The lists abound over the blogging world, and on money management sites. Ten ways to save money in retirement, 25 money saving tips for retirees. Bullet lists at their best. While the list may vary in tone and content, most of them are very similar. Cook from scratch and stop eating out to save money. Review your expenses. Look for discounts. Simplistic in the extreme, another blogger called this kind of post an "Eat Your Vegetables" article, and I tend to agree.
While I'm sure these folks mean well, he is correct these articles often seem to be written by thirty somethings. Writers, mind you, who seem to think we've forgotten everything we learned. I'm not sure about you, but sometime after college (at the latest), I realized that menu planning and eating at home saved money, and that it was a smart move at least every year to see if another insurance company could beat my rate. After all, most of us lived on budgets most of our pre-retirement lives, if you get my drift. These kind of budget cuts are what another blogger refers to as low hanging fruit. They've been cut already very often. As a non retirement non-financial expert example, that advise to cut out the latte was useless, since I never stopped and got one to begin with. In other words, as an intelligent woman I know the basics of belt tightening-as do we all.
The other problem I have with these kind of articles is that they are very much one size fits all-and retirees have all kinds of incomes, all kinds of interests and all kinds of lifestyles. What retirees need (in my non-financial expert humble opinion), are new ways to look at spending and the big picture.
And so, with little ado, these are my own personal thoughts on saving money in retirement. I am not an expert on finance, but I do know at least a little bit about budget living in retirement, as well as knowing other retirees from a variety of lifestyles and incomes, many who are on fixed incomes and living on much less than they had hoped. With that out of the way, here we go:
- Know where you are and where you are going. As someone who was not financially savvy, experienced a shocking life event and had to make large changes quickly, I failed at this one. Because I had to sell a home, buy another, and move across the world, for example, I never had the chance to follow advise. I did not "change nothing" for a year, I did not do the math, I did not ask for help and I certainly did not think about where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do. My choices were driven by necessity and depression. At some point I did sit down and take that step, better late than never. Face the realities, however good or bad they are, and go from there. If possible, make those adjustments once, rather than cutting and cutting and cutting again.
- Cut from the top down, or overhead, overhead, overhead!! I spend a lot of time on this blog discussing small frugal changes that can be part of a rewarding lifestyle. But those changes are secondary to the big one. Make sure that food, transportation, health premiums and co-pays and housing (and the attendant taxes and insurance) are less than what you make each month or are willing to withdraw each month. Period. How we do that is different. Some folks will choose to give up one car. Some will downsize. How we get there is different, but these are decisions and changes that need to be made earlier rather than later. Moving and making friends is much easier at fifty and sixty than at seventy, no matter your personality.
- Recognize that your time and money continuum have changed and use it to your advantage. Retirees have, while not an infinite amount of time, certainly large amounts. Spending some of that new time to save (or make) money in order to be able to fully enjoy those other chunks of time should not be considered a sacrifice. While spending a few minutes looking at sales, cleaning your own home or painting a wall may take some time, for most people most of the time that is a small price for a large reward. Just as many retirees are still investing money, invest some of that time as well.
- Know your personal comfort level (or "ick factor" as one person calls it)-but be willing to stretch yourself to find what works-and consider why that's a comfort level issue. I am unwilling to keep my home lower than sixty seven degrees and it goes as high as seventy two in the winter. On the other hand I have absolutely no problem going to a thrift shop and purchasing an LL Bean sweater for three dollars.
- Consider spending to save if you are at the beginning of retirement or if you are not yet retired-if you are sure you are spending on a long term value. I'm sure many of those financial wizards would disagree. If however, you are spending on what you are SURE are so called "investment items", that can be a good thing. Prior to retirement my husband and I were prepared to invest in good ski equipment, and I purchased my three thousand dollar sewing machine. Our goal was to have a life that required "replacement and repair costs" rather than big expense costs. My father and mother in law spent money improving their windows and making their home handicapped accessible, figuring that when they were done, their only expenses would be for the basics and someone to come in and help them.
- Stay healthy and explore healthy self care options. Not talking pseudo medicine here, just looking at all the options for staying healthy. Medical expenses for retirees are the proverbial elephant in the room, if you will. Exercise, eat right and look at the various self care options for minor and chronic ills. While my marijuana use in retirement may seem a poor example, it is much cheaper than either prescription meds or opoids-and less dangerous to my health. Treat what you can your self, exercise, follow medical advice and time lines, and eat well. All things that can be done on a frugal budget
- Find ways to do the things that argete important to you for less. The fact that you cannot afford the symphony doesn't mean you can't afford the symphony. Music fans among my readers may be familiar with the Voices of Light-a concert and chorale set to the remastered classic film the Passion of Joan of Arc. Symphony tickets over the US have ranged from fifty dollars and much higher. I'll be attending this performed by a local symphony and a cathedral chorale in a large cathedral next weekend. Before saying, but I can't, check again. Almost any thing can be done more cheaply or in a different way.
- Working in retirement can be fun and rewarding and is not necessarily a punishment. However.... I don't work for the essentials of life. If you are working to pay the bills in retirement, look again. No job is secure, as many older retirees know. When I work (which is on and off), it's because I want something, and don't want to take money away elsewhere to get it.
- Be willing to step out of the box (this probably falls along with your comfort level). Learning new things in retirement is essential. Spend a little bit of that learning time taking savings to the next step. While we all know that menu planning and cooking at home save you money, taking the next step can save double. Learning how to get real food cheaply, cook and freeze and eliminate waste can lower grocery bills by thirty percent. Learning to new home improvement skills are good for our health, brain, and bottom line
- Give yourself a break. I don't drink coffee. If I did, Starbucks would probably be my best friend. I do however have a Starbucks hot chocolate and a glazed lemon pound cake once week-without regard to calories or money (well, I do have the Starbucks reward card)
- Saving money and cutting expenses increase your bottom line. You can have what you want, just not everything you want. You can afford anything, just not everything. Every dollar saved through frugality is money to either be spent elsewhere or saved and invested for future spending. And, you don't spend taxes on what you save!
- And last but not least, live with joy and and look at your personal finances within the greater picture. Buying clothing at thrift and consignments stores should not be a chore, it should be free-ing and creative, allowing you to spend funds elsewhere. Think of financial decisions as choices rather sacrifices. I CHOOSE to share a home, and cook cheap meals from scratch so that I can afford to get in my car and hit the road for a long period of time.
- And really, really last, one final thought: The word poor and poorer get tossed around an awful lot on some frugal and retirement blogs. While many of us live on less than we thought, and some of us are true fixed income retirees, the people I know who blog and write and talk on this topic are not broke. If you can afford to go to a thrift shop or consignment store, you are not poor. Poor seniors cannot afford clothing except that which is given to them. The fact that you have to eat at home does not make you poor. Poor retirees go to the senior center at for free lunch, realizing that may be their only meal. If that person is not you, then you are not "poor". Simple, yes?
What about you, do you have any out of the box tips for saving money (in retirement, or any other time)???