If each moment in life has a season, then June was definitely one of the busy seasons. The month just flew by! For starters, Tako Jr. #1 finished kindergarten and I went back to my full-time stay-at-home-dad gig. I decided to take it easy on blogging this summer, so I could spend a lot more time with Tako Jr. #1. So far it’s working out great, and I think he’s having a lot of fun.
Kids need a lot of entertaining, and if you don’t want them parked in front of the TV or tablet, you really have to come up with plenty of fun activities to keep them occupied.
For example, we’ve been playing a lot of Legos this summer — building robots, spaceships, and other creations together. It’s been good fun, even for me!
We’re also spending a lot of time at the library. Tako Jr. #1 can read pretty well, and he’s going through books really fast this summer. We go to the library a couple of times a week (on our bikes) to check out books!
At the library Tako Jr. #1 can also get a free lunch. It’s this great program put on by the local library in the summer for kids. The lunches are nothing too fancy — usually just a sandwich, milk, a vegetable, and a piece of fruit. Perfect for kids!
Tako Jr. #1 agrees that it’s fun to eat lunch at the library.
Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that I let him play games on the library computers when we visit …
Honestly though, I’m just happy he enjoys reading and utilizing the library resources. The library is one of the best public institutions ever created (thanks Benjamin Franklin!) — We’re always checking out books, DVDs, and going to events put on by the library.
IMHO anyone on the path to financial independence should know their public library very well.
That’s pretty much it for the “life updates” in June. It’s just a lot of father and son time. We’re enjoying our summer together, hanging out and doing all kinds of stuff.
Now, how about the financial updates?
Dividend Income In June
The dividend cash register really rang in June. Our dividends rocketed to an all-time-high of $12,009 for the month. This is the first time we’ve broken 12 grand a month in just regular dividend payments. I’m extremely happy with reaching this level.
Year-over-year our dividends have grown by 13%! This growth is primarily from two sources — regular dividend increases and from newly invested money (i.e. dividends I reinvest or uninvested cash).
For the year so far, we’re received $28,474 in dividends. That should put us right on track to meeting our dividend growth goals for 2019.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with this income trajectory — Our annual dividends are now pretty close to median household income levels.
(Note: I don’t 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!)
Expenses in June amounted to $4,751. This is a pretty average level of monthly spending for our family, even though we had a large “Other” category this month. (More on this later…)
Personally, any month that comes in under $5k I consider a good month! Spending less than $4k a month seems almost impossible without making major lifestyle changes, but under $5k still seems comfortable.
Our food expenses remained low again in June at $379 for the month. This amount is a good month, which I attribute to carefully shopping sales, cooking almost entirely at home, and avoiding overpriced drinks (sodas, juice, wine, etc).
Normally we spend around $500 a month on food, but if I work hard and focus on shopping sales/meal planning, I can get our food expense down a little.
Does this mean we live like paupers because our food expenses are low? Nope! Quite the opposite in fact. We eat pretty decadently… but nobody is going to believe me unless I include plenty of food pictures….
Take for example this meal of agedashi tofu and fresh corn on the cob. A simple yet delicious meal.
Agedashi tofu is one of my favorite tofu dishes. It’s so simple, and yet so cheap and delicious! Tofu doesn’t get a lot of respect in most American kitchens, but we try to eat plenty of it.
One of our favorite regular meals is tacos, and June had plenty of them. I made my slow-cooker-chicken-taco recipe this month, and the shredded chicken turned out great.
I always make a big batch of shredded chicken like this because my boys always eat a ton. Perfect for a batch of homemade tacos along with homemade salsa.
As usual, I always like to make plenty of popular “restaurant dishes” at home too. Pho is one of Mrs. Tako’s favorites, so I made her some spicy chicken Pho in June using my own recipe.
Personally, I think it’s better than any Pho we can get at a restaurant. Typical restaurant Pho tends to be really watered down and weak, but my recipe amps up the spice to provide a flavor-filled broth.
Having kids, I also tend to make a lot of “kid friendly” food too — like pizza and spaghetti. Simple food, but the kind of food kids enjoy. For example, Tako Jr. #1 requested that I make chili recently. This was the result.
While I’m no Texan, I think it was a pretty mean bowl of chili. The kids liked it, and the next day we use the leftovers to make chili-dogs. (Sadly I neglected to take a picture of said chili-dogs).
In June, we spent $150 on fuel. This is high. In a typical month, our fuel spending averages around $100-120. The excess spending this month is largely my fault. I’ve been (used) car shopping lately, and this requires a lot of extra driving around.
Even though Tako Jr. #1 and I are riding our bikes to the library as often as we can, hopping into the car to go look at a “new to us” car requires a bunch of driving we wouldn’t normally do.
Until I find a new car I like, I expect our fuel usage will be elevated.
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 expenses for June were $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, 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 June were $59. This amount is comprised entirely of our electricity and gas expenses for the month. As you can see, it’s a pretty low bill. The summer months tend to be fairly affordable because we don’t need to heat or cool our home, and there’s so much daylight we hardly need to use electricity.
In the cold winter months I might be paying $150/month, so these cheap summer bills are a nice reprieve from an expensive winter.
Our monthly insurance bill totaled $0 again in June. 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.
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 is something of a catch-all for expenses that don’t really fit into my usual categories. Most months we don’t spend a lot here, but for some reason June had $418 of spending. These expenses included:
- $185 Summer swimming lessons for Tako Jr. #1
- $46 Dinner-out with a friend at a local Pho restaurant.
- $43 CarFAX check on a car I was interested in buying. Unfortunately the seller backed-out on me at the last minute.
- $15 A stop at HomeDepot for a glass cutter.
- $53 A trip to Target to stock up on over-the-counter medicines.
Strictly speaking, most of these expenses I consider “entertainment”. If we really needed to buckle-down we could cut most of these expenses out.
Cumulative Expenses For 2019
For the year so far, the Tako family has spent $28,542. Outside of our mortgage and childcare, we’ve only spent $6730 so far this year. Not bad! 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).
Most people that live in this area (and have a family) spend considerably more, so even though our expenses are high, I’m pretty happy with our level of spending.
June Investing Updates
June was a notable month in the investing area because I didn’t really do anything notable with our portfolio. I’ve been mostly ignoring my investments, and Mr. Market has been in a really happy mood this summer.
Meaning, equity prices are higher than ever and the actual value received by the purchaser of those stocks is conversely lower than ever. This dichotomy has me feeling pretty comfortable with my “ignore and keep holding” strategy this summer. It must be working because my net worth is higher than ever! 😉
On the options front, I didn’t experiment with writing any new options in June. I was lazy and didn’t see any great deals. The last put option I wrote on Delta shares expired worthless in June (which means I pocketed the income), but I haven’t written any more since then.
If you recall, I recently started experimenting with option writing to see how the process worked. In the past, I avoided options because they looked complicated and risky. My overall opinion hasn’t really changed, but I decided to force myself in order to learn something new.
So far, it’s been educational and I consider the experiment to be a success. My knowledge of option strategies is still quite limited, but I can see that with a little practice (and some study), selling options could be a very valid income source. I’ve made a couple thousand dollars in income already.
The “trick” with writing options (it seems to me) is in knowing whether you’re gambling or investing. For most people the difference between speculation and investing is fuzzy enough with stocks, but options further complicate and blur the distinction between the two.
That’s it for June! See you next month!
[Image Credit: Flickr]