Wednesday, August 19, 2020

101 Ways We Save Money in Retirement

Actually hubby is fully retired and I am retired-ish but still do occasional gig work (but I definitely need to develop some sources of retirement income!).  Here are a bunch of ways we live frugally in retirement:
  1. We chose to live in a state with no state income tax.  This works well for us, but it makes sense to look at overall tax burden by state when deciding where to retire.  Note that there are many states that have state income tax yet don't tax various types of retirement income.
  2. We bought a newish house at the bottom of the market.  It has now more than doubled in price since the housing market has significantly increased in value over the past decade.  I don't even know how new home buyers afford $300k "starter homes" these days!
  3. We used a VA loan (zero down, many closing costs paid by the VA) to buy our house.  We also bought a house for a fraction of the amount we were pre-approved for.  No way did we want a huge house payment when we could live happily in a smaller, less expensive house.
  4. We decided to downsize to a smaller house in part because a smaller house is much cheaper to heat, cool, and maintain.  
  5. Our house is in an area which has a very low property tax rate as well as a tax cap so property tax can't increase dramatically year over year.  Many of our family members live in New England where their monthly property tax payments cost more than their mortgage payments!
  6. I call around each year to get the best rate for house insurance.  We bundle our house insurance with our car insurance to get a better rate and don't have things that would increase the cost of our house insurance like a pool or pit bulls.
  7. We live in a neighborhood with an inexpensive HOA.  Unfortunately almost every house in Las Vegas is part of an HOA, fortunately we chose a neighborhood that isn't gated and doesn't have a pool, golf course, or club house which can dramatically increase the monthly HOA cost.
  8. Hubby and I share one car which is much cheaper than having two or more cars like we did in years past.  This is easier to do in retirement because we don't have jobs taking us in different directions.
  9. We bought a basic car (Honda CRV) with a .9% loan from the dealership on a five year term which we recently paid off in four years.  While I would have loved to have a fancy $50k truck, a good basic car is cheaper, just as reliable, and costs less to maintain and insure.
  10. I call around each year to find the lowest-priced car insurance we can find.  I found that the cost for car insurance can vary dramatically from company to company.  We get a discount on this insurance because it is bundled with our home insurance.
  11. Speaking of insurance, we lower the cost of our home and auto insurance by having higher deductibles.  Our emergency fund can easily cover these deductibles (which is important, you don't want to have a high deductible you can't cover if you need to make a claim!).
  12. We signed up for a property tax exemption provided by our county which cuts the cost of our annual car registration by more than half.  Many counties/cities have such tax exemptions for seniors, vets, low income folks, etc.
  13. We get a good price on car maintenance services at a friend's auto shop, keep the car in good working order, and do some of our own maintenance (like changing the air filters) ourselves.
  14. We tend not to drive often or far which saves on gas as well as wear and tear on the car (in four years we have only put 34,000 miles on the car!).  I also called and got a rebate on our car insurance when we were under lockdown for covid and staying home all the time.
  15. We are safe drivers.  Car insurance is expensive in my city for everyone because drivers here are so awful.  We keep our insurance costs relatively low by driving carefully and not having DUIs/tickets/other violations.  We also have an inexpensive dashcam in our car just in case we ever do get in a wreck.
  16. I often walk to do errands like grocery shopping, banking, mailing things, etc.  This saves gas and is good exercise.
  17. Fortunately hubby's health insurance is free thanks to the military (he still has a Medicare deduction from his social security) and my health insurance is only $25 a month.  Needless to say, this is ridiculously cheap health insurance compared to the regular health insurance market.  We know several people who can't retire because they would have to pay for their own health insurance, instead of their job paying for it, and the cost would be astronomical!
  18. For dental work, we are fortunate that my sister in law is a dentist so if we need major work, she will do it just for the cost of supplies.  But since she lives across the country, I also have a great local dentist who knows I don't have dental insurance so he gives me a no-insurance discount plus an extra discount if I pay cash.  I suppose if we were desperate for dental care we would go to our local university dental school (very cheap procedures done by dental students) or march ourselves down to Los Algodones!
  19. We are pretty frugal with our utilities.  Electricity, gas, and water is charged at the rate you use it so we try to be frugal with our use of these services (there are millions of pages online with tips to save on utilities).
  20. We pay as many bills annually (HOA) or semi annually (car insurance) as we can in order to get a discount over paying monthly.
  21. I check out utility company websites occasionally and see what discounts they offer.  We have got a free energy weatherization service, a rebate on the washer/dryer set we purchased, free shower heads, etc. from these programs in the past.
