July 2018 Travels, Dividend Income, And Expenses


Hi folks!  It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here, but I haven’t abandoned the blog!  We’ve simply been on vacation for the past week and completely without internet access!

Normally I like to travel to locations with internet access, but I’ve been completely unable to post anything for the past week.

It was a real “unplugged” family vacation.  So where did we go?

 

July Travel

While the Tako family does our fair share of international travel (last year we went to Japan), this year we decided to keep our travel plans domestic and cheap.  We went camping!

This was our first big camping trip with the kids, and they had a great time despite having no TV, computers, or internet access.

riverside campsite
Tako Jr. #1 was all smiles at our riverside campsite.  Kids don’t need technology to have fun!

Our first stop on the trip was a campsite along the Methow river between Twisp and Winthrop, Washington.  We stayed a couple days in this beautiful location.

methow river
Our campsite was right along the Methow river.  The water in this river is just ridiculously clear.

Nearby Winthrop is a rustic “Cowboy Town” just on the Eastern side of the Cascade mountains.  The town looks like something right out of an old ‘Spaghetti-Western’ that’s been plopped into modern times…

Winthrop
Winthrop looks like a town from an old cowboy movie.  Many of the buildings are actually very old.

For some reason the town decided to preserve many of its old buildings and ‘Western’ styling, complete with wooden boardwalks.

Winthrop, WA boardwalk
Yes, I kid you not –this is a real town!  Not a movie set!

We didn’t expect to see a lot (other than tourist shops), but the local museum did prove very interesting.  It was free, so we could hardly go wrong!

Schafer museum
Winthrop’s Schafer museum is free and proved very educational for my kids.  The museum provides a great look at the early life (pre 1940’s) of settlers in the region.  Complete with unicycles.

The second campsite on our trip was called Nason Creek.  Unfortunately the weather was so ungodly hot during this part of the trip we didn’t stay at our campsite much.

We spent most of our time trying to stay cool, making a trip to nearby Lake Wenatchee.

Lake wenatchee
Due to the extreme temperatures, we spent the day at the lake.

To use the lake, we needed a Washington State Discover pass that cost $10.  It was totally worth the price too — The lake proved significantly cooler than our campsite.  A quick dip in the water was the perfect way to cool off.

When the family finally got bored with the lake, we drove to Leavenworth, WA in search of cooler temps.  I can’t say we were very successful.  The thermometer was breaking 100F (38C) at this point.

Leavenworth is another “themed” town in Washington — this one being a “Bavarian Village” style town.  As you might expect, the place is a bit of a tourist trap.  There’s the quintessential beer gardens, sellers of bratwursts, bakeries offering strudel and other European treats, and (of course) gift shops galore.

beer garden
I’m not a drinker, but Leavenworth has plenty of German-style beer gardens.  This one is called the “Bear House”.

Frankly, I was only interested in ice cream when the temperature broke 105F.

It might be a tourist trap, but it’s one of the most beautiful tourist traps I’ve seen in a long while.  There’s flowers literally everywhere and all the buildings are gorgeously decorated in a Bavarian style.

The town itself was incredibly beautiful. They must spend a fortune on flowers for the streets.

Even the local Starbucks plays along with the town theme.  This had the effect of making the iconic coffee chain nearly invisible.

leavenworth starbucks
Yes, even the local Starbucks is Bavarian themed.  I could hardly tell this was a Starbucks.  The drive-thru was the big give-away.

 

July Expenses

As you might expect, frugal travel means our July expenses were fairly reasonable.  For the month, we spent $5,177.

july 2018 expenses

Food

July is a summer month, and summer is when our economic garden produces the most.  As a result, our food costs were surprisingly low in July — a mere $292.92.  Some of this amount included paying for overpriced groceries at tourist-trap towns during our camping trip.

You’ve probably heard the saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”

Well, I feel like there should be a version of this phrase that illustrates the benefits of growing zucchini.

“Teach a human to grow zucchini and his entire neighborhood will never go hungry again”.

Zucchini is one of the easiest vegetables to grow in a summer garden, and one of the most prolific.  A garden only needs one or two zucchini plants because they’re extremely productive.

I attribute much of our lower grocery bill this month to the incredible growing power of zucchini.

zucchini harvest
A typical day’s harvest of zucchini.

We’ve been cooking up zucchini constantly.  One of my go-to dishes is cooking zucchini on the grill with a italian herbs, olive oil, and garlic powder sprinkled on top.

zucchini on the grill

The plants don’t stop producing so we can’t stop there — time for some zucchini tacos!

zucchini tacos
Zucchini tacos?!? Yes, believe it or not, the mild zucchini flavor actually works quite well with stronger taco flavors.

