Oh hello there! It feels like ages since I’ve posted here, but in reality it’s only been a week. It’s been that kind of summer I guess!
We’ve been busy! The summer season tends to be our biggest “travel” time of the year, and August continued this trend. It felt like we were barely at home in August!
The first big trip of the summer (the first two weeks of the month) was our trip to Texas. Primarily we stayed around the Dallas and Austin areas. I’ve written a couple of posts (here and here) about that trip, so I won’t rehash all of it here.
Our second trip in August was the annual family camping trip. It’s become a family tradition to take a week and go camping somewhere as a family. No internet, no phones, just the family and nature.
This year we started the camping trip with a visit to Deception Pass State Park. It’s a large state park on Whidbey Island (here in Washington state) full of beautiful coastal scenery, beaches, and campgrounds. Here’s a photo from the historic Deception Pass bridge.
It really is a beautiful area. The areas around Whidbey Island and the San Juan islands happen to be some of my favorite in the entire state. Picturesque would be one word to describe it.
Our first camping spot in the state park cost $28 per night. It gave the kids a great chance to hangout and play on the beach for a couple of days. They built stuff out of driftwood, played in the water, watched some whales, threw rocks, and generally had a great time.
After a couple of days at Deception pass, we headed up to Anacortes, WA to catch a ferry to Friday Harbor (which is on San Juan island). This was our next campsite for a few days.
Since we don’t own a boat, the Washington state ferry system is a great way to check-out Washington’s many islands. They’re pretty frequent and fast, running to most major islands several times a day.
If you’re a walk-on passenger, the ferries can be very affordable. We had all of our camping gear, so we elected to go the more expensive route and drive our car onto the ferry ($87 round-trip, which includes the car and passengers).
The kids absolutely loved the ferry ride — total highlight of our trip. They’ve been on boats, trains and airplanes before, but for some reason the ferry was just magic to the kids.
I have to admit that a little of that magic rubs off on me whenever we travel to the San Juan’s. There’s just something appealing about that slow island life that I really enjoy. It’s the low-stress lifestyle I guess. That’s something I don’t get in The City, and only seem to find it when we go camping in places like this.
Towns like Friday Harbor just make me feel super relaxed with their small-town quaint atmosphere.
If you’ve never been to any of Washington’s San Juan islands (or Victoria in B.C.), I highly recommend it. Everyone is friendly, traffic is a little slower, and nobody seems to be in any particular hurry. (Probably because the towns are mostly populated by retirees and wealthy folks)
It made for a great camping trip, and the remainder of the month of August went by super-fast.
Dividend Income In August
Dividend income in August amounted to $668. Clearly, we didn’t set a new income record this month. August is not one of the bigger dividend months. No need to worry though, this lower dividend income amount is perfectly normal.
Dividends are typically paid by our investments quarterly. This means March, June, September, and December are the really big dividend months of the year. Meanwhile, ‘off’ months (like August) tend to be on the lower-end of the dividend dollar scale.
When you live off investments this quarterly income swing can take some getting used to, but we maintain a large enough cash-pile it doesn’t really matter much.
For the year so far, we’ve happily collected $31,004 in dividends. This is $3,831 ahead of where we were last year. That’s a year-over-year dividend growth of 14%! I’m extremely pleased with this progress. While I was only expecting a little income growth in 2019, this year is turning out quite well!
At this rate, we should be in good shape to reach our 2019 dividend growth goals by December.
Expenses in August were “off the charts” at $6396! Yikes! We did a lot of traveling in August and this was the result. It was the most expensive month of the year for us! That’s traveling for you! We had a great time, but of course the costs did add-up.
Food expenses (groceries) in August tallied up to $458 for the month even though we were hardly at home. We still visit the grocery store on vacation, but purchased more snack foods and quick-to-prepare items. Normally we spend around $500 on food per month, but on vacation we ate out a lot more in August (which explains the lower amount).
Normally I’d be posting a bunch of drool-worthy food photos in this section — showing off just how well a family of four can eat on $500 a month, but I did WAY less cooking in August. We mostly ate-out on vacation, and the only noteworthy food I prepared in August was the fish Tako Jr. and I caught together on a father-son fishing outing.
He was super proud of his fishing prowess, and we got two meals (and a lunch) out of these trout.
