While saving money is good practice at any age, it's essential for older adults getting close to retirement or living on a fixed income. If you don't have as much money saved for retirement as you would like, it might be time to learn how to stretch your finances. With the average length of retirement lasting 15 to 20 years years,1 it's important to make every dollar count. Adopting a more frugal lifestyle can make your money last longer and help you have the life you want. In this guide, we'll take a closer look at frugal living, so you can start saving today.
What Is Frugal Living?
Frugal living doesn't mean being cheap or depriving yourself of the things you love. Instead, it means prioritizing your spending and finding ways to save. By being deliberate with your spending, you can enjoy life and still live within your means.
Frugality looks different for everyone. Some people find ways to save so they can put their money away for retirement, and others cut costs in one area of life to splurge in others. You may love to cook, so you buy high-quality ingredients from the grocery store but think that dressing trendy is overrated and rarely refresh your wardrobe. Now, let's cover our top living frugal tips to get you started on your savings journey.
The “Big Bills” - Saving on Day-to-Day Living Expenses
Retiring or finding yourself with an “empty nest” are good times to reassess your living situation, but it is never too late to downsize to a smaller place. Think about what you want for your life now. Is it the same thing you wanted when you were working and raising kids? Some people may be ready to trade the large home near the right schools for the cottage by the beach, for example.
Downsizing can significantly cut your monthly costs, freeing up cash for doing the things you enjoy or paying down debt. You may even decide to ditch the yard work and housekeeping and move into an independent living community.
Make a Meal Plan
An average family will throw out $1,600 worth of produce every year.2 Meal planning can cut down your food waste, and it doesn't have to be a lot of work. It merely means deciding ahead of time what you will eat for the week, shopping, and then preparing the ingredients. When you have a plan, you save money by utilizing ingredients in multiple dishes and avoiding expensive takeout.
Take inventory of what is already in your kitchen, choose recipes that use similar ingredients, and then make your grocery list. There is no shortage of meal planning blogs, websites, and apps to help get you started, no matter how many people you are cooking for. You can even have meals and groceries delivered straight to your door to save on gas money and avoid adding extra unnecessary items to your cart in the store!
Prescription discount cards like GoodRX and America's Pharmacy work like coupons for your prescriptions. You simply show your free discount card at checkout and receive any available discounts. You can use the companies' websites or applications to see what deals you can get at different pharmacies. This is an excellent option for those without health insurance or seniors with limited medication coverage.
You can also check if you are eligible for several savings programs designed to help those with a financial need afford their prescriptions.
- Part D Extra Help
- State Prescription Assistance Program (SPAP)
- Patient Assistance Programs
- Drug Charity Programs
Save on Utilities
Check with your utility provider about discounts you may be eligible for based on your age and income level. Many utilities offer discounts or waive fees to those over a certain age, but you most likely need to sign up for the program. You can also save on utilities by being conscious of your usage. Below are a few tips to keep your utility bills down:
- Save on your electricity bill
- Turn off lights when you're not in the room.
- Consider energy-efficient light bulbs.
- Purchase a smart thermostat and only use the heat or air conditioning at off-peak times.
- Unplug appliances when not in use.
- Use dryer balls when doing laundry to cut down on drying time or air dry your clothes.
- Save on your water bill
- Turn off the bathroom faucet while brushing your teeth.
- Fill the kitchen sink, stopper it, and turn off the faucet to wash your dishes instead of leaving the water running the entire time.
- If you have a dishwasher, use it instead of washing dishes by hand. Also, avoid running the dishwasher during peak hours in the evening to save on your electricity bill.
- Check for leaky sinks or toilets and get them fixed.
- Purchase low-flow showerheads and faucets.
Financial Savvy - Taking Control of Your Money
Sign up for automatic payments for credit cards and bills to avoid paying late fees. In addition to hefty fees, late payments can hurt your credit and increase your interest rate. If you have enough funds regularly in your bank account, automated payments can ensure you aren't losing money simply because a bill slipped your mind. Make sure you review those payments regularly.