We can’t forget Mrs. Tako’s delicious Japanese-style zucchini curry either!  This stuff was amazing.

zucchini curry
Mrs. Tako made a mean zucchini curry.

The list of zucchini dishes doesn’t stop — we literally eat zucchini every single day and yet we still give away plenty to the neighbors.

 

Fuel

Fuel costs amounted to $39 in July, which does not include two fill-ups I made at Costco using a gift card purchased in May.  If those two additional fill-ups were included, our July fuel expenses would look very normal, typically $100-$120 in any given month.  (This includes all the driving for our camping trip.)

 

Internet

Our Internet expense was $0 in July because we prepaid this expense back in May to receive a credit card sign-up rewards.  Usually our internet costs $49.95.  We prepaid $500 so I don’t expect to see an internet expense for many months to come.

 

Mortgage And Childcare

As usual, our mortgage and childcare expenses make-up the bulk of our monthly spending at $4,380.78.  These are our two largest monthly expenses, and without them we would have only spent $797 in July.

That said, I consider both expenses optional.

You see — I could take the kids out of daycare and keep them home with me full-time (I wouldn’t have time to blog), and we could pay-off our mortgage with cash.

So why do I bother paying for a mortgage and for daycare?

I simply choose to pay these large bills on purpose because of the advantages they provide — The kids are becoming fluent in a second language at daycare, and I get the time to blog a little!

For the mortgage — our interest rate is so low I’m almost 100% positive we can find a better return in the stock market.  Financially we’ll be better-off NOT paying-off the mortgage.

 

Utilities

Utilities for the month of July included a water and sewer bill at $256.72.  This is a bi-monthly bill, but we still pay A LOT for water.   The vast majority of this amount is taxes, minimum service fees and meter charges — not actual usage.

All other utility bills were either not billed in July, or were prepaid in May to receive a credit card reward.

 

Other

Other expenses for July amounted to $208.  Much of this amount is expenses for our camping trip, which includes two restaurant lunches!

Yes, we ate at a restaurant!  Twice in one month!  That’s something of a record for the Tako family!

Most months we don’t eat at restaurants, but when we’re traveling we make exceptions.  The meals at these restaurants amounted to $82.

In July, we also needed to renew our license plate car tabs — a cost of $83.  This annual amount is the fee for only one of our cars.

 

Cumulative Expenses For 2018

For the year so far, our cumulative expenses reached $42,210.  Yes, I know this is a rather large amount.

We do our best to be frugal, but please remember that we live in a very expensive part of the Pacific Northwest.  This part of the country is not exactly “low cost”.

july 2018 cumulative expenses.

Our mortgage and daycare costs alone account for over $30k of these annual expenses.  Without these large expenses, the Tako family spending would only total $11,335.

Thankfully, the daycare expenses are already starting to decline — We paid our very last $2k daycare bill in July.  Our oldest son, Tako Jr. #1 starts kindergarten this September, which should save us around $1,000 per month.

Given this large decline in our expenses monthly, I expect our 2018 expenses will be four to five thousand dollars less than our total expenses for 2017 ($73,173).

 

Dividends In July

Dividends in July amounted to $1,671.  This is a nice monthly sum, but it pales in comparison to the monster $10k dividend we received in June.

july 2018 dividends

Monthly dividend fluctuations like this are perfectly normal, and we make no attempt to “smooth” these amounts.  Our focus is on holding the best investments that we can, so dividend income will always be a little lumpy.

 

Investment Update In July

In the month of July, our net worth climbed an incredible 4.7%.  As you might expect, this provided a welcome boost to our portfolio returns.

I like to keep these kinds of returns in context however — The vast majority of this increase is only market gains.  They could easily disappear next week if Mr. Market finds himself in a bad mood.

Furthermore, investors are required to sell in order to make these ethereal gains something real,  I have no intention of selling the vast majority of our investments, so these gains remain exactly that — ethereal.

Most of the time we just let those gains ride rather than trying to trade in-and-out of stocks, and that’s exactly what we did in July.

We made no purchases of new stock in July, despite having a large cash balance that I need to invest.

I know, I know … I say that every month!

What can I say?  Much of the stock market looks expensive to my eyes, and I’d much rather spend my time researching esoteric and forgotten corners of the stock market rather than overpaying for stocks like Facebook or Netflix.