  22. We use an over-the-air antenna to get 50+ free stations on TV instead of paying for cable TV.  Since we live in a city, there are LOTS of OTA TV stations; this may not be the same in rural areas.
  23. We have a Netflix subscription which provides more than enough entertainment for us and is much cheaper than cable TV.  
  24. We have basic internet.  I would love gigablast internet but the cost is more than $100 per month.  We have a step-up-from-the-bottom internet for $50 a month which works just fine for us.
  25. We just switched to Mint for our cell phone service which we are happy with.  We get unlimited calls and texts plus 3gb of internet for $15 each a month which I think is a good deal.
  26. We always buy our cell phones from the manufacturer (Samsung) or Best Buy.  We buy our phones on sale and pay in full instead of buying phones we can't afford and need to finance over two years or more.
  27. We buy our tech products (tablets, laptops, TV, etc) on sale and we choose products that meet our needs instead of buying top-of-the-line products which do way more than we need.
  28. We do a lot of our own home maintenance like changing out plumbing fixtures, and check around with friends for recommendations for inexpensive handyman work when we need it (I didn't want hubby painting the second floor exterior trim so we hired this out to a painter a friend recommended).
  29. We do our own yard work.  Fortunately it is pretty minimal but a lot of people we know hire this sort of thing done.  When I got a quote for $200 to trim our palm trees, I went online and learned how to do this myself (our $40 extendable pole saw has paid for itself several times over so far!).
  30. We use YouTube to learn how to do many maintenance and repairs which has saved us a boatload of money over the years.  The dealership wanted $90 to change the filters in our car, a YouTube video showed us how to do this and it only cost $20 for the filters!  We bought $10 key blanks on Amazon and had them cut for $10 which saved us $180 over the cost of having the dealership do this.  The list of things we have learned how to do ourselves is endless!
  31. We shop sales and buy in bulk when it comes to food.  We buy 50 pounds of rice at a time from the Asian store (we eat a lot of rice!), and get some amazing deals on weekly food purchases by using our local grocery store app.
  32. We tend to shop for food and household supplies at the cheapest places (like the Mexican grocery store or 99 Cent store for produce, the Asian grocery store for Asian food, Costco for toilet paper, Walmart for toiletry and household products, etc).
  33. We cook almost all of our meals at home.  This is both cheaper and healthier than eating out all the time.  This includes making our meals at home and taking them with us if we will be out for the day so we don't end up eating fast food.
  34. We make our own desserts and snacks at home.  I love to bake so this makes it easy but if you have a favorite item at any fast food or popular restaurant, it's guaranteed that there are a bunch of "copy cat" recipes online to show you how to make it yourself at home.
  35. I shop online for specific items that I know are cheaper than buying at local stores, like tablet and cell phone covers from Amazon or outdoor gear from SteepAndCheap.
  36. I have an Amazon Prime subscription which gives us free shipping, free movies, free books, etc. which I got for $20 off when there was a discount for veterans a while back.
  37. I sign up for freebies anywhere I can find them.  Examples here and here.
  38. I also look for discounts all the time too, whether it is asking for a locals discount, a veteran's discount, a senior discount, etc.
  39. We buy all of our clothes (except for shoes, socks, and underwear which are purchased new at Ross or TJ Maxx) at the Goodwill.  And we only shop on senior sale days which saves even more money!
  40. We have a Sam's Club card (which we received as a gift) and occasionally get a Costco card (if the cost will save us more on the items we want to purchase over buying the item at another store).  We tend to buy food in bulk at these places if the price is better than we can find at other stores.
  41. We buy all of our home decor and household goods (dishes, furniture like desks and bookcases, etc) at the Goodwill.  I refuse to pay full price for any sort of decor which loses 90% of its value as soon as you walk out of the store with it.  Any time we need something for our house, the first place we look is at the Goodwill!
  42. We have inexpensive hobbies.  Hubby bowls on senior leagues (cheaper than evening leagues), I enjoy walking and hiking which is free, occasionally we will swim at the local pool ($1 per person...WAY better than owning our own pool!), etc.
  43. We enjoy free events and activities in our city.  Obviously this was much more expansive pre-covid but hopefully things will get back to normal soon.  I did a free CERT class, we often attended free musical events at our local library, we've gone to free lectures, free days at the museum, and enjoyed lots of free casino shows over the years.
  44. If we do go to events or activities that cost money, we look for discounts.  This might be discounted tickets for locals, going to a matinee movie instead of an evening movie, or using services like Fill A Seat or House Seats.  I've even volunteered to work at conferences and events in order to get free entry to the rest of the event after my shift was done!
