It’s been tough to blog these last couple of weeks — Not only am I doing a TON of DIY home improvement work, but it also seems a bit crass to be writing about personal finance when there’s a war going on. It’s a financial disaster of epic proportions for those affected.
People’s homes, jobs, and businesses are already lost. Assets are being destroyed every day. It’s a truly rough hand to be dealt, and many families might never recover what they’ve lost. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch.
But, as they say in show-business, “The show must go on!” We must keep trudging forward, and putting one foot in front of the other despite the awful setbacks the world sends our way.
It’s in this spirit that I’m bringing you this monthly report — Keep trudging forward my friends, and perhaps tomorrow will be a brighter day!
Dividend Income In February
Dividend income in February was a tiny $2.24. Hey, NO laughing! I’m keeping things real! Some months are like this!
Compared to last year, our February dividend income fell significantly from $67. This change is primarily due to some shifting around of assets over the last year, but it’s nothing to be concerned about.
You can see our taxable dividend history for the year so far, in the table below:
Clearly, February was a very slow month for dividends. This is perfectly normal of course — Dividend income is not a smooth income source. Payments occur quarterly, with the bulk of our dividend payments arriving in March, June, September, and December. These ‘flush’ months will more than make up for slow months like February. We also keep plenty of cash on-hand to handle our day-to-day expenses.
Already the dividend payments have been rolling in for March, and I’m quite pleased to see how things are shaping up. March will prove to be a much more “flush” month than February.
Expenses in February were a fairly reasonable $3,313. Outside of our mortgage payment, we spent $1,000 for the month. This is a very typical month for the Tako household, and it was good to see our expenses come back down to earth from a very expensive January.
This monetary reprieve is going to be short-lived I fear, due to our upcoming moving and house repair expenses. It’s going to be a very expensive year for the Tako family, but I’m doing everything I can to keep our costs down.
Here’s the breakdown of our January expenses by category:
Grocery spending in February was $424. Normally we spend around $500 per month in groceries, so February’s spending is right in-line with what I would expect to see. This is getting tougher due to the rising cost of groceries, but we’ve been trying to clean-out our pantry and freezer for the upcoming house move.
For example, I’ve instituted a new rule that says we can’t put food into our chest freezer. Food can now only ‘exit’ the freezer.
This clean-out process results in some rather unusual meals. I’m almost afraid to share some of them (it’s embarrassing)!
For example, we found a bunch of old salmon burgers in the freezer, and made salmon burger sandwiches one night. We didn’t have any burger buns, so the best we could do was toasted bread!
Or, there was the night we decided to clean-up an old package of Mac & Cheese from the pantry. Yes, Mac and Cheese! With a few extra minutes to crisp up in the oven, it looked (and tasted) quite OK!
This “clean out” process is very slow going. Every day I look in the freezer or the pantry and say “What can I make with what’s in here.” This Japanese style Mabo Tofu is another example this process in action.
Of course we still have the occasional “treat meal” that requires buying a few items. Okonomiyaki is an example of a family favorite recipe where we had to buy stuff in February.
Other “clean-out” food included meals of things I found in the freezer like this gyoza and yaki-udon. Both of which were stored in our freezer and took just a few minutes to cook. (I’ve posted a recipe for the Garlic Butter Yaki Udon if you’re interested.)
Does anyone else do this? Do you have clean-outs of the freezer and pantry? I can’t bear the thought of throwing out all that food, so we’re slowly working our way through it — Even if it’s a bit embarrassing to share!
Fuel spending in February was $81. This amount was 2 fill-ups of gasoline for our cars. This is a typical amount of fuel spending for us in recent months (COVID times), but I expect it will increase in the next few months.
Mrs. Tako is now going into the office 1-2 days a week, which, along with rising fuel prices, is likely to increase our gasoline spending for the year. Whenever I can, I still try to walk or ride my bike. This helps keep our fuel spending fairly low, and I get a little exercise too.
Our mortgage spending amounted to $2,313. This is our usual amount. Our mortgage represents our single largest monthly expense, and it includes interest, principal, insurance, and taxes.
Depending upon where you’re from, this might seem like a lot, or a little, for a place to live. In my view, housing is extremely expensive here in the Seattle area. It’s bordering on unaffordable.
For example: We just had a friend purchase a 2,300 square foot home for $1.5 million. The home was built in the 1980’s and has see almost no updates or renovation. That should give you a peek at what our local housing market is like here. It’s super expensive!
While technically we could pay-off our remaining mortgage at any time, we’ve chosen to retain the money and hunt for better investments instead. So far this has proven to be a very effective strategy. U.S. stock markets have returned far more than our home equity during the life of our mortgage. I hope this continues.
