know that.

How was your Christmas and December? Did it blow your savings, or did you manage to keep control over the festive period? Also, does the table layout for the expenses work for you, or would you prefer it just listed?

2012 Stock Purchases

So 2012 was a very quiet year for me, and very little was added into my ISA, so no fresh buys in 2012 according to my logs, however I did top up the following holding, which I am documenting for completeness (and a very short post!)

AZN – I more than doubled my original holdings at a relatively low price.

That was all I did in 2012. I know I changed jobs that year and took time out and traveled, so that may be why I didn’t add quite as much as I should have to my savings, although I did have everything on automatic dividend reinvestment, so not a lot of spare cash to add new holdings.

In case I don’t get to post again before Christmas, happy Christmas and New Year all!

2011 Stock & Fund Purchases

Invesco Perpetual Income

So the only “Fund” in my portfolio. This was setup when I originally setup my ISA and took control of my finances. I purchased it as this was the same as I had had in my old ISA, and I wanted something to pay out a steady income, so I plumped with the popular one. At the minute it more than covers the platform fee for holding Funds, and gives a bit of extra cash out from the Dividend above that. Would I buy more? Probably not. Would I sell it? Yes I will eventually – for now the holding is relatively small so its not worth the extra commission to sell it given it still pays out some funds, and has seen good capital appreciation. Having seen that TD Direct have sold out their offering, then I am expecting some changes to my trading platform then this may influence my decision (for what its worth the total cost of my portfolio for this tax year (7 months) has been 65p. If I include trading costs, it would £13.15 – I made one trade that wasn’t free so far, and as an ETF it cost no stamp duty).

Hold for now.

The majority of the return has been through capital gains, but it has still handed out just over 24% of the initial investment in dividends to date of publish on this post.

Stock Purchase – BAE

Another stock that always seems to feature in the Funds list of top 10 holdings. I don’t have any compulsion against holding this stock, and it has done very well for me so far – although some see it as a “Sin Stock” I am a capitalist at heart, I want the money! I do believe that we will continue to spend on defence, and this amongst others, will continue to benefit. The pension deficit is a minor concern, but not enough for me to trade out of yet. I could sell now for a pretty good profit, but given it pays out a good steady income, I will continue to hold. I added further to my holdings in 2014. I would add more to it, but not at current valuations. Given the steady rise up I am wondering if I should profit, but then what would I buy instead, with the markets this high? Ill just keep banking the dividends.

Hold for now.

As well as some substantial capital gains, BAE has paid back 30% of my original investment in dividends

Stock Purchase – AZN

Again, another stock that regularly appears in various funds top 10 holdings. I will be honest, the dividends have been a little disappointing as not growing as fast as I would have liked, but given the capital appreciation I have seen (although its only a “paper” profit rather than “cash in hand”) I suppose I can’t complain too much. Previously I did dividends reinvestment for a few years which meant that my holdings continued to tick up, but I have stopped this to allow me to concentrate my purchases on what I think will do well. For now they pay out a steady income and continues to help build my ISA – I added further to my position in 2012. Given the global aging population, and the need for medical and innovation, as a steady long term one, I am happy to hold for now – if the stock dropped a lot in a major crash I would probably top up, but then that applies to a lot of the other shares in here as well! Would I sell them? For now I don’t see any point, and if the share price shoots up to say £65 per share I would only sell if the dividend hadn’t increased.


Another good run for capital gains, but also returned 31% of my original cost in dividends.

Investment Trust Purchase – JFJ (JP Morgan Japanese Fund)

So I wanted to get a bit more exposure to other markets, and knowing Japan and the stories around it I thought why not. I drip fed some money in and so far its done me very well. Capital appreciation and regular dividends have helped continue to fill my coffers in the ISA. Its still a relatively small holding but I wish I had added more. If the opportunity arises I will add further to this. If I was able to reinvest the dividends to buy more then I would, but unfortunately it doesn’t meet the criteria of my broker to allow me to do this. It’s nearly doubled in price since I bought it which means I am reluctant to add to it now, but I do want to get some more exposure to Japan, I guess I need to wait for a big crash.


Nearly all capital gains here, but still 10% back on original investment in the form of dividends.

Investment Trust Purchase – JRS (JP Morgan Russia Fund)

So another Investment Trust to the portfolio, although I accept that Russia is not a popular market, and it is high risk given the alleged corruption and murky dealings that are rumoured to be going on. It regularly appears as one of the cheapest markets out there for some reason, but with the election of Trump and his affection for Putin, this may prove a real turning point. I topped up my holdings further in 2014 to add to the collection, although I missed calling the bottom of the market on it, a shame but then I didn’t really have the spare cash. Right now its back in profit, and it has continued to drip feed some dividends into my account, so I can’t really complain. I would buy more, but not until after Japan and other investments, so its a low on my priority list.


To date its paid about 9% of my original investment back in dividends.

Stock Purchase – BP

Another standard that appears in most Funds, ETFs and one that it appears everyone ought to hold (for some reason). The Deepwater Horizon didn’t help things at the time, however given that it forced them to cut costs and make cutbacks, when the big slump in oil came along they were well prepared. There is concern over the dividend payment going forward, especially as it depends on the oil price so much, but this is a cyclical business. Right now everyone has hunkered down and aren’t spending, so eventually the supply will run down and people will need to invest, and because there wont be the stock or supply, the prices will go up (in my opinion), but it requires patience. I also topped up in 2013, several times in 2014 and again in 2015. Right now if the price dropped a bit I would be tempted to add more however its one of my larger holdings at present so diversification rules that this will have to wait (although I may commit one of the cardinal sins and override if the opportunity looks too good to pass on).


To date it has paid back approximately 13% of my original investment in dividends.

Stock Purchase – SSE

I topped up my SSE holdings further in 2011, more than doubling my holdings.

Stock Purchase – SSE (2011)

So folks, the first post that gives you the background to my personal managed ISA – the what’s in and out of it – they will be appearing over the next month or two, so I hope you enjoy!

So my longest holdings I have had in my ISA – I also increased my holdings some years ago when I moved further shares in from outside of the ISA wrapper. They have done a good steady job of slowly increasing dividends over the years, and are a nice steady income as well as some capital gains.

Why did I buy them? When I bought in the ISA, the first reason was because they appeared in a lot of the funds that are advertised, so if all the fund managers hold it, what could be wrong with that?! Secondly, it’s a long term energy purchase. We all need energy in some form to heat our homes, cook our food etc. so it’s not something that is going to go away. Granted competition has increased, their dubious practices of mugging off their customers and all the other things that a lot of big businesses seem to do. How will renewables affect things and so forth, but I think they will continue to tick along. For the shares that were sitting outside of my ISA they paid a steady dividend and it was always a nice surprise to get the money in but of course outside of the wrapper they are taxed. That was the reason I transferred them into the wrapper.

Would I buy more? Yes if the price was right, as it stands I am up a reasonable amount and it continues to throw out dividends, so I am happy.

Hold for now (average book cost price, including all fees taxes etc. was £12.66 per share). You can see the portfolio page here and I will add to it as I post more archive purchases to give the full background.

So a question for you all out there – would you be interested in knowing the average price paid for all of my purchase (as in the overall book cost per share, after taxes, trading fees etc.?)

Update 17th December 2016: I thought it would also be useful to see the income this has produced over time, so to date, dividends paid out equates to just over 42% of my original investment!