  45. We have done things as drastic as cutting each other's hair to save money (and did a good job IMHO).  Although we do like to use $7 haircut coupons that come out occasionally for our local Great Clips.
  46. We don't do debt.  No credit card use (unless we pay it off immediately), no payday loans, no buying furniture or electronics on credit, no time shares, etc).
  47. We are also minimalist (me more so than hubby) so we don't buy things unless we really need them.  I don't like having junk or clutter laying around!
  48. We have an emergency fund which has, on many occasions, saved us from putting a repair or new appliance on our credit cards.
  49. We also cash flow/DIY bigger purchases.  When one of the daughters wanted to get married here, we told her we would pay for it as long as it fit in our budget and we could cash flow it (she chose a restaurant we could afford for the reception, DIYed the invitations, etc); the entire event was wonderful!
  50. Speaking of money, when people (usually kids, grandkids, or relatives) need money we never loan it to them but offer what we can afford as a gift.  This saves a lot of drama!
  51. The kids are all self-supporting and employed.  Needless to say, this saves a lot of money over having kids still living at home.  We weren't able to be nearly as frugal with a house full of kids!
  52. We don't have pets.  Obviously this is a personal choice (I can't even see having a dog in Las Vegas when it's too hot to walk them for three months out of the year!).  We have had several dogs over the years which were pretty low-maintenance, but now our friends who have dogs spend money on clothing for them (!?!), doggy day cares, and medical care which rivals human care in price!
  53. We do as much as we can online instead of via mail or in person.  Things like banking and paying bills can easily be done online and saves the cost of a trip to the bank or a stamp for mailing.
  54. We utilize the library a lot.  Our library is great and offers all kinds of things like community events, a massive amount of e-books that I download to my Kindle for free, free movies/music/magazines, etc.
  55. When we travel, I use Google flights to search for the lowest-priced tickets as this site allows you to search by price, by day.  Obviously this is easier to do if your dates for traveling are flexible.  Ditto, in previous years, when I used Travelocity to search for cruises by the price per night.
  56. We make our own coffee at home.  I used to have an awful Starbucks (and Baskin Robbins) habit but I have kicked both.  Now hubby has his morning coffee made with our old drip coffee maker and I make my own milkshakes and smoothies at home.  This saves A LOT of money!
  57. When we do eat out (with a coupon or other discount of course!), we tend to order one meal and split it (and still end up with leftovers).  We order water to drink instead of soda and skip dessert.  This is a frugal way to have a nice meal while not overeating, plus the meals are so big we don't even miss having expensive soda or dessert with it.
  58. We are frugal in the kitchen.  Hubby washes and saves ziploc bags to use when packaging meat in single-serve portions, we cut a roll of paper towels down the middle to give us quarter-sized paper towels (a whole paper towel is generally overkill), even the water from boiling vegetables is used to water the plants!
  59. Our house is always organized.  This saves us from buying duplicate items because the item we need, like tape or scissors, were misplaced and can't be found.
  60. Our house is always clean.  We don't wear shoes in the house (makes the carpets really dirty; our very light colored carpet still looks like new because we don't wear shoes on it and keep it shampooed every six months or so), spills are cleaned up immediately so they don't leave a stain, and broken things are either fixed, given away, or tossed.
  61. We do home maintenance and repairs as needed.  This includes changing the furnace filters regularly, doing annual maintenance on our AC which should have died five years ago but is still going strong, fixing leaky faucets immediately, etc.
  62. We don't replace things that aren't broken.  Our TVs are more than ten years old but still work fine so we see no reason to get the newest and biggest TVs.  Our basic computers work just fine, our cell phones are from three generations ago but still work great, and I think our vacuum is going on 20 year old but still works fine (hubby cleans and maintains it regularly). 
  63. Our tech use is pretty basic--cell phones, laptops, and a tablet.  We don't use Alexa or other assistants (too intrusive IMHO) and don't pay for apps or software.  When we do get new tech, the old stuff is either sold or given to a kid or grandkid who needs it.
  64. Our decor has been the same for ages and it still looks fine IMHO.  I used to redecorate often (including new paint and flooring when the old stuff was just fine), changed the decor with the season, and generally tried to have a "House Beautiful" house.  Needless to say I now find this expensive and wasteful.
  65. We are the same with clothes.  I used to have to have the newest fashions, LV and Coach purses, etc.  Now my basic Goodwill clothes and cute Kipling purses (bought on sale of course) suit me just fine.  I think this is easier to do when you don't work and don't have to impress people.
