Another month another dollar. That’s how I like to think about these regular monthly reports anyway. Every month we turn the crank one more time on the Wealth Machine. While our net worth actually increases a whole lot more than $1 in a single month, I like to think in simple terms — Dollars at a time.
It’s the KISS principle applied to wealth building!
Turning the crank means saving, investing those extra dollars, and then compounding any additional value that gets created by those investments. And doing that, over and over again every month. It’s a reliable process to building wealth, even if it happens very slowly.
In January, we did exactly this — we turned the crank on The Wealth Machine one more time. Read-on to find out exactly how we did!
Dividend Income In January
After a giant gusher of dividend income in December, January was off to a sluggish start. Dividend income for the month of January amounted to $708.
Generally speaking, January tends to be a “lower” dividend month, and this rule-of-thumb held true again in 2021. Other months are a giant firehose of cash. It’s not intentional that our dividend payments arrive in a uneven way, it’s just how the payouts happen. (quarterly)
Most dividends end-up arriving in the months of March, June, September and December. Those are the big months. We make no attempt to “smooth” our dividend income from month-to-month, and just accept it as it comes. This may seem strange for people who are accustomed to a regular paycheck, but we maintain a sizeable cash balance in our money market funds to deal with any fluctuations.
Since this is the first month of 2021, we’ve only accumulated a single month of dividend income ($708). Don’t let this single month of data fool you — With the economy recovering from COVID-19, payouts will definitely build-up over the year. Last year we had $60,000 in dividend income.
We might even see a few dividend increases in the coming year!
With only one month in the books, it’s too early to tell how the year is going to turn out (of course). That said, I did write up some thoughts about how much passive income we could expect to see in 2021.
Expenses for the Tako family amounted to $3,526 in January. This is right in-line with our monthly spending average from last year, so it’s safe to say January was a very “normal” month of spending. If you can call anything “normal” these days. 😉
Honestly, I’m surprise January wasn’t cheaper — It was a pretty dull winter month. The weather was bad all month, and the COVID-19 lockdown continued in January. So, we didn’t go anywhere or do anything of significant in January. We mostly stayed home, and did family activities with the kids.
Here’s the breakdown of our expenses by category:
Grocery spending in January came to $509. This amount is very close to our long-term monthly average. Typically we spend around $500 per month on groceries, so January was a very normal grocery month.
What can four people eat on $500/month? Pretty much anything we want, within reason of course. (I’m not feasting on steak and lobster every night!)
That’s not to say we don’t get a little fancy sometimes…we do! We spend plenty on expensive proteins to make our delicious and fancy homemade meals!
Take for example this wonderful steak salad created by Mrs. Tako. I swear there was some lettuce buried under there somewhere!
We also had another homemade sushi night in January, which happens to be WAY cheaper than going out for sushi. If your interested in doing this yourself, I’ve written a post with lots of pointers on homemade sushi. We usually make temaki sushi:
Sushi is a very labor intensive food however, which we solve by having everyone wrap their own temaki rolls at the table. We just arrange all the different fixings onto a platter and let everyone go at it. It ends-up being a ton of fun for everyone. Even the kids love it!
Other nights we eat far less exotic fair. Some nights it’s just fried rice and miso soup. Simple, yet delicious!
Other nights a “easy meal” is a old-fashioned homemade gluten-free pizza with a cucumber, bacon, tomato, and avocado salad. With meals like this, it’s easy to fill everyone’s belly at a very low cost!
Mrs. Tako has been a huge salmon fan lately, so about once a week I’m grilling up a fillet of salmon for her. We tend to buy salmon only when it goes on sale (salmon can be pretty expensive), but let’s just say that salmon expenses in January were significant. 🙂
This meal of grilled salmon, shishito peppers, and furikakei rice was one we ate in January. (Sorry, I neglected to take a picture of the whole grilled fillet.)
About once a week we also try to have a “Japanese night”, where we cook up some Japanese home-style classics. One Japanese meal in January was a popular Kansai-regional dish called okonomiyaki. It’s a bit like a pancake, but that description really does not do the dish justice. If you’re ever in Japan, I highly suggest trying it at a real okonomiyaki restaurant!
Mrs. Tako also took the time to make gingerbread cookies with the kids this January. I’m not usually a fan of gingerbread cookies, but I have to report that these were the best gingerbread cookies I’ve ever eaten. Hands down. Check out these beauties!
Yes, one of those cookies is in fact a ninja with a sword. A ninja-bread man! I don’t know how that happened, but I suspect it had something to do with this cookie making character:
Anyway, I could go on and on posting dozens more of our food photos, but I think you get the point — We eat very well on $500 a month!
