With most of the population in Washington state getting vaccinated by the end of May, things have finally started to open back up again. The pandemic is subsiding here, and it seems like life is (slowly) returning to normal.
As you might expect, our travel adventures resumed in May as well. We took full advantage of the fine May weather, and went camping on Washington’s coast, near a small town called Ocean Shores.
Unlike our previous camping trips to the coast, this one included two days of razor clam digging…
The picture above was my bucket of clams. Each of us was allowed 15 clams per day, and we dug on two days. This was a total of 120 clams, roughly the length of my hand.
As residents of Washington state, Mrs. Tako and I were required to buy a 3-day digging permit for $9.70 each. Fortunately, the kids didn’t need a permit and could dig for free… although this did take a bit longer.
The device Tako Jr. is using to extract his clams (in the photo above) is called a “clam gun”. This works much better than a shovel, and you can even buy them on Amazon these days. (We borrowed our clam guns for the trip.) It’s essentially a piece of PVC pipe with a handle and a small hole. You push the ‘gun’ down over the clam, put your finger over the hole, and then suck-out both the clam and the sand together.
As you can imagine, this leaves a LOT of holes on the beach, but they quickly fill back-in after a tide.
It’s been over a year since the razor clam season opened on Washington’s beaches, and there were literally thousands of people on the beach. One news article said there were nearly 16,000 people digging clams that weekend. There was a line of traffic 10 miles long (measured using my car odometer) to get onto the beach.
Yep, you read that correctly — you literally drive onto the beach and park. If you’ve seen the beach race in the movie The Goonies, that’s literally what people do here.
Thankfully we got up just after dawn, and avoided most of the crowds. The early bird got the clams in this case. After that, we spent the rest of the weekend camping, cleaning clams, goofing-around, and looking at touristy things. At one point we even found a small sasquatch.
Dividend Income In May
Dividends in May amounted to $79.53. This amount is certainly nothing to brag about, but it’s still good to see our dividend income continue coming in.
As expected, May was a “low dividend” month. This is a natural lull in our dividend payments that is expected. Most dividend payments occur quarterly, with the bulk of dividend payments arriving in March, June, September, and November. This means 8 out of 12 months of the year are ‘dry’ months for dividend income (like this May). It’s mostly ‘crickets’ for these months, and then there’s a huge gusher of cash when the floodgates finally open-up again (as I expect they will again in June).
For the year, we’ve collected $16,255 in dividend income, which is slightly below our household spending for the year. There’s no cause for alarm however, this small deficit will be resolved when June rolls around.
Expenses in May totaled $3,947. This number is higher than our long-term average, primarily because we chose to prepay some of our summer vacation expenses. You can find those vacation expenses detailed in the “Other” category.
There’s also the possibility that inflation is causing our expenses to rise, but the effects of inflation still seem pretty minimal from my point of view.
Here’s the breakdown by expense category:
Groceries for the month totaled $56. What!?! Did I miss a zero somewhere? Nope, I triple-checked that number. That’s all we spent in May on groceries! Besides a higher than usual restaurant spending (found in the Other category), we did an excellent job of eating from our pantry and chest freezer in May. This is one of the reasons why I love my chest freezer. It’s a great money saver if you can train yourself to use it well.
For example, I found a bunch of Italian meatballs in the freezer that *needed* to be eaten. These got turned into “hiyashi-meatballs”… a sort of fusion of the Japanese dish Hiyashi rice, and Italian cuisine. Oddly, this fusion dish worked amazingly well:
The frugal cooking didn’t stop there of course! We ate plenty of affordable meals out of the pantry (and fridge) like this delicious ‘egg’ salad:
As usual, we ate plenty of “Japanese home cooking” meals — not the kind of things you’d find at a Japanese restaurant. This ‘Hambagu’ and miso soup is a good example. (For the curious: Hambagu is kind of like a Japanese version of meatloaf)
One of my favorites of the month was a Japanese dish called “remen”. Not to be confused with ramen. Remen is a Japanese cold noodle salad dish, typically served on hot summer days (along with a kind of dressing). We had several hot days this May, so we at remen several times! (I realize you can’t see the noodles in the photo below, but they ARE under the toppings. I assure you!)
Of course, since Memorial Day was in May, I had to get our outdoor grill going, and make some delicious tacos! These were grilled chicken and bacon tacos.
As you can see, despite our ultra low grocery bill for the month, we still managed to eat extremely well. Don’t worry, our food spending in June should be back to normal levels!