  66. Get rid of vices!  Hubby used to smoke three packs a day but quit many years ago.  That alone has saved us a boatload of money.  We don't drink, do drugs (marijuana is legal here), or have other vices that cost money.  Hubby does like to play poker but he has a small allowance for this and if it is gone for the week, he doesn't play any more (fortunately he is a good player and has saved a pretty good-sized bankroll in addition to getting "comps" when he plays for free meals in casino restaurants).
  67. When we cook, we usually make big batches of whatever we are making and freeze leftovers in single serve portions.  This is a great way to save on food waste and save money over eating out if we happen to be too busy to cook.
  68. We often use food and home baked goods for gifts.  If there is a party, we bring dessert, if we are visiting friends, we bring them food, when people come over, we serve them food.  Good food seems to make everyone happy.
  69. When we buy food (almost always on sale, of course) we process it immediately so it doesn't sit in the back of the refrigerator and rot.  Meat (hubby is a carnivore) is cut up and frozen in single-serve sizes, vegetables are cut up and frozen or used right away, fruit is cleaned up and frozen, etc.  I do need to learn how to can and make jam so I can stretch our discount food finds even further.
  70. We prepare for disasters.  Slowly.  Fortunately we don't get many disasters in our area but every time we go shopping, we add a small item to our disaster supplies kit whether it is a box of bandaids or a tarp from the $1 store, an extra can or two of soup that is on sale, a packet of batteries, etc.
  71. We like to "buy it for life" when possible.  We still use my grandmother's cast iron pan that is more than 50 years old, my backpacks have lifetime warranties, and we happily pay more for long-lasting durable items which save money over buying cheap items that are more likely to break quickly.
  72. We have food-producing trees in our back yard.  I wish we had space for a garden, unfortunately our yard is very small and gardening here is pretty challenging.  I think any effort to grow your own food, if you are into this sort of thing, is well worth the effort.
  73. We don't answer our phones if we don't know who is calling, don't open our door if it looks like someone is trying to sell something, and have freezes on our credit.  Scams and identity theft are so common these days, we try to do everything we can to avoid getting caught up in any of that.
  74. We avoid the usual scammy things: impossible to cancel gym memberships, even more impossible to cancel time shares, payday lenders, rent-to-own places, etc.
  75. I try to avoid things that will make me mindlessly shop including going to stores without specific things I need to buy, perusing deals websites, and watching too many tech review videos (I love new tech!).
  76. We buy annual memberships for things we enjoy doing like getting a senior Nevada Parks Pass which provides free entry to all of Nevada's parks for $30 and hubby has a senior lifetime membership to the National Parks (it only cost $10 when he bought it several years ago).  Some of our friends buy annual memberships to local museums, kid's play places, etc.
  77. We live below our means.  We used to live way beyond our means, assuming that since we were working we could always pay whatever bills we would rack up in the future (note that this rarely works out well even if you are earning a large salary!).  These days, with living on a fixed income, we know exactly how much we can spend and we stay below that amount.
  78. We don't buy things that can be rented or borrowed.  I just can't see buying a boat or RV when it is much cheaper and easier to rent these big ticket things but leave the cost and maintenance to someone else.  Specialized tools (except for my beloved pole saw) or other things we rarely use (like a power washer) are also great things to rent instead of buy.
  79. We have saved a lot of money by not traveling.  We used to travel several times a year but when hubby's health was unstable, we decided not to travel for a year.  Then two years.  Now with covid there is no traveling this year either.  Fortunately hubby's health has improved, and we have realized that while traveling is OK, staying home is much less hassle and much less expensive. 
  80. Speaking of traveling, when we do travel, we now go one-bag only.  Each of us carries everything we need in our carry on on-sized bags so we don't need to pay ridiculous baggage fees.  We also carry snacks and empty water bottles through security and fill them up on the gate side so we don't have to buy water or snacks at the expensive airport stores.
  81. We do splurge occasionally.  When my old tablet was on its last leg I went looking for a new tablet.  I researched (excessively), found the tablet I wanted (an expensive one), waited until it went on sale, then found next to the sale price that the store had a returned tablet for an even greater discount.  I picked up the returned tablet and it works great, just like new!
  82. We take advantage of opportunities as they come up.  I often learn of deals, discounts, and cool opportunities via social media and regular media so I make note of these great deals and take advantage of them when appropriate.  There might be a lecture by my favorite author, free audience tickets for shows filmed in Vegas, free community events, etc. which we will enjoy if we have time.
