Whoa! It’s already the middle of August and I’m just getting around to posting July’s numbers? Sorry folks! It’s been that kind of summer!
I’ve been busy hanging-out with the kids a lot this summer, and July in particular was filled with a lot of fun family activities at very affordable prices…
So what does a financially independent family do for fun in the summer?
Well, in July we took advantage of the kids bowl free program to take the kids bowling for the first time. While not completely free (we still had to rent shoes), the whole family was able to spend a couple of hours bowling for only $16 (shoe rental was $4/pair). Not free, but cheaper than a movie.
While our bowling scores are nothing to brag about, I think the most important part of the whole activity was some low-cost summer fun for the whole family. Both kids really enjoyed the experience.
Inspired by this low-cost entertainment, I set-out to finally figure out how to get free tickets to other entertainment venues in our area via our library. This activity ticket program is something I’ve always heard about, but never managed to get free tickets before. Until this July.
The first time I checked-out the website, I was discourage — no tickets were available. But after speaking to a kind local librarian, I learned enough tricks about how the ticket system worked to score us a free family pass to the Seattle Aquarium. Frugal win!
We made a day-trip out of it. Keeping with the frugal theme, we packed a lunch, and rode the bus downtown to the aquarium. We even managed to skip all the lines by flashing our fancy printed pass. I felt like a rock star, but the real star of the aquarium was a Giant Pacific Octopus… I believe the aquarium calls him Sam. He’s huge.
The Seattle Aquarium is OK, but I really think it’s over-priced for the what you get. For a family like ours, tickets would have cost $91.80. That’s too much! I much prefer paying $0.
Dividend Income In July
July is not typically a big dividend month for our portfolio, but we still managed to collect $1,860 in dividend income. This income is entirely passive, as we do nothing (other than making the initial investment) to collect it.
Year-over-year our dividend income has grown by 13.8%! This growth comes primarily from two sources — regular dividend increases and from newly invested money (i.e. from dividends, or cash in our accounts).
For the year so far, we’re received $30,335 in dividends. That should put us right on track to meeting our dividend growth goals for 2019.
Overall, I’m happy with this income trajectory — Our annual dividends are now approaching median household income levels!
(Note: I do not include income from our retirement accounts in these updates. We aren’t touching those accounts right now. These numbers are just dividends from assets in our taxable accounts!)
Our spending in July amounted to $5,235. This was a very expensive month for us! Generally, our expenses remain close to our long-term averages, but our ‘Other’ expenses were quite high (more on this later).
First off is food. In July we spent $554, which is slightly higher than our average of around $500 per month. We had a couple of big “stock up” grocery store trips that might account for the higher than average spending, but July’s spending felt about the same as usual.
Does spending only $500 per month mean we’re eating rice, beans, and ramen every meal? Heck no! Personally, I feel like we eat very well on only $500/month.
What did we eat? All kinds of things!
For example. I practiced making different Thai curries in July. I’ve been trying to improve my Thai recipes lately. Here’s a Panang curry I made one night. There’s chicken, Chinese eggplant, and broccoli in there (hard to tell from the photo). It turned out pretty good, and I think I’ve stepped up my Thai curry game quite a bit.
While I was on this Thai food kick, one night I decided to make mango and coconut sticky-rice for dessert. If you’ve never tried this before, it’s a delicious Thai dessert!
Normally I’m not that into desserts. Being the main chef in the family, I’m always trying to find ways to get more vegetables into our diet. One night I got a wild-hair and decided to learn how to make Vietnamese spring rolls (sometimes called salad rolls or ‘summer’ rolls). It seemed like a great way to bring more veggies into our diet, and they’re much healthier than the fried variety of roll.
Fresh spring rolls are one of my favorites — We load ours up with lettuce, shrimp, fresh basil, mint, carrots, cucumbers, onions, green onions, cilantro, and bean vermicelli noodles.
One of the great things about working with this many fresh ingredients — it’s absurdly easy to whip-up other dishes quickly. Take for example this Yum Woon Sen (Thai Glass Noodle Salad) that I made from exactly the same ingredients.
(This is what leftovers look like at our house.)
Mrs. Tako even got into the cooking game in July and made a Japanese cold noodle dish for us — It’s called Hiyashi chūka. It’s kind of like a cold version of ramen, and it’s great on a hot summer day.
Speaking of hot summer days — it finally got warm enough here that we started making smoothies. Somehow we had a ton of dragon fruit in the freezer and mango’s were super cheap…. so we made mango-dragon fruit smoothies.
If we’d gone to one of those chain smoothie shops we’d have easily paid $3-$4 for each of these, but instead we made them at home for about $0.25 each.
In July, we spent $118 on fuel. This is a pretty normal amount for fuel usage, and we average pretty close to $120 every month.
Even though Tako Jr. #1 and I are riding our bikes as much as we can this summer, I’ve been (used) car shopping lately and this requires a bunch of extra driving around to look at cars.
If it wasn’t for all that extra driving, our fuel spending would have come in a little lower this month.
Mortgage & Childcare
As usual, mortgage and childcare expenses were our two largest expenses in June. These two items totaled $3694. 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 July 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.
Utilities in July amounted to $401. This amount includes three utility bills:
- Bi-monthly water bill – $245.09
- Monthly power/gas bill – $53.60
- Bi-monthly garbage bill – $103.15
Normally we don’t have all three utility bills hitting on the same month, but July was a little more expensive than usual because we paid all three in the same month.
Our monthly insurance bill totaled $0 again in July. 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, but I don’t normally break that number out here in the insurance section.)
The ‘Other’ category had unusual high spending in July, at $416. What did we spend all of that on? Some of it was just entertainment, but other expenses were a little more necessary than others. Here’s the breakdown:
- Bowling for the whole family – $16
- Pizzas for a friend who broke his collar bone and couldn’t cook – $49.52
- Vehicle Licensing and Emission Inspection – $97.75
- Legal fees to draw up our Wills – $175.
- Misc. household item from Target – $3.33
- Additional swimming lesson fees – $75
Cumulative Expenses For 2019
For the year so far, the Tako family has spent $33,777. Outside of our mortgage and childcare, we’ve only spent $8272 so far this year. I think that’s pretty good! Those numbers might seem really large to some people, but it’s important to remember that we live in a high cost of living area (a Seattle suburb).
Conversely, if you live in San Francisco or NYC, these numbers might seem absurdly low. Context is everything I guess.
Most people that live in our area spend considerably more, so I’m pretty happy with this level of spending.
July Investing Updates
July was relatively quiet on the investing front, just like June. I didn’t buy or sell any shares in our portfolio. Family time took up a huge chunk of my time, but I did find the time to write a few options: One call option on CVX shares, two put options on DFS shares, and one put option on LUV shares.
All of these options will expire in August. I don’t want to give any premature results — but so far the July version of this little option writing experiment is going well. If my luck holds, these options will generate $512 of income.
As I’ve discussed in previous months, my option writing is mostly an experiment. I’m doing this to force myself to learn a little about the subject. I’m a big believer in “learning by doing”, and this experiment is just me sticking my toe in the option-world here, to learn a little.
Maybe I’ll learn enough to add a new tool to my investing arsenal. If not, I’m not risking huge amounts of capital. So far I’ve been pretty lucky without any big losses, but his luck might not last forever. So, I’m actively trying to limiting the bets I make in order to keep the potential for losses low.
Wish me luck!