Fuel spending in May was $97. Since the pandemic began our fuel spending has been consistently under $100/month, and we saw this trend continue in May.
Even though we drove over two hundred miles on our camping trip, this only amounted to one additional tank of gas (roughly $40) for the month.
As usual, our largest single monthly expense is our home mortgage. This amounted to $2,357 in May. 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 quite 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.
Home internet expenses for the month were $45. This is our usual amount for 100Mbit cable internet service. While there are both faster and slower packages available (as well as a cheaper), we’re happy with the price-to-performance we’re getting with the current package.
Anything cheaper would be WAY too slow, and anything faster would be unnecessary.
Mobile phone service spending in May amounted to $43. This amount includes our annual phone spending ($10 for me, and $20 for Mrs. Tako before taxes), as well as a new data plan.
In preparation for our summer travel, I signed-up for this new Tello data-only plan, costing $8.50 (after coupons and promotions). This plan will provide us with 2 gigs of cell data for two months, which works out to be $4.25/month.
Most of the time we don’t need a data plan of course, we just use wifi — The beauty of the Tello data plan is that I can turn-on or off the service anytime I need a data connection (like when we’re traveling).
Our plan is to use the mobile data connection for the duration of our summer travels, and then turn off the service once we return home.
Since this is a pre-paid plan, there’s no contract, and I’m using my existing phone (It’s a dual-sim phone that allows me to use two sim cards at the same time). Tello has, by far, the cheapest data-only MVNO plan I could find.
If there’s enough interest in Tello’s affordable cellphone plans, I can write-up a proper review in a separate post. Just let me know in the comments if you’d like to see one. So far, the service seems great!
If you’d like a similar low-cost plan, sign-up using my referral code: p3s4bkgq to receive $10 off.
Utility bills in May amounted to $459. This was three different bills — our electricity and gas bill ($82), our water bill ($254), and our garbage bill ($124).
If this collection of utility bills seems a bit expensive, you’re correct. Our water bill is bi-monthly, and our trash bill is tri-monthly. May just happened to be a “triple whammy” month when all three bills hit at the same time.
This is merely an artifact of the billing cycle, and only happens a few times a year. If our utility bills were normalized we’d average around $300/month.
Insurance costs in May amounted to $0. This is a normal amount for us. Most of our insurance expenses occur once per 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) by 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 in May was $889. This “Other” expense category is a ‘catch-all’ for all the expenses that don’t fit anywhere else in the monthly report.
“Other” expenses consisted of the following in May:
- $200 – Swimming lessons for the boys.
- $19 – Three day clam digging permit for Mrs. Tako and I.
- $539 – Hotel booking for our summer vacation.
- $17 – A take-and-bake pizza one night when I was feeling lazy.
- $23 – Dinner from Wendy’s when we were on the road. (Yes, I used a coupon)
- $31 – A few kitchen supplies from Target.
- $58 – Miscellaneous items from Amazon (some were food items, but I decided to include it in ‘Other’ instead of ‘Groceries’).
Cumulative Expenses For 2021
For the year 2021 so far, the Tako family has spent $18,622. That’s an average spend of $3,724 per month. We’re only five months into 2021, but already it appears our spending is up compared to our average monthly spend of $3,497 in 2020.
Could this be inflation causing our expenses to rise? It’s possible, but please remember that our spending in 2020 was artificially low due to the pandemic. We did very little traveling in 2020, and I totally expect our spending to be higher this year.
May 2021 Investing Update
On the investing side, May was another quiet month. The stock market continued to rise, albeit at a slower rate than we’ve seen in prior months. And I continued to mostly ignore it and get-on with life!
However, these ultra high stock prices had me thinking about selling a few shares. Specifically, some of our REIT holdings have now reached unprecedented levels, with Price to FFO levels over 30.
Rationally, this seems like a good time to sell. I’ve never seen my REITs this high before, but I also remind myself this could be a bad idea — Real estate has historically been one of the few assets that’s done well during times of inflation. Currently we don’t yet know how bad this current bout of inflation is going to get, so perhaps it’s a good idea to hold onto those REITs instead.
Maybe… I’m still thinking it over!
If anyone wants to accuse me of market timing, please go ahead. I’ve held these particular REITs for 20 years, and I’m up over 1,000%. So yes, please call me a dirty market-timer. I can handle it.
Incidentally, I’m curious how long you readers have held your stocks. I’m a big believer in letting your winners run. So please, tell me in the comments how old your oldest stock-holding is!
Thanks for reading! Catch you next time!