Wow! Has it been a month already since I last posted an update? Don’t worry, this blog isn’t dead! I’ve just been super busy! While it might seem like nothing is happening on the surface, behind the scenes I’ve been working like an absolute madman these last few weeks.
As I mentioned in a prior post, we’re moving this summer, and I’m doing my best to fix up our home for an eventual sale. I’ve been painting, patching, sanding, and sawing. I’m fixing-up everything that I can.
Unfortunately, blogging has really fallen by the wayside while I get this higher-value work done.
It’s been a huge amount of work for me, and also caused a big jump in our monthly spending (more on the expenses later). Thankfully, our dividend income was particularly flush this March, and helped pay for some of those increased expenses.
Read-on to find out just how much we collected (and spent) in March!
Dividend Income In March
In a not-unexpected comeback, March dividend income reached a new record high at $15,601. The firehose of cash finally arrived, and this more than made up for a very lackluster February income. Compared to last year, March dividend income grew by 8.3%. That’s great! But it’s probably only keeping up with inflation at this point… oh well!
You can see our taxable dividend history for the year, in the table below:
While March was indeed a very good month, it’s important to remember that every month isn’t going to be fantastic like this. 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. The remaining months of the year are rather spartan in their dividend payments.
In order to “balance out” these large fluctuations in income, we keep plenty of cash on-hand to deal with day-to-day expenses and any emergencies that might arrive.
As I predicted back in February, the Tako family expenses went through the roof in March. Monthly expenses were $8,434, which is roughly twice what we normally spend! Most of this spending was related to the work of preparing our home for-sale.
Two expenditures were the major cause this spending — Hiring a team of people to paint our house, and a new water heater. Unfortunately, both large expenses needed to happen before our home could be sold. These expenses can be found in the “Other” category (see below).
Here’s the breakdown of our March expenses by major category:
Grocery expenses came to a very reasonable $414. This is lower that our typical grocery spending, primarily because I’m doing my best to clean-out our freezer and pantry before we move. For example, back in February I instituted a rule that says we can’t put food into our chest freezer. Food can now only ‘exit’ the freezer.
This clean-out process resulted in less trips to the grocery store, and slightly lower grocery expenses. Was the food any good? I think so!
And what did we eat?
Recipes like this yakisoba and miso soup are ‘par for the course’ at our house. It’s a mix of frozen and fresh ingredients that makes for a delicious dinner.
Digging a little deeper into the freezer I found some ground pork and hamburger. Using these ingredients I made Japanese style hamburgers (called “hambagu”) for dinner. The steamed broccoli was fresh.
Even deeper in the dark caverns of our freezer, I found some leftover sausage. That, combined with a can of beans, and a few fresh ingredients like carrot and avocado, made a delicious sausage and avocado soup.
Not everything is freezer food of course! One of my favorite recipes right now is a Thai dish called Gai Pad Kra Pow. It’s often called “Holy Basil Chicken” at Thai restaurants, but it’s extremely easy to make at home. I always fry an egg and put on top for extra deliciousness.
Since both of our kids had birthdays recently, we offered them their choice of meal for a birthday dinner. They requested sushi! Here’s all the sushi fixins ready for rolling:
From there, we typically make temaki — otherwise known as “handrolls”. They look something like this when rolled:
The result was happy kids (our kids love sushi), and the price was very affordable. What more could a parent ask for?
Fuel spending in March was $96. This amount was higher than usual, despite being only 2 fill-ups of gasoline for our cars. Those darn gas prices!
With Mrs. Tako now heading into the office 1-2 days a week, I expect our fuel spending will continue to rise for the rest of the year (at least until we move).
Whenever I can, I try to walk or ride my bike to cut down on fuel usage. This keeps our fuel spending low, and helps keep me healthy too!
March mortgage spending amounted to $2,313. This is our usual amount. Our mortgage typically 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 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 plan on moving soon, and homes just like ours sell for close to $1.5 million. The housing market here is just super expensive! Our mortgage remains relatively low due to the (relatively) small amount borrowed, and a fixed low interest rate.
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.
Internet expenses for March were $58. This expense went up $10 from last month due to the ending of our service contract. In previous years, I was happy to sign-up for a 1 year service contract in order to get the lowest price.
Unfortunately, I’m not renewing this contract because we’re moving in just a couple of months. There’s no point in signing a contract if we’re moving.
Mobile phone spending in March was $0, again. Yes, it’s really $0!!! It’s not a joke! This low phone spending is an active choice we make.
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 cheap 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 find a similar low-cost plan — watch the Tello website for promotions. They seem to run new promotions 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 March was $430. This included a power bill ($164) and a water bill ($266). These are fairly normal amounts for these utility bills. However, despite doing my best to find a drop-in water heater replacement, our new hot water heater is a little less efficient. This might be causing a slightly higher power bill.
Now that spring is here and temperatures are beginning to warm up again, I expect our energy usage will slowly decline like it has in previous years.
Insurance spending in March was $0. This is perfectly 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 usually 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 March was $5,121. This seems outrageously high, but it includes some very large (and irregular) home improvement expenses.
Here’s our itemized “Other” spending in March:
- $3,462 — Home painting expense (This is first half. The second half will be paid in April.)
- $1,029 — A new water heater. The old one was leaking and needed to be replaced.
- $304 — Miscellaneous Home Depot items for home repair/improvements.
- $121 — Annual tax software expense.
- $117 — A restaurant meal with friends. Yes, we ate out!
- $35 — School fees for extra-curricular activities.
- $28 — Final swimming lessons for Tako Jr. #2.
- $23 — Visit to a fancy (and overpriced) ice cream shop with the family.
Cumulative Expenses For 2022
Total spending for the year so far was $16,160. This was a huge jump-up in spending from February, primarily due to house painting costs. House painters are very expensive, but this is a necessary expense in order to sell our home.
Clearly, 2022 is going to be a very expensive year for us. With upcoming moving expenses and home sale expenses, the year is going to be VERY different from any we’ve had in recent years. Lots of money has to come out of our pocket before the house can be sold, but hopefully we’ll get it all back when (if?) the house sells.
Moving is going to be a HUGE life change for us, and I won’t even attempt to predict what those costs look like right now.
March 2022 Investing Update
March was an extremely busy month for me, but on the investing front everything was quiet. We simply held our stocks/funds and collected the dividends (which were significant in March).
Unfortunately the S&P 500 is down 5.8% for the year, and our portfolio is down a similar amount (4% last time I checked). I expect this trend (a declining stock market) will continue for the rest of the year as interest rates rise.
This doesn’t bother me one bit however. As a long-term owner of these assets, minor price fluctuations are nothing to worry about. These are minor ripples in the mighty tsunami that is compounding.
Yes, I said compounding. Because even though the stock market is down, compounding is still going-on in the stocks, and the funds that we own. Value is still building. This process is completely invisible to most people, but it still happens regardless of whether or not it’s visible.
Compounding like this takes time, and it also takes time for the markets to reward that compounding with appropriate market prices. Patience will be rewarded… eventually!
That’s it for this month! Thanks for reading everyone!
[Image Credit: Flickr]