Despite plenty of fishing, I haven’t found any screaming good deals.  Oh well!  Maybe next month I’ll catch the stock market equivalent of a zucchini…

 

Image Credit [OctopusGraffiti]

31 thoughts on “July 2018 Travels, Dividend Income, And Expenses

  • August 4, 2018 at 7:44 AM
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    I love Leavenworth. It’s like a temporary escape to Europe in a few hour drive though the highway gets quite busy in the summer.

    Speaking of zucchini I got this spiralizer and have been eating zoodles daily mixing it into almost everything . A great carb noodle replacement. Much goodness.

    Once both kids are in “public daycare” the savings are gonna be quite significant.

    I’m amazed at how low you can keep food costs for a whole family!!

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 8:52 AM
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      Yeah, the kids can eat as much as I can now, so keeping food costs low is ultra important. 🙂

      I’m going to have to try to make some of those zucchini noodles!

      Reply
  • August 4, 2018 at 8:33 AM
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    Sounds like a fun vacation for the Tako family and I’m sure the camping built some great family experiences.

    I’m going to start growing some zucchini. What a bounty from a couple plants! I had no idea they were so productive. I do have some cucumber plants and tomato plants and they’re productive too. But not as productive as zucchini!

    We’ve also accumulated a large amount of cash from some insurance proceeds and real estate sales. Up until about two years ago we were about 90% equity invested. With the recently accumulated cash, we’re at about 80 % equity and about 20% cash/very safe intermediate term bonds and I think I’ll stay at that ratio unless the market crashes and I can buy more equities on sale.

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 8:53 AM
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      You can’t go wrong with zucchini! It’s such a productive plant. I think by the end of summer most people are ready to eat something new!

      Reply
  • August 4, 2018 at 9:26 AM
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    they had a great time despite having no TV, computers, or internet access.

    or could it be they had a great time because of having no…. 🙂

    Winthrop looks really cool, I love those old-timey towns!!

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 8:54 AM
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      You could be right! I think anytime I can get the kids to try something new and step outside their safety zone they have a great time.

      There’s some wizdom there for adults too 😉

      Reply
  • August 4, 2018 at 11:07 AM
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    Sounds like a lovely month! Thank you for sharing. I like Leavenworth a lot – we stopped by last month during a camping trip near Lake Wenatchee. I love camping in Washington – there’s so much diversity of nature in one state.

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 8:55 AM
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      It’s a great state to camp in during the summer — the overly hot temps notwithstanding. Those are unusual.

      Reply
  • August 4, 2018 at 11:35 AM
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    Jealous of the zucchini garden. I recommend fried squash blossoms as a great way to use up all that squash (presquash?)

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 8:55 AM
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      I’ve never tried eating the blossoms before. Great idea!

      Reply
  • August 4, 2018 at 8:08 PM
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    Thanks for sharing the photos from your trip. The photos from the beach and town look very scenic. It’s great that your expenses are lower than $12,000 annually for your family without the mortgage and daycare. At least you won’t have those expenses forever and the mortgage is building equity. It’s good that you focus on quality companies instead of pursuing even monthly payments. June was very impressive for dividends in 1 month. And I’m not interested in overpriced stocks like FB and Netflix either. Thanks again for sharing.

    Reply
  • August 4, 2018 at 9:08 PM
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    Great pictures! We always have fun on camping trips too. Unfortunately, this year we’re skipping it. We were on road trips and now my mom needs to catch up on some medical stuff. We’ll take it easy the rest of summer in Portland.
    We’ve been thinking about Leavenworth, but it’s just a bit too far for us. We’ll try to make it up there soon. It looks kind of like Solvang in CA.

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 8:57 AM
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      I think Solvang was the original inspiration for Leavenworth. Leavenworth was a dying town and the town leaders toured Solvang (back in the day). This gave them the idea for the Bavarian mountain town theme.

      And it worked. The town is thriving now!

      It’s a really neat town and only about 4-5 hours away from you (depending upon how fast you drive/day of the week). Worth a trip in my opinion!

      Reply
  • August 5, 2018 at 7:54 AM
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    I like the shout out to zucchinis. They grow to whatever size you want if you let them grow. My sister had zucchinis the size of half her 3 year of daughter, it was crazy.

    Reply
    • August 5, 2018 at 7:57 AM
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      Great pictures! Camping sounds fun. I never been before…

      Isn’t there a Little Norwayish town in Washington too that’s tourist trappy? Maybe I’m confused but we had one more European themed town up here.

      Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 9:00 AM
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      Wow, that’s crazy big! We don’t let ours get that big. I like a one zucchini = one meal ratio for size!

