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Living Cheaper as a Retiree

When I retired a bit earlier than expected last year, I realized I was making a decision to also accept a new lifestyle due to a significant cut in my income. I had also made a decision to retire near my only child, and that decision took me to a very expensive place to live. All of that considered, I ventured out to a new life with less money, but more freedom in so many ways. As I planned to relocate and find a new life, the first thing I did was to talk to my financial planner to make decisions about taking (or not) Social Security before age 70, assess a realistic budget amount that I could live with and really dig into the cost of health related services and coverage to assure I could maintain a level of health care needed as I age.

Throughout my first year of retirement, I reworked my monthly budget at least a dozen times. And I started to really consider what kinds of things I could do to reduce my costs across the board. Here, for your consideration are some of my finds that have made it possible for me to be retired, but not suffer.

1. Strangely enough, I’d always bought bottled water. One of my first decisions was to be sure I had access to a fridge with filtered water in the door so I no longer needed to spend on bottled water. Talk about savings? Wow, I was surprised how much I’d dumped into bottles of water over the years once I figured it out!

2. Similarly, I learned that saying humbly, “ I’m a senior – do you have discounts that I can take advantage of?” gained me many benefits. You can’t even imagine the hotels, gyms, restaurants, airlines, movie theaters, museums, and national parks and on and on have senior discounts! Always ask! I learned that lesson again recently when I asked at the drive through window of a fast food place about senior discounts. The man at the window said he hadn’t wanted to offend me but wanted to offer it to me once he saw me.

3. Save up the laundry and dishwasher loads till they are packed! Don’t do any small loads of anything any longer. It saves on water, detergents, and you also get to consolidate those chores into one event rather than tons of little tasks.

4. If you have to have Starbucks coffee, consider buying it to brew at home and invite friends over for a cup and some cookies! I heard of a group of neighbors that had a “Wine Wednesday” event each week and all shared goodies and fellowship, too.

5. Eating at home saves a whole bunch of money. Buying and cooking in bulk allows you to prepare meals at home less expensively, and the extra can go in the freezer for later meals. In addition, cooking at home is so much healthier. Check it out – if you watch things like your sugar, carbs or sodium, you are able to control those ingredients at home much better than in restaurants. BUT, if you do want to eat out, and who doesn’t now and then, always do ask about senior discounts and also try to avoid places that still require tipping, if possible. And again, sharing meals with family, neighbors or friends is an excellent way to eat less expensively but also have great human interaction.

6. If you enjoy reading or watching movies, check out your local library for free books, books on tape and movies too. Going to the library can also open up opportunities to join book clubs, group discussions and other events to meet friends. And if learning is your thing, many colleges and universities allow seniors to “audit” courses, not for credit, but for the sheer pleasure of continuing education and engagement in the world.

More than anything, while you find that your insurance, health, and housing costs continue to rise throughout retirement, the best remedy for getting into debt or living in sheer depression is to budget, budget, budget. Reassessing costs and ways to save a few pennies here and there keeps you motivated, and it can even become a bit of a personal game to win!

If all else fails and you just don’t enjoy pinching pennies, or always looking for new ways to save, consider a part time or temporary kind of job. Either way, you won’t be tied down continually; you can choose a job that is different from what you did before you retired and have an extra little paycheck to boot. More than anything, be sure to enjoy this time of your life. If you are like me, you’ve worked hard and saved religiously to get to this point. Now, make it as fun, relaxing, and wonderful as possible!

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