Don’t look now, but September is already done! Where does the time go? September was a very exceptional month on many fronts — both financial and on my daily schedule.
The most important change was that the kids started school again! In person school! Woohoo! After 1 and a half years of the kids staying at home with dear old dad (that’s me) due to the pandemic, I’m suddenly free again to get things done!
School looks a little different this year, and we’re certainly still learning to navigate all the new changes, but both the kids and I are excited to have them back in school again.
It’s an amazing change, having a little free time again! It’s like suddenly having a breath of fresh air after having held that same breath for a year and a half. I’m a little light-headed to be honest.
All the things I put-off during the pandemic due to “not having time” are now possible again. This means plenty of time for DIY projects, as well as a bunch of home repairs I put off over the last 1.5 years!
Time for me to get busy!
Anyway, onward to the September dividends me hearties!
Dividend Income In September
As I mentioned earlier, September was an exceptional month. Dividends for the month were an exceptional $14,866. Yes, you read that correctly — almost $15k of dividend income during the month of September.
This was our highest monthly dividend income for the year so far! As far as my records indicate, this was a personal record for regular monthly dividend income (not inclusive of any special one-time dividends).
Here’s a breakdown of our 2021 dividend income:
As you can see in the table above, we do see large swings in dividend income from month-to-month. This is entirely normal, due to the payout schedule of the stocks and funds we own. Some months the passive income stream is a veritable river of money, other months it’s just a trickle of cash.
Most dividend payments occur quarterly, with the bulk of dividend payments arriving in March, June, September, and December.
Clearly this September was a gusher of cash! Other months are mere trickles. To deal with the lull of payments during the dry months, we keep a reasonable cash balance (roughly 6 months worth of expenses) in our checking account.
September expenses totaled $3,382. This was our cheapest month of the year (so far), which I attribute largely to the kids starting school again. With the kids back in school, they need a lot less entertaining, and we’re also travel a lot less than we might during the summer months. This all came together to generate a very affordable month!
Here’s the breakdown of our monthly expenses by category:
Grocery spending in September was a reasonable $409. Normally we spend around $500 per month, so our grocery bill was quite affordable, despite inflation pressures. I attribute this mainly to all the fresh produce we received from friends and family members with gardens.
September is a harvest month, and we received plenty of excess tomatoes, zucchini, jalapenos, and cucumbers from friendly gardeners that I put to good use in our meals.
IMHO this is one of the keys to keeping a grocery bill low — The ability to be creative and work with what’s cheap, fresh, and locally available at the time.
So what kind of food did we eat in September on $409!? There were plenty of fresh salads to be sure!
Take for example this delicious Thai noodle salad (similar to a Thai dish called “Yum woon sen”, except I used rice noodles instead of glass noodles):
Another easy salad recipe that I used several times in September, was this tomato-cucumber-avocado-and onion recipe. (I’m sorry it doesn’t have a better name!) It might not look like much, but it’s amazing!
There were also plenty of Japanese classics in September too, like this “Brown Stew”, which is essentially a Japanese homestyle beef stew we eat pretty often:
Another Japanese dish in September was a recipe called “Karaage”. It’s very popular fried chicken dish in Japan, and I must say that it turned out very delicious! It’s completely different from American friend chicken!
Other Japanese dishes tend to creep into our more “westernized” meals all the time… like this pizza night (below) we had. Even though we were eating pizza, the side dishes were Japanese — Soy sauce and garlic fried soybeans, and a shiso/tomato salad! The shiso (a Japanese herb) was fresh from a friend’s garden!
The pizza was also pretty interesting because it was a meatball pizza. What can I say? We had a bunch of Italian meatballs in the freezer that needed eating-up! It probably won’t replace pepperoni as my favorite pizza topping, but it was still pretty good!
Last but not least, were these carnitas taco’s. I found an incredible deal on pork shoulder one day, and made 7 pounds of carnitas (about half of which went into the freezer for easy taco nights this fall). Couple the carnitas with some fresh cilantro, red onion, and avocado, and it turned into an extremely delicious meal!
And this is just a sampling of what we ate in September! There were plenty more super delicious meals I neglected to take pictures of! This just goes to show that it really is possible to feed a family of 4 on less than $500/month!
Fuel spending was a very low $42 in September. We didn’t drive much, mainly (I think) because the kids were back in school. I walk the kids to school every day, and Mrs. Tako works from home. Other than the occasional grocery trip, or taking the kids to soccer practice, I don’t drive much.
That’s not to say we don’t go anywhere — We do a LOT of walking most days, but this will probably slow down as the weather gets colder and wetter.
As usual, our largest single monthly expense is our home mortgage. This amounted to $2,313 in September, which is slightly less than we paid in August due to an excess of escrow funds.
Our mortgage amount includes interest, principal, insurance, and taxes. If this seems like a lot of money, please remember that we live in a very HCOL (high-cost of living) area. Real estate is extremely expensive here. Most homes in our area sell for over $1 million dollars!
