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Tips for Reducing Costs During Retirement

Estimates of how much money people need to live comfortably after retirement ranges anywhere from 40%-80% of annual income prior to retirement, which doesn’t give the clearest picture of how much you actually need to maintain the lifestyle you want to have. However, a little extra in the bank never hurt even the most frugal of spenders. Whether you’re looking to make ends meet or save for the future, here are 14 tips that can help you reduce your retirement expenses.

  1. Cook more meals: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spent over $3000 on eating out in 2016, accounting for about 5.5% of total expenditure for the year. Using the rule of thumb of a 300% markup for restaurant food prices, a $15 entree only costs about $5 to make. This translates to something that many people already know: cooking at home saves you money. Devote some time to learning new dishes and revisiting old favorites. Who knows? It could become a new favorite hobby.
  2. Cancel unnecessary services: Do you still need your landline phone? Over half of all households in the US have gone wireless for their phone service, ditching landlines in favor of cell phones. If you’re in an area that gets good service to your mobile phone, you may not need to pay the monthly bill at all. In addition, it’s worth taking another look if you’re paying for TV. Make a note of which channels you actually watch, then compare it with your pay-TV package. Are you paying for too many channels? Is there a package that includes most of your channels that costs less? If you’re a fan of movies and shows, is there a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu that might cost less than what you’re currently paying?
  3. Record your spending: Speaking of, do you know how much you’re spending each month, and on what? Keeping a log of your expenses, from mortgage payments to treats, can help you set a baseline for your budget, as well as highlight areas where you might be spending more than you need to.
  4. Reduce your debt: Paying off credit card debt, loans, and mortgages are easier said than done, but it can help you save on interest in the long run. Make a timeline for paying off some of your debt, and include that money in your monthly budget. The savings you’ll gain will help you make your retirement funds last for as long as you need them.
  5. Downsize your home: Your home may hold a lot of memories, but it may also be generating significant expenses that you don’t need to keep around. Large homes, houses with a lot of stairs, and older homes make it hard for older adults to perform the necessary upkeep. A smaller home not only is easier to handle as you age but depending on the area you move to, it may lower your property tax bill and homeowners insurance cost as well.
  6. Seek a lower cost of living: If you want to take the move a step further, consider moving to a state or city with a lower cost of living. Take into account not only housing expenses, but also income tax and the cost of food, travel, and entertainment. Keep in mind, though, that moving away isn’t the best option for everyone. People who want to spend time with children and grandchildren during retirement should look at options in the area before committing to a long-distance move.
  7. Know retirement deadlines: There are several penalties associated with your retirement to-do list, but because the deadlines rarely line up with one another, it’s easy to let them pass by. If you withdraw money from your retirement accounts too soon or fail to take the minimum distribution each year, you can incur significant penalties. There’s also a late enrollment penalty for Medicare Parts B and D.
  8. Minimize healthcare costs: Healthcare costs can be unpredictable, and the bills hefty. You can manage your costs by scheduling regular preventative care appointments such as physicals as well as vision and hearing exams. Catching health issues early usually allows doctors to opt for less expensive treatment options rather than waiting until the symptoms have progressed. In addition, you can shop for a new Medicare Part D plan every year to make sure you’re getting a good price on your medication coverage.
  9. Sell your car: Without a commute to worry about, your car probably sees less use than it used to. For two-car households, you may be able to get by with sharing just one. It’s also easier than ever to forgo car ownership altogether. Public transportation, increasingly bike-friendly cities, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, and short-term car rental services make it simple to get around without actually owning a car.
  10. Save on utilities: Be Earth- and wallet-conscious by watching your energy, gas, and water bills like a hawk. Many utility companies offer easy ways to reduce your bills: keep your thermostat slightly higher in the summer and lower in the winter, check for leaky faucets, replace air filters often, insulate doors and windows, and cook outside during warmer months.
  11. Reduce your tax bill: Though you’re not earning income from a job during retirement, you still pay income tax on withdrawals from traditional retirement accounts. Work with your financial advisor on the best schedule for withdrawals to avoid a large tax bill at the end of the year.
  12. Travel during the offseason: If your retirement plan includes travel, consider planning your trips well away from peak season. Unlike families with school-aged children, retirees have much more freedom to schedule their travels for any time during the year. Seek out winter golfing trips or autumns abroad rather than packing your bags for the summer or winter holidays.
  13. Strategize Social Security payouts: If you haven’t begun your Social Security payouts yet, you may be able to bump up your monthly income by waiting to claim them until later in retirement.
  14. Get senior discounts: Access to senior discounts is one of the perks of retirement: don’t fail to take advantage of it! From movies to restaurants to grocery stores, it never hurts to ask if a discount is available. Some discounts are available only to AARP members, so you may want to look into membership if you haven’t already.

There are a million little ways to trim the fat off of your monthly expenses during retirement, and when it comes to saving, every dollar counts. Whether you’re looking to set aside more money for healthcare costs, travel, or just a rainy day, even small changes can help. Talk to your financial professional for personalized strategies on how to reduce the cost of retirement.

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