Investing Specialists

65 Ways Retirees Can Cut Their Day-to-Day Expenses

Christine Benz

No matter your life stage, managing your household budget is all about priorities--and trade-offs.

One retiree I know wouldn't dream of skipping his opera outings, even though his season tickets cost an arm and a leg. To make up for his periodic musical splurges, he doesn't mind shopping at Aldi (in fact he seems to rather like it) and handling his own landscaping and lawn-mowing.

For another retiree, that might be an unacceptable trade-off: Listening to music on CDs at home is just fine, thank you very much, if it means she gets to keep her landscaper and buy organic.

Finding the right balance between sacrifices and necessary splurges is a work in progress: Through a process of trial and error, retirees can identify which expenditures fall into the "must-have" category and which ones they can do without in a pinch.

In last week's column, I discussed some ways that retirees can cut their housing-related costs in retirement. In this week's column, I'll discuss some ideas for cutting your day-to-day living expenses. Note that this isn't an inclusive list, and a tip that's right for one retiree might not be for another. (That's why some of these tips might seem to contradict one another.)

Please share your own ideas in the Comments section below the article. I'll tackle ways to cut your travel, leisure, and financial-services costs in retirement in upcoming articles.

Groceries/Staples
1. Go online or review sale fliers to see which grocery store has your favorite products on sale in a given week; just make sure that your savings cover any extra gas money when driving from place to place.

2. Buy frequently used items in bulk when they're on sale; freeze items you won't need soon.

3. Stock up during holiday season, when groceries often feature very low prices on basics like potatoes, onions, and baking supplies to get consumers in the door.

4. Resist the urge to overbuy perishables, even if they're on sale. The most expensive groceries are ones you don't use.

5. Make your own croutons, salad dressing, bread crumbs, granola, and pasta sauce. You can find good recipes for almost everything online.

6. Grow your own produce: Start small with high-cost, high-margin items like herbs and graduate to tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini.

7. Print out your own grocery coupons from sites like couponmom.com or your grocer's website.

8. If you live in a large urban center, shop at ethnic food stores, which may have good prices on basics as well as condiments that are often far more costly in an U.S.-style supermarket.

9. Packaged, processed food products are often discounted the most heavily, but don't skimp on healthful food like high-quality produce and dairy items. Investing in your own health and well-being will pay for itself many times over.

10. Brown-bag or bring leftovers for lunch rather than buying your lunch.

11. Stay home and cook rather than going out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

12. By a refillable water bottle and forgo purchased bottled water.

13. Buy wine in bulk: Most stores offer a 10% discount on as few as six bottles, even if they're not all the same type.

14. Cut back on alcohol and make nonalcoholic spritzers instead. (Cranberry juice and San Pellegrino, anyone?)

15. Make your own household cleaners. (Baking soda and vinegar have many cleaning uses, and are earth-friendly, to boot.) Again, good online recipes abound.

16. Shop discount warehouses such as  Costco (COST) and Sam's Club, but only if you won't buy more than you need.

17. Investigate cash-back rebate cards such as Costco's American Express card and Sam's Club's Discovery.

18. Conduct an audit of your warehouse club usage. If you're only going a few times a year and you don't need many of the bulk items on offer, it may not be worth it to pay for the membership.

19. Investigate  Amazon's (AMZN) "Subscribe and Save" service.

General Merchandise
20. Watch out for shipping costs when buying on the Internet; they can quickly erode any savings you realize versus buying the item locally.

21. When shopping for discretionary items, impose a cooling-off period. If you see something you want, wait a week. If you still want it a week later, then pull the trigger.

22. Offset splurges by forgoing other planned purchases.

23. If shopping online, try a virtual splurge. The process of putting the items you want into your shopping cart may provide a shopper's high, even if you don't end up forking over your credit card.

24. Refrain from storing your credit card information on an online retailer's website. Physically entering your information each time may cut down on impulse buys.

25. Look for online coupons on sites such as couponcabin.com. Typing a retailer's name into a search engine will also likely turn up a list of coupon codes for that firm.