      Reply
  • August 5, 2018 at 8:10 AM
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    Have you thought about focusing internationally, given lower valuations today? Westpac in Australia seems like a good example. Stable company, stable earnings, stable country, >6% yield, 12.3x PE. You’re not going to make a killing (very little growth), but quite likely to make acceptable returns, and unlikely to get hurt. There’s always some country-specific risk (in Australia’s case, dependence on China and raw materials, as well as a real estate bubble), but all equities have some risk. And, you could argue that the US has it’s own country-specific risks, like trade wars, ballooning budget deficits, and political dysfunction. In limited doses, international exposure can actually dampen volatility.

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 9:03 AM
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      I look internationally all the time. I haven’t found anything that excites me. I’m quite familiar with the Australian banks, but unfortunately international dividends are taxed as regular income here.

      Reply
  • August 6, 2018 at 5:32 AM
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    Next time you visit Leavenworth (especially when it’s extra hot), my tips are to visit: Whirlygigz (kid toy store / play area with a castle and slide, mini merry go round, and a bunch of toys to play with. It’s upstairs above the Hat Shop), the library (lots of kid toys there, and it has AC. Across highway 2 attached to city hall), and Blackbird Island (cross the the bridge from the waterfront park right downtown). If you couldn’t tell, Leavenworth is one of our favorite local escapes 🙂

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 9:04 AM
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      Yeah, we jumped into all kinds of shops to soak up some of that sweet sweet AC. Man was it hot!

      Thanks for the tips! 😉

      Reply
  • August 6, 2018 at 6:13 AM
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    Sounds fun! I’m glad you got to get away with the family.
    Next year I’ll try growing zucchini! 🙂

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 9:04 AM
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      You can’t go wrong with zucchini! It’s one of the best plants to grow!

      Reply
  • August 6, 2018 at 10:47 AM
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    I love those pictures especially the zucchini.

    I can’t grow anything but I love to harvest. My dad has a green thumb and he grows everything under the sun. When he first started, we had a helicopter flying over our house almost every day for a week. I think they thought he was growing weed lol

    Reply
    • August 7, 2018 at 2:28 PM
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      Zucchini is just about the easiest plant to grow. You can have a purple thumb and zucchini will grow. It’s amazingly hearty.

      Reply
  • August 6, 2018 at 11:28 AM
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    Bah, transmission error. Trying again.

    I had a cousin that got stationed in Alaska for the Army. He planted a full seed package of both zucchini and yellow squash. He was getting 20 hours a day of sunlight so he produced the GDP several small nation’s worth of squash. Gave away 20-30 grocery bags every Sunday at church.

    Wife was nonstop on internet researching ways to prepare, cook, eat, store, or dispose of squash.

    it amazes me people are starving on this planet with so much squash.

    Reply
    • August 7, 2018 at 2:20 PM
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      There might be some place in the world that don’t have any water. Squash probably would have a tricky time with that! That, or a solid concrete surface. Zucchini might have a hard time with that 😉

      We’re reaching near overload levels on zucchini right now with only two plants. I can’t imagine an entire seed packet worth of plants.

      Reply
  • August 7, 2018 at 5:47 AM
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    That looks like a lovely holiday! You’re absolutely right, kids value quality time with their parent no matter where they are. It’s healthy to be in a “no TV, no computer, no internet access” zone once in a while.

    The Zucchini tacos looks delicious, my mouth is watering just by looking at the pictures!

    Have you ever considered investing outside the traditional stock market? I think there’s several alternative investments with a healthy risk/return ratio at the moment.

    Reply
    • August 7, 2018 at 2:27 PM
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      I’m open to all kinds of investments, but what I’m not interested in is adding a bunch of extra risk. In my opinion investors are taking HUGE risks already by investing at these levels.

      Reply
  • August 15, 2018 at 11:59 AM
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    My wife and I have considered starting a garden since we really enjoy fresh produce. But what we have found is that some of my coworkers are huge greenthumbs and when I mentioned I love fresh produce, i see grocery bags full of produce waiting for me at my desk in the morning. They overproduce and have nowhere else to put the veggies, and they don’t have the time or the equipment to can them. One thing we get a TON of is zucchini. I don’t know if this year is better than others or something but this year has been so much zucchini, we can go weeks just eating zucchini meals. Some of our favorites include zucchini boats, zucchini enchiladas, Zoodles, and zucchini cheese bites. Such a versatile and tasty vegetable. Nice dividends in July! I have almost no investments in the stock market, we are invested primarily in real estate. We’d like to change that however. So i’ll be reading these reports!

    Reply

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