Everything these days is expensive. During our working years, our best efforts to save are constantly challenged by high prices. Children do not want to hear “too much” – they just want the latest and greatest gizmo heavily advertised on TV. Once we retire, our budgets are even tighter and spending wisely that much more important. We want to “live” but we need to live within our retirement budget.
It is not easy, but there are some things we can do to hold onto as much of our retirement savings as possible. Here are a few tips that might fit the bill for you (no pun intended):
(1) Cable TV evaluation – prices and packages differ by region but wherever you are, if you have cable beyond the “teaser” initial six month period, you are paying good money. Taking my situation as a case in point, we spend $100+ each month on our cable service which includes HBO, HD channels (when available), and your basic local and national broadcasts. We watch an occasional sitcom at night, rarely anything on HBO, and a few Sharks games when they are broadcast. $100 is a bit steep for that kind of use.
Doing some research, I learned that a basic antenna would give us first rate coverage of major local stations. Go to http://www.antennaweb.org and enter your zip code, then answer the question “are there any buildings, steeples, towers, or other structures taller than four stories within four blocks of your location, airports within two miles of your location, and/or many nearby trees over 30 feet tall? Then, specify whether the antenna height is single or multiple stories. Based upon this information, an antenna that fits your requirements will be recommended. In our case, the cost for the “right” antenna was $40, one time not each month. That does not cut quite as deeply into our retirement budget. You might even say we “retired” some of our debt… J
(2) Do your own gardening – in retirement, taking care of the garden for many is therapeutic, something we do to show our pride in our home. But if we have a gardener, we take another hit to our retirement savings. In my case, we were paying $120 per month for two visits to mow the lawn plus clean up and remove leafs and debris. What if I took this over? Our lawn itself is small so I figured I could get by with a push mower. Looking on Craigslist.org, I found lots of power mowers available at good prices but I am not a mechanic and again, the lawn is small. So I went with a $139 push mower from Home Depot. Then I bought a gas powered leaf blower from Sears for $99 which includes a vacuum and leaf mulcher should I decide I need that (I have always wanted my own leaf blower so this was a win-win situation). Lastly I bought a gas powered weed eater from Home Depot for $70. I decided to go with gas instead of the electric as a matter of convenience – no cords involved. Plus, prices were comparable and as long as I was using gas for the blower, why not for the weed eater as well?
So for a total initial investment of $310, I was ready to rumble and within 2.5 months, I was running in the black. And the whole process takes me about 30 minutes start to finish.
(3) Filtered instead of bottled water – a case of 34 bottles runs in the $5-6 range. You can filter your own water and save money plus keep another plastic bottle out of the dump. Your options here range from filtered units that installs at your sink to charcoal filtered pitchers that you fill with tap water and five minutes later have filtered water. We use the Brita Slim filter which is about $13 on Amazon, again leaving us with more retirement dollars to spend where we want – on retirement!
(4) Hang clothes out instead of using a dryer – a pretty basic idea but if you use less electricity, you have a smaller electricity bill. And the wonderful fresh smell of air dried clothes is an added benefit.
(5) Minimize dinners out – this can be a big expense if seniors are not careful. Eating out is much simpler than planning and preparing an entire, balanced meal. Even if you are frugal and use senior citizen discounts and eat early bird dinners, it quickly adds up. When you do go out, there are things you can do to keep the bill tolerable. My wife and I are not big eaters so we tend to go with a hors d’oeuvre and share one main course. For wine, we generally try a glass of the house white and one of the red. We share and take notes for future reference. Dessert is not a biggie for us so we wait until we get home for a little ice cream. And we do without the after-dinner-coffee at $5 or more a cup. We enjoy going out and even more when the bill comes and does not choke us!
(6) Cost effective plane travel – everyone wants to get to their ultimate destination ASAP. But if you can deal with one stop along the way, you will save money. If the layover is more than 2 hours, we reconsider.
(7) Federal tax credits for consumer energy efficiency – in “Financial check up list” the blog Money Funk explains “the tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements expires at the end of 2010. If you have heating units, hot water heaters, windows, or insulation that needs to be replaced, be sure to do it by the end of the year.” They point us to a website to get more information but we need to act quickly.
There are ways we can save a little here, pay a little less there, and positively impact our retirement savings bottom line. A lot is just paying attention and being aware of what things should cost – be an informed buyer and don’t pay more than you have to. In retirement, we do not want to do without. If we are frugal in our lifestyle and intelligent in our buying decisions, we will be able to afford and enjoy living the retired life that we have always wanted.
I have found some excellent blogs on frugal living and managing your spending including http://frugaldad.com , http://www.moneyfunk.net , and http://www.retirement-on-a-budget.com . Take a look at what they have to say as you strive to live an affordable retirement life.
Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.