Bricks and mortar

I always remember what my father used to say to me when I was a teenager, he would say ‘You can’t go wrong if you invest in bricks and mortar’. He himself however hadn’t done the same thing but that was because my parents couldn’t afford to. They never purchased their own property though in later years they had the opportunity. They considered at that time it wasn’t worth it. As things turned out they were alright. They moved from Liverpool to Stratford-upon-Avon not long after I had married and had moved on myself. In fact I was the last of my siblings to leave the home of our parents. I was told later that they thought I would never leave! They were joking but I could tell their concern was for me to find a partner and settle down. Eventually I did that of course but only after a long time. The reasons are all explained in my pages section of this blog. One of my sisters had along with her husband at that time (for she has married four times) gave my parents a house to live in for as long as they wished. They, my sister and husband were financially well-off and had another house of their own. Today it can be difficult for anyone on an average income to purchase their own property because of the high deposit often required and the high repayments thereafter when taking out a mortgage. Many have lost their homes because they have been made redundant at work or have lost their jobs for other reasons and could not keep up the repayments. I guess I have been very fortunate having ended up with my own (jointly owned with my ex with whom I still live) property with the mortgage fully paid last year. We had financial support from my in-laws in the early years which helped us enormously. Not everyone is so fortunate, I am very aware of that and am grateful. Looking back I think we would still have been secure but with a smaller house than that which we now have. I had been very fortunate in not ever being out of work and in later years having worked for myself. Though owning a property doesn’t necessarily ensure security, nothing really does in the materialistic world, it does give a fair measure. It is nice to know we have somewhere to live in comfort and to call our own. I was wise to invest in bricks and mortar and I would encourage young people starting off in life to do the same if they possibly can.

Shirley Anne


All because of a pin

I get frustrated with the many procedures we often have to endure when dealing with financial things. I say endure because of the inordinately long and drawn-out things we go through when the simpler way has not been possible. I write this on April 3 rd after a busy afternoon attempting to pay off my mortgage. Yes, E and I have finally been able to pay off the mortgage after almost thirty years. We had an endowment policy which should have paid off the account but fell short by £8000 when the mortgage term ended almost five years ago. E managed to get an extension by virtue of her disability and the policy deficiency was gradually reduced though I did have the necessary funds in the bank to have paid the full amount at the time. I had been out for a walk in the morning and whilst out E received the information that today the mortgage was to be paid off. We decided to go to my bank and arrange for a Bankers Draught to pay off the amount due.

The Last Pin
The Last Pin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We owed two separate amounts, one for the mortgage itself and the other for a loan we had secured many years ago. In total they amounted to almost £26,000. When we arrived at the bank they obviously required identification and my ability to access my account using my pin number. I had forgotten the pin number but it didn’t matter as I had an encrypted version of it and several others in writing. However when I checked it wouldn’t work! There was no way I could make the withdrawal so I arranged for another pin to be sent to me whilst we were there and we left. We walked across town to the branch of the bank who were, or rather one of their departments, the recipients of the mortgage payment. After chatting with the manager we were given the bank details of the mortgage department so we could complete the transfer on-line at home. That is when the fun started! Before driving home we decided to stop at a coffee-house and take a break. When we arrived back home I signed in to my bank and added the details of the two separate departments regarding the mortgage loan and the personal loan. E assisted me with this just in case of mistakes and to be honest it was just as well she did. We successfully set up the first recipient and the payment for the personal loan which was by far the lesser amount (around £1300) went through with ease. We then set up the second recipient and made the attempt to pay them but the bank intervened and asked we phone them. This we did but it took about twenty-five minutes just to get through and then we had to answer all sorts of security questions because of the amount we were paying out. I understood the necessity for all of that of course but even so it took ages. They sent codes to my mobile phone to verify it was me calling. Whilst speaking with the bank official we repeated the attempt to pay using her directions but again it was stopped. She suggested we transfer the money to one of the other accounts I have with their bank and attempt payment once more. After checking several times we had put in the correct details and after many security questions payment was finally made! It took almost an hour but half of that time was spent waiting for the phone call to be answered. The house can now be called our own after thirty years.

