I’ve noticed a few fellow retirement blogging buddies have been posting lately the cutbacks they are making in order to save money. I think the longer you are in retirement, finding new ways to save money is a must so that you can stay in retirement. It certainly is a challenge to find new ways to cut back and I’m glad they’re all sharing their ideas with the rest of us. DH and I are no exceptions. Here’s what we did, do or will do in the future in order to keep our expenses in check and save money along the way:
Housing: Once our kids were in college and permanently moved out of the family home, DH and I sold our home, downsized to a less expensive area in the same state. We went from a 9 room house to a 4 room house. We used most of our equity to buy 3.5 acres of rural land and erected a custom built modular home. We got it all accomplished for around $170,000 cash. Newer home meant less maintenance bills. Smaller home meant smaller utility bills. All in all, it costs us around $806 per month to run our new home (taxes, insurance, electricity, propane and maintenance). Since the downsizing our monthly bills went from $5,600 a month (in 2001 dollars) to $2,400 a month (in 2019 dollars)
Vehicles: We used the balance of our equity from the sale of our marital domain to buy two newish paid-for cars. Over the years since we downsized we’ve purchased at least six cars. All for cash. Most have been used but Certified Pre-owned with extended lifetime warranties. Whenever anything happens to our cars, the most we pay out in repairs is the $100 deductible. Currently we own two cars. One is an Dodge Durango Citadel SUV that we use to tow our RV and the other is a 2015 Chrysler Sedan that is exceptional on gas (35 to 40mpg). We use this vehicle mostly all the time. Eventually we’d like to go down to one car but to find a vehicle that can tow and look stylish, is kind of difficult. We’re not too keen on solely owning a pick up truck. So, we’re keeping the two cars for now. We spend about $100 a month on gas.
Groceries: We do 90% of our food shopping at Aldi (click here). I scour the weekly flyers looking for food bargains. When I find them, we stock up. Last week NY Strip steaks went on sale @$4.88 a pound, so we bought a few months worth (we eat two steaks per month). The other day cut-up local, farm raised chickens went on sale @$1.49 a pound, so we stocked up a few months worth. We spend between $450 to $500 a month on groceries for two people.
Clothing: I only budget $25 a month on clothing. We basically have everything we need. If we do need something, we either shop at Goodwill, Wal Mart or any of those fantastic end-of-season super sales at Old Navy! When we need shoes, we shop at DSW, a discount designer shoe outlet (click here) and we always have a rewards card that offsets the prices.
Hair Cuts: DH has been cutting his own hair for over 10 years. He gives himself a great buzzcut. His electric hair clipper cost $15 and has only been replaced once. Occasionally DH does go to a barber but it’s never been more than twice in one year. I go to a chain franchise, Super Cuts (click here). I get the senior discount @$16 for a cut only and tip $4 making the total cost $20. Since I like to keep my hair short I go every two months. Super Cuts have stores all over the United States and all their employees are taught the same. I can go anywhere and request a ‘pixie’ cut and it comes out the same each and every time. Total yearly expenditures on haircuts for the both of us hover around $120 to $140. I know a lot of women out there spend that much just on one hair cut!
DIY Projects: See above. In addition to cutting our own hair or utilizing franchises, we do all our own work ourselves. This includes all car repairs not covered under warranty, such as oil changes etc., all home repairs, all equipment repairs, all appliance repairs. I don’t think a service person has ever stepped inside our home in the 18 years we have lived here. I do all the home cleaning also. DH cuts the grass. We do all maintenance ourselves and if we don’t know how to do something, we learn. YouTube is an excellent resource on learning how to DIY.
Vacations: We did most of our traveling with our kids. We vacationed in the Caribbean every winter (St. Croix, the Bahamas, Martinique, Barbados, St. Lucia). We did the Europe thing while we were working (London, Paris, Rome, Milan, Venice etc. etc.) We did own several vacation homes; a ski chalet up in the Catskill Mountains, a beach house in Newport, Rhode Island and a condo in Sarasota, Florida but as the years progressed, multiple home ownership just got too expensive to maintain. Now that we are retired, we do most of our traveling in an RV. We still winter in Florida (3 months). We still summer at the beach (2 months). Total annual cost of our RV vacations is $3,750.
Restaurants: With the price of meals out today, the increase in employee minimum wages (which is passed on to the customer), the increases in the costs of foods (which is passed on to the customer), it no longer makes good financial sense for us to eat out in restaurants any longer. The $50 to $100 some restaurant meals cost us can easily buy us a weeks worth of groceries at Aldi. I still, however, have budgeted $25 a month on restaurant meals. Sometimes that means a big breakfast out at McDonald’s ($12 for the both of us) or we venture to our most favorite family diner that boasts a Senior Menu from 3Pm to 6PM every single day. For $10.99 we get choice of soup or salad, choice of entree’ (beef, chicken, fish or vegan) with potato/rice (any style) steamed vegetables of the day, dessert (apple pie or choice of pudding) tea and/or coffee, hot or iced at no extra charge. With tip, we get a great meal for the both of us for about $25 and we stay within our monthly budget. Note: Of course, if there is a special family/friend event, we go but we usually order appetizers only.
