Bert’s Savings Rate Summary: December

I know I am a little late to the game with this article, but I wanted to take some time to assess my savings rate for December.  Better late than never, right?  The last month of the year is always tough to save in, considering all the holiday shopping, meals with out-of-town family members,  re-uniting with friends that are around the holidays, etc.    With all the headwinds I was facing during the month, was I able to weather this storm and still defeat the Dividend Diplomats’ 60% Savings Challenge?

Before I dive into the numbers…heck, before I even begin crunching the numbers….I wanted to write a paragraph about my expectations for this month.  I am expecting my savings rate to decrease this month for many of the reasons I discussed in my opening paragraph.  My sister came in town for a couple of weeks and we spent a lot of time exploring Cleveland, checking out breweries, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.  It was a great time and we discovered many new places that I will be frequenting during the future.   While it was an expensive expedition, it was one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  With our crusade of Cleveland, gift purchasing for the holidays, and other expenses that come with being home for the majority of the month, I am expecting a decrease in my savings rate from not only the prior month (52.75% in November), but my average for the year (Which currently sits at 54%).  Now that I have set my expectations, it is time to examine the results.

Savings Rate Summary

Savings Rate Summay December

Holy smokes!  That blew my expectations out of the water! Even with the increased spending, I was able to have a very strong savings rate for the month.  It still could have been better and quite frankly, all the extra activities cost me a shot at defeating the savings challenge.  As I said before, it was worth it.  There was one key component I was forgetting about when I set my initial expectations, and I will discuss it in a moment.   Sorry everyone for sounding redundant, this just blew my expectations out of the water.  And for those of you who are wondering and calling me a liar, I really did write my expectations prior to calculating my savings rate.  So this is a genuine excitement level!

Income Summary

In December, I received income from the same three sources as in the past: employer, fuel reimbursements from driving for work, and dividend income.  My employer’s paychecks have remained consistent as I have not received any surprise raises or anything.  But who am I kidding, I wasn’t expecting that in the first place.  Second, my fuel reimbursements increase over $100 from November due to the fact that I was the driver on a fairly long road trip for work…one that was over 5 hours long!  Typically, I would fly, but there is no airport in the proximity so we are tasked with making the long haul via car.  Since I had the largest vehicle (and a Camry is not that large of a car compared to others), I volunteered to drive and pocketed the reimbursements from my company.  Lastly, and this is what pushed my savings rate up significantly for the month, was my dividend income received in December.  When I was setting my expectations at the beginning of the article, factoring the dividends I received in December completely slipped my mind, hence why I had a negative outlook for the month.  In December, I received a record amount of dividends, $1,103, and that provided a significant jolt to my total income received for the month!  This is just one of the many reasons why I love dividend investing and why I am striving to build a strong, growing dividend income stream as soon as possible.  December’s savings rate is just another motivator for me to keep fighting the fight and keep pushing myself to grow my annual dividend income.

Expense Summary

Expense Summary December

I’ll tell you what is funny about this chart right here.  Considering this chart in conjunction with the fact that I received over $1,000 more of dividend income in December than November, it is crazy to think about how much extra money I had to spend this month for my total expenses to only decrease 4% from last month.  As I have mentioned many times in this post, my spending increased this month.  As a result, I added a short-term category to the analysis to reflect the money used for gifts.   My family implemented a new gift policy over the last two years to help reduce the cost of gifts since we are all adults now, and I love it.  Instead of buying gifts for everyone (Disclaimer: This does not include my two and a half-year old niece. How could everyone not buy her gifts??), we randomly pick out of a hat one family member to buy a gift for and one family member to buy a gift card for.   A $25 per gift limit was implemented, and now the cost is ~$50 per person as opposed to over $150.  Great idea by my sister!

I incurred a few other expenses that were classified as “Other” above that were due predominantly to the re-upping of annual memberships.  The largest of which was Amazon Prime.  Since I am not a student anymore (nor have I been for a while), I have to bite the bullet for my Amazon Prime membership.  I don’t mind paying this expense since my family and I purchase a lot of goods off of Amazon.  While the one-time expense sucks, we definitely receive our value over the year as we continuously purchase goods that are eligible for free shipping.    I don’t mind this expense one bit!

Outside of those major items, my expenses fell in line with my expectations.  Entertainment increased significantly as discussed throughout the article, gas declined due to the lower gas prices, and my auto/living expenses did not change from the prior month.  The lower gas prices were a blessing for consumers this holiday season as it freed up more capital at the perfect time.  Plus, as a dividend investor, it created some great purchase opportunities as I treated myself to shares of Canadian Imperial and Schlumberger, both of which have been trending downward due to the price of crude oil.

