Like February, we spent March mostly at home. However, with two weeks of spring break, we had to find activities to keep both kids busy. With the weather getting warmer and longer daylight, we thought it would be nice to take a “mini staycation” locally. So I took three days off work in the first week of spring break .
Since Marriott has a double points & nights promotion until the end of April, and I am trying to maintain my Marriott elite status for next year, we booked a three-night stay at the Westin Bayshore. Being “frugal” I booked the cheapest room available for $165 per night. After checking in on the Marriott app a couple days before our stay, I used the chat function to see if we could get a room upgrade. I was told by an associate that they’d try to upgrade us to a junior suite, pending availability.
On the day of the stay, the hotel upgraded us to a junior suite. This is a pretty good deal since the junior suites usually cost about $550 a night. Thanks to my Marriott elite status, we also received a free breakfast for two each morning. Between two hot breakfast entrees, two drinks, and two pastry items, the breakfast bill would come out around $50 each day. So I think we definitely got our money worth with our three-night stay.
While we were at the hotel, we made sure we maintained social distancing with other people, wore masks indoor, and ate food in the hotel room. Basically staying within our own household bubble.
On the first day we went skiing at Grouse Mountain. Since it was a weekday and Grouse set a daily limit for the number of skiers, the mountain was not busy at all. Both kids skied down The Cut by themselves after the first run. It was so nice to see that both of them really enjoyed skiing and wanted to do more runs.
We spent the second day of our staycation in Science World. Like our experience the previous day at Grouse, Science World was quiet with not so many people. It made our visit at Science World so much more enjoyable. After Science World, we spent most of the day relaxing in our hotel room and the hotel indoor pool.
Then on the last day of our mini vacation, we spent more time at the hotel indoor pool and walked around Stanley Park. We all enjoyed this little staycation. For me, it was nice to get away from work for a few days.
In March I also spent a lot of time on improving the overall speed of this site by doing a lot of tweaks in the backend. These are some of the techie/nerdy things I did were:
- I upgraded from BigScoots’ $17.95 USD per month shared hosting plan to the $34.95 USD per month managed WordPress hosting plan. I was consistently hitting the CPU limit with the shared hosting plan so it was time to upgrade.
- Previously I was using LiteSpeed, a free caching plugin. When I enabled some settings as an attempt to improve load time, the settings broke the site. After spending a few hours late one night trying to fix the issues, I gave up, and switched over to WP Rocket. Although WP Rocket costs $49 USD per year, it was a more user friendly caching plugin to use. Overall, WP Rocket should save me a bunch of time, and we all know that time is money!
- I have been using the free Cloudflare CDN service but wanted to improve the site speed further. WP Rocket has a CDN program called RocketCDN for $7.99 USD per month. I wasn’t convinced RocketCDN is the best solution. After reading a bunch of reviews, I stumble upon BunnyCDN and found BunnyCDN has improved the overall page load time significantly.
- I optimized several CSS files to reduce the file size to improve site load speed. In addition, I added some CSS commands to strip out things like version numbers, not loading certain APIs, etc, to further optimize the blog.
- I removed Jetpack plugin and opted for multiple lightweight plugins. According to my testing, ditching Jetpack saved around 1.5 seconds of page load time!
Based on the various tests I did, the main page should now load in between 1 to 1.5 seconds. The other pages should load pretty quickly too. This is a vast improvement over the previous load time of over 4.5 seconds!
Hopefully, you are all seeing the overall site speed improvements and have a better reader experience. As you can see, it is certainly not free to run this blog. So if you enjoy reading this blog, you can support me by visiting my recommendations page and purchasing through the links.
Dividend Income – March 2021
In March 2021 we received the following pay cheques from the following companies:
- Brookfield Renewable (BEPC.TO)
- Canadian National Railway (CNR.TO)
- Canadian Tire (CTC.A)
- Canadian Utilities (CU.TO)
- Dream Office REIT (D.UN)
- Dream Industrial REIT (DIR.UN)
- Enbridge (ENB.TO)
- European Residential REIT (ERE.UN)
- Fortis (FTS.TO)
- Granite REIT (GRT.UN)
- Hydro One (H.TO)
- H&R REIT (HR.UN)
- Intact Financial (IFC.TO)
- Intel (INTC)
- Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
- KEG Income Trust (KEG.UN)
- McDonald’s (MCD)
- Manulife Financial (MFC.TO)
- Magna International (MG.TO)
- Metro (MRU.TO)
- Pepsi (PEP)
- Qualcomm (QCOM)
- RioCan REIT (REI.UN)
- Saputo (SAP.TO)
- SmartCentre REIT (SRU.UN)
- Suncor (SU.TO)
- Target (TGT)
- Unilever plc (UL)
- Visa (V)
- Waste Management (WM)
In total, we received 30 dividend pay cheques that added up to $2,419.88. After a disappointing month in February, it was nice to see a monthly dividend income of over $2,400.
