Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The battle continues...

It is Man vs Van vs Stuff

VS Van
I've completed the repairs to the cooling system. Last week I was trying to find out why my battery light had decided to stay on, turned out to be a bad wire but the next day the belt that drives the water pump broke. The broken belt damaged the coolant reservoir and some hoses. I simply pulled the power steering belt off and put in on the water pump, had to drive around for a week without power steering. I've replaced the two coolant tanks, pressure caps, new hoses and belts. Currently in the process of getting all the air out of the system.

VS Stuff
Lots of progress last weekend:
I donated three sets of sheets, some clothes, and threw out some used van parts.
I've eliminated the rest of the food and other consumables (except for vitamins).
Gave away some books and some more garage fluids (cleaners and oils).
I did a rough pass through my DVD collection looking for movies that I could easily live without and started copying them onto my laptop. The rest will come later on. I will be getting an external hard drive to dedicate to movies and photos.
Ive sold the jack and axle stands, they were not built to lift/hold the weight of the van and wouldn't be safe to use.
A director chair or two may be sold later this week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

200 days Van Dwelling in a VW Westfalia

March 19th was the 200th day of Van Dwelling for me. To mark this generic milestone, I will take a look back and reflect upon what I have learned and observed.

First off, I moved out of the van right at the end of a hot summer. There were days when I had trouble sleeping due to the high interior temperatures but cooler weather quickly came. My lesson is that anyone can survive living in Houston without heat (Although, I wont be trying to survive without Air Conditioning this summer). There were times when I wanted to have heat but my only choice was to generate it with my body. Crawling under my blankets and comforter was initially shocking due to the cold but I would soon be fast asleep. Getting up to go to work is far more difficult when it is cold. A few cold nights I used a candle to provide ambient heat/light and it made the mornings much easier to deal with so I would recommend that. Cold down here is when it is 40-50F. It did get below freezing a couple of times but I survived. In a pinch, the stove can be used for comfort heating but you have to open a window.

In November my dividend income was very low and it would only cover approx 9% of my yearly expenses. Since then I have made it a priority to save/invest all my "extra" income. Currently my dividend income is approx 20%. It has been both exciting and depressing to see it rise, exciting in that I've increased it by 11% but sad that it took so long to do and it is really depressing to think about how much I would have had if I had been saving this way when I started my job in 2009.

When I moved out of my apartment, I had a storage unit stuffed with unnecessary items. Bread makers, toasters, extra Tupperware, chairs, etc... So much stuff that it was difficult to get in/out of the storage unit. I still have a storage unit but I can walk in/out without a problem and most of the bulky items are gone (still have the mattress). The remaining items either have emotional or useful ties and are difficult to throw out. I've started setting price levels of items I am willing to get rid of if they cost less then the price of storage.

Window tint is required for van dwelling. With it, you can be sitting in front of Starbucks using the wifi and feel as comfortable as being at home. However, having some does not mean that you can turn on all the lights or have loud music.

A dedicated parking spot is the best thing you can have when van dwelling with long term work. The stress of moving to a new location each night was wearing me down.

Space is a premium and it takes very little time for the van to get messy. I spend a few hours a week putting things away and cleaning, afterwards I feel at ease with the van. The mess brings stress.

That is all I have for now, I'll add to the list as I think of more things.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Future Dollar Thinking

Ever walk into a store, see the price tag for an item you want and then figure out how many dividend paying shares you would need to acquire to pay for that item each month?

I do.
If you did this every time you purchased something, it would make retirement seem like an impossibility. But just imagine, for a moment, that weekly coffee drink or burrito that you, and I, enjoy. Use something that is a special treat, not the regular day-to-day things for this thought experiment. Special treats have higher value to us should continue to be purchased so long as it's personal value continues to be high. If you had to choose between giving up the weekly treat and giving up the weekly morning latte, ditch the latte. If the weekly latte is your weekly treat then this experiment will be much more painful/eye-opening to go through.