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.
So far, this has proven to be a very effective strategy.
Our home internet expense for the month was $45. This is the regular amount we pay every month (at least until our 1-year contract ends). We get a ton of value out of this 100Mbit cable internet service from Comcast, so I’m actually quite pleased with the performance of our internet package.
While there are certainly faster and slower internet packages available, most of these don’t make a lot of sense for our household. Slower and cheaper packages would be too bandwidth limited for our multi-video conferencing household, and faster packages would just be completely unnecessary.
Mobile phone spending in September came to $0. This amount may seem shocking to some people, but it’s what we usually spend.
This is by-design! A choice we’ve made NOT to have the most expensive mobile phone service.
How do we do this? We pre-pay our mobile phone service, and pay only once a year. This happened back in May of 2021, and amounted to $34.50 for two phones. This pre-paid amount usually lasts us the whole year because we don’t talk on the phone a lot, and have no need for expensive texting or data plans.
Google Voice takes care of most of our calls for free.
Utility spending in September was $318. This amount was our bi-monthly water bill. Other bills, like our electricity and gas were prepaid earlier in the year to meet some credit-card spending requirements, and we still have a balance leftover.
Generally speaking, September is still considered a fairly warm month in the Pacific Northwest, so we don’t generally need to pay for heating. Eventually (when winter rolls around), our utility bills will rise due to extra heating and lighting costs.
Insurance costs amounted to $0 in September. This amount is perfectly normal. Our insurance expenses typically occur once per year in October, when we pay our annual car insurance bill.
We prefer to pay very large once-a-year insurance premiums due to the slightly lower cost (given by our insurance company) when paying this way. One lump sum ends-up being cheaper, so why not do it that 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.)
This is the catch-all category where I put expenses that don’t fit anywhere else in our expense report. Other spending for the month amounted to $253, and included the following expenses:
- $52 – Fried chicken dinner takeout for family visiting from out-of-town.
- $168 – Swimming lessons for Tako Jr. #2.
- $23 – Misc. small parts from Amazon (a kickstand for Tako Jr’s new bike, and some headphone cables.)
- $10 – Some outdoor caulking sealant from Home Depot. (I sealed-up some windows before the fall rain starts.)
Lately our “other” spending has been kind of high, so it’s good to see this category a lot smaller in September. Unfortunately, I have planned a bunch of home repairs this fall/winter which are going to seriously boost our “other” spending.
Cumulative Expenses For 2021
For the year so far, the Tako family has spent a combined $36,704. That’s an average spend of $4,078 per month, which is comfortably below our average monthly dividend income of $5,206.
Woohoo! The scales have now rebalanced once again, and we’re spending less than what our assets earn in dividend income.
(See, I told you it would eventually work-out!)
Obviously the year isn’t over yet, so I’m not declaring victory just yet. There’s a couple big expenses that are going to come-up for the Tako family later this year, but for now I’m keeping these expenses a secret. (Don’t worry, you’ll find out soon!)
For the entire year, I’m projecting a total dividend income of $62k. Without any surprise expenses, our annual spending will probably be around $59k by end-of-year.
That should provide a decent buffer in-case the unexpected occurs. I might not be able to predict the future, but I try to keep a decent size buffer for when entropy inevitably does its thing.
September 2021 Investing Update
September passed with no changes to our portfolio. Honestly, this is a good thing. Most assets are extremely expensive right now, and I would prefer not to pay outrageous prices for something I know is inevitably going to go on sale again.
Still, the fear of missing out can be a palpable one. It can easily infect our thoughts, those of our friends and family, and the media. They all combine to push us into paying silly prices for things, when we really shouldn’t. Just a little patience is required to earn good returns.
Beating-back these fears can be difficult, but I always try to calm the FOMO by replacing the name of the investment with something mundane from the grocery store.
“Did you hear? Beans just hit $290 a can! And apple juice just hit $142 a gallon! You better buy NOW before prices rise even more!”
Riiigght… Obviously the price of groceries is rising, but not like the crazy high’s we’ve been seeing from the stock market lately. (Who pays $290 for a can of beans?) When put in terms of groceries (or something less exciting), it becomes much easier for me to just chill-out and think calmly about how much I really want to pay for my investments.
Eventually good buying opportunities do appear, but you have to be patient. March 2020 proved to be one such good buying opportunity, and our portfolio is absolutely flying this year because of it.
Not all of these market gains are realistic of course, which is exactly why I believe in discounting the value of my portfolio back to more reasonable levels. Still, many people believe the market is only going to go higher from here.
Perhaps it will (eventually), but I’d rather not speculate on when such moves might happen. It could be next month, or 10 years from now! My job is simply to invest our excess cash at good rates of return. Right now, I’m just not seeing those good opportunities!
Thanks for reading everyone, and best of luck to all investors out there!
[Image Credit: Flickr (Bruce Straits)]