26. Pay cash rather than using credit cards or checks. Having to hit the cash station and part with actual money can help discourage the desire to spend.

27. Minimize the amount of money you carry in your purse or wallet to help discourage spending on discretionary items such as coffee and magazines.

28. Have a garage (or basement) full of stuff you no longer need? Sell it on Craigslist or  eBay (EBAY).

29. Need stuff? Shop for items you need at flea markets, Craigslist, or eBay. Gently used or vintage items can be more distinctive than new ones.

30. Create and stick to a budget, especially for gifts during the holiday season.

31. Bargain when purchasing bigger-ticket goods such as appliances; you may have additional leverage if you're purchasing more than one item.

 

Utilities/Telecommunications
32. Run appliances at off-peak hours when usage rates are lower.

33. Switch to CFL bulbs or dimmed lights (dimmed lights use less electricity, and may promote romance!).

34. Conduct an energy audit of your home (for example, check air leaks through window frames, door frames, and attics)

35. Turn down heat (or turn up your air-conditioning, depending on the season and the climate where you live). In colder climates, learn to love fleece and buy a warm comforter for your bed.

36. Switch from a premium cable package to a basic one or watch TV online via websites such as hulu.com.

37. If you like your current cable package but it's been getting more expensive, call your provider to see if you can take advantage of any discount packages available. If that fails, threatening to drop your package should get you results.

38. Head to your local library for DVD rentals; drop your  Netflix (NFLX) subscription.

39. If you aren't using items (such as lamps, VCRs, a clock radio in guest bedroom, and so on), turn them off or unplug them.

40. Switch to energy-efficient appliances when it's time to replace (or even if it isn't).

41. Only do full loads of laundry.

42. Switch to a front-loading washing machine, which can accommodate larger loads than top-loaders.

43. Hang clothes, sheets, and towels out on the line to dry in the breeze.

44. Fill your dishwasher before running it rather than cleaning partial loads.

45. Drop your phone landline and use your cell phone exclusively instead. You'll be able to keep your long-held home phone number.

46. Conduct an audit of your cell-phone usage: Cut cell-phone minutes or switch providers.

47. Consider sharing cell-phone service with family members or friends; you can usually add additional lines for a small charge per month.

48. Cut your phone bill by using a Voice over Internet Protocol service such as Vonage (VG).

Gasoline/Auto
49. Couples: Switch to one car from two.

51. Switch to a more fuel-efficient vehicle. This can be a particularly good idea if you log a lot of miles on the road, but it might not be cost-effective if you don't drive as much.

52. If you don't log many miles, investigate a car-sharing service, such as Zipcar ZIP, or rent a car rather than paying for maintenance and insurance for your own vehicle.

53. Bike or walk to your destinations rather than drive.

54. Use public transport; your community may offer senior discounts.

55. Wash your car at home rather than paying for car-washing services.

55. Check out websites like gasbuddy.com to find the lowest gasoline prices in your area.

Home Maintenance
56. Cut your own grass and tackle your own landscaping

58. Reduce your dependence on chemical-based lawn-maintenance services. Your grass might not be as perfect, but you'll have more money in your pocket and fewer chemicals on your lawn.

59. Drop your house-cleaning service or switch from once-weekly service to once every other week.

60. Tackle your own home improvements.

61. Swap services with other retired folks; for example, you'll cut grass in exchange for cooking.

Personal Care
62. Experiment with drugstore brands to replace expensive department-store cosmetics.

63. Do your own manicures and pedicures.

64. Stop buying dry-clean-only clothes; learn to iron instead.

65. Walk, bike, or work out at a community recreation center rather than paying gym fees.

See More Articles by Christine Benz

New! 30-Minute Money Solutions
Need help picking up the pieces in this turbulent market? 30-Minute Money Solutions by Morningstar director of personal finance Christine Benz simplifies the daunting task of getting your financial house in order. Written for novice and experienced investors alike, this book offers manageable, step-by-step solutions for tackling money challenges and building a comprehensive financial plan in simple 30-minute increments. Learn more.
  Order Your Copy Today--$16.95   
   

Christine Benz does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar's editorial policies.