Category Archives: Money / Budget

7 Ways To Slash, Shave and Cut Your Monthly Expenses


Anyone can become a savings sleuth and cut, shave or slash their monthly expenses.  All you need to do is look around, the savings are there. Are you interested in cutting your monthly expenses? Then put on your detective’s hat and do some super sleuthing.  Searching for bargains can be really fun and satisfying when you know that you are going to cut costs and save some money. Together all those savings can really add up!

Find those hidden discounts

Always be friendly to clerks in the checkout line and ask if there is an unadvertised discount available. Often there are discounts that they can give you on your purchase that you might not have known about or weren’t advertised. I have successfully done this on more than one occasion. A few months back, I was at a craft store buying an set of artist’s colored pencils in a nice metal box. Anything with the word “artist” on it is way overpriced, and as I stood at the register cringing at the price I was about to pay, I asked, “Any coupons or discounts today?”  The young woman at the register said, “Well, there is a 50% off the first item. Do you have an smart phone?”  In all my excitement, I struggled to find the coupon online. After some time, she tired of watching me, opened the drawer below the register, pulled out a barcoded paper and wha-lah, the discount was applied to purchase.  I saved a lot of money that day with just a smile and a question!

Cut the frequency of service 

Depending on the amount of garbage you have every week, you may be able to get once a month service. I compost and recycle, and buy very little that is pre-packaged. The result is very little garbage. So, I called the waste management company and asked if they had less expensive options.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were other service options, and I was able to reduce my collection service from weekly to once a month, saving a considerable amount on my monthly bill.

Shave down some of your utility bills 

Contact your water, sewage, electric and waste management companies to see what discounts they offer.  Some utilities offer discounts based on age, income, or both.  A friend of mine has reduced her city bill, for water and sewage, by a whopping 50%! You may also be able to pay reduced real estate taxes. Contact your county to find out what programs they have available.  It may be as simple as filling out a form. There is something to be said for becoming a senior, discounts abound!

phonesSearch for promotions

Think about your phone, cable and internet services. New promotions for these services are constant. I switched to a phone service provider that doesn’t require a contract. It is a monthly prepay option and costs about half of what I was paying before. Now, included in my service, I have unlimited data and texting included in the price that I didn’t have before. So not only am I saving on the monthly service fee, but I am getting more bang for my buck! Being without a phone service contract allows you to shift to another provider easily, when a better deal avails itself.  Plus, if you are a part-time expat you can stop your service while you are out of the country and start it up again when you return.

Find the “code”

Do your research before buying something online. After you find the best price and before you click to complete the sale, if there is a place to put a promotion code, use it. Often times, there is a discount for the item you are purchasing, or free shipping, if you put in a promo code. Search online. Put in the store name, promo code, month, and year in the search engine. There will a number of sites to choose from. You may find a code, or you may not, but it is worth the savings to take a moment and try.

Slash your bill in half

Going out to eat? Check the restaurant’s website before you go to see if there is a coupon, or call around and find restaurants that offer a senior discount or early bird special. If you don’t ask, you will never know.  A friend and I go to a favorite Mexican restaurant in town and the first thing we do before heading to the restaurant is go to the computer and download the restaurant’s coupon. Second entrée free! Can’t beat that!

Purple sofa - CopyDig for a bargain

Garage sales, thrift stores and community and church rummage sales are a perfect way to pick up something you really do need, at a great price. New items once purchased, become “used” once it comes through your door. Nothing is new forever. So, if you buy a gently used and in good condition item, then you are saving a lot of money compared to a new item that becomes “used” the first time you use it, sit on it, or wear it. When you are heading out the door, know exactly what you are looking for, otherwise you risk coming home with a carload of stuff that you don’t need and really don’t want. I like to keep a watchful eye for community garage sales in the higher end communities where you can find great bargains at a fraction of the cost.  I found a great purple sofa – yes, purple – at a garage sale that was recently reupholstered. They even delivered it for me, brought it up the stairs and set it in place.  My little dog, Maggie Mae, claimed it as her own immediately!

How have you cut your monthly expenses?  Share your thoughts below.

 

This Fun Adventure Can Add $24K Or More To Your Nest Egg


Is your retirement savings less than you would like it to be?  Maybe another $24,000 dollars socked away would make you feel a little more secure.  Do you love other cultures and traveling to other countries?  Are you a helper?  Do you have sincere desire to make the world a better place?  If you answered yes to those questions, then I think this idea might be perfect for you!

An Idea Is Born

I lay in bed trying to fall asleep as wonderings of my retirement years dance in my head.  What will I do?  How do I build my savings so that I feel more secure?  At this rate I won’t be able to stay in my home and will have to move, but where will I go?  Can I downsize and cut costs by maybe living in a park model or RV or a 55+ community somewhere warm?  Am I ever going to be able to travel outside the country again?  Oh, I so love traveling!  Maybe I could become an expat and live in a country where my money goes farther. On and on the thoughts circle in my head, until – flash! – the light bulb switches on and a new idea is born.

