The weather outside may be getting chilly, but some companies are starting to warm up to their shareholders. They're declaring higher dividends, which means more money for investors. However, a yield boost can also be seen as a sign of health from a company, suggesting that it's confident it's about to earn even more in the coming quarters to cover its more generous distributions.

Readers of the Income Investor newsletter can certainly appreciate that kind of thinking. Let's take a closer look at four of the companies that inched their payouts higher this past week.

We can start with Applebee's (NASDAQ:APPB). The company's slogan may be "eatin' good in the neighborhood," but it's looking to stuff its shareholders even more. The company's annual dividend will be going from $0.20 a share to $0.22 a share this year. The eatery has been paying out dividends for 17 years now.

Also turning the page was Borders (NYSE:BGP), which kicked in with a 10% upgrade. The bookseller has regularly inched its quarterly dividend rate higher by a penny for a few years now, and 2007 will be no exception. Investors will now be receiving $0.11 a share every three months, giving the country's second-biggest bookseller a healthy 1.9% yield. Rival Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) now appears to be a slacker, perched at 1.4%.

Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) was another hiker. The company behind the Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut chains is doubling its payout rate to $0.30 a share. Yes, $1.20 over the course of the year is good enough for a KFC Snacker or a Taco Supreme, with change to spare. It's the third time that the company has upped its dividend since initiating a payout policy in May 2004.

Then we have Collectors Universe (NASDAQ:CLCT). The specialist in authenticating and grading collectibles will be assisting coin collectors with a 50% spike in its distributions. The new $0.12-a-share quarterly dividend gives the stock a rich 3.6% yield now.

Subscribers to the Income Investor newsletter can appreciate the companies sending more and more money to their investors. The newsletter singles out companies that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what's being recommended these days? Go ahead and give the newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing to 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 in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.