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12 Money-Saving Tips to Enjoy a Frugal Retirement

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12 Money-Saving Tips to Enjoy a Frugal Retirement

Droucelle Ramage leads an exercise class at the Sunshine Center. Ramage keeps her expenses low in retirement by shopping at thrift stores and attending free community events. Chris Zuppa/Codetic

Adjusting to a fixed income in retirement can be a challenge — especially if you’re living off less money.

Just because you stopped working doesn’t mean you can stop paying the utility bills and buying groceries. If you’re planning vacations or trips to the golf course — those are extra costs to budget for.

“You could easily spend more money [in retirement] because you have more time you want to enjoy,” said Droucelle Ramage, a retiree living in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Embracing frugality throughout her life, however, is one of the reasons Ramage was able to leave the workforce in her early 60s.

“I used to say it’s against my religion to pay full retail,” she joked.

Ramage continues to keep expenses low by shopping at thrift stores, attending free community events and choosing community acupuncture rather than going to a pricey private practice.

“It’s $15 instead of $100,” she said.

Volunteering at her church and local senior center is another way Ramage stays busy without spending money. When she travels, she’s able to get free flights, a benefit of working for American Airlines for over 20 years.

Knowing how to cut costs is key to having a frugal retirement you can enjoy. Here are 12 ways to save money.

1. Get a Roommate or Two

Loneliness in retirement can have a negative effect on your health and quality of life. Not only will live-in company help you feel less alone, but you’ll reduce housing costs.

If you live alone, try sharing a place with a friend or family member who lives in the same town, or consider coliving with other retirees to save money.

2. Downsize to a Smaller Space

Maybe your idea of a frugal retirement doesn’t include sharing your living space. You can cut costs by moving to a smaller home instead. 

A small house has several financial benefits. You’ll pay less in rent or mortgage. Your utility bills will go down. You’ll have less home maintenance and repairs to worry about. 

And when you downsize, you can sell all that furniture you don’t need for extra cash. 

3. Rent Out Your Kids’ Old Rooms

If you don’t want to sell the family home or get long-term roommates, you can make money off your empty nest by turning unused space into short-term rentals.

Your kids can get their rooms back when they visit for the holidays — or you could make them pay the daily rate. 

This guide on how to become an Airbnb host will get you started.

4. Cut the Cost of Groceries

Slashing your grocery spending is a high-impact way to help you have a frugal retirement that saves money every month.

Clip coupons, buy generic products, start a garden and shop at stores that boast low prices, like Aldi or Trader Joe’s. For more tips, check out this story about saving money on groceries.

Bonus: When you feel like eating out for a change, read up on these 25 ways to save money at restaurants.

5. Be Proactive About Your Health

A retiree stretches during an exercise class.
Felice Drouin stretches during an exercise class at the Sunshine Center. After retiring, Drouin worked as a supervisor during the 2000 Census. Chris Zuppa/Codetic

Your health is often intertwined with your wealth. Staying healthy in retirement means you’ll spend less on medical costs.

When it comes to preventative care, a balanced diet and regular exercise can lower your chances of developing certain conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. But you don’t have to drain your bank account paying for expensive health food or a pricey gym membership.

These 10 ways to save money on organic groceries will help you eat healthy for less. Incorporate one of these gym alternatives into your routine, or build a cheap home gym for under $100. 

Pro Tip

If you’re 65 or older, enroll in Medicare. While Medicare coverage doesn’t eliminate out-of-pocket costs, you’ll pay less than with private health insurance.

6. Find Low-Cost Entertainment and Ways to Stay Social

Keep busy in retirement without emptying your wallet.

Fill your social calendar up with events at your local senior center, host potluck dinners with friends or start a murder mystery book club. Check out free offerings at your library, like sign language classes or museum passes

Turn to this list of 100 free things to do when boredom hits.

Volunteering is another way to make good use of your time, and it could come with neat perks, like free entry to a play when you usher at a theater.

7. Save Money on That Bucket List Trip

You can have a frugal retirement and travel. It just requires some smart planning and perhaps a bit of compromise — like avoiding the peak tourist season or driving instead of flying.

These travel tips will help you keep costs low.

8. Take Advantage of Discounts

Don’t be shy about sharing your age when it’ll result in sweet discounts. Dozens of companies — from retailers and restaurants to airlines and hotels — offer lower prices for seniors. Some offer discounts to customers as young as 50.

Pro Tip

Join AARP to enjoy a slew of discounts at a variety of places.

9. Continue Your Education for Free

All across the country, there are opportunities for seniors to take free or reduced-price college courses. Be a life-long learner and take a class in a subject you’ve always wanted to know more about.

10. Shop Secondhand

Instead of strolling through the mall for a new outfit or home decor piece, try thrift stores, consignment shops or online sellers to score a lower price.

11. Sell Unused Things

You know that china set that’s been collecting dust? Stop telling yourself you’ll pass it down to your kids. Get cash for it instead, along with all the other unused items lying around the house.

Organize a garage sale or register as a vendor at a local flea market. If you don’t feel like manning a card table for half a day, sell your stuff online on sites like eBay, OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace.

This guide helps you figure out the best time of year to sell all your unwanted stuff.

12. Pay Off Lingering Debt

The rewards are twofold when you become debt free sooner rather than later. You’ll pay less in overall interest when you pay off your debt early. You’ll also free up more cash once you no longer have that monthly financial obligation.

Paying more than the minimum, negotiating a lower interest rate and making biweekly payments can help you lower your debt load. Here are additional helpful tips on paying off student loans in retirement and eliminating credit card debt in retirement.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at Codetic.

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