Now, let me preface this by saying that this idea is not for everyone.  If you don’t like helping people, or traveling to another country, or saving money, then this might not be your cup of tea, but keep an open mind and see if the seed that is planted begins to sprout.

I have spent most of my life working to pay my bills, like most people, and I envision myself not working during my retirement years.  That would be my ideal vision of my post-work era.  A good number of my jobs have been in the non-profit sector where I have gotten a great deal of personal satisfaction knowing that in some small way I was making a difference.  In my retirement, I hope to continue to be able to do the same.

Before I share my – flash! – idea, let’s consider a few questions.

Question 1. Would you like to have another $24K in your savings?

I can’t imagine anyone saying no to this question.  Like many others, my retirement savings took a hit a few years back when the market took a nose dive and I am rebuilding, so I am open to considering all types of options to increase my nest egg.  “From humming bird egg to ostrich egg,” is my retirement mantra!

Pictures from Memory Card 442Question 2.  Internationally, what country do you dream of visiting or living in?

Imagine living in another country, maybe in Africa, Asia, or Central or South America.  Maybe it is a country that calls to you on a deep level, one that you have always want to travel to. Or maybe the country you dream of is one where you would like to setup housekeeping during your retirement, but you don’t know the culture yet and haven’t had a chance to visit.   I have always had an affinity to Central and South America.  I think I might choose Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, or maybe even Chile.  What country would you choose?

Question 3.  When you retire, will you have the freedom, the desire, or the need to move?

Can you free yourself up from the housing ties that bind you?  Are you going to have a housing transition when you retire?

I realize that am going to have to sell my house when I retire, because my incoming won’t cover the outgoing.  I am going to enjoy my house for the next 8.2 years, and then my options will be wide open.  Are you planning on downsizing to smaller place?  Maybe you think about moving to a 55+ community in the land of the sun or buying an RV and heading down the road to destinations unknown?  If you are going have a “transition” period between the life you lead now and the life you will be leading after retirement, then this idea just might be for you.

Jungle house on the river peruQuestion 4.  Are you up for an adventure?

Retirement is a time to live the life you have always dreamed of. For some, that means having the adventures you have only read about in books or seen in movies. The exciting thing about retiring is that you can now create the life you want, including the adventures of your dreams.

Question 5.  Can you commit 2 years of your life to having the experience of a lifetime, while making a positive difference in the world at the same time?

If you could volunteer, save $1000 a month of your social security income, and have an international experience in the country of your choice, would you do it?  That would be a $24,000 increase to your nest egg in only 2 years.  Tell me, you aren’t just a little intrigued right now?

So, Here Is The – Flash! – Idea

Join an organization for a 2 year commitment, while volunteering and living in another country, and save money in the process.

First, you will need to figure out how to detangle yourself from as many bills as you can before you go.  Sell your house, rent it out to someone you trust, or plan the timing so your volunteering commitment coincides with the end of your lease. You now have the essential cost savings plan in place.

Now, join the Peace Corps!  Yes, the Peace Corps.  It’s not just for young adults anymore.  More and more retirees, couples (straight and same-sex) and singles, are joining the Peace Corps well into their retirement years… their 60s…70s and even 80s!  The application process has been simplified and the wait time for acceptance has been shortened to about 6 months.  You can pick the country you would like to serve in from a list on their website, as well as the kind of service you are interested in doing.  You choose!

For the 2 years that you are living in a land that you have dreamt of, while providing service to the community, you are not paying any rent, mortgage or utilities back home.  The money you would have spent from your social security check toward those expenses can now be dropped directly into your retirement savings!  Estimate a $1000 a month savings (yes, probably on the low side for some) for 2 years and wha-lah, your savings will have a $24,000 boost. Oh, and did I mention that they pay returning volunteers a readjustment allowance of a little over $7000?  Add in 48 days of vacation, full medical and dental, family leave in emergencies, travel to and from the country, training and more, and you have a perfect package for overseas volunteering.  What are the Benefits?

heartThe Most Important Consideration

Beyond the financial benefit, I think the most important consideration in this equation is, do you want to be of service on a global scale? Do you want to give back and make a difference in another culture?  If you do, then the financial increase to your retirement nest egg is only a small bonus. The biggest bonus is how much the experience will fill your heart and the hearts of those you encounter. It’s overall a win-win, wouldn’t you say?

Would you consider volunteering outside of the country when you retire?  Where would you like to go?  Your comments, as always, are welcome below.

 

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A Tight Budget Doesn’t Have to Mean Disaster for Hair, Nails and Body


Have you ever had your hair cut and in the middle of it screamed, “Nooooooo!!!” and you knew, in that moment, that it was just too late?  Me too.  Mine happened in a small town on the Amazon River, just over the border of Peru, in Colombia.  May I say right now that my spontaneity and impulsiveness can sometimes get me into trouble.  This was one of those times.