Internet expense for the month was $48. This was a 6.7% price increase from January because Comcast chose to raise prices on our 100Mbps cable internet.
That’s inflation I guess. While nobody likes to pay more for the same service, we absolutely have to have internet access. The internet is part of life these days.
While there are certainly faster and slower internet packages available, we’re pretty happy with the speeds we’re getting and won’t be changing our service anytime soon.
Mobile phone spending in February was $0, again. Yes, it’s really $0!!!
This is not a joke. It’s an active choice we make to keep our mobile phone spending low.
We choose to use a pre-paid mobile service, and pay our mobile phone service only once a year. We last did this in May of 2021, and it amounted to $34.50 for our two phones. (Note: This low cost service does not include a data plan)
When we actually need a data plan (such as during a family vacation), we’ve used Tello in the past. Pre-paid data plans from Tello are an extremely low cost way to go. Sometimes as low as $5 per month (with 2 gigs of LTE data)!
If you’d like to sign-up for a similar low-cost plan — watch the Tello website for promotions. They seem to run a new promotion every couple of months. You can then go sign-up using my referral code: p3s4bkgq to receive $10 off. (That’s basically 1-month free just for using my referral-code!)
Utility spending in February was $285. This amount included a monthly energy bill (which includes natural gas) at $164, and a tri-monthly garbage bill at $121. These amounts are pretty typical for this time of year.
Now that outdoor temperatures are beginning to warm up again, I expect our energy usage will slowly drop until fall. Of course, once we move to our new home, all bets are off.
We’ve got a TON of things to learn about our new home, and energy usage is going to vastly different from what we’ve come to expect.
Insurance spending in February was $0. This is normal. Most of our insurance spending (for car insurance) occurs in October, due to the annual billing cycle. Instead of paying monthly, we choose to have an annual insurance bill. Believe it or not, paying annually costs less!
(For the curious: We do have home-owners insurance. It’s included in our mortgage, but I’m super lazy, and I don’t break that number out here in the insurance section.)
Other spending in February was $161. After a very expensive January, it was good to see these “other” expenses come back down to a more normal level.
Here’s our itemized “Other” spending in February:
- $112 — Swimming lesson expense for Tako Jr. #2.
- $8 — Parking fee in downtown Seattle.
- $25 — Prescription drug filled at local pharmacy.
- $15 — Miscellaneous home improvement supplies from Home Depot.
Cumulative Expenses For 2022
Total spending for the year so far was $7,726. This is only the second month of 2022, so there’s not a lot of data to report yet:
As the year 2022 progresses, I expect our spending is going to be significantly higher than last year’s spending. Primarily this will be due to maintenance and repair work on our home, as well as moving costs. As I mentioned in my last post, we’re finally moving!!
This is going to be a HUGE life change for all of us, and the costs are going to be significant. Probably close to $20,000 in out-of-pocket expenses before we can sell, and then we’ll have to pay-off the mortgage, pay the agent fees, taxes, moving costs, and so forth. Ugh!
We’ll most likely have significant capital gains taxes too. Our capital gain is going to be well above the home sale exclusion amount, which means a six figure check for Uncle Sam. Double ugh!
Frankly, I think we’ll be lucky if we have enough money left to afford a new home… which I’m somewhat freaked-out about. Houses are also really expensive where we’re moving, and money is going to be tight. Every dollar is going to count.
<Queue the money panic attacks!>
February 2022 Investing Update
During the month of February, the S&P 500 continued its decline with a 4.8% loss. Eeek! This year is definitely off to a rough start. In total, the S&P is down 11.8% YTD, and I’ve essentially done nothing on the investing front this year. Why?
Prices for stocks are still pretty high by my estimation. For example, the Shiller PE ratio is still WAY above median. The current Shiller PE (at the time of writing) is an astronomical 34.41, which implies an earnings yield of 2.9%. Too rich for my blood!
In my opinion, a 50% decline in the stock market for the year is NOT outside the bounds of possible. It could happen if interest rates rise fast enough and economic growth estimates decline far enough.
I can’t predict if this will happen or not, but I’m watching and waiting for the stocks on my watchlist to reach prices that account for this new “calculus” of inflation and interest rates being higher. A couple of stocks are getting close, but I haven’t pulled the trigger on any yet!
For now, I’m happy to keep sitting on cash and waiting for appropriate prices… even though I know my cash is being rapidly eroded by inflation. The stock market is actually declining faster than the rate of inflation. For the time being, it makes perfect sense to stay in cash.
Put another way: Cash is (currently) the lesser of the two evils, but I hope it doesn’t remain that way for long!
That’s it for February! Thanks for reading everyone!
[Image Credit: Flickr]