Aggregation of Marginal Gains

I was talking to someone today about saving money, and building a cash reserve. A cash reserve is what I call a slush fund, which is an old habit. Its a back up fund, which sits between contingency, and savings. I have day to day money, contingency for when potentially expected but unwelcome things go wrong, then slush fund, then savings and finally investments. 

Growing Money

Growing Money

The slush fund is sort of a side step, in thats its not designated for disaster, its almost like free money which can be used when in a jam, or when I want something, any use I want.

In this particular conversation I was explaining my rather simplistic take on the Aggregation of Marginal Gains, this is the theory that if you improve / reduce / increase / save just 1% on everything you do, the sum total will end up being impressively large.

The first change I made on this journey was to pay my household bills and fuel on a cashback card, originally it was the Santander 123 Cashback Card, now I use an American Express Card which offfers a flat 1.5% (the new AmEx offers 1.25%). Looking at just my basic (off the top of my head) bills. 

Quick Break Down

Nominet Bill – £80 per year
Council Tax – £15
Petrol – £30
Car Tax – £2
Car Insurance – £20
MOT + Basics – £1
Car Service – £3
Car Maintenance – £3
Water Bill – £7
Weekly Shopping £30
Meals / Nights Out / Etc £30

Already £200 for basically doing nothing I wasn’t already going to do. If you use Cashback Sites and Loyalty Schemes you can probably add another £50 on there, Shell Card, Sainsburys Card, Waitrose Card, Etc. Then there are shop based cards such as the Sainsburys Credit Card, Asda Credit Card and others. Someone (who works for one such company) told me about a trick where you close the card after 18 months, and reapply after 2 months so you get the new user deals and bonuses. 

Amazon Crunch

Amazon is a big spending point for me, as a prime member, I make a point of choosing No Rush Delivery which gives me a £1 credit towards music and movies. I currently have about £40 of Credits which I use to buy any music or books I want to read. On top of this I use a cashback card for purchases which adds another £50-60 a year on to my total. 

This spend covers new phones, bits and pieces for both personal and work, christmas and birthday presents, every day items, you name it I buy it from Amazon. 

Looking at my credit card cash back totals for this year, and we’re 9-10 months in and I’m approx £430 up just on cards, if I account for cashback sites with car insurance, credit card applications, mobile phone contracts, broadband, gas and electric swaps, I must be at least £1,000 up in the slush fund. 

80% Big Time and 20% Small Time

I’ve been catching up on my reading after a little time out. I have literally 300 articles and dozens of magazines to read dating back months on subjects ranging from health, website design, science, physics and computers. I’ve been playing catch up ever since the surgery, I’ll get there… one day. 

Man And Muscles

Man And Muscles

I just read an article which suggests the best split of muscle groups is 80% big muscles and 20% small muscles, which is not exactly headline news. What is interesting but again not surprising is of the X many people surveyed, the vast majority revealed they trained at almost exact opposites to this. With men focussing on their upper body, primarily their arms (tri/bi) and chest (pecs), and women focussing on their lower body, primarily their bums (glutes) and thighs (ab/ad-ductors/quads/hams). It also revealed the majority used isolation exercises rather than compound and multi-muscle exercises to this end. 

This is not new information, its always been a case of the majority going on the big compound moves like Deadlifts, Squats, Bench Press etc, which most often hit big muscles hard, followed by smaller muscles secondary and stabilisers tertiary. After this, you hit accessory/assistance moves such as for the bench press you may do Dips, Triceps Extensions and Flys which covers most muscles.

Totally made up numbers but I think before my surgery I had been hitting closer to 30% big moves / compounds, around 30%, accessory (which often included compound) moves, followed 40% isolation moves (bicep curls, leg extensions, etc), so it would appear I am in the wrong.

Since I’m starting from scratch after my shoulder surgery I’m going to consider this 80/20 split a little more and see how I get on.  I’m only just starting to introduce cable station / pod work, and the odd machine. My range of motion is still impinged from injury on the right and to a lesser extent on the left side.

The New Stuff

The magazine did add one interesting thing which I liked, and its a really good tip as far as I’m concerned.

