Monday, 4 November 2013


Well, it has not been easy to increase my income this year, mainly due to ill health.  I am unwell a lot of the time lately and this is having a massive impact on my ability to earn money.

I am trusting in the Good Lord that everything will be okay eventually but in the meantime I have to really work within my limits.

This has meant

  • turning down a very nice piece of work last week because I knew it would require more than I could give 
  • not going to a major event in London that would have been good for me and my profile in lots of ways 
  • not doing lots of little things that I would like to do - like following up with clients, publicising my latest report and updating my CV

We are muddling through for now.  But stress levels are high, partly due to financial concerns.

It is times like this that the impact of past overspending really shows.  This is the rainy day we should have saved for.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Increasing my income

One of my main targets from last year was to increase my income.

I freelance as a consultant in a specialist field, and I decided last year that I need to focus more effort on earning more money doing this, rather than getting distracted with side-hustles.

  • I suddenly realised a very basic truth about my expanding my existing work - that even though I had a good reputation to build on and had always successfully relied on word of mouth, people didn't necessarily know my availability. Duh.  So I updated my CV, sent it to a few likely contacts, and built a website advertising my services.  Beginner's stuff, admittedly, but obviously necessary and it bore results.  Within a few weeks I was having interesting lunches and finding out about potential new work.  I found Ramit Sethi's blog invaluable for advice on this. 
  • I started to read a bit more about how to work freelance.  I found a few useful blogs, such as Freelance Advisor and Freelance Folder, which had some pertinent information.  I realised I have to be my own CFO, CTO, Head of Sales and Marketing and coffee boy, and that if this is something I want to carry on doing, I need to find sustainable ways to deal with this. 
  • I started diversifying my output.  Instead of only working on a consultancy basis, I started to look at specialist information products that I could create. I gave a workshop at a local university and plan to do a residential weekend in the future. These are not particularly well paid but I enjoy teaching, they expand my skill set, and I will make connections.  And who knows, maybe one day I'll run a webinar or create some monetised YouTube content on my specialised area. 
  • Finally, I started to professionalise my own internal systems.  I started to be more systematic about keeping track of all my work contacts, and how to keep them updated on my availability and portfolio. I started setting myself earnings targets and tracking my progress towards them.   This was astonishingly motivating, considering it was just me putting some made-up numbers into an Excel worksheet and making a chart or two. 

Taking my career seriously is an interesting experience for me, and part of me still wants to write a novel, dabble in complementary health and so on.  But having this focus is definitely good for me ... and for our bank balance.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A year of managing our money more wisely

Wow, I can't believe it has been exactly a year since I last posted. How weird is that. I didn't even look at this blog until today, partly because I have been busy doing the things I said I would do!

We have been trying really hard to look after our money more wisely.  You penny-wise people would be so proud of us.  Everyone else can learn from my mistakes.

  • The money meetings we instituted a while ago were very useful in improving our communication around money. We don't have them as often any more, but that is because we no longer feel like money is a separate topic that is somehow hived off from the rest of our lives. 
  • We had a windfall that meant that we could be less stressed about money for a while, but my attitude to this windfall is completely different than it would have been two years ago.  Instead of immediately planning how to spend it, we have saved a lot of it in various places, and are spending some of it on essential household maintenance. 
  • We have set up a regular payment into a tracker fund. I cannot believe it took me a whole year to do that but it did.
  • We have also started tracking our net worth, and keeping an eye on how much pension we will get when we retire and the value of the children's savings for university.  I don't think the actual figure is very important at this early stage (and if I did I would be freaking out, trust me), but I would like to see it going up rather than down.  And up quickly, if possible.  
More posts later about other efforts we have made over the past year. I'm proud of how far we have come, but we have a long way to go.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Increasing our income

I have always been a collector of household tips and wisdom.  Remember Heloise? I have been reading her books since I was a child. (Weird, right?)  I was a natural follower of 'frugal living' blogs, and I guess I figured that was enough - my husband was looking after the salary and I was looking after the house. I will write more on saving money in future posts, I'm sure. 

But after the wake-up call, I began to focus on the big picture rather than just the little picture.  I quickly came upon Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog.  This blog is full of great advice and the thing I latched onto right away was the need to earn more

We have various sources of income in our family.  

  • My husband has a regular salaried job that brings in the lion's share of our income, for which I am increasingly grateful.  He also wrote a book several years ago which still generates some royalties, and occasionally can do a little consultancy on the side. 

  • We receive occasional monetary gifts from my husband's family. 

  • We have also had windfalls from time to time (the sale of a company my husband founded, selling a car which we didn't need to replace, etc.).  We did not save or invest these at the time (unlike Mr Money Mustache), so they are unfortunately gone (which makes me feel a bit sick now). 

And then there is my income.  

One piece of advice that looms large in the blogosphere is the idea of a side hustle.  I am already extremely pressed for time but I would consider this.  I am the primary carer for our two school age children, but unfortunately this doesn't pay very well  <cue bitter, bitter laughter>.  