Passport Renewal

I was living in Iquitos, Peru, in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, about 4 hours from the river’s source. I needed to get a new stamp in my passport to be able to stay in Peru for another 6 months and heard that all you needed to do was take a “rapido,” a speed boat, down the river to Leticia, just over the Peruvian border in Colombia, where the countries of Peru, Colombia and Brazil meet. I could have flown to a larger city in Ecuador or Chile, and looking back that probably would have been a better choice, but I decided that a ride on the river would be fun. I bought a ticket and planned to be at the Embarcadero, where the boats, fish and bananas arrived to Iquitos, early the next morning.

The Embarcadero

I walked through the vendors that had their bananas and fish on the cement floor for sale to locate the boat.  The stench of fish first thing is the morning caused my stomach to churn, so I held my bandana over my nose, as I moved quickly through the busy merchants, trying not to slip on the fish fluids that covered the floor.  I arrived to the other side of the dimly lit cement building to the river side where fish and banana were being grilled and sold to locals and workers for breakfast.  Locating the boat, a battered mess that I wasn’t sure would hold up for this long trip, I climbed on board, found a seat about 3 rows back from the driver, and settled in for a long ride.  The boat had a somewhat tattered canvas roof, which I thought would be good protection from the sun or rain and there was also plastic sheeting rolled up on each side, held up with rope, that would be dropped down in the event of bad weather.  With my fruit, cheese and a couple of freshly made rolls from the local bakery tucked carefully away in my backpack, I was ready to go.

10 Hours

Aerial PhotoThe rest of the passengers arrived, found their seats, and after waiting and waiting and waiting in the heat of sun, we took off down the river. Waiting is a way of life on the river, a different pace in the jungle.  I had been on a speed boat before, back home on the lake, and preparing to venture out on this adventure brought back memories of the wind racing through my hair and the lift off the seat when the boat hit a wave, but I had no idea what that would feel like for 10 straight hours.  Yes, 10 hours of a contant churning engine, hot wind burning my face and drying my eyes, and the ongoing assault to my back and my body as the boat attempted to maneuver the river’s everchanging mood.

Our second stop enroute was a small town on the Peruvian side of the border, before we entered Colombian and Brazilian waters, about 9 hours into the trip.  Passports were stamped as we exited the country. I wanted to kiss the ground I was standing on.  It wasn’t moving, bumping or spraying water in my face, but back into the boat we reluctantly climbed, knowing there was only a small distance to cover before arriving to the small river town of Leticia, Colombia.

Feeling Grimey

We finally pulled up to the dock in Leticia.  I was worse for the wear, exhausted and feeling a little more than grimey.  The heat of the day, the whipping of the wind and the river splashing on me for 10 hours had made me crave a shower.  Needless to say, I was feeling less than my best.  I wandered town for a while before finding a tiny and somewhat rundown little hotel to stay at the for night. Just a bed, that’s all I needed.  As I moved through the streets of Leticia trying to get my barrings, I noticed a little storefront offering haircuts.  Feeling less than optimal, I considered getting my hair groomed. A shampoo and cut would make me feel refreshed, I thought.  After checking into my hotel and enjoying a lovely meal, my mind kept returning to that little store where the woman was cutting hair.  I wandered the streets, until I came across the same sign that had grabbed my attention earlier.  To my surprise they were still open for business and I went in to inquire about a cut.

“No Tocar” Means Do Not Touch

As I sat in the chair, in my best Spanish, I explained to the woman with scissors in hand that I wanted my hair cut to the length of my ear lobes, a nice bob of sorts.  She nodded.  I assumed she understood.  I told her that I have a cowlick at the nape of my neck and this absolutely must not be cut, trimmed, or in anyway touched.  I pulled up my hair that was down to the middle of my back and said, “No tocar, no tocar.” Do not touch. She must not have heard the word no, because within a split second she dropped the scissors in her hand, grabbed the now buzzing shears that moved from counter to neck at lightening speed. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  And, in the blink of an eye, the hair that was not to be touched was gone. “Nooooooooooo!” Too late.

She finished the haircut, shaving both sides at the nape equally, creating a bob with bangs and a neck that reached up far beyond my hairline.  As I bowed my head to count my money to pay her, I could feel the movement of air on my newly shaved head.  This, I said to myself, is not a good look.

I learned that getting a haircut on a little obscure side street in a small town, in a developing country, with my limited language skills was probably not the best decision I had ever made.

You, on the other hand, can make better decisions regarding your self-care options and not break the bank.

AFFORDABLE SELF-CARE

Fortunately, there are cost saving options for haircut, color, manicures, pedicures, massage and acupuncture, all to make you feel renewed and wonderful, without the results that I had that day in Leticia.

There are many ways that you, in your own city, can find wonderful bargains on all those special services that elevate you and nurture you. Once I returned back to the United States, I couldn’t bear to pay the cost to go to a high-end spa or salon for hair, nail and body work, so I found other ways to get an affordable quality haircut or wonderful massage that would be perfect for anyone on a budget.

Here are some ideas to consider:

Hair Care and Nails

Woman getting a back massage in front of the white backgroundSchools of cosmetology require students to have a certain number of hours in hair and nails before