Get Smart With Credit Card Rewards
If you have decent credit, it might be time to get rid of credit cards with fees if they aren't giving you big enough perks. There are plenty of credit card options out there that do not have an annual fee. Many cards give you generous benefits like travel points you can use instead of cash or cashback on gas, groceries, and more.
Pro Tip: Check out our list of the best credit cards for seniors to find one with the right perks for you!
Make a Budget and Visualize Your Spending
A crucial part of being frugal is knowing where your money is going so that you know where to cut back. An app or website like Mint creates easy-to-understand visuals that tell you what you are spending on dining, entertainment, healthcare, groceries, and more. Has a particular category gone up recently? Tracking your spending is crucial to becoming more deliberate in deciding where your hard-earned money goes.
Pro Tip: Check out our list of the best budgeting apps for seniors to start building your budget.
Once you know what you are spending today, you can create a budget to help you stay on track. Set savings goals and be proud of yourself when you hit them!
If you are still paying off your home, it's worth learning what refinancing could save you. Check with your local bank or mortgage specialist, and don't be afraid to shop around to get the best rates.
Entertainment - Big Fun, Small Price Tag
Get a National Parks Pass
When you turn 62, you are eligible for a lifetime pass to the National Parks for a one-time fee of $80. If exotic vacations are not in your budget for your retirement years, visiting the parks can be a cost-effective way to experience the beauty right here at home. With over 400 sites in the National Park System, including parks, monuments, preserves, and historical sites, you are never too far away. Time for a road trip!
The National Parks are increasing accessibility for those with limited mobility. If you have mobility limitations, it's best to check with each park by visiting the “plan your visit” tab of the website or calling the park.
Travel Off Peak
Popular destinations around the world are crowded during the summer months. For many families, this is the only time they can travel because they have kids in school. Older adults who do not have to worry about school schedules can take advantage of the cost savings and relative quiet of shoulder-season or off-season travel.
Use the Library
Love to read or watch movies? Be sure to take advantage of the resources in your local library. You can check out something specific or ask the librarians for help in finding your next new read. You can avoid spending on new books and keep from filling up your bookshelves. Many libraries also offer other free resources, including museum or activity passes, movie rentals, language and skills courses, and more.
On average, Americans spend approximately $116 per month for cable TV and internet service3. It's no surprise that more people are dropping their cable subscriptions every year in favor of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. According to the Pew Research Center, more Americans are “cord cutting” and dropping their cable and satellite TV plans . It can get complicated if you also have a home phone with your provider, but the rising cost makes it worth evaluating your options. You may be able to find all of your favorite shows and movies on a few streaming services to cut down on your bill.
Saving Tip: You can use a cord cutting calculator to find out exactly how much money you could save by canceling your cable TV package and switching to streaming services.
If you're still a big fan of your cable TV package, call your provider to negotiate for a better deal, or consider other affordable providers in your area.
Retail - Be a Savvy Shopper
Secondhand clothing, jewelry, and furnishings are more popular than ever, boosted by online marketplaces. For a room or wardrobe refresh, spend a fraction of the cost by buying used, and purchase high-quality items that will last. Look for something specific online or browse consignment and vintage stores with an open mind. Not only will you save money, but the hunt for new clothes or furniture can be quite enjoyable!
Look for Senior Discounts
Many retail stores give senior discounts, including Kohls, Ross, and Bealls, to name a few. Before you head out for a big shopping trip, call or check online to see if the place you are going offers a discount and, if so, what day(s) it is honored.
Have you ever bought something only to find a coupon for it days later? If you are thinking of making a large purchase, Savings.com has thousands of coupons for your favorite stores. When you search for a brand, it can show you any active coupons and easily help you copy the coupon code into your virtual shopping cart. This is an easy way to save on the things you want.
Budget and Plan for Christmas Gifts
It's easy to go overboard at Christmas time with so many friends and family to buy for. Save money by making a budget and detailed gift list ahead of time. This will not only ensure you don't spend more than what's within your budget, but it will also allow you to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Week deals by looking for savings on your list of items.