The Long Overdue Travel Refund
Getting a travel refund this year was a royal pain in the butt.
I’m sure I’m not alone in spending a lot of time this year waiting for a travel refund. For us, it was a trip to Spain. We booked our trip in early February, realized we need to cancel pretty soon after and had to jump through a bunch of hoops to actually get a refund! Luckily, we only booked our flights at the time so we only had to deal with one thing.
However, even that wasn’t easy and took a lot of emails and even fees to finally happen. We booked through a trip aggregator since we had to book with a few airlines so we had to cancel through them too. I don’t even remember what aggregator it was since booked by my father in law but the refund process involved paying a bit for a priority refund queue or something of that ilk. It was total nonsense and made me not want to use an aggregator in the future at all.
I think going through the airlines themselves would have been a lot easier. However, we did finally get our refund less fees in July, only a few months AFTER our trip was to happen. We were lucky in that we got anything back and that we also didn’t book everything so I’m not unaware of that fact. Still, I wish these companies made it much easier to refund things in the face of such unprecedented times.
I mean Spain was on lock down by the time we were supposed to go there, what were we supposed to do?
Still, that refund means that July will likely be a pretty good savings rate month. I can’t go back and erase the expense from February so I’ll just track it as a negative expense here in July and boost my savings rate so it all works out in the yearly summary.
Beyond that, July was another low expense pandemic month. It’s summer and typically we’re taking a lot of day trips in our state during the warmer months but naturally that’s a no go this year so we’re staying in more often. Our weekly fancy dinners are down to a pizza here and there and most other stuff that we do that requires being outside and/or costs money is gone too.
It’s kind of a bummer to not be able to do all that stuff but it’s the reality of life these days and we’ll see how long it lasts. The winter months are coming so I don’t expect it to change anytime soon.
On the dividend side, I’ve had a few months where growth disappeared due to some sales and/or dividend cuts. However, I’m hopeful that I could get back to growth now. My M1 Finance portfolios have seen an influx of cash and those hold a lot of stocks that pay monthly. That should mean I’ll start seeing some growth in these smaller months.
It also seems like the dividend cuts that I discussed in my last post have slowed down a bit. At least, I haven’t heard as much about them as I did in the last few months. I still think the road ahead is rocky despite the rising stock market so we’ll see how the next few months and the year ahead progresses.
At this point, I’m aiming for some growth this year even if it’s not meeting the goals I set at the beginning of this year. Let’s see if I can get back to growth in July.
July is a smaller month for dividends unlike June which had a lot of ETF and mutual fund payouts. However, it’s getting bigger and last July sat at $240.76 so let’s see where I am now.
July 2020 Dividends
July 2020 came in at $275.18. That’s a return to growth with a 14.3% boost over last year.
It’s not a huge jump but any growth during this time is awesome. It also brings the growth for the year back to the positives with a growth rate of 0.3%!
The money re-invested will help my future income grow by $7.98 annually. Not a huge impact but even small dollar amounts help the ball keep rolling into the future.
That’s why Steve, my dividend employee, keeps growing his income. It’s all continued investing and re-investment.
Steve’s wage this month was $1.65/hr so it was an off-month for him but that wage keeps growing. For the year, Steve’s hourly wage is $4.89/hr with his two biggest months ahead of him.
You can see by the graph above that the September and December months are ahead so that hourly wage will grow before the year is over. Still, even these smaller months add up and make all this growth possible.
It’s not just additional money, but re-investing and companies increasing their dividends through the years that makes this all work so well. That’s certainly been a bit harder this year with all the ups and downs of the market. That’s on top of the dividend cuts or freezes many companies have experienced.
It’s possible we haven’t seen the end of either of those things. In the short term, the market may still be turbulent and dividends are at risk. However, in the long term, the strategy of buying and holding will definitely work as it has in the past and Steve will prosper! The long term goal here would be an hourly wage that covers all my expenses and I’m still years away from that but it’s getting closer every day.
July Total : $275.18
2020 Total : $5701.13
Portfolio monthly hourly wage : $1.65/hr
Portfolio annual hourly wage : $4.89/hr
July 2020 Expenses and My Travel Refund
June was an expensive month with some dental expenses so it was nice to move into a month where I didn’t have a similar scenario in front of me.
July really only had one major expense in the form of a vet visit. That include a bunch of shots and blood work which can add up fast but it still wasn’t a huge concern like the two root canals were last month. On top of that, my travel refund came into play and offset a small portion of my expenses.
Honestly, I had pretty much written off the refund as something that wouldn’t happen so it was nice to get that influx of unexpected cash. It wasn’t anything huge and was like 9% less than the tickets were worth due to the refund “fees” but whatever.
Last July my savings rate was 56.8% so let’s see where I am now.
My savings rate was 61.1% for the month of July. Including employer contributions brings that number up to 68.6%.
On a gross income basis, I saved 42.7% of my income or 47.99% with employer contributions.
It’s always nice to hit a 50% savings rate month and this is the 5th one this year. That’s the one thing that comes with this pandemic, better saving rates since we’re not spending jack.
I’m lucky enough to have a job that’s not majorly impacted by this and knowing that I could be in a position where this isn’t possible really makes me want to save more and have a bigger cushion in case things go awry. I’m so aware of my fortune to be in this position so I’m taking advantage of it as much as I can.
The expense graph is a bit weird this month mainly cause of that travel category coming in at a negative. It’s the best way I could think of reflecting it since I want the dollars to be accurately represented when I do my yearly wrap up. At the end of the day, it is a negative expense to offset an earlier expense that was already booked.
Rent was #1 like usual. However, pets slotted in at #2 with a yearly visit to the vet. There were a lot of shots to get and my dog is on a few medications that are a bit expensive and require blood work. I don’t know if you’re aware of this but blood work for pets is a total rip! Costs like $250 to get some tests done in this area. That’s outrageous!
Health insurance was next and whenever I see that my employer subsidized $3500 deductible HSA plan is 6.4% of my expense, I always wonder why healthcare in this country sucks so much. I’m totally on the medicare for all train even if it means much higher taxes. I already spend a lot of money for a shitty health insurance plan, why not do it in a way that lets everyone else have health coverage too. It’s silly.
My car was next and that’s an expense that will likely show up next month too. My car is hitting that 60,000 mile threshold and will need some costly regular maintenance as well as new set of tires.
Beyond, that, there’s not much else. We spent a lot of time indoors and any restaurant spending was limited to low cost options like Pizza. Grocery bills were partially offset with some cash back rewards and entertainment was limited to some video games and streaming services.
It’s not a huge deal for us to miss out on the outdoor stuff since we’re indoor cats anyway. However, I do miss a nice trip to the shore with a nice dinner to end a wonderful day. I miss seeing my friends and family regularly and I miss not being anxious about being outside too much.
Still, we’ve tried our best to do other things to make it work. My wife and I started to volunteer at a cause that matters to us(safely distanced of course) and we’ve tried to spend more time working out and getting in shape. It’s not the best situation but we’re making it work.
However, I’m still super aware that I have it pretty good in this climate and am grateful for that everyday. This was not only a good savings rate month or dividend month but more importantly, it was a good month overall too. Here’s hoping there’s improvement down the line for others whose lives are much more impacted by this.
Hope your July was a solid one and you stayed healthy and safe.