Monthly Archives: January 2014

Budgeting – Keeping score

One thing that’s bothered me since deciding on this resolution was how to let people know how I’m doing with it.  With the ones I’ve chosen over the past couple of years I’ve tried to post monthly (ish) reports on how things were going and what the next steps were.  The problem with this year’s resolution is that a lot of people tend to feel a bit iffy when people go in-depth about their finances.  The only person I’ve ever heard of doing it well would be Pat Flynn, but that’s far more detail than I’d ever want to publicise.  One of the techniques which I’ve heard for saving before Christmas was something called the 50/30/20 rule to split up where your money should go each month.  If you’re already familiar with this, you can skip down to the bottom, but if you don’t it works a little like this:

The 50/30/20 rule

  • Essentials (50%): Rent, bills, weekly shops, commuting.  Anything which you need to survive and function.  Everyone needs to pay their bills and eat, but do you really “need” that new coat to get through the week?  If you don’t, it belongs in the next category.
  • Lifestyle (30%): Takeaways, meals out, video games, cinema trips.  Anything which you don’t need to survive, but you want so you can live life in a way that you enjoy.
  • Savings (20%): Paying off debts, overdraft fees, pensions, investments and savings.  Everything left over after the other two categories should go here.

It’s only a rough guideline and not a strict budgeting method, and it doesn’t help to curb your spending unless you use it with something a bit more detailed.  But it does help you figure out which areas of your life you should look into cutting back.

If your Essentials go over 50% you’ll want to look at what you’re spending on bills and food.  Everything needs to eat, and most people need a home internet connection to go about their lives, but they don’t often “need” a premium 80Mb fibre-optic line, or smoked salmon for breakfast every morning.  In the more extreme cases you might want to look into ways of reducing your bills to more manageable levels, or even moving to more affordable housing if you’re living far beyond your means.

Lifestyle’s a bit easier to work on.  A meal out here and there, or the occasional new game might not seem like it would break the bank at the time, but you’d be surprised at how much these stack up over the month (I certainly was).  A couple of meals out, a cinema trip and a new game within a couple of weeks can cost £100 without if you’re not careful effort.

Savings is a little more tricky.  In theory this should go towards paying your way out of debts as well as money that goes into your pension and other investments, but in my opinion debts due to lifestyle choices, eg. a new laptop that you’re paying off in monthly installments, should still go into the Lifestyle section.  This depends on your current situation though, and it might be  easier for some to put all loan payments, overdraft fees, etc here.  In my case though I don’t have much in the way of ongoing debts aside from a student loan, so everything here will go towards workout of my overdraft first, then worrying about things like pensions, savings and other long-term investments later.

What I’ll be doing

At the start of every new month I’m going to write a short report on how well I’ve done over the past month, with a focus on each of these 3 categories.  Rather than talking about exact figures, I’m instead just going to list what proportion of my income ended in each bucket and why I think it went so well/bad that time around.

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Posted by on January 19, 2014 in Budgeting, Self-Improvement


My 2014 Reading Challenge

How my 2013 Reading Challenge went

This past year I think I’ve read more books than I have any other year of my life.  According to my Goodreads list I’ve finished 55 separate books and read over 16’000 pages!  I guess that’s what happens when you spend 2 hours on a train every day.  As I’ve just moved house I’ve got a much shorter journey with no train, so I don’t think I’m getting anywhere near to that number again.   I managed to finish all 6 books that I chose to make a point of reading this year and, with the exception of Frankenstein, they are all really good.   I can see  myself checking out more works from the same authors at  a later time, but for now here’s the 6 I’ve chosen for this year.

My 2014 Reading Challenge books

Last year’s idea of choosing 6 different categories worked so well that I’m going to stick with the same method (and categories) this year.

Deceased author:

Consider Phlebas/The Culture Series by Iain M Banks.

As will the case with Ray Bradbury last year, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read anything by Iain M Banks.  While I’ve heard his name come up many times in conversations I can’t say I’ve heard much about any specific book he’s written.  His Culture series seems to be the most popular of his works and from what I can gather there’s no defined order to read them in.  If anyone’s got any recommendations for certain books, let me know.

Book I’ve had lying around for ages and haven’t read yet:

The Ultimate History of Video Games – Stephen L. Kent

I originally picked this one up about 10 years ago along with several similar books when I wanted to write an essay on how video games are perceived through the years.  I only read about a quarter of it for the assignment and I’d like to go back to check out the rest of it.  I’m not sure if it’s still considered the “ultimate” history on video games anymore, but it certainly was at the time.


Kingpin by Kevin Poulsen

I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty damn interested in reading the stories about hacker culture and history.  Over the last few years I’ve gone through all the major books on the topic, except this one which only came out in 2011.  I intend to remedy this.

Alternative Genre:

Idiopathy by Sam Byers

When I moved house I joined a local book club.  I’ve only been to a couple of sessions so far, but it’s safe to say that the reading material is far outside my usual comfort zone.  There was this one book in Waterstones lists of best books of 2013 which we spent 10 minutes trying to find a description for online to no avail.  So I volunteered to read it and feed back to everyone else what it was about.   I have no idea what it’s about, but I’m guessing it’s not from one of my usual genres.


Moby Dick – Herman Melville

It’s said that Moby Dick is the original story of a man obsessed with revenge. I’m not sure about it being the original one, but it’s definitely the most referenced one.  Captain Picard things highly of it too, so for that alone it’s in my list.

Author/Book I’ve been meaning to check out forever, but never get around to:

World War Z – Max Brooks

Considering the movie very loosely based on this novel came out a few months ago it seems like a good time to give it a go.  From what I know about it already, I can expect to hear a number of stories from survivors in midst of a zombie apocalypse. Max Brooks also wrote the Zombie survivors guide, so it’s safe to say he knows his stuff when it comes to writing about zombies.

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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in 2014 reading challenge, Reading


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My single New Year’s resolution for 2014

It’s been a long while since my last post, but as we’ve just entered 2014 it seems a good time to come back to it.  Last year I couldn’t think of a single resolution so instead tried focusing on a single project for each month of the year.  I managed to keep this going until June when other things came up and my interest in them just faded away.  They were definitely fun to do and I’ll try to do more of them in the future, but I don’t think it quite works as a New Year’s resolution.  So this year I’m going to again focus on a single task for this year.

This year I’m going to focus on learning how to properly handle my own money.  That means everything from budgeting and not overspending to what I should do with my savings.  I’m not having money troubles right now, I’m just a bit crap at handling things like saving properly and making sure I don’t regularly spend more than I’m earning.  It would be nice to get a hold on those issues before I end up in a situation where I really am in trouble.   So this year I’m going to resolve to fix all that and get to a point where I know what I’m doing.

There’s a lot of ground to cover with this, so anyone has any advice or recommended reading for this then please send it my way.

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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Self-Improvement


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