By Alison Wood, Contributing Writer
Whether you are saving for retirement, working fewer hours, or living on a pension, there are many ways to live a more frugal life. The key to success is planning, organization, and deciding from the start where you are willing to cut costs and what luxuries are non-negotiable.
If you have a spouse or partner, it’s also wise to sit down and talk these things through with them. If you are both on the same page, it’s going to make life that much easier.
The importance of a budget
The first step is to look at your income and expenditures for the year. Create a spreadsheet or jot down a list of everything that comes in and goes out. Remember to include those bills that are only paid quarterly or annually as well, and estimate figures like grocery shopping by seeing what you have spent over the last three months.
Once you have a clear picture of your current situation, you can start looking at ways to cut costs. You will also now know how much money is available to you, month to month. As with any budget, it’s important to not just create it but to also stick to it. If you have some wriggle room, ensure you allocate a certain amount of money just for fun. Maybe you can use it for eating out, a trip to the movies, or for any little purchases you want to make here and there. That way, you can have a treat without worrying about blowing your budget.
Once you know what your current situation is, it’s time to start making the most of every penny. Here are 10 steps to get you started.
- Take advantage of any grants available to you. There are several grants available for seniors on a limited income. You can check out the government ones by clicking HERE and if you click HERE, you’ll find this is also a great resource for non-government grants.
- Be sure you don’t have any outstanding money. It might be that you have unclaimed tax rebates, pension amounts, or money in forgotten bank accounts. Check this site for tips on how to start this research. Yes, it might take a little time, but the rewards could be well worth it.
- Take advantage of senior discounts. Many stores and restaurants offer senior discounts. Check the places you use the most and don’t be shy about asking what each outlet has available. Even independent stores sometimes offer discounts. Loyalty cards that give you points to shop can also quickly add up in value if you regularly head to the same places. Click HERE to also check out our article on discounts available to seniors in 2019 that might still be currently available.
- Use coupons online and offline. If you shop in the same grocery store regularly, you will often receive coupons for savings on your next shop. You can also check newspapers and fliers. If you shop online, there are browser extensions that can check for any discounts automatically. Honey and TopCashback are two places to start. When it comes to shopping, it can also be less expensive to buy in bulk for the items you use regularly, like toilet paper and laundry detergent, so research what’s available both online and at your local stores.
- Check your subscriptions. Many of us have subscriptions for a whole range of things, and it can be easy to lose track of them. Go through your bank statements, and make sure you know what you are paying for. Cancel any outgoing expenditures that you no longer need. If a subscription is important to you, it might be cheaper to switch to an annual plan, so be sure to research that as well.
- Check your energy and water efficiency. You don’t want to be spending more than necessary on your utility bills, so look into whether your home is as water- and energy-efficient as possible. Good home insulation and energy-efficient heating, lighting, and kitchen appliances can all make a difference. You can also cut back on the amount of water you use by installing water-efficient showerheads and switching to low-flush toilets.
- Declutter and sell your stuff. If you need to raise a little extra cash, consider selling anything you no longer need or wear. Sites like eBay and Poshmark make it easy and profitable to declutter your home.
- Buy second-hand things. In the same way, when you need to purchase something, look at whether nearly-new or good quality vintage items are available at your local thrift store, garage sales, or on eBay. Not only will this save you money, but it’s great for sustainability too.
- Learn for free. If you read a lot, the most cost-effective way to save on your book budget is to get a library card and read for free. It’s not only books that are available either. Many libraries now offer e-books, music, and videos. If you want to attend classes there are many free and low-cost ones available online. Do an internet search for topics that interest you to see if there’s something you would like to enroll in.
- Save on travel. The good thing about traveling as a senior is that you aren’t tied down only traveling when kids are off from school. This means you can get some great real deals when you travel off-season. Furthermore, you can always take advantage of senior discounts at hotels, airlines, train services, and restaurants. AARP’s membership program offers senior discounts for many travel services under several well-known brand names. Click HERE to get their list of all the various discounts AARP offers.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to live more frugally as a senior, but hopefully it gives you a place to start. Google and YouTube are additional means of researching even more low-cost living ideas.