For more than a month, there's been a rush to declare dividends before the fiscal cliff and increased taxes set in. But the market's reaction to these dividends has been one of overexuberance. In just the last week, Almost Family (NASDAQ:AFAM), Safeway (NYSE:SWY), and Western Refining (NYSE:WNR) saw their stocks pop simply on the news of a special dividend or an earlier dividend date.

Dividends, however, don't change the value of a company. It is simply a transfer of cash from a company to its owners. 

This gives us an opportunity to step back and take a look at a company's balance sheet as a source of value along with ongoing earnings. So, when you look at stocks such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), or Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) don't forget their cash. It carries a lot of value. And don't get burned by buying a special dividend when it's announced. The euphoria usually wears off in a few days. 

Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of Microsoft and Wynn Resorts, Limited. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Almost Family, Microsoft, and Western Refining. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.