Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Making Planters from ...

further ideas for garden planters ...

1.  Coal / Log Boxes

I bought one of these decorative fireside boxes at a junk shop for a tenner.  Many of these old boxes are wooden panelled and then just covered with embossed brass-plated sheets as decoration and protection from heat, but this was a solid steel box underneath and therefore very suitable for use as a planter.  It's 400 x 300 x 300 mm in size, about 35 litres internal volume.

I drove out the hinge pin with a drift and removed the lid, and then drilled some large drainage holes in the bottom, before painting all the internal and external steel surfaces with a gold coloured metal paint (Triflow, similar to Hammerite).  Three heavy coats to prevent corrosion.

Within a few days, and before the paint was even dry on the first one, I spotted an identical box on eBay, located just a few miles away, but this second one cost me £17.50 after a round of negotiations although it's actually in worse condition than the first, cheaper box.   

preparing the second box for painting....

Friday, 13 January 2017

Goal for 2017 - Chasing more Passive Income ...

Despite my views on goal-setting I expressed last January, I do actually have one for this year, although it's financial rather than lifestyle and so I'll allow it ...

I've been tracking all the passive income I've received over the last three years.  This includes dividends, bond coupons, index-linked growth, interest, premium bond prizes and any other such distributions.  

In the past, I haven't necessarily been seeking yield as a primary objective, but there's no doubt it's a nice warm feeling every time a deposit turns up in the accounts, money for which I haven't had to work. 

The passive income I've received has grown naturally with the portfolio valuation, and indeed the sums I received in 2016 were 36% higher than in 2015.  However, I think it's time to push it a little further and see if we could cover a greater proportion of our living costs from investment income alone.  

If I take the 2016 year-end passive income figure and divide it by the 2015 year-end combined portfolio value, the income return on the total assets was only 2.3%, which just seems quite low to me.   Whereas the total return in 2016 on the assets held at the end of 2015 was 15.7%, i.e. including capital growth but excluding any of the 2016 additions to the pot.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Six weeks in the Canary Islands !

We've just arrived in the Canary Islands, where we'll spend the next six weeks in an apartment hotel.

Now that we don't have animals to worry about back home, we're again free to spend extended periods on our travels.   We're no strangers to being away, I've worked in expat roles and on projects in foreign locations where we've been away for years at a stretch.

The Canaries are really the only place where there's decent weather all year round, but also easily accessible from local airports - other warmer places in the world require long flights and only tend to operate from just a few very large airports.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Investment Review - December 2016

The results are in for the last quarter of 2016, and so here's the spreadsheet for the combined portfolio as updated on Friday 30 December.

Click on the graphic for a larger image.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Annual Spending Review - 2016

With just one day to go until the end of the year, and no plans to venture beyond the garden gate until 2017, here's the annual look back at where all the money went ...

click on it for a larger image

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Making a Planter from an old gas stove ...

Yes, it's yet another garden planter ...

This is a one-off, made from an old cast-iron gas stove I picked up a couple of weeks ago.  It had been standing out in someone's garden for the past three years but was in great condition, with no cracks or other damage - even the glass in the front was unmarked.  The previous owner had originally bought it to convert to a woodburning stove, but soon lost interest in the project and now just wanted rid of it, so I snapped it up for a tenner.

We already have an open fire in the house and so I don't have any use for a woodburner, but it's a beautifully-made stove and I thought it would make a great feature in the garden if it was turned into a shrub planter.

It stands around 560 mm (22") high including the legs, with a width of 360 mm (14") and front-to-back depth of 300 mm (12").  Although it's quite compact, the carcass is all cast iron and it's very heavy, weighing in at around 50 kg.  The internal volume is just over 40 litres, big enough for the roots of quite a large shrub.

as bought...

Friday, 2 December 2016

Premium Bonds Review - Good or Bad Investment ?

To the uninitiated, Premium Bonds are a form of lending to the UK government but without any guarantee of an investment return (although your original capital is always safe, in nominal terms at least).  Instead of paying a regular bond coupon, there is a prize draw on the first day of each month in which it's possible to 'win' from £25 to £1m.

The bonds are denominated in £1 units, although these days there's a minimum purchase amount of £100 each time you invest, and every £1 bond has an equal chance of winning at the prevailing odds each month, which are set by the responsible treasury department, i.e. National Savings & Investments (NS&I).  

At the time of writing, the odds of winning are 30,000 to 1 and the prize fund is configured to return 1.25%.  All prizes are tax free and do not need to be declared in your annual tax return, so there's no administrative burden.   There's an upper limit on the number of bonds you can hold, currently set at £50,000, and no lower limit except for the minimum purchase requirement.

You can opt to have any prize wins automatically reinvested into buying more bonds, up to the maximum holding limit, or just take the cash each time.

Because the lowest prize value is £25, the real chance of winning anything at all is quite complex - if you don't hold very many bonds in total, then the odds are actually heavily stacked against you.  This is better explained on this site, where there's also an odds calculator based on your own particular holding value and time horizon.