Money Saving Ideas after Retirement
1. Cut out streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. If you are currently using all three, eliminating them can save you around $67 a month or $804 a year. It will also protect you from the inevitable rate hikes. If you must use a streaming service for your television entertainment, choose the least expensive one and prepay it each year to further reduce the cost. In addition, with Amazon Prime you can get other amenities, such as free shipping on Amazon purchases, including the gifts you mail to your grandkids. Combined with using an antennae to watch local channels, you could find yourself with all the television options you want to watch. On the other hand, if antennas do not work in your area and the cheapest way for you to get your favorite TV shows is through Hulu rather than cable, then that could be your best option. Just do your research, eliminate any unnecessary service, and make sure you are using the least expensive choice possible to enjoy TV.
2. Do you really want to spend money on smartphone games? Many people who use smartphones also spend an average of $7.25 a month on games. Stick with free games and apps. There are plenty of choices. While you are at it, discuss your phone plan with your current carrier, as well as their competitors. You may be able to save money by only paying for the amount of phone service you actually use!
3. Eliminate subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. If you enjoy reading your news, download free news apps to your smartphone or follow your favorite news sources on Facebook and Twitter. You can read all the major news stories through those sites and actually get the stories more quickly than waiting for tomorrow's newspaper. This could save you $5 to $10 a month.
4. Eliminate other subscription services, such as satellite radio. Use free options like your local AM and FM stations or use Spotify and Pandora.
5. Give up expensive coffee shops. Our local Starbucks coffee shop is often full of retirees who enjoy meeting each other and chatting over a cup of coffee or a latte which could cost as much as $3 to $5 per beverage. However, they could be going down the street to McDonald's and have the same conversations over a cup of $1 coffee. Depending on how often they get together, saving a dollar or two a day could add up to a significant amount of money over the course of a year.
6. Buy regular gas rather than premium, unless your car's owners manual specifically requires premium fuel. The savings could add up over time.
7. Evaluate that annual membership at a warehouse store. Do you really save enough to make the annual membership fee worthwhile? How often do you use it? Could you do just as well at your local grocery store by taking advantage of sales and coupons? Spend a few weeks comparing prices and decide which is the best option for you. If you discover that you use the warehouse store for more than just groceries, for example to fill your gas tank, replace your tires, purchase clothing, or for small appliances and gifts, you may decide to keep the membership. Just make sure you are really using it.
8. If you are retired and paying the full price for a gym membership, check with your Medicare policy. Many of them offer free or extremely low cost gym memberships which could save you a substantial amount of money. In many Medicare policies, these low-cost gym memberships are referred to as Silver Sneakers. In addition, many local senior centers have exercise equipment and offer free or low-cost exercise classes. Explore all your options and choose the one which costs the least and you are most likely to use.
9. If you are still a smoker, give it up and reap the savings. There are, of course, many other reasons to give up smoking. However, if nothing else works, the fact that you could save as much as $200 a month, depending on how much you smoke, should be a good enough reason to give up this habit, especially if you are having trouble covering your expenses.
10. Do you have other expensive habits or hobbies? While no one wants to give up everything they love in order to survive during retirement, it could be worthwhile to explore less expensive options. Are you taking guitar, piano, art or golf lessons? Perhaps you could find free or low cost group classes rather than private ones. Is your nearest golf course expensive? Have you looked for a public course in your area? Many cities offer free classes for senior citizens and have public pools, public tennis courses, public golf courses and other recreational facilities where seniors can participate for free or at a low cost. Ask someone at your nearest senior center and see what they suggest.
11. Reduce your debt payments. Talk to your lender about refinancing your mortgage, if you have one. If you believe your property tax assessment is higher than the actual value of your home, seek the help of a local Realtor and appeal it. If you have a car payment, it is possible you may be able to refinance it through your bank or Savings and Loan. If you are carrying a balance on your credit cards, see if you can transfer the balance to one with 0% interest for the first year, and try to pay off the balance within that time. Check out every payment you make and see if there is a way to reduce it.
12. Monitor your utilities carefully. Lowering your thermostat a degree or two in the winter and raising it a couple of degrees in the summer could lower your gas and electric bills. Reduce your water bill by taking shorter showers. You can make an even bigger difference by replacing some of your landscaping with drought resistant plants which require very little water. Do you really need both a cell phone and a landline? Eliminating the landline could save you $50 to $65 a month. Making a few adjustments to your utility usage could reap large savings.
13. Change your Medicare supplement to an HMO or try a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare beneficiaries have two choices in getting their Medicare benefits. They can get basic Medicare and then buy a supplement OR they can get a Medicare Advantage plan. In most cases, the Medicare Advantage plan is less expensive and often provides extra benefits, such as dental and vision insurance. Talk to several insurance carriers in your area and compare the cost of their plans. Choices vary from state to state. You will also need to compare your co-pays, deductibles and drug costs. After making the comparison, decide which plan will give you the best coverage for the least amount of money. In many cases, a Medicare Advantage plan can save you several hundred dollars a month over the cost of basic Medicare with an additional premium PPO supplement. If your income is low, you may also qualify for a combination Medicare/Medicaid plan. Be sure to ask about that, because the savings can be significant.
14. Evaluate the gifts you give your children and grandchildren. Many senior citizens risk their own retirement because they are too generous with their adult children and grandchildren. Even though you may want to help them, it doesn't benefit anyone if you end up becoming dependent on your children because you can no longer support yourself. Keep that thought in mind when your children want to borrow money from you or ask for help with car purchases or college loans. You can offer them guidance in finding other ways to finance the things they want, but you should not give them money that you cannot afford to lose. If you do, it will eventually only cause more problems for everyone.
15. Don't forget to use AARP or AAA senior discounts. Many restaurants, movie theaters and other organizations will give you a senior discount but, in most cases, you have to specifically ask for them. Do not hesitate to ask! If you belonged to a union or other professional organizations during your working years, you may also qualify for various business discounts. For example, my educator union membership provides me with a 10 percent discount on my monthly cell phone bill. Take advantage of every discount you can find.
16. Go to a Food Bank. Most food banks do not ask you to fill out any financial information. They will give a bag of groceries to anyone who shows up. If you are faced with the choice between food and your medical expenses, a food bank may be able to provide you with the essentials. Then, talk to your medical provider about how you can lower the cost of what you are spending on co-pays or prescription drugs. This is a choice no retiree should have to make.
If you are looking for more ideas to save you money, you may want to read the book "Minimalist Budget: Everything You Need to Know about Saving Money." It has even more great ways to save. Use the above link to check it out.
Look for Ways to Increase Your Income
If the above actions still leave you short of money, you may want to talk to your local Social Security office and the Department of Social Services. They may be able to help you get a housing voucher to lower the cost of your rent, add you to the waiting list for low-cost senior housing, provide you with SNAP (food stamps), or put you on Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
If your current income is too high to qualify for any of those programs, you may want to talk to your local Senior Center or state employment office about how to find a part-time job to supplement your retirement income.
If you own a home, you may be able to rent out a room, or rent out storage space in your garage or basement. Even small increases in your income can help bridge the gap between your fixed income and what you need in order to live comfortably.
Budgets are tight for many senior citizens. You are not alone. Reach out to your senior center and local government agencies to get the help you need to balance your budget before you get too deeply in debt.
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