In August, we spent $182 on fuel. This much higher than normal, more than likely due to the 2,000 miles we drove in Texas. Gas is pretty cheap there, but we put on a lot more miles than usual. Hence the higher fuel spending.
I fully expect our fuel spending will return to normal in September, when school starts back up.
Mortgage & Childcare
As usual, mortgage and childcare expenses were our two largest expenses in August. These two items totaled $3739. This is where the bulk of our monthly spending ‘lives’.
Unlike many families however, these expenses are optional for us. Using spare cash we could easily pay-off the mortgage. If I wanted to, I could also take our youngest son (Tako Jr. #2) out of daycare, and erase that cost too.
For now, we’ve decided to keep these two expenses because of the flexibility they provides us. On one hand, not paying off the mortgage means having plenty of spare cash to invest (should good opportunities arise). On the other hand, Tako Jr. #2 also gets to attend his language immersive daycare (It’s a completely non-English daycare).
Long-term, I continue to believe both expenses will be good value for the money.
Internet expense for August was $49.95. This is the normal amount we pay for “60 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up” cable internet through Comcast.
While some families have much faster internet service, I don’t see the point. These speeds are plenty fast for our purposes. If anything, I might consider going to a cheaper package if Comcast ever stopped letting us renew at the same low price. For the past two years our monthly internet cost has remained the same.
Utility bills in August amounted to $0. This zero amount is mainly a billing fluke due to the timing of the bills and when we actually paid them. July had very high utility costs, and August was subsequently much lower.
Don’t worry, it’s just a timing thing. I pay all the usual utility bills everyone else does. It’s not like we don’t have electricity or something crazy like that.
Our monthly insurance bill totaled $0 again in August. Whenever possible, we try to pay the entire year all in one go, to lower the cost. For example, our car insurance is paid once per year. This is a large expense, but most insurance companies give significant discounts for doing it this way — so it’s actually cheaper than paying monthly.
Our last big insurance bill was back in October 2018.
(For the curious: We do have home-owners insurance. It’s included in our mortgage. Call me lazy, but I don’t normally break that number out here in the insurance section.)
OK, the “Other” section this month should really be called “Travel And Entertainment”, because that’s mainly how we spent the money. T&E expenses totaled $1965 in August. Here’s the breakdown of all the major costs:
- $862 in hotels.
- $415 for a rental car (We booked through Costco travel).
- $5.25 for rental car toll fees.
- $87 ferry tickets to San Juan island.
- $410 eating out at restaurants. (Yes, HUGE splurge here!)
- $141 for misc activities and entertainment costs.
- $32 for household project supplies from Home Depot.
As far as vacations go, I guess that amount isn’t too terrible. We had a ton of fun, and ate plenty of delicious stuff!
I know this might not sound too terribly expensive for almost a month of traveling, but it’s still pretty expensive for us. We try to keep things frugal.
Cumulative Expenses For 2019
For the year 2019 so far, the Tako family has spent $40,173. Outside of our mortgage and childcare, we’ve spent $10,928 so far this year. I think that’s pretty good because that number includes travel and entertainment expenses (of which we saw many in August).
While August was certainly our most expensive month of the year, I expect our spending in the remaining months of the year will slow down somewhat.
August Investing Updates
August was a volatile month for the stock market, but I barely noticed. We were traveling a lot. During our travels, I never bothered to check our portfolio or worried about how our investments were doing.
This seemingly absurd level of confidence really just reflects my philosophies around investing:
- I don’t try to “time the market” in order to make (or take) profits. I try not to need other market participants in order to make money.
- Mr. Market can do all kinds of crazy things in the short term. Stocks can fluctuate in any direction. I mainly try to ignore the market most of the time and focus on the business results.
- I try to invest in very “low risk” situations — companies without a lot of debt and a steady business model. Good weather or bad these businesses should keep cranking out cash that I can compound.
Meanwhile, all the options I wrote in July expired sometime in August (according to plan). I typically write options with expiration dates around 30 days out. These options all expired worthless, which means I pocketed a little money from this experimental option writing activity.
So far, this experiment has been going well, but recent market volatility has made me more cautious about writing options than ever before.
For now at least, I’m going to wait until Mr. Market decides to calm down.