Shirley Anne

Easy come

More walking about on Monday….I could get used to this! I extended my usual walk of two to three miles and did five instead, something more like the distances I used to do a couple of years back. I used to regularly walk eight to ten miles then but I was younger and was working many hours each week then. For many years I went running, doing four miles each day and often eight or sixteen miles each week too but I gave up running about eighteen years ago. Actually running isn’t as good as it is made out to be and isn’t good for the joints and spine. Brisk walking is safer and just as good for the heart and general health as far as exercise is concerned. Running certainly builds up stamina though and is good for improving blood circulation. I always found it exhilarating and I could feel the beneficial effects of a long run for many hours afterward. A brisk walk has a similar though lesser effect. Anyway, I was nearly finished my walk and noticed something on top of a perimeter wall surrounding a nearby apartment block. It was a debit card. I examined it and found it to be a recent issue so not an old one someone might have discarded, if indeed anyone would discard such a thing by leaving it on a wall. It was issued by the Santander Bank to someone addressed as ‘Miss…’.

No doubt she would have been terrified at the thought of someone using it illegally and emptying her account in the process. People should be more careful with their credit and debit cards and indeed all their financial affairs. I took it home and showed it to E. and we agreed to take the journey into town immediately and hand it in to the branch of that bank, the only one in the district. Bank branches are getting thinner on the ground and soon there might not be any at all! Having done our good deed for the day I took E out-of-town to lunch. We spent the remainder of the afternoon out on the patio whilst the sun was still shining. Tuesday promised rain once more.

Shirley Anne

Taxman and other things

English: The AA - Back in the Day
The AA – Back in the Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few weeks ago I received a letter from my motoring organisation, the AA, informing me that the bank details they had with which to pay my membership renewal were now invalid. This happens when a card has been replaced by my bank. I was to call them nearer to the date of renewal with my new card details. Around about the same time as I received that letter I received one from the Inland Revenue Service showing an estimate of revenue due for payment in January. I was pottering around the house on Monday morning with nothing to do so I phoned my local newspaper to make arrangements for cancelling my advertisement over the Christmas and New Year period as it would be pointless advertising during the holiday. I do this every year but somehow still get one or two jobs anyway. Not long after I received a call from a guy living in the next town asking if I could install some replacement light units. I jumped at the chance as I had no work scheduled until the following day. I was away from the house for about two hours and on my return I saw that E had left my post on the stand in the hallway. We place post there so that it can easily be seen. Obviously the postman had called whilst we were out. E had taken our neighbour to her hospital appointment as she is reluctant to drive herself because of the treatment she receives. E was already eating lunch as she had to go out again. I had the rest of the day to myself but first I made myself a snack. After lunch I opened the letter from the tax office, this time it was my statement showing the actual amount of tax due. A few clicks on the computer and I had the payment done. Then I noticed the letter from the AA where I had placed it to remind me to action it. Funny how we forget things isn’t it? I had forgotten but no doubt would have been reminded anyway as I had put the letter in a prominent position. I telephoned their office and gave them the new card details, the membership renewal date is mid January. I like to get things out-of-the-way as early as I can as I don’t like having debts hanging over my head. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw my tax bill, it hadn’t been as much as I had first thought.