It suggests where possible do movements standing up, do movements on one leg, do NOT sit down unless you absolutely have to. If you must sit down, as soon as you get your breath, get back up.

I like this little tip.

I try to walk off my rest periods and walk while getting my breath back. I call it “active recovery”, its often really “If I sit down, I may not be able to get back up”, but sometimes… just sometimes you need to sit down and regenerate. Top up with a little glucose, or pre/intra workout or even a Banana before getting back to it. Just don’t let yourself cool down too much or you’ll tighten up and struggle.

Man And Muscles image by Andrzej Pobiedziński.

Bizarro Insurance Renewal Time

Due to surgery and general life taking over, getting another car has been put on hold sadly, I’m still shopping but taking my time, if the right deal comes, I’m ready. However as I mentioned on my blog previously, I was added on to my mums insurance policy when I was learning to drive. I documented this process here for extra practice on the week or two before my test, but now her insurance is up for renewal, I said I’d find a deal. What I have found is nothing short of bizarro.
MR57 EVE Number Plate

When my mother said she would add me after my car turned into a lemon, as a provisional driver it added around £40 to my mums insurance policy for 8-ish months of cover. When I passed my test I notified the insurance to reflect I had passed and it cost nothing extra for 7-ish months cover as a new driver. Seemed like a good deal from Aviva.

Aviva Renewal

Aviva have increased the policy renewal quote with me as a named driver by £120 over last years policy. This is technically in-line with the average reported 18% raise for this year. However unlike most insurance companies Aviva maintain their quotes for 60 days. I did quotes at various times on the run up to renewal, these are approx £80, £59, £30 cheaper. The price appears to slowly increase the closer you get to your renewal date, the quotes at 80 days are a good £170 cheaper than renewal, at circa-60 days around £100 cheaper, now with a few days all the quotes are significantly over the renewal quote which was generated at 28 days before renewal.

An interesting quirk is, in the 80 and 59 days quotes, it was cheaper for my mothers insurance if I was a named driver than if she was on the policy alone. This quirk was all but gone by 30 days before renewal and the complete opposite by 20 days before. The quote from 59 days before, with me added is approx £90 cheaper than her current renewal, and the quote is still valid.

Aviva Drive App 

When I started to do lessons, I found out about the Aviva Drive App, its essentially blackbox / telematics via your mobile phone. I completed the first time as a learner driver and actually past the 200 mile marker on my driving test with a score of 9.6/10.  My mum completed the 200 miles score and achieved 9.4/10, I also completed the 200 miles after I passed with a score of 9.3/10 which all 3 scores would offer a significant discount from Aviva, in this case its 28% for policies over £400.

Quirks of Insurance

There are now some strange quirks which have presented themselves while getting quotes off everyone. The most unusual is when it comes to Black Box insurance, which my mum shouldn’t be eligible for. Least most companies who offer box policies exclude her due to age and time driving. This is slowly changing and blackbox policies will be available for everyone.

I called Aviva about this and got them to add the scores to the database for the renewal. I had to email them the proof of the scores. This resulted in the premium dropping like a rock, but more on that later. 

o2 Drive Insurance

o2 Drive Insurance Madness

o2 Drive Insurance Madness

This is a stand out example, as an o2 customer I thought I’d try o2 Drive Insurance given the Tesco Clubcard Insurance Discount is quite good and o2 says they offer excellent deals to o2 Customers, which does indeed offer her a black box policy so the discount should be outstanding.

The o2 Drive Black Box policy is almost a MASSIVE £500 more expensive than a standard policy, as you can see in the image to the right. I tweeted to o2 to point out their inflated pricing and the madness that their Black Box offering is of the top of my head about 40% more expensive than their standard policy. 

Initially I was told different insurers offer different quotes, I queried if o2 Drive was a comparison service and not an actual provider, which I was told to contact Customer Service they are an insurer and both policies are with o2 Drive.

I’m always cautious when companies don’t want to discus things in public as it usually means the rug is about have something swept under it. As it happened their quotes both monthly and annually was no where near the other quotes I had received. I also have no interest in a blackbox policy, so I have not bothered to follow this up with o2. However one would hope they fix this anomaly. 

