Trimming discretionary expenses after retirement

I’d be interested in hearing from long-time or recently retired Dopers who had to or chose to trim expenses.

I have put together a budget and hypothetically, I do have enough income to live on. I figure I won’t be eating lunch out almost daily, I don’t need any more clothes since all I’m doing now is going to Tai Chi and yoga classes. Gas for the car should drop by itself. I have gone through and cut those small things you sign up for that are “only” $5 - $10 per month for various services. Found $60/month right off the bat and banished those.

I live alone, no kids. But the expenses associated with my three cats and two dogs are ASTONISHINGLY high. I don’t see those going down until…well, the inevitable happens (one dog is 11 and one cat is about 13).

Any prudent tips you came up with for living within your (presumably) somewhat reduced means?

Side note on retirement (please feel free to comment on this aspect, too): I had no idea how much that job was stressing me out until I stopped and didn’t have to think about ever going there again. I liked the actual work/tasks that were mine to do, and I did them well-- excellently, to toot my own horn-- turning out a superior product and never once missing a deadline.

But. Maybe it’s just me, but the nitpickiness of everyday office politics, miscommunication, hurt feelings, meetings, cranky people, ridiculous complaints, scant leadership, people who use their computers without having the slightest clue what they are doing, and on and on, year after year…it was like torture by a zillion paper cuts. Over the past month or so since I’ve wrapped up my work and severed ties, I can just feel myself unwinding. Like a knot that was pulled tight (for 12 years) and now it’s spontaneously softening and loosening in the warm sunshine. I’m so happy. :slight_smile:

I’m curious, what are the expenses for your pets? Aside from food, there shouldn’t be anything huge. Unless you have ongoing medicines for a chronic illness for one of them.

My bold.

Shouldn’t?? *<scratches head> * What is this shouldn’t you speak of? I know it not.

Good quality food, grooming (4-5 times/per year for the dogs), and three of the animals are on medication. Old cat has major urinary problems. I got him from a 94-year old friend who went into a nursing home. Young cat found when she was a week old, almost died of mange, has heart problems–gets daily medication I rub inside her ear flap (since she would be impossible to pill). Other young cat in good shape (and *cute *as the dickens!).

My older dog gets Adequan(glucosamine) shots in his hip every other week, and acupuncture once a month. I’ve seen a HUGE improvement in him–when his hips first gave out, he couldn’t stand up.* After a week long period of total cage rest, he could walk again but couldn’t squat to poop–he kept sitting down in it. :frowning: Now, after several months, he positively prances around.

Other dog is in good shape.

While we’re on expenses that won’t go away until Something Bad Happens, I’m also paying for my mother’s care manager (once per week and ongoing monitoring), home health aide (2 X per week), meals on wheels (5 X per week), and emergency notification button. Yes, it’s cheaper than a Home (about 1/3 the cost of the cheapest assisted living–and we wouldn’t want the *cheapest *one anyway, would we?)
*The weekend my dog collapsed and couldn’t stand was also the weekend I experienced a vivid and troublesome complication after my breast cancer surgery that sent me to the ER, and ALSO the weekend my mother fell and went to the hospital (she lives across the country). A stressful time…

I retired in July 2011. This past Sept, I went back to work full time. In the interim, I had 3 different temp jobs - I’d look for work when I got bored, then enjoyed my time off when the jobs ended. The nice thing about being a temp - you’re not around long enough to become embroiled in the politics, and you’re usually hired for a specific task or length of time, so no one wants to get close to you! OK, maybe that was just me… :wink:

But I do recommend thinking about something like that. It’ll keep your brain active and give you a few extra bucks for fun.

The reason I went back to work full time had to do with our microwave, our fridge, and our disposal all dying within a few months of each other. We hadn’t really considered such things in our retirement budget and while it wouldn’t cause us to move into a box under an overpass, it would directly affect our travel plans. So I decided to get back to work for 3 years or so with most of my earnings going into savings for future fun. Plus I have a 401k, so that’s nice, too. I’ll turn 62 later this month, but now I don’t have to put in for social security for a few more years.

I used to work as an engineer - now I’m a mechanical drafter. Obviously I’m not paid nearly as much as I made as a senior engineer, but the work is much lower stress while still requiring some technical expertise, and it’s more than minimum wage, which is a plus. Something else that contributes to lower stress - knowing I can just walk out the door if they make me too crazy.