I also used to sing in a band, still do occasional complementary therapy treatments, have blogged a little and have aspirations to write a couple of books.  These are all nice ideas, but even when I have had the time and opportunity to take them forward, I have not turned any of them into a going concern.  One day, maybe I will, but I suspect they will not pay very well.  Maybe I'm wrong. 

On the other hand, I am also a freelance consultant in a specialist field, and have been for a number of years.  My consultancy work is very well-paid but I only do it part-time in order to be able to look after the children.  

I have always treated my work as a secondary employment - both in terms of second to my husband's (highly demanding) job and second to looking after the children and the house.  When I have needed a project, I have made a call and something suitable has landed on my desk within a couple of weeks.

But after the wake-up call, I realised that professionalising my freelance work and increasing my billable hours was the quickest way to ensuring greater financial security.   

So what I needed was not a side-hustle but more of my main hustle.  More on this in the next post. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

Pocket money - a better approach

So we made some mistakes with pocket money the first time we tried it.

When I decided my son WAS old enough for pocket money (i.e. could add well and was much better at making decisions and then living with the choice - about age 7 for him), I wanted to read up a little on it first to get my approach straight.

I can thoroughly recommend the following book:

 The Pocket Money Plan by Julie Hedges. I'm sure Ms Hedges doesn't want me to reveal her system, so I'll just say that this is a book that will be helpful to us for a number of years as the children grow. I found it full of sensible, realistic, age-differentiated advice that we have applied for several months now.

After getting used to the new system, we have now got it largely right.  The children have successfully saved for larger toys they wanted, whilst also having money to put into charity boxes and spending money for sweets and small toys on a weekly basis. The main problems lie with us - making sure we remember to give it to them on Saturdays and making sure we have enough change for them both. And remembering to make time for shopping occasionally.

One point I would just make is that I also thought I'd better do something for both children, despite the difference in their ages and capacities, otherwise I would struggle with the question of fairness. Basically, I didn't want to have to deal with little sister moaning every week about not getting pocket money.  In retrospect, I should have been stronger.  Little sister (age 5) can't add very well and can't make decisions easily, so the question of money is actually a little stressful for her.  I could have treated pocket money as a thing older children get and left it at that.  Learn from my mistakes, people!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Pocket money - how not to do it

I think letting my kids practice handling money is good for many, many reasons. But I got it wrong the first time we tried it.

When my son was about 5, we started giving pocket money for chores. We gave a penny for this, five pence for that, and so on.  We had about three things he was supposed to do every day, and a couple of weekly things.

Don't do this, is my advice.

  • First, we should have waited until he could add properly and consistently.  Kids can't always add up brilliantly at age 5.  This makes the whole concept of money just hard for them.

  • Also, at age 5 some children find it hard to make decisions and then live with the consequences.  Yes, pocket money will teach them this skill, but it would have made it all a lot less stressful if we had just waited until he was more able to make choices.  

  • The whole 'rewarding children for chores they should be doing anyway' is a fraught area. We should have avoided it by just not linking them (but, honestly, we do help them learn good household habits in other ways). 

  • When they are little, sometimes they can't do their chores for lots of reasons that are not in their control.  They might be sick, we might have all got up late and be in a rush, or we might not have time at the weekend to let him wipe the windows or run the hoover round because we have something fun planned.  Helping children with these chores takes time, and adding this in as an expectation every day or every week, because of the link with pocket money, was a mistake for us.  

So, we had to let that go after a while.   Find out tomorrow how we saved the situation.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Communicating with our children about money

I am determined that my husband and I will communicate well with our own children about money, partly because my own parents did not do this.

I started considering this before the wake-up call about our own finances, partly because my son (age 7) is completely obsessed with business and money (and Star Wars, of course).   My daughter (age 5) is completely uninterested in money except in play, but she will learn.

One thing we do, is just make sure to talk openly about the fact that although we might want lots of things, we don't always buy them. This is because we are being careful with our money and want to make sure we spend it on the most important things.  I think it is important to talk about the feelings of wanting something and yet deciding not to have it. We acknowledge that this is hard for everyone and is not something that goes away.

I also got a few books about money for the kids to read.

Show Me the Money by Alvin Hall. My son loves it.  It not only covers some personal finance questions but also has lots of interesting chapters on economics, business, and currencies.  It is colourful and engaging,, and dips into lots of areas.  He will probably get more out of it when he is a little older, but we chat about it together sometimes and I help explain difficult concepts to him.

The Everything Kids Money Book by J.D. Brette McWhorter Sember.  He's enjoyed this too although I haven't spent much time looking at it with him yet as it is a newer purchase.

It's Not What You've Got by Dr Wayne M. Dyer.  This is a little flaky in some ways, and the rhyming is awful and often doesn't scan, but it raises the emotional and social side of money in a way that the other books don't.  I want my children to keep money matters in perspective, to realise that money is not the most important thing in the world, and to recognise that other people are less fortunate than we are.

This conversation is not over. There are a lot of life-skills around money that have to be taught over a number of years, changing as the child grows.  But this is a good start.