Aviva It Is

Aviva’s taking the Aviva Drive App score into account reduced the cost of the insurance renewal quote so half of their 7 day before renewal quote an a full 28% less than their 28 days renewal quote (on the letter).

The final price is actually less than the insurance for my mother alone in back in 2010, so its well worth doing the Aviva Drive App. Asda could learn a thing or two about roll backs.

Bugly The Bulldog Has Passed

I’m not going to be posting much for a while and will be limited to urgent messages, my Bulldog, Bugly or “Menace” to the Vets or “Just Bumble” to Kennel Club has died. I hope you can appreciate this difficult time, means I’ll be slower than usual.

The above picture was taken Saturday 2nd at the seaside one his favourite places, he was in good spirits and playing with logs (oversized sticks) but at 9 and half years old, for a bulldog he was older than Methuselah. 

I hope your resting well Buggers, and having a blast up there. I’ve never known such a smart, devious, maniacal borderline evil genius dog before. I will miss your playful nature but not the chemical warfare grade farts 😉

R.I.P. Bugly / Menace / Just Bumble

Tesla Users Are Penalised Left and Right

Tesla is really wringing its customers wallets dry, recently a change from a FREE Unlimited Supercharge to a Pay Per Use Model, and as some point soon they will charging a camping fee for blocking a supercharger port once your car is fully charged.

Tesla Supercharger Stations

Tesla Supercharger Stations

Tesla supercharging stations charge with up to 145 kW of power which is distributed between two adjacent cars. Each individual vehicle can take a maximum of 120 kW per hour. This is up to 16 times as fast as most public charging stations. Superchargers are able to take a near empty vehicle up to 50% in about 20 minutes, and up to nearly 80% in just 40 minutes, and just over 75 minutes to get to full charged (100%). 

Tesla will be introducing a idle charge of approx £0.30 pence per minute (£18 per hour) for overstaying their welcome at the supercharge stations. This is to stop people leaving their cars blocking the Supercharger Stations for hours beyond their charge time, as many appear to use them to park their car for free. 

A Growing UK Concern

This doesn’t appear to be a UK Problem at this point, certainly not for Tesla owners but I believe it is a growing concern as the number of electric cars on Britain’s streets grows. In Manchester are a few public access charging points, these usually come with a free parking while you charge.

On a recent visit to Manchester, the street near the drop off point charges approx £3 per hour to park. I arrived at 10am-ish and there was an advertising wrapped BMW i3 I think, parking the only Electric Charge point. When I left at approx 5pm this same BMW was still parked and still plugged in.

Manchester Council as far as I know are in the partnership which offers free parking to charging electric vehicles, so hogging already occurs, and I can only see it getting worse. 

Image from Wikipedia.

Carling Lager is Weaker Than Advertised

The Taxman (HMRC) have taken Carling Lager’s US based owners Molson Coors to a tribunal over it not paying its proper taxes. Apparently its about £50 million quid short, because its beer is actually 3.7% ABV not the advertised 4% which the can says. This has been happening since 2012, so not a recent thing. 

Ice Cold Lagar

Ice Cold Lagar

Lager of that strength is allowed a natural variance of -/+ 0.5%, which in the case of Carling Larger should be 0.02% ABV. Carling claim their variance is actually 0.23% across the board. However if you work out the difference between 4.0% and 3.7% it is actually closer to whopping 8% which is a massive amount. Its like paying for a 12 pack of beer and being given 11 and told “close enough” move along now. The reason for lowering he ABV percentage is the higher the alcohol content a drink has, the more tax it pays, and Molson Coors decided in its own world that lying to its customers about the strength is perfectly acceptable.

Even worse the TaxMan (HMRC) doesn’t even suggest this is illegal and makes clear there is no broken laws here. Exsqueeze me, the rules say 0.5%, not EIGHT PERCENT, where the hell are advertising standards when you need them. Furthermore the tribunal found in favour of Molson Coors and decided it was perfectly acceptable and didn’t owe £50,000,000 in taxes.

Its understood the primary “driver” behind lying to their customers is because they didn’t want to share the tax reduction with supermarket or pub chains, or more importantly pass the saving on to the mugs drinking their weakened lager. By mugs I mean you and me, I know what I won’t be drinking again now. 

You can read more at the BBC or all other news outlets.