Considering we have been busy on the purchasing front throughout the first quarter of 2021, I am expecting our dividend income in the second quarter to increase significantly compared to the first quarter. We plan to continue to invest throughout 2021.
Out of the $2,419.88 received, $397.58 was in USD and $2,022.3 was in CAD, or a 15-85 breakdown. Please note, to keep things simple, we do not convert USD to CAD when reporting our monthly dividend income. I have been using this approach to avoid fluctuations in our monthly dividend income due to changes in the exchange rate.
The top five dividend payout came from Brookfield Renewable, Enbridge, Manulife, Canadian Utilities, and Fortis (not in order). The top five dividend payout accounted for $1,632.39 or 67.5% of our March dividend income.
Compared to March 2020, we saw a YoY dividend growth of +4.56%. Given that our monthly dividend income is getting a bit lumpy, it is expected to see some negative and flat YoY growth numbers. As long as the average dividend income is growing, that’s all good.
If we take a compare Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, we saw a YoY dividend growth of +12.1%. Although it is a bit lower than the 20% YoY growth we’re aiming for, we are definitely heading in the right direction!
Last month we had a busy month where we closed out our Inter Pipeline and Nutrien positions and purchased shares of XAW, TC Energy, AbbVie, Brookfield Renewable Energy, Algonquin Power & Utilities, and Fortis.
In March, we kept ourselves just as busy. First, continue with the dividend portfolio house cleaning theme, we decided to close out KEG Income Trust. KEG.UN cut dividends last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trust increased the dividend payout late last year only to cut it again in February. Although I have no doubt that more people will be heading to The KEG for steak dinners once the pandemic is over, I felt that there are better investments out there. So we sold all 140 of our KEG.UN shares.
Like many dividend stock sells we’ve had in 2020 and 2021, we took a small loss on the KEG.UN transaction (not counting all the dividends we’ve received). I felt it was time to move on from KEG.UN so I was OK with the small loss.
With the money from KEG.UN, some tax refund money, and some new fresh capital, we purchased the following dividend stocks in March:
- 108 shares of iShares Ex-Canada ETF (XAW) – We bought more XAW shares to increase our international exposure. I really like utilizing XAW as a simple and cheap way to increase our international exposure. We picked XAW rather than VXC because XAW has a slightly lower MER.
- 100 shares of Telus (T.TO) – Telus has been doing well and we wanted to increase our exposure in the Canadian telecommunication sector.
- 50 shares of BCE (BCE.TO) – Since we purchased some Telus, I purchased some BCE shares as well to keep our telecommunication sector weighing balanced. Given the recent potential Shaw and Rogers merger, I wanted to hold off on purchasing more Rogers shares.
- 77 shares of SmartCentre REIT (SRU.UN) – This was considered as a calculated risk purchase. SmartCentre is one of the few retail REITs that haven’t cut their dividends throughout the pandemic. With vaccines rolling out and the potential of back to normal soon, I do believe the retail REITs will slowly recover. Furthermore, SmartCentre REIT is anchored by big names like Walmart, Costco, and Home Depot, so it’s unlikely for these big name stores to close due to the pandemic.
- 108 shares of Algonquin Power & Utilities (AQN.TO) – We’ve been busy buying renewable companies in the last year. AQN has had some price pullbacks in recent months, so I figured it was a good opportunity to buy more AQN shares.
- 10 shares of BlackRock (BLK) – Since more and more people (us included) utilize iShares ETFs, it makes a lot of sense to invest in the parent company, BlackRock. The share price is certainly not cheap but with ETFs becoming more and more popular, I think there are more rooms for BlackRock to grown and improve profitability.
We deployed over $20,000 for these purchases (using a 1:1 USD to CAD exchange rate to keep math simple). If we took out the money from closing out KEG.UN, we invested net $18,000 of new capital in March and increased our forward looking dividend income by roughly $680.
I wasn’t kidding when I said we had another busy month for dividend transactions!
In March, the following companies announced dividend increases:
- Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) increased its dividend payout by 11% to $0.47 per share.
- Qualcomm (QCOM) increased its dividend payout by 5% to $0.68 per share.
These raises increased our annual dividend income by $29.40. It’s a small amount but I will take a raise over no raise at all.
With one quarter in the books, we have received $7,289.67 in dividend income. It’s fantastic to know that our money is working hard for us, so we don’t have to.
To put things to perspective:
- We earned $3.37 per hour so far in 2021.
- At $40 per hour wage, we have saved almost 182 hours worth of work, or almost 5 weeks.
Mrs. T and I are very thankful and appreciative of our dividend portfolio and dividend income. With COVID-19 pandemic still raging on and so many people having financial difficulties, we believe it is important to provide a helping hand to those in need within our community. So, if you can, I’d highly encourage you to donate money to local charities whenever you can.
Dear readers, how was your March dividend income?