Bottom line, think about a part time or temp job when you start to feel bored.

You’ll have plenty of time to do your own pet grooming from now on. :smiley:

Do more yourself (like pet grooming).

Consider part time work for extra money.

Live under your budget - so that the refrigerator dying doesn’t affect your travel plans :slight_smile:

You’ll have some time to follow frugality blogs - that should help trim things like grocery bills.

Make sure your car insurance has been adjusted for fewer miles. If you haven’t shopped for car insurance recently, get some competitive pricing.

If you live where its possible and your fitness/health level is good enough, consider biking or walking instead of driving where you can - gas and insurance and wear and tear all go down even more.

If you haven’t cut cable, go ahead and do so, if you aren’t a sports fan. Netflix and Amazon will keep you in enough media and you can rent or buy the occasional series or movie you want - sports is still hard.

Check your cell phone plan. Is it cost effective and competitive? Cell phone plans have gotten far less pricey over the past few years.

Go over all your bills and make sure you aren’t paying $15 a month for a subscription to something you don’t use. (Quicken and Audible were mine).

Consider getting rid of some of your stuff - most people in retirement have collected a lot of stuff - and starting to sell off books, craft supplies you’ll never use again, collections that are in boxes or you are tired of dusting, can bring in some extra budget.

Review every expense and see if you can do with less or cheaper in order to be able to have the things you value.

Don’t know if it’s the same in the US, but there’s an annoying practice in the UKfor insurance companies to keep hoicking up the premiums of people who stay with them, in order to rely on inertia to raise for money, while they offer low rates to new customers. It’s all about “churn”. So don’t just pay the renewal premium, shop around every year!

And use the public library rather than buying books.

If you don’t need your cell phone for anything except calling and texting, see if you qualify for Assurance Wireless. New customers get a free phone, 500 free minutes a month for the first 4 months (350 minutes a month after that) and unlimited free texting. It’s offered by Virgin Wireless and piggybacks on Sprint’s network.

Gotcha, yeah, ongoing medications and vet visits are costly. Thank you for doing that. I’ve had highs and lows with such expenses, myself.

I can’t think of anything else you’ve mentioned that could be reduced, but I like the suggestion of getting a part time or temp job. That’s what I’m working toward for when I retire. I won’t be able to just sit around, so a small “retirement” job will keep me sane.

Know (really, really well) the difference between “cheap” and “inexpensive”.

You can buy a kitchen knife for $10 or you can buy one for $50 - the $10 knife will last about 2 years. The $50 knife will last 20 years. The $100 knife will outlive you.

The next trick is to find somebody’s $100 knife at Goodwill for $10.

Find what can be classified as “one use” - cheap is adequate. For all other - buy it once.

It should be noted that food is the ultimate in “one use” products.

This is far and away the best aspect of retirement. Not dealing with nitwits adds years back to your life and drops your blood pressure by 10 points. I also love being able to do any shopping during the week when the stores are nearly empty. If you are in the demographic, try to find a grocery store that offers senior discounts. We’re lucky in that there is one very close to us that offers that every week, whereas Kroger stores only offer it once a month and only on their store brands. Speaking of store brands, you can usually save quite a bit by buying them.

I gave nearly all of my business attire to Goodwill and took the tax deduction: suits, sport coats, shirts, ties, slacks, only keeping the bare minimum for when I can’t get out of going to some stupid rubber chicken event. I live in tees, shorts and jeans and don’t give a fuck about what anybody thinks.

If you can downsize your living quarters without taking a big financial hit, you’ll likely save quite a bit, whether it’s buying a smaller house with lower property taxes or finding a smaller rental in a cheaper part of town.

How about an insurance for the vet costs?

Also, if you stay in your home, get an energy/insulation advice. Things like double glazing, insulation, a new heating or cooling system, might be a lot cheaper in the long run.

Speaking of cell phones - when I retired, we got rid of our land line and I use that number as my cell. We went with pay-as-you-go because we just don’t need it that much. It’s a basic flip phone and I can text, but it’s old school using the number pad - ugh. Still, for $100/year, calls are 10¢ per minute and texts are 20¢ per. I have yet to use up my minutes before they expire, and as long as you renew before expiration, everything continues, so you don’t lose anything. My husband uses his more because his mom calls him often, but we’ve never spent $200 on his account. I think $300/year for 2 phones is pretty darn good. It beats the $100/month + land line that we used to pay.