Shirley Anne

In earnest

Credit card
Credit card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well Tuesday lived up to the forecast it was given, wet, windy and cooler, a typical Autumn day. The season begins in earnest but I’ve an inkling the weather won’t stay that way for already the weather people are saying it will get milder for a while. It makes no difference to me, unless I wish to work outdoors but even then it would depend on what I wanted to do. I had no work for the day but had to go out anyway to make deposits and donations and to buy fuel for the van. I had intended to slip in a little shopping but I changed my mind and left that for another day. When I got back home I spent some time on the computer shuffling money about between accounts and at the same time I logged in to my credit card provider account to see how much I had spent. As I have a direct debit set up to make the payment I have to ensure money is available in the relevant current account when the card provider wants paying. Usually the procedure is straightforward but on this occasion I made one error when filling in a piece of information on the log-in page and immediately my access was denied. Now I am all for on-line security, it is absolutely necessary in these evil times but I wasn’t given the opportunity to re-submit the details. I had to make a telephone call to arrange for the account to be unblocked. That took some time but it was a frustrating few minutes trying to understand what they wanted of me but I finally got there. I don’t know how they have the patience! In essence I was given a new customer number and I had to input a new password number and verify it though I had to use the telephone I was using to connect with them to do that.  They think of everything when it comes to possible fraud. Once that was done I had to erase old signing-in information and save the new information on my automatic data input site account. All that for making one small error when signing in. It was lunchtime but before I could have lunch the house phone rang. The call was from an elderly lady I had worked for in the past and she was calling to ask if I would do a small job for her. I arranged to go in the afternoon and after lunch.

Shirley Anne


Easy come…….

…………….and easy go. This has been the story of my finances these past few months, I earned the money and it was immediately spent on my domestic projects. I am happy to report that very little of my savings has been spent which is a good thing. I haven’t completely finished spending though. On Friday morning I had one electrical job amd after lunch I continued to finish the plastering I had begun a couple of days earlier. I had been repairing the damage to the ceiling and wall in one of the rooms at the top of the house which had been caused by the ingress of rain water through the roof. I found I needed some more plaster to finish the job so E and I went to buy the extra plaster but ended up buying other things too. E had wanted some bird seed and an extra feeder to hang beneath the bird table we had bought a week ago. We decided to buy a bedside table lamp for use in the small bedroom whilst we were in the spending mood. The money I had earned at the job I did in the morning covered the cost of everything we had purchased with some to spare. They had effectively cost me nothing. When we got back home I plugged in the lamp but I couldn’t see a switch on it with which to turn it on. I switched on the wall socket switch and the lamp didn’t work. It wasn’t faulty however, I hadn’t realised it was designed that way as it came on as soon as I touched it. I didn’t know it was touch-sensitive operated unit! Bedside lampWe had bought the lamp because of its weight and its looks, its weight so that it would be less likely to be knocked off the table! I had plans to finish the plastering on Saturday or Monday depending on whether it was dry enough to skim it over. I am not a plasterer by any stretch of the imagination but I can say I am getting better at it and the work looks professional compared to my first attempt many years ago. I am not afraid to try new things and the only way to learn is to do it! That approach has saved me thousands of pounds over the years and has made me capable of doing many things in the process. Some tasks though I leave to those more capable. Well I can’t be good at all things!

Shirley Anne

Better in some ways

English: An example of 2,000 cheque given to p...
An example of 2,000 cheque given to people (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the previous day’s debacle and time-wasting I wasn’t sure what to expect on Tuesday. I had arranged to drive to the same little township I had been to the day before but this time I had been asked to sort out a problem with someone else’s electrical supply to their shower. It turned out to be a faulty pull-cord switch which I duly replaced. I wasn’t there too long before I was off home again and a little financially better off. I was thinking about my finances in general and especially my expenditure and how I was to fund the roof repairs and the bedroom refurbishment without having to dig into my main savings account. The money in there has been set aside for specific purposes and I don’t want to use it for current needs. One of the things I pray for occasionally is for The Lord to provide for my needs and the needs of my family and He has never let me down. I remember a shortfall I had some years ago and wondered how I was going to meet it. God provided me with the exact amount I needed a few days later! When I arrived back home on Tuesday morning I collected the mail that had been pushed through the letter box. One item was an outreach leaflet from the Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding salvation. I gave it a quick read as I always do but discarded it as I am a Christian believer. Their doctrine differs from mainstream Christianity as do many other groups and churches so we believe in different things. Anyhow amongst the other mail items was one marked ‘important’ and it was addressed to me. Inside was some literature regarding some shares I hold with an accompanying cheque for £2162. Now that was a lovely and unexpected surprise and will more than cover the cost of the  roof repairs with something left over. E drove me to the bank so that I could deposit the cheque in my account and then we drove to a nearby town for lunch. We had not been out for lunch for quite some time as we wanted to save the cash for the roof repairs and the bedroom refurbishment. The venue was somewhere we had only visited a couple of times before. The meal was excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there before returning home.

Shirley Anne

New tax year

Punch cartoon (1907); illustrates the unpopula...
Punch cartoon (1907); illustrates the unpopularity amongst Punch readers of a proposed 1907 income tax by the Labour Party in the United Kingdom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday happened to be the beginning of a new tax year for those in the UK. Naturally that means the end of the 2014 to 2015 tax year (financial year) and the time for me to collate all my business account  figures to make ready my self-assessment tax return. It isn’t that difficult, in fact it has become easier for me now that I don’t submit a full tax return but what is termed a ‘short form’. That doesn’t mean I pay less tax, it simply means that my tax return form is less complicated because I have a limited turnover. It is still a little boring though having to collect all the information and submit it but I do it a little at a time and after a few days it is ready. I don’t submit the form immediately but give myself a little more time in order to check that my figures are correct. So today, Tuesday, is the first working day for me in the new tax year and already I have a couple of jobs scheduled. I remember this time last year when I had thoughts of making that year my last but as things were going so well I forgot the idea, in fact this past financial year has been my best for quite some time since I started self-employment. The last couple of years prior were not so good, not only because I did less but because I had been occupied working at home more often. I also had a few weeks off due to illness too. I just hadn’t the time to do as much electrical work as I have been able to do this last financial year. Having said that I still managed to fit in the refurbishment of our main bathroom and dig out that now infamous ‘mound’ in the garden! I have had that many offers of work I have had to turn down much of it. Maybe that’s why I am so tired! How long into this year I will continue to work I have no idea but if things go well I have an idea I might be doing the same thing next year as I am doing right now, filling out another tax return. I could be doing that on-line if the government’s plans go ahead (see below).

Shirley Anne

Gone (we hope)

The Debt (2011 film)
The Debt (2011 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of weeks ago I posted something about my son’s car being sold. This car, a Lexus, was  personally owned by him but as he now has use of  a car provided by his employer he has no use for it. I say ‘was personally owned’ for on Friday he phoned us to say that he was coming over to arrange the sale of the car. He had been let down by the four would-be purchasers who each claimed they wanted the car but this time it looked as though someone was seriously interested. However when they arrived at our house to view the car they back-pedalled on the price after agreeing what they would pay. Sadly they left and I thought my son had again been let down. Whilst having a meal he asked us what we thought and I told him to accept the slightly reduced offer. A few minutes later the interested party returned and the deal was struck. He allowed them to drive the car away once the money had been transferred to his bank account. Over the years I have been very generous to my sons, bailing them out with ‘temporary’ cash loans but never accepting repayment from them. A month or so ago my youngest had not been paid his monthly salary and he needed a loan. I obliged as I usually do and he told me he would repay me once the car had been sold. There is an outstanding debt on the car which he will have to clear with some of  the cash he received. I think he was expecting that I would take the repayment from him but I told him to forget the debt which I am sure he was relieved to hear. He works hard and I know he and his girlfriend are only just getting on their feet whilst paying off their debts. Things are slowly improving for them so I wouldn’t wish to make their lives more difficult. I am happy to help them, both of my sons, for I know how hard it is these days to get by. When I was their age life was much easier but nowadays things are not the same. The recession hasn’t helped those starting out on their own and I cannot see much of an improvement for some time yet. Now my son is just waiting for the cash transfer to clear, a couple of days is all it takes and then we can say the car has finally gone forever. His girlfriend has booked a week’s break for the two of them in Barcelona and by the time this is published they will already be there as the went on Sunday. I think it was by way of a treat for his birthday on the 10th.

Shirley Anne