Another month is done, and it’s time for another monthly financial check-up! For most families, when the “Holiday Season” starts, expenses also begin their seasonal increase. Usually this happens due to an increase in partying, gift giving associated with the holidays, and the seasonal cooling of the weather in the Northern hemisphere.
Baby it’s cold outside!
In other words — Everyone cranks up the heat, starts eating more, and does more online shopping to pass the time.
Let’s check-out how the Tako family did in November!
Dividends In November
As I’ve done in previous months, I’m kicking things off with dividend income. Unfortunately, our dividend income wasn’t very exciting in November. November is one of those “off months” when our stocks, preferred shares, and index funds didn’t pay out anything.
For the month of November, dividend/interest income amounted to $569.79. Primarily this was just interest earned on our Big Fat Cash Pile.
December will be a much more interesting month for dividends, as the months of March, June, September, and December tend to see the largest dividend payouts.
For the year, we’ve collected $40,508 in dividends and interest. Given our current pace of dividend income, I expect we’ll come in a little bit below our 2018 dividend income goal of $53k.
A November Project
It seems like whenever I do one of these monthly writeups, I also have a new project to share. Some months it’s pretty boring — like swapping out an old toilet or repairing an appliance. I tend to only mention those kind of projects in passing.
Occasionally though, the project is a fun one. For example: Last month I made a board game for the family. The kids ended-up loving the game and still ask to play all the time.
November had an equally fun project — I made a bluetooth speaker!
Why did I build a bluetooth speaker? As everyone knows, I do plenty of cooking around the house. While I cook, I also like to listen to podcasts and music.
We previously had a cheap (free) bluetooth speaker, but it was too quiet and tinny sounding to do a decent job in a noisy kitchen. The batteries also tended to died a little too quickly for my taste.
So, I built a new speaker to solve those problems, have a long battery life, and to sit perfectly on the shelves in our kitchen.
(Yes, I know that Amazon sells really cheap bluetooth speakers, and Costco sells even better ones at a much higher price.)
I wanted both cheap AND good… which is a kind of impossible combination. The only way to get exactly what I wanted was to build it myself.
As usual with these kinds of projects, I made it for very little money. The 3″ full-range speakers were salvaged from some PC speakers being thrown-out, and the wood was all free. The lithium-ion batteries were salvaged from old laptop batteries as part of another project.
Really, the only components I needed to buy were a $2 bluetooth receiver module, and a $2 amplifier board. Both items were ordered off AliExpress and took over a month before they arrived. That’s really slow compared to buying from Amazon, but at least the shipping from China was free.
So, I made a pretty decent battery powered bluetooth speaker for slightly less than $5. I could easily have spent 20 times that on a store bought speaker! Overall, I’m pretty pleased with my DIY result, and my kitchen ‘tunes’ experience has never been better.
November might be the official start of the “Holiday Season”, but our expenses remained relatively low in November. In total, we spent $4,768 for the entire month.
Here’s the month’s expense breakdown by category:
Food expenses are one of those categories that tends to increase during the holidays. Unsurprisingly, our food expenses returned to “normal” with a total grocery spend of $504 in November. For the last couple of months we’ve spent less than usual, so it was no surprise when the food spending returned to normal.
What can a family of four eat for $500 a month? Just about anything we want. We absolutely feasted in November, and I’ve got some nice food porn to share…
At the start of November we decided to have some friends over for a homemade sushi party. We do this once or twice a year, and it always ends up being a giant feast. We made the sushi, and our friends brought Vietnamese egg rolls and ingredients for fresh spring rolls.
Unfortunately I neglected to take a picture of the fresh spring rolls. (Sorry, I was too busy eating!)
Besides having several kinds of sushi available, we also made several appetizers like miso soup and edamame. It was a big table full of delicious food.
Not every night is a giant feast like that of course. Most nights are much simpler (and less ridiculously filling). Take for example this broccoli potato soup topped with bacon and paired with corn and oven roasted cabbage. This was “easy mode”.
One night in particular I was feeling super lazy and just whipped up a quick rotini chicken alfredo with broccoli. Nothing fancy, just cheap, quick, and easy.
For Thanksgiving we decided to keep things really low-key, and I made homemade pizza instead of all the traditional Thanksgiving food. My kids love pizza, so this thin crust pepperoni pizza was a big hit.
Mrs. Tako isn’t big on pepperoni, so I made her a shrimp pizza. She ate like half of this pizza, so I guess it was good.
One of my favorite meals of the month happened to be just a simple Japanese dinner. There was miso soup and furikake rice…
and some delicious oven roasted brussel sprouts (with bacon)…
Then there was the chicken karaage… mmm so good!