Entertainment: It’s no secret I love Broadway musicals but at those NYC ticket prices my days at The Big White Way are few and far between. Thankfully many Broadway shows are syndicated now and travel the road. We’ve been able to catch top Broadway shows such as The Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia, Carol King’s Beautiful, at other, less expensive venues. We pay around $50 to $75 a ticket now vs the $150 to $200 we used to pay. That’s a tremendous savings. (I once paid $450 to see Andrea Bocelli at Madison Square Garden. I thought my husband was going to kill me BUT it was an experience that could never be duplicated. So, he forgave me) We also love celebrity comics. Last year we saw Sebastian Maniscalco. This year we’re seeing Jay Leno (@$75 per ticket). All local. No big city price tags. Over the years DH and I have seen Woody Allen, Rodney Dangerfield, Lewis Black, Bill Cosby, Robert Klein, Lisa Lampanelli…..just to name a few.
I have taken my granddaughters, however, to NYC Broadway shows. Last year it was Aladdin. This year it’s Frozen. I log onto BroadwayBox.com (click here) and get great deals (under $75 per ticket). Every year I take the girls to see the Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall (Under $35 per ticket). Everyone should experience a NYC Broadway show at least once in their lifetime!
Luxuries: I have to say that there are very few luxuries in my lifestyle. But what I do have however, is always top shelf. No more massages. No more spa treatments. No more brand named items. No more manicures. No more treating myself to beauty items. No jewelry. No fancy clothes. No designer handbags. I used to use Oil Of Olay products but they all have been replaced with the generic Equate brand from Wal Mart. I very rarely wear make-up BUT I have updated my make-up case last year with all L’oreal products for those occasions when I DO wear make-up. I only have one bottle of perfume, Chanel Number 5, (@$125 for 6.8 fl oz) that my family bought for me for Mother’s Day a few years ago. Most of my jewelry I sold when gold hit $2,000 an ounce. I kept only the ‘good’ pieces. I don’t do Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. If I want a coffee out, I stop at McDonald’s and get the Senior coffee for .59 cents or stop by my local farm stand that sells top quality Colombian brews for only $1.25 (throw in their $1.75 croissant and that’s my Sunday breakfast!) I don’t order smoothies (I can make better ones at home).
I do have splurges, however. My shampoo & conditioner is always Pantene. My body moisturizer is always Jergens. (I tried the generics but they weren’t that good). I live, live, live in chapsticks. I keep them all over my house! I do my own manicures and have a wide array of Sally Hansen nail colors (@$1.52 per bottle). I do one pedicure splurge per year, always at the beginning of the summer @$18 plus tip. I buy good, new toothbrushes every three months. I use AIM toothpaste @ only .77 for a 6.4oz tube at WalMart. I still wear my retainer to maintain my smile. I splurged (finally) on dental health insurance (@$44 a month for the both of us) DH and I finally got our teeth cleaned with full Xrays and we have no cavities, no gum disease, no tooth decay. The only thing I changed/added on when we had our new home built was I demanded a Jacuzzi jetted tub in my master bathroom (I have severe arthritis). It has been pure heaven each and every time I get into that large, warm, luxurious tub! Especially on a Saturday night! Note: Our SUV is a luxury car but the only reason why we bought it was because of it’s tow package AND it was the only car available at that time at such a good price.
Exercise Clubs/Gym Membership: We live in a hiking/biking wonderland. With tons of hiking and rail biking trails at our disposal, for free. So why would we join a gym? To swim, of course. We also love to swim in addition to hiking and biking. Fortunately our town has a community pool, so for $50 each we swim every summer, daily during Adult-Only time from noon to 1o’clock. When the weather gets cooler, we swim at the local college here that boasts an Olympic-sized, heated pool. We get 12 non-expiration visits for only $51. We have no set schedule, which is exactly what we like. In the winter we swim in the Atlantic Ocean in Florida. Next summer we will be back on the beaches in Newport so I don’t think we will be renewing our community pool membership.
Pets: We’ve had three dogs so far in our 36 years together. Our current dog just turned 9 and our vet told us this morning that our breed usually lives between 10 to 15 years. That was a very disturbing realization. Our current dog has been the most lovable and loyal animal we have ever had. She’s a rescue and she has never forgotten how she was saved (by us) and given a great home. Her monthly dog food and treats cost us around $30 per month. Over the spring, summer and early fall months we treat her for tick protection @ $10 per application. Her annual vet visit this year was $196. Last year the same exam was $150. Thankfully our girl has never gotten sick nor needed any medical attention. She’s never once been boarded. We always include her.
My husband told me this morning that once our girl goes, he’d like to lay off buying another dog for a while. He wants to go back to Italy one more time and also see the English countryside. It’s been difficult over the years to find/hire someone competent enough to care for our pet while we are away. As for me, I don’t want to think about this today. I’d rather think about it tomorrow. In the interim, I’m just hugging and loving my dog. I can’t attach a price tag to pure, unadulterated love. Priceless!
Since we receive most of our passive income towards the end of the month, we use several charge cards throughout the month in order to balance out our spending. I put a limit on the multiple cards we use (I try to keep each one under $300) and I track them almost daily. It’s easier to pay off the cards, in full, each month when their balances are low, than to come up with a full $1200. We’ve never paid interest. I’ve never missed a payment. It’s a system that seems to work for us.
WE used to get frequent flyer miles off of our charge card usage but no more. Since we won’t be flying anywhere in the near future, we’ve switched to cash-back cards. We earn 3% back on some specific purchases and 1% back on all the rest. The extra cash back comes in handy. We either use it towards free gas fill ups when we travel or just deposit it back into our savings account. Either way, its a pleasant reward. (and NO it doesn’t encourage us to spend more!)