Fuel spending in January came to $0. Yes, you read that right — $0! This is the very first time I can remember spending absolutely nothing on fuel for an entire month!
It really points to what we’ve been doing during the pandemic — Staying home, and avoiding contact with other people.
Instead of going-out and being social, we’re keeping ourselves occupied at home with cooking, reading, hobby projects, playing board games, and having some good family time.
While I don’t expect fuel spending to be this low every month, it is nice to see this category drop to zero for the first time.
As usual, our largest single monthly expense is our home mortgage. This amounted to $2,357 in January. This includes interest, principal, insurance, and taxes. If this seems like a lot of money, please remember that we live in a high-cost of living area, and real estate is expensive here.
While technically we could pay-off our remaining mortgage at any time, we’ve chosen to retain all that money and hunt for better investments instead.
Internet expense for the month was $45. This is our regular monthly payment for 100Mbps cable internet from Comcast (XFinity) with 5Mbps upload speeds. It might not be the fastest package available, but it’s more than sufficient for our needs.
While it is possible to spend less in this category, having good internet is a essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. We routinely have 3 zoom meetings going on simultaneously in our household… so having good internet is a MUST.
It makes no sense to try to scrimp and save for sub-par internet during these troubled times.
Mobile phone spending in January came to $0. In prior months, I completely skipped over the cost of our phone service… because it’s almost nonexistent. That said, I totally understand why readers want to see this category… people spend a lot on their cell phones! Probably too much!
Why is it zero?
Typically we pre-pay our mobile phone service once a year. This happened back in May of last year, and amounted to $35 for two phones. Yes, that is our annual amount. (Note: We are grandfathered into this plan. T-Mobile no longer offers it to new subscribers.)
Google Voice handles most of our telephony needs for free, so why bother paying more than necessary?
Utilities totaled $394 in January. This was our electricity/gas bill, and a water bill. Electricity and gas amounted to $150, and the water bill was $244 (bi-monthly).
These are pretty expensive utility bills. We live in a cold environment, and the cost of heating definitely rises in the winter due to cold weather. I certainly miss those $40 electricity/gas bills from the summer months!
In a household with two boys, we also use a TON of water, for showers, toilets, laundry, and cooking. It’s a lot of water, so I’m not surprised we have a $244 water bill.
Insurance costs in January amounted to $0. Yes, this is normal. Most of our insurance expenses actually occur once a year in October, when we pay our annual car insurance bill.
As usual, we prefer to pay very large once-a-year insurance premiums due to the slightly lower cost (given by our insurance company) when doing it this way.
(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 was $219. The “Other” expense category is my ‘catch-all’ for all the expenses that don’t fit anywhere else in our monthly report. Any expense that doesn’t fit into the other categories, I put here.
We had the following “Other” expenses in January:
- $200 – Additional Swimming lessons for the kids (another month for both).
- $19 – A Black ink cartridge for our printer (from Amazon).
Cumulative Expenses For 2021
For the year 2021 so far, the Tako family has spent $3,525. While it’s hard to determine trends from only the first month of the year, this amount compares well to the average of $3,497/month we spend in 2020.
With expected dividends of $62,000 for the year, we should be spending less than $5167/month. This means we are comfortably underspending our passive income (which is a good thing). Any passive income we don’t spend on household expenses is eventually going to be reinvested and compounded further.
With any luck the pandemic will “end” in 2021 and we can add a more spending for travel into our budget. We didn’t travel much in 2020, but I hope enough people will have access to the vaccine in 2021 that travel becomes more commonplace.
January 2021 Investing Update
The markets were acting a little crazy in January, and I mostly opted to sit on the sidelines and watch all the madness happen. It seemed like every day of the month my stocks were hitting new 52-week highs. Holy Cow!
I’m starting to get the feeling that the stock market might be a little bit frothy. It’s certainly hard to convince myself to put cash into the market when prices appear to be speculative in many of the largest S&P 500 stocks… but I keep looking.
And then there was that whole GameStop fiasco… which I absolutely avoided. I consider myself an owner of the businesses I invest in, NOT a trader of businesses. I would rather sit on the sidelines and collect the earnings from a good business instead of trying to hunt down the best short-squeeze candidates. I’m a farmer, not a big-game hunter.
Unfortunately this means I didn’t put any cash to work in January. Our powder remained dry while we waited for more attractive businesses to go “on sale”. Perhaps stocks will decline in February and finally generate some of those “fair prices” I’m looking for.
That’s it for January, best of luck to you!