What? September is over already? When did that happen? Time really does fly! Unlike last month, the Tako family spent our September primarily at home. School started back-up and Tako Jr. #1 began the first grade!
Now that I don’t need to be watching the kids all day, I took advantage of all that extra time to ramp-up the number of blog posts I’m writing each week (back to my regular schedule of 2 per week).
All of the projects I backlogged for summer — like updating the blog archives, working on guest posts, and various “garage” projects are now starting to make an appearance on my TODO list again.
One project in particular was a lot of fun in September — I made this bench for our front porch.
I wanted a bench for the front door so visitors could use to sit and remove their shoes comfortably, but I also wanted something sturdy that would stand up to the elements…
As you can see, it’s extremely heavy-duty. This was my first time making anything with concrete, but it was surprisingly easy! Since this is a personal finance blog, I probably should reveal how much I spend on this little project — A budget destroying $29!!! (The wood was made from scraps, and concrete is very affordable)
The bench is not quite done yet, but getting very close. I still have a few things to finish. The hard part is going to be moving it — it weighs almost 300 lbs!
Enough about my Fall projects already! On to the dividends!
Dividend Income In September
The dividend floodgates opened back up again in September. They *really* opened. Dividends rocketed to a new all-time-high of $12,627 for the month. This is the second time we’ve broken $12k/month in just regular dividend payments. (That means no counting special dividends.)
Year-over-year our September dividends grew by 15%! This dividend growth comes from two sources — regular dividend increases from the businesses we hold, and from newly invested money (i.e. dividends I reinvest, or from investing excess cash).
For the year so far, we’ve received $43,631 in dividends. That should put us right on track to meeting our dividend growth goals for 2019.
Overall, I’m happy with our income trajectory this year — Our dividends are growing at a decent clip above inflation, and our annual dividends are now pretty close to median household income levels. (Yay!)
(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 in our taxable accounts!)
Expenses in September were $5,403. This is a little higher than I wanted after a very expensive August, but I chose to make a few “investments” this month that should pay-off in upcoming months. (More on these “investments” later.)
Here’s our spending breakdown by category:
Food expenses in September were $381. We cook nearly all of our meals at home, so the low monthly food expense is a reflection of our eating habits. Normally we average around $500/month.
Does this mean we’re eating rice and beans every meal and just starving the kids? Absolutely not! If anything, we eat extremely well by focusing on a few core ideas around food — Ideas I write about on this blog pretty frequently.
For example, in September I wrote a post about the Impossible Burger and how we already have superfoods available in grocery stores for cheap. For the blog post, I made hiyayakko 3-different ways.
Vegetables are one of the foods that make a regular appearance at meals in our home. Usually more than one vegetable in-fact. This is a very controversial subject in some homes with small children, but I consider it non-negotiable.
We eat vegetables and plenty of them.
Sometimes a meal can even be a single fresh vegetable that’s in season. This September a local gardener gifted me a bunch of kale, which I promptly turned into a delicious lunch of kale chips.
A little oil, salt and maybe some freshly cracked pepper then 3-minutes in the microwave makes perfect kale chips. The kids devoured that plate of chips in about two seconds. I had to make several before I got a single chip. A marvelous and nearly free lunch!
Not every meal is that cheap of course, sometimes we splurge on expensive ingredients to make things we truly love. For example, Mrs. Tako loves my clam chowder. (Honestly, I think she married me because of my clam chowder.) It’s a little expensive to make, and definitely time consuming, so I make a HUGE batch when I make it.
I use our largest pot when I make it — that’s easily 2 gallons of clam chowder. Some gets eaten right away, some gets frozen for later meals, and some becomes lunch the next day.
It doesn’t look all that special in the photos, but clearly I must be doing something right because Mrs. Tako hasn’t divorced me yet…
Another food category that hits our table frequently is something I like to call “restaurant recreations”. Instead of eating out at expensive restaurants, I like to learn the “secrets” to making those delicious restaurant meals everyone craves.
In September, I made Vietnamese Bahn-mi sandwiches that were mind-blowingly good.
Thai Panang curry is one of my favorite “restaurant” meals, and this recipe makes it to the dinner table at least once a month.
I used chicken, chinese eggplant, and bell pepper in this particular batch. It was delicious and much cheaper than eating at a local Thai restaurant.
Sushi is another one of those meals people tend to eat only at restaurants, but we make at home. It really isn’t all that hard, and I even wrote a blog post about it. Unfortunately I neglected to take pictures of the actual rolls this time around (doh!), but here’s the toppings for a simple dinner of temaki-zushi all laid-out.
Other nights, I’m all about making easy-comfort food. One day in September I was super busy and didn’t have time to prep a meal, so I threw together a quick Japanese dinner for the family in 30 minutes.