  83. We use a cash back credit card for our purchases and pay it off each month.  We are careful not to overspend and always pay it at the end of each month then reap the cash-back rewards as they accumulate.
  84. Occasionally we will do a no-spend challenge.  This is a great way to save money quickly and it makes us reduce, reuse, recycle, or do without (good lessons to practice anytime!).
  85. We use less of products than is called for.  I usually use half the usual amount of laundry soap, half the amount of toothpaste you see used in commercials, mix my shampoo with water...all things that stretch the products but still produce effective results.
  86. We have actually done dumpster diving and trash picking in the past.  If we find something useful on the side of the road we will pick it up, clean it up, the use it or sell it on Craigslist.  When I used to work in an office building, entire suites of office furniture would be left by the dumpster when an office closed so we would quickly scoop it up and use it or sell it.
  87. We always shop the clearance racks at any stores we go to.  This is a great way to get great products that may be old or closing out, at big discounts.  We do this everywhere from the day-old bread rack at the grocery store to the mis-mixed paint section at Home Depot.
  88. Some unusual ways to make or save money which we have done: see if you have unclaimed money, see if you qualify for a class action rebate, and consider these weird ways to make money.
  89. I love to make a little extra money by doing temp or gig work.  Every summer (well, until this summer) I have worked a temp job at the World Series of Poker, the census is hiring in our area (I will skip applying this time due to the covid risk), I may apply to work for the elections, and in our city (pre-covid) there are always lots of weekend or week-long jobs at conventions and other events which people can do to make a little extra money.
  90. Another money saver we are considering is refinancing our mortgage.  We may do this as the APR is 1% less than we are paying now but we haven't decided if we are moving yet or we may just decide to hammer away at what's left of our mortgage and pay it off as fast as possible (which may save money over paying closing costs to get a cheaper interest rate).
  91. All of our banking accounts are free.  A few accounts are through credit unions (free) and one is through the bank that holds our mortgage (also free as long as we have a loan with them).  I can't believe some of the high fees people pay for banking when there are free options out there!
  92. I used to make a lot of websites for businesses, now I just have a few for small non profits that I help out.  To save money on this, I buy the domain names through Name Cheap and stopped paying hundreds of dollars in hosting fees by using Blogger for free hosting (I believe Google Pages and GitHub offer similar free hosting).
  93. More online things I use to save money: free software, free educational courses, and finding free services for my hobbies (like using FamilySearch for genealogy instead of paying for an Ancestry subscription).
  94. We have scaled way back on gift giving.  We used to send birthday and Christmas gifts to all of our siblings and their kids but now with five kids and 13 grandkids of our own, we limit gifts to just our immediate family.  It's still a bit expensive but better than giving gifts to nearly 100 close relatives!
  95. Some big investments we are looking at: an on-demand water heater when our current water heater dies, a new AC system (our old one still works but it is already five years past its lifespan), buying a freezer (we currently use freezers in our two refrigerators but an actual freezer would be nice), and while I would love to have solar, it doesn't make financial sense where we live because of the high cost/relatively low return (the power company doesn't pay much for solar here unfortunately).
  96. As for coupons, I don't go all out and do the "Coupon Queen" thing but if I see a coupon in our junk mail that we can use (for haircuts, make up, etc) I will cut it out and use it.
  97. I think one of the most important ways to stay frugal is to make lists.  I have a list of bills that need to be paid and their due dates (don't want to pay late and get a late fee added to the bill!), a list of food and household goods we are running low on (don't want to forget something then have to make a special trip back to the store because we are completely out!), and a list of "to do" things (don't want to forget birthdays or other tasks that need to get done!).
  98. I am forever looking for even more ways to be frugal so occasionally I will visit RedditFrugal, or simply Google "weird ways to save money" or "weird ways to make money" to find some new and unique ways to earn or save money that I haven't come across yet. 
  99. Consider "extreme" ways to save money.  Many friends use bidets which saves on the cost of toilet paper (we are still considering whether or not to buy one of these), some people collect condiment packets to use at home (a bit too extreme for us), and the neighbor guy got tired of dealing with dead plants in his yard so he went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of plastic plants to put in his yard!
  100. We have been married for decades and this actually saves us money.  Being divorced splits assets, costs double for two separate households, and we encourage each other to be frugal which is an added bonus (hubby is actually more frugal than I am!).  Obviously not everyone gets a choice to remain married but working out problems instead of bailing is a money-saving tip!
  101. We always ask each other "how can we do this cheaper?"  And rather than feeling deprived when being so frugal, it is more like a fun challenge.  I guess the most important part of being frugal is your attitude towards it!