Most of us, as children, were given an allowance that was either a weekly gift or earned income for doing things like mowing the lawn or doing the dishes. It was a sweet deal at the time and we felt empowered with our fun money. As we retire, we once again find ourselves with an allowance. Most of us reach retirement on a fixed income. For some of us, it is more than adequate to sustain our life. For others, it is a struggle. For all of us, the cost of living goes up and our income remains fixed.
Changing spending habits can be difficult but can seriously impact our quality of life. When we start to change, it is best to reduce spending in areas that we want. Feeling obligated to cut back … feeling pressure to cut back drastically on everything just creates stress and sets us up for failure. It doesn’t have to be that way. Managing expenses can be a natural part of aging and be easy. Consider the following quite simple strategies:
- Contrary to what we just said, cut back a little from everything. Eat out one less time a week, make gifts for the holidays and birthdays instead of buying them, turn the air conditioning up 2 degrees, buy more generic products versus over-rated brand names. You will be surprised how much you will save by cutting back on EVERYTHING and you won’t really feel the pinch.
- Cell Phones have become lifelines for most people these days. They are important and necessary but often, phone companies trap us into expensive contracts. Consider switching from a contract plan to a pre-paid plan. Originally, pre-paid plans were designed to capture business from customers with poor credit. Now, they offer great value often at costs 50% less than contract phones and with most of the same options for service.
- If you still have a mortgage, explore refinancing your home. While it seems cumbersome to go through the process, you can save a LOT of money by refinancing your first or second home.
- Cars are not as necessary as we think. Many of us own multiple vehicles which were necessary at earlier moments in our lives to sustain our careers and livelihood. But as we retire, consider getting rid of that second car and you will be amazed at the savings you experience. Even if it is paid off, you will save on insurance, fuel and maintenance. Plus, you will find yourself traveling more with your loved ones which is (hopefully) a good thing.
- You know that big family home you are living in that was great when the kids were small? That big yard that needs mowing? Now that it is a smaller group living there, consider downsizing your home and moving to a comfortable condo or smaller home. Your children are never coming back to “their” bedroom and smaller can be better. And cheaper.
- Explore CAREFULLY your health care options. As we age, health care costs expand and insurance and drug plans can be a drain on our finances. Seniors have the option of switching health care plans once a year and it is important to understand your options and choose wisely based on your health issues. This is a difficult path to navigate and you may need help … but it is very important.
- Ask for Senior Discounts!! Many of us were taught to live with the dignity of not begging but asking for senior discounts is NOT begging. Companies offer discounts freely to seniors but in many cases, you need to ask for them. A free coffee, a cheaper movie theater ticket, a dinner menu discount … it all counts up. And businesses do this because they want your business. And they are still making a profit. Ask for your senior discount.
- Get rid of your PAY TV. There are plenty of options out there on the internet to watch TV free. Or just reduce your pay TV plan. Do you really need 700 channels and movie options?
- One of the joys of retirement is the freedom of time. Use your time to thrift shop! Macy’s and those other stores are quite wonderful, but you will be surprised at the amazing finds there are at thrift shops, second hand stores and resale shops. You don’t want everything there … but that secret treasure you found will be perfect.
Retirement is great! Life gets easier quite often, though not always. Take a minute to step out of the box and consider ways to reduce your expenses. You’ll be amazed at what you find. And the savings just might let you take that vacation you were hoping for.