I'm sure that I am not the first person to move to a higher cost of living area, or to stay there rather than move to a cheaper place. Sometimes we may want to stay near family, sometimes we are committed to their homes, and sometimes we simply like what the area has to offer. So the question is, after the move and after the basics, is there enough to have that rich retirement life. My experience is, yes. Admittedly while Denver's index is higher than Dallas, it is not as high as some places. Still, I lived in an immediate suburb of Washington DC for almost twenty years, on a single income. I lived seven years in Germany where not only were prices higher, but where I was paid in dollars and spent Euros (gulp).
So far, my experiences in Denver are the same. What is free will vary by area, certainly. In Washington DC, one could entertain oneself through the Smithsonian system alone for weekends on end for free. Although I am still learning about my new home, this is what I have learned so far:
- Being an outdoor city near the mountains, Denver is full of recreation in the mainly outdoor sense. This means that there are mountain drives and mountain trails. In the city there are bike paths, walking trails and all kind of recreation opportunities. Even though I am a cripple non athlete these days, I do enjoy the out of doors. Equally important is that my area has a wide network of recreation centers, trails and golf courses that are reasonably priced. One could play nine holes of golf for nine dollars-not free but certainly less than many other cities and private clubs.
- Depending on what one wants to do, there are many seasonal festivals every weekend. I found some Denver specific websites where all the choices are ten dollars for less. This week there was the Taste of Colorado, where entrance, music and much of the food was free. Friday there is a street fair in the city of Golden (home of Coors) with free carriage rides and the like, along with the Golden farmers market.
- As much as I like free festivals and concerts and the like, I also enjoy the "real thing" on occasion, like that Book of Mormon performance. In addition to the traditional discount opportunities of Groupon and Goldstar I have discovered a website called Denver two for one, where each week two tickets are offered for the price of one ticket and where the tickets range from the Philharmonic to Paint and sip events. I love fifty percent off and my life is flexible enough to take advantage of last minute deals! Note: for those of you who live where there is a Fill a Seat option, I am curious of your experiences. On the one hand I hesitate to pay a membership but on the other hand I am the type of girl that CAN say at five pm that I can be at a concert at seven if you offer me free tickets.
- As far as so called local (read one overnight or so travel), I did not want to be counted out on account of the budget (although of course I have been counted out for months because of house hunting). I've been fortunate to find great deals because of the off season and various travel deals such as this one for Glenwood Springs. My longer range travel is really not affected cost wise because I generally drive rather than fly....although it is nice to be more centrally located for some cross country train travel. I'm still budgeting the same amount as before.
- When it comes to my various hobbies, none of them are cheap. I afford and maintain my hobbies in a similar fashion to when I lived in Dallas-I belong to quilting and art groups and walking groups, where we not only craft together but also share supplies and Ideas. I do have to say that when it comes to community education for adults, so far I have found the prices higher than in Dallas-I am working on that one. I'll add here that I have been happy to find many small boutiques, and some co-ops including some that are looking for folks to teach classes. While that's not a money save per se, it could be a money maker-and shows how much various art forms are appreciated.
- I shop for the basics of groceries as I always have. Some items are more expensive in the cold north, and some cheaper. I'll certainly be paying more for out of season produce living further north, and I accept that fact for what it is. I've been spoiled awhile living where fresh produce is available all year long and admit that rather than frozen I'll be paying out of season prices. I also take advantages of senior discounts at grocery stores and other places. I like to cook good food and since I have cut down on dining out, this is my solution.
- I've stretched myself to spend a tad bit more time looking for senior related discounts. I'm actually thinking of joining AARP and I make note of the days and times of senior discounts. I was thrilled to see that my local Goodwill offers twenty five per cent off four seniors every Monday-a boon to me since I am looking for dresser and table to finish and paint bright yellow. This store also offers fifty percent of everything twice a month so I am thrilled.
- Other than that, I continue to do most of the things I have always done-take advantage of free and low cost items much of the time to be able to afford those big ticket items the rest of the time.
Oh and that refrigerator? The space could not be fixed, so a new one has been order to replace it. Still a bottom fridge, with the top a single door rather than french doors. To say that I will be thrilled when the new one arrives and the old one is no longer a box in the middle of my kitchen would be an understatement!