I think there are smartphone pay-as-you-go plans, too, but I won’t swear to it.

Thanks for the comments. Replying randomly:

I already cut cable. Have a Roku and only a few cheap subscriptions.
Canceled Audible.
Live in a rented house (THE most darling house in the whole world)–sold my home several years ago and carried the note myself (a big chunk of income for me). Downsized big time back then.
As a breast cancer patient, I have a fitness program available to me for free.
Between Medicare and Tricare for Life, I have excellent health care coverage, including free medications. (Wish I could get the dog and cats on my plan…)

I’ve used Quicken for years, but recently started using Mint.com to get an ongoing snapshot of my daily expenses. Very revealing.

Chefguy, I’d be very interested in your plan/program/routine for grocery shopping and cooking for (I’m guessing) two people? This often has me stumped.

I realize I’m not yet retired (but my mother is and I discuss this with her quite often!), but on the grocery shopping thing, you can save a remarkable amount of money by keeping a fairly close eye on the larger grocery sales and stocking up like a fiend.

For example, once every couple months, Foster Farms chicken breasts go on sale at Fry’s grocery store (our local Kroger affiliate) for buy-one-get-two-free. When this happens my husband and I buy some randomly large but divisible by three number of packages (this last time, it was 18) and then freeze them. I don’t do the coupon thing because seriously that is way too damn much work for me, but I do pay attention to the weekly sales fliers and plan my shopping accordingly - and stock up like a fiend when there’s a particularly attractive sale, especially on meats (which I can freeze) or semi/nonperishable items I can keep in my pantry until I need it. For example, during December, flour, sugar and butter typically go on pretty substantial sale.

I do most of my meal planning based on the contents of my freezer - which is in turn based on “what was on the big sale last week or the week before”. We have to be a little careful about making sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves - but we’ll use up 18 packages of chicken well before it would go bad if frozen.

Don’t just shop for new life insurance, drop it. Once you turn 60 the rates go up so much that it’s not worth. By that time you should have saved enough to cover whatever the insurance was supposed to.

Food is a huge burden for some people because they eat out. Don’t do that. Not even fast food. Eat in. And not frozen dinners and such. Buy basics and make your meals. Don’t go to Starbucks either. It can save you a surprising amount of money.

Need a “new” car? Get a reliable 3-4 year old used model and drive it til the wheels fall off. The cost of even good size repairs is nothing compared to getting another car. No new cars, no changing every few years, no leases.

And remember, there are always deals for seniors. Get informed.

I"m still not used to asking about senior discounts. It’s not denial, just brain farts. Plus I don’t have gray hair, so generally, no one thinks to offer them to me.

I don’t have life insurance. No kids, no siblings, no heirs really.

I paid cash for a new-ish car a year ago. Traded in my car, which had 150K miles on it. The previous car I traded in at 250K.

That’s a real Catch-22, eh?

We go either on Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Stores are like dead zones at those days/times. Tuesday is military discount (active or retired) and Wednesday is senior discount. 10% either day. We buy the usual routine things every week (milk, coffee, etc.), just enough to last one week. The big savings are when you can score on sales. Shrimp for $5.99/lb? Buy five pounds and freeze in meal portion sizes. Easy to thaw, easy to cook into many dishes, low in calories. We’re not rabid about this, as our income is not as restrictive as yours appears to be.

You mentioned Tri-Care. Are you actually carrying a military retirement card? Looks like you live in Texas, and depending on where you are, there are military bases all over the place with commissaries, which are generally much cheaper than civilian stores. In Anchorage, I was routinely saving 35% on my food bill at the AF commissary. None close by here, unfortunately.

As for cooking for two, I’m no good at it. We usually end up with enough for two or three meals, as I hate cooking something different every day.

I don’t understand this bit about saving money in retirement. I was brown-bagger my entire life, so I don’t save on lunches. I still wear clothes, so I save nothing on that. I used to walk one-way to my office and take the commuter train home, but that cost me only about $500/year. Yes, I get some senior discounts, but that doesn’t amount to that much, although I am not shy about asking for them. We eat out probably about once every two weeks.