Clearly the Tako family is just absolutely starving ourselves on a mere $500 a month!!
Fuel expenses in November were higher than usual at $154. We didn’t do any extra driving or road trips in November, the higher expense was simply due to the timing of our fill-ups, and slightly higher gas prices in November.
Some months (like October) end-up being cheaper than average, and sometimes they end-up being more expensive like this November. It’s usually just an artifact of timing.
Gas prices have already started declining, so I expect we’ll be back to normal in the fuel category by the end of December.
Our internet expense in November was $0… exactly as it has been for the last 7 months. Yes, we do still have very speedy internet service despite a non-existent bill.
So, why is our internet expense $0?
Back in May we prepaid our internet expenses to achieve a credit card sign-up reward. Usually our monthly internet bill is $49.95, but we prepaid $500 toward the account giving us a big credit with our cable internet provider (Comcast).
I expect to see our next internet bill in March 2019.
Mortgage And Childcare
As usual, our mortgage and childcare expenses are our largest expenses. Combined, they totaled $3694.05 in November. This was 77% of our monthly expenses. That’s not small potatoes.
Unlike many families however, these expenses are entirely optional for us. Using spare cash I could easily pay-off our mortgage, and I could take our youngest son (Tako Jr. #2) out of daycare. Those actions would completely eliminate these two large expenses, but at the cost of opportunity — I would no longer have that spare cash to invest, no time to blog, and Tako Jr. #2 would be missing out on the opportunity to become fluent in a second language (he attends a language immersive daycare).
For now, we prefer to keep these expenses and the opportunities they bring.
Utility bills in November totaled-up to $230. This amount was completely comprised of our bi-monthly water bill.
(Yes, this is a bi-monthly bill, and I still think we’re paying a lot for water.)
All of our other utilities (electricity, phone, etc) were prepaid earlier in the year to capture credit card sign-up rewards.
After a very expensive car insurance bill in October, our insurance costs returned to $0 for the month of November. Where possible, we try to pay annually for insurance and typically we realize some decent discounts by doing this.
Unfortunately this means our Insurance category is very “lumpy”. Big lump sum payments one month out of the year, and then nothing for ages.
The Other category in November amounted to $189. What did we spend it on? Well, $60 of it paid for dinner at a nice Thai restaurant for ourselves and another couple. We go out very rarely, so dinner and a movie is a nice treat. (We bought the dinner, and our friends bought the movie tickets.)
The remaining $112 was spent on Christmas gifts for the kids and $13 trip to the drugstore for some cough medicine.
Cumulative Expenses For 2018
For the year so far, the Tako family spent $61,895. Yikes! Despite all my blog posts about saving and frugality, that $61,895 sure doesn’t sound very frugal.
Mainly, I blame the high cost of living in the area where we live (The Pacific Northwest). It’s expensive here, and while not as bad as San Francisco, many 2,000 square foot 3 bedroom homes sell for close to $1 million dollars.
Despite the high costs, we do our best to keep our spending low…. but it’s hard to go lower than $1000 a month in core expenses.
Believe it or not, our 2018 annual spending is $5856 less than what we spent last year at this time. With any luck, I hope to maintain this level of lower spending for the remainder of the year.
Here’s our month by month spending for the year:
November Investing Updates
November was a very volatile month for the stock market, and there was no shortage of ups and downs in our holdings. While I still believe the general stock market is overvalued at today’s prices, I still find opportunities to invest our cash pile in little dribs and drabs.
During one such “down” period, we took advantage of lower prices to purchase more shares in three of our favorite holdings:
- Purchased 220 shares of LyondellBasell (LYB) at $92.35/share.
- Purchased 400 shares of SouthWest (LUV) at $50.49/share.
- Purchased 450 shares of Discover Financial Services (DFS) at $70/share.
These are all long-term positions that I intend to hold for 10 years or longer. So, even though the market prices for these shares have fallen even further, I remain mostly unconcerned.
I have a very good feeling that all three of these companies will be around in 10 years, and each of them is going to be more valuable than they are today.
Long term, we’re buying these positions for a growing stream of earnings derived from the business, NOT gambling on stock prices that might go up or down on any given day.
In my humble opinion, this is one of the greatest investing tips ever given — Think like an owner of the business. Imagine your a 100% owner of the business. Then, ask yourself — What will that business look like in 5 or 10 years? Will it be larger or smaller?
Once you’ve answered those questions, the manic ups and downs of the stock market should hardly register on a list of things to worry about. It’s not today’s prices that matter after all… it’s the prices in 10 years that matter!
That’s it for November! Thanks for reading everyone, and have yourself a Happy Holidays!
[Image Credit: Flickr]