It’s nothing special — A little furikake-rice, cucumber soup, and some fried Korean gyoza. I like to use Korean gyoza because it’s cheaper and there’s plenty of vegetarian options. Fast and easy for a busy dad.
Gasoline costs in September added up to $137. This is basically “back to normal” after a very expensive August. Most days I don’t drive a lot, opting to walk instead. It’s far healthier than driving, and after eating all that ridiculously good food, I need all the exercise I can get!
These days I only drive when I’m making a trip across town — Often to pick-up affordable groceries from our local asian grocery store.
Mortgage & Childcare
As usual, mortgage and childcare expenses were our two largest expenses in September. These two items totaled $4010. This is where the bulk of our monthly spending ‘lives’ and it was higher this month! Ack!
Both our monthly mortgage and our childcare expenses went up in September! One increase was due to higher property taxes, and the other was due to Tako Jr. #2’s daycare raising prices on us and charging additional “registration fees”. (Grrr!!! His graduation can’t come soon enough!)
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 a good value for the money.
Our internet expense for September was $49.95. This is the normal amount we pay for “60 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up” cable internet through Comcast.
I think they increased the speeds in September, but I didn’t notice a difference. The existing speeds were plenty fast for our purposes. If anything, I might consider going to a cheaper package if Comcast ever stopped letting us renew our package at the same low price.
For the past two years our monthly internet cost has remained the same.
Utility bills in September totaled $546. If this seems unusually high, it’s because it is! I purposely paid $300 toward our power/gas bill in September to meet some spending requirements on a new credit card. With winter coming soon, we’ll easily burn through that $300 in the next couple of months.
The other utility bill in September was a water bill, at $246. Yes, that’s a pretty expensive water bill, but there’s not a lot I can do about it. Our actual water usage only amounted to $40 of that bill. The rest was taxes, surcharges and local water company fees.
Our monthly insurance bill totaled $0 again in September. Whenever possible, we try to pay the entire year all in one go, to lower the total cost. For example, our car insurance is paid only once per year. This is a large expense, but most insurance companies give significant discounts for doing it this way — it’s actually cheaper than paying monthly.
Our last big car insurance bill was back in October 2018, and we’ll have another one this October.
(For the curious: We do have home-owners insurance. It’s included in our mortgage. Call me lazy, but I don’t normally break that number out here in the insurance section.)
“Other” spending is expenditures that don’t fit neatly into any of the other categories. In September we spent $277 here. Here’s the breakdown of all the major (and minor) costs in the “Other” category:
- $115.00 – Tako Jr. #1’s passport expired and we needed to apply for a new one.
- $29.11 – Bags of concrete and nuts, bolts, and washers for my bench project.
- $10.00 – It was school photo time for Tako Jr. #1. This is usually a racket, but we only ordered two photos.
- $98.35 – Our local power utility was running a special on high-quality LED bulbs in September. I couldn’t pass up the good deal and replaced every bulb in our house with an efficient LED bulb. I consider it an investment. In the coming months this will reduce our power bill slightly.
- $24.55 – A plumbing repair job needed a screw extraction kit from Amazon to remove a stuck grub-screw.
While $277 seems like a lot of miscellaneous spending, the transactions were so spread-out I hardly noticed we were spending this much during the month (until I added it up for this post). Definitely an expense category I need to watch more closely in the future!
Cumulative Expenses For 2019
For the year 2019 so far, the Tako family has spent $45,577. Outside of our mortgage and childcare, we’ve spent $12,321 on what I call “Core Expenses”. I think that’s a pretty good number for a family of four! That number also includes all of our travel and entertainment expenses, which can explode quickly during the summer if we don’t travel-hack.
July, August, and September were very expensive months. I hope to see our monthly net expenses drop below $5k for the remainder of the year. (Here’s to wishful thinking! Yeah!)
September Investing Updates
While August was a volatile month for the stock market, things calmed down a lot in September. Stock prices rose, along with the value of our portfolio.
With plenty of cash-in-hand, I hunted around for some good investing ideas in September, but I never really found the prices I wanted in order to make a big investment. Instead, I decided to write a few options as part of my option writing side-hustle experiment. I wrote two options in September that generated $305 in income.
Assuming these options expire worthless (as they have in previous months) I’ll be able to pocket that income instead of having the option assigned.
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 of options. I’m not moving around large amounts of money here on purpose. I’m a big believer in “learning by doing”, and this experiment is just me sticking my tentacle into the option-water, to learn a little.
Hopefully the investing sharks don’t bite while I’m still learning! Wish me luck!
[Image Credit: Flickr]