It's not just about the money. When a company hikes its dividend, it isn't just about the extra jingle in your pocket. Sure, that helps, but a bigger payout is also a sign that a company is confident enough about its earnings potential in the future to cut loose with more of its greenery.

Lets take a closer look at four companies that inched their payouts higher this past week.

We'll start with Books-A-Million (NASDAQ:BAMM). The bookselling superstore earned its ticker symbol when it padded shareholder billfolds with a meatier payout. Its quarterly dividend will go from a mere nickel to a whole $0.08 a share. The company is coming off a strong holiday quarter, where brisk sales of cookbooks, Sudoku puzzle booklets, and spiritual gifts caused it to bump up its guidance.

78% more denim? No. 78% more khaki? I don't think so. 78% more money? Sure. Mall giant Gap (NYSE:GPS) may not be stacking its shelves more quickly, but it is boosting its quarterly dividend by 78%, from $0.045 a share to $0.08 a share. The retailing giant, with more than 3,000 stores under the Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic signage, has had some rough times in recent years, but it does have its believers. The stock has been recommended by both the Motley Fool Inside Value and Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter services. With a dramatic dividend spike like last week's announcement, will it go for the premium-research trifecta and catch the eye of Income Investor's Mathew Emmert, too?

Pepsi Bottling Group (NYSE:PBG) was another hiker. The pop star gave its distributions a 38% boost; investors will now be seeing $0.11 a share every three months. No, this isn't PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP). Pepsi sells the signature soda syrup to independent regional bottlers, who put out the cans and bottles locally. Trust me, for shipping purposes, it works out much better that way. Pepsi Bottling Group is the world's leading PepsiCo bottler, with operations all over the world. The company was ambitious last year, spending more than its operating free cash flow on share buybacks and dividend distributions. It's got to keep that kind of fizz going, because nobody wants to buy into a flat soda maker.

Then we have J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP). The retailer's quarterly payout per share is going from $0.125 to $0.18. This comes on the heels of a strong year in which the company's operating profits soared 23% higher. Even though the J.C. Penney chain may not be seen as a new-economy wunderkind, it also managed to top $1 billion in sales at its site.

Subscribers to our Income Investor newsletter can appreciate the companies sending more and more money to their investors. Analyst Mathew Emmert has often singled out companies that are committed to growing their distributions, with market-thumping results.

Want to see what Mathew's liking these days? Go ahead and give his newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing that will get hiked will be your interest.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pays attention to yield signs. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.