Summary

At the end of the day, while I am upset I did not defeat the Dividend Diplomats’ Savings Challenge, I am pretty happy that I was able to achieve a 56% savings rate considering everything that happened this month.  I was bailed out by my dividend income for the month, and I hope everyone takes one lesson away from this article:  Keep on investing in dividend paying stocks, as the impact from a steady, growing dividend income stream is real.   One day, when large enough, I could turn off my DRIP and use my dividend income stream to cover my monthly expenses.  I am nowhere close to this point, but with December’s record-setting dividend month, I got a taste of what this would be like.   The fantasy is turning more into a reality with each passing month and I continue to purchase new stocks.   For now, I will continue to focus on increasing my income stream and savings rate.  After all, I still have some work to do if I am going to accomplish my goal of defeating the Diplomats’ Savings Challenge 6 times in 2015.

Thanks everyone for stopping by.  Hopefully you were able to have a successful December.  How did my month compare to yours? What suggestions do you have on how to reduce spending around the holiday season?

-Bert

 

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19 thoughts on “Bert’s Savings Rate Summary: December

  1. Nearly 57%, despite December’s expenses, AWESOME! You guys are rocking this dividend voyage!

    Well done, now we want to see 67% for this year 😉

    Cheers!

    • Thank you M! WE appreciate the kind words. I will be jumping up and down my street if I can consistently hit 67% this year. Hopefully, if things go according to plan, I will find a way to lower my monthly car payments to make crossing 67% a cakewalk. That chapter of my life is going to be a long, long process though, that’s for sure!

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Bert

    • Thank you ADD. I never truly appreciated how focusing on increasing your savings rate will accelerate my dividend growth, which in turn brings me closer to retirement/financial freedom. You can’t invest if you don’t have the capital, so the more you save now, the more you can invest, and then the faster the dividend snowball will grow!

      Thanks again.

      Bert

  2. Hi Bert,
    Congrats on a great savings rate – even if you didn’t meet your 60% target, you came really close! With added capital and dividend growth you should be able to easily cruise past a 60% Christmas this year on autopilot if you can keep expenses the same.

    Do you use any of the other features of Amazon Prime such as the movies that are included? I’ve not been too interested in paying for Prime as the standard free-shipping is fast enough that a 2-day guarantee isn’t that much value, and we get free (but old) movies from the public library.

    Best wishes,
    -DL

    • DL,

      I don’t take advantage of AmazonPrime as much as I should. Every once in a while I will find a movie that I want to watch or a free album that I would like to listen to. But not enough to attach any value to the service I am purchasing. We share a Netflix account and the selection on Netflix is far superior in my opinion. Since we order a lot of stuff, often times at the last minute, the free shipping is a valuable feature for us that we don’t mind paying for.

      You found the secret to free great movies, as most libraries have underrated collections. The libraries by me have some pretty recent movies. I need to start taking advantage of that more.

      Thanks for stopping by and the kind words.

      Bert

  3. Bert,

    As others have mentioned, it’s a great savings rate. Achieving 60% on a regular basis (as in year after year for years) is incredibly difficult for most mortals, unless you live with your parents and/or have a very high income. Saving more than 50% of your net income (you weren’t that far from 60% anyway) will very likely get you to where you want to be. I targeted a 50% rate when I first started out and it seemed like that would get me to financial independence within 12 years or so, depending on how I invested the savings. That’s a great timeline.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best regards.

    • DM,

      You’re right, that is an excellent timeline. 12 years wouldn’t be too bad for me at this age! I have hovered around the 50%-55% mark since I have started keeping track of my savings rate with only crossing 60% once, so crossing that 60% has proven more difficult than I originally anticipated. The easy way for me to achieve it is to downgrade my car, as I have written about a few times and I am sure you are sick of hearing me talk about the topic!

      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate the kind words.

      Bert

  4. Bert, near 57% savings is totally awesome! We might have a different strategy overall, but I have never reached such a saving rate! Doubt I ever will too!
    Talking about strategy, what is yours regarding dividend investing? Growth stocks?

    • DivGuy,

      I disagree, I bet you will cross that mark one day! I am always for talking about dividend investing strategy. My focus is on investing in dividend growth stocks. Right now, my portfolio contains mostly large-blue chip companies with several dividend focus mutual funds. I am in it for the long haul and am buy and hold investor. That is the quick and dirty summary right there!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Bert

      • Hey Bert,

        with 3 kids and a wife, 57% saving rate is just impossible… or I will have to constantly create frustration for everybody. I rather spend money and enjoy life. However, I have an immense respect for those who are able to save that much!

        • I don’t blame you one bit, there is not point in saving if your quality of life decreases. For me, I am not married (yet) and don’t have kids, so we are in two very different situations. I can’t wait to be in your shoes though, that’s for sure!

          Bert

  5. Great post! but the question would be 57% of which amount? 57% of 10 000 USD is feasible. 57% of 2 000 USD is, indeed, harder to achieve.

    Aside this, congratulations for your efforts and post. Very motivating towards our goals.

    Un saludo

    • Al,

      Thanks you for the kind words. As you mentioned, the dollar amount does make quite the difference since we are forced to incur some necessary cost of living expenses. Your example demonstrates this point perfectly. But no matter what your income level is, there are always ways to reduce your current expenses if you try hard enough! Every little bit helps.

      Bert

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