This week, I have been mostly organising my finances, which I posted about on Wednesday. Once I got into the swing of things, I cancelled a few almost “obsolete” costs that I have had hanging around for a while. Firstly, I nixed a backup service I used when I was working, Spideroak, which cost me about £7 a month. It was an excellent piece of software, quietly working away in the background, but these days Google Docs and icloud, with their ultra-cheap storage options, remotely hold copies of my photos, music and documents. I don’t bother keeping movies as they’re pretty much all downloadable these days – and this thought led me to cancelling Amazon Prime and Amazon Lovefilm. I’ve watched about two of their movie downloads in three years, buy less and less from their site, seldom watch the discs they send and have Deezer for music. The latter plays through my Sonos system, Amazon music doesn’t, so Amazon Prime was confined to history. That’s saved £15 a month. What else was I not getting value from?
My digital subscription to The Times was next. It costs £26 a month and I just don’t read it every day. Plus my gym has a free copy of the physical newspaper (if I can beat the pensioners to it, which might be a challenge.) I looked at the website to cancel but unlike Amazon and Spideroak, you can’t simply point and click to cancel, you have to call. I braced myself for a desperate sales pitch offering me the world but instead received an offer for the Sunday Times tablet edition and 7 day access to the Times Website for £8 a month. Deal!
I must have started a trend because next to be cut was EDF energy bill, and amazingly I didn’t even have to ask. I submit meter readings for my joint gas and electricity bills every month because I like to keep tabs on my own usage. I started doing this when I realised I was being systematically overcharged on my annual Direct Debit, then given what seemed like a whopping discount the following year because I was way in credit. The next year, I would receive an increase again. It was a payment rollercoaster that my own laziness was allowing. I decided to get a grip and work out what I should be paying every month based on my usage and started to take a note of and submit regular readings. Now, as a consequence, EDF have reduced my Direct Debit by £15 a month without me having to request it. I would say that was very nice of them, but frankly all utility companies are bastards, so I won’t. I’ll also need to check it as a guard against a big increase after winter. I sceptically assume that if they’re undercharging me, they have a reason for it.
Taken together, those four cuts and reductions have saved me £55 a month or £660 a year. That’s a golf weekend in Spain! Unless I tell the wife.
I also probably save almost twenty quid a month on Kindle downloads these non-working days as I have time to visit the library, but I still have a backlog of titles on my device that I bought during my working life and haven’t yet read. (Waiting for trains at London Victoria meant I’d wander into W H Smiths, note titles I fancied and download them to my Kindle on my 3G connection. Oh, the excesses I indulged in as a wage earner!) So this week, I began one of them, Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery. It’s excellent, definitely one of my better choices, even if it does give me the willies with its tales of mucking around in peoples’ brains with occasional triumphant or disastrous results. We really are physically not much more than the meat-bags that Bender the Robot in Futurama describes us as, although the doctor writing this book was much more eloquent about the metaphysical side of his work:
“It is a source of awe, amazement and profound surprise that my consciousness, my very sense of self, the self which feels as free as air…. the self which is now writing these words, is in fact the electrochemical chatter of one hundred billion nerve cells.”
Talking of brain cells, on TV I am managing to obliterate millions of them by watching the second series of The Affair. It’s frightening to think that Series One could have wiped out the brain cells that I might have utilised to end global poverty, but there you go. I mention this only because the series fits in with my blog title and ticks three of the boxes with its focus on Sex, Money and Death. Unfortunately, it’s not as well written as my blog and, if you think the writing on my blog is complete and utter shite (which it may well be) well, it’s still not as well written as my blog.
On the subject of well-written blogs, a tweet from Jacob Fisker pointed me to Living a FI where I read through some posts that I was soon wishing I’d written. Or maybe posts that I was hoping to write. Although it’s lengthy, this post on finding a way to stop trying to “fill the unforgiving minutes with distance run” (due thanks to Mr Kipling) put into words a lot of what I’m struggling with in “early” retirement. Filling your days isn’t difficult, but filling them without guilt, or even almost a sense of shame, can be.