Lets use a burrito as the weekly treat: it roughly costs around $6 at most of the major burrito places.
Lets say you got this burrito once a week. Rough cost of $312 per year for your weekly treat.

The ideal situation would be to have you dividends pay for you treat so that it does not impact your lifestyle in retirement. If dividends were paid weekly there wouldn't be an issue but the best you can do in the current market is monthly. With some simple budgeting it shouldn't be a problem to pay for the burritos.

How much does this treat habbit cost? $312 per year which is equal to $25.98 per month, round to $26.

Lets take a look at some of the top-yielding monthly-dividend paying companies/stocks.
Alpine Global Dynamic Dividend  AGD  Yield=11.78%  share price of $6.20    Mo. Div.  $0.06
PIMCO High Income                   PHK  Yield=11.29%  share price of $12.96  Mo. Div.  $0.12

I've only put the top payers here for simplicity of this thought experiment, no advise is given to buy or sell. Some would argue that anything about 5% is unsustainable but back to burritos!

With the monthly AGD stock dividend of $0.06, it would take a minimum of 433 shares to provide $26 of monthly dividend income, which would require an initial investment of $2684. This is not including the bite that taxes take so it would be better to have more shares, 25% more or ~550 at the cost of $3410.

Investor/trader note* Always round up to whole groups of shares like 10 or 50 or 100. They trade much
 faster then 433 or 541.

What would that commuting expense of $60 per week in fuel be?  You will need to be investing $34100 in 5500 shares

So, how much are your treats costing you?

The simple thought experiment above is applicable to everyone but you may suddenly want to become a van dweller and trying to live off of 11k per year after seeing your future dollar costs.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rainy days and Mondays

They always get me down.

Daylight savings is just another way to deprive sleep from the wage slaves. At least the kids are on spring break giving regular commuters a reprieve from terrible traffic.

I enjoy listening to the rain, so soothing.

Sadly, this rain storm has highlighted a few van flaws. I noticed some rain droplets forming at the corners of the skylight cover. If the droplets land at just the right angle, they will splash between the seal and the cover. I also noticed some water along the slider window tracks. When the weather dries out I will climb up there and see what I can do.

The clutter within the van was driving me mad on saturday and I spent some time cleaning/organizing while I did my laundry. I donated a box of towels and my old hubcaps; the new hubcaps are a bit to shiny for me.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2/30/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month went very well...Lets see how well it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 2/1/2012 through 2/31/2012 I get -$1205
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $14,448. :( not even close.
lets take a closer look.

Regular Food costs: -$148 or -$37 per week (Normal)
Fun Food Costs:  -$150 or -$37 per week (Way better then last month)
Fuel: -$192 or -$48 per week (Normal)
Van: -$190 (One new tire and propane)
Travel: -$461 (Balance due for Ski trip, couple days at Galveston Island RV Park )
Insurance: -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium but still counted as monthly)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in February)
Misc: -$20 (drill parts)
Storage:  -$32 (plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox)
Gifts: -$35 (Two wedding gifts)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Travel, fun food, and van expenses.
The fun food expenses were eating out with friends and solo burritos, I am tempted to not put my solo burrito meals in the fun food. The extra tire for the van was a bit spontaneous but I should have taken care of it when I got my new set of tires. This brings my luxury expenses to $835 and necessary to $369 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $4428... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$350 (I don’t have any long distance driving trips planned for next month)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$100 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$300 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $10164

Just under my 11k mark again but still disturbed by fun expenses. Food with friends and Travel are what killed this month's budget but I can hardly be angry about it because it was really fun. 

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what an almost normal month will look like. I know that there will be another flight purchase for early May.

Note: Gave away a few more items. Still have mattress and vacuum.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 16.6%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 17.97%
Note: Since last post I have sold one of my positions and redistributed it into a lower interest but more stable stock. Ill wait till after the dividend to re-buy.

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for March and the rest of the year is to push hard on dividend stocks and trim expenses. I also want to find additional employment for weekends. Such slow progress and the market has not been very favorable. Currently in the red on several stocks but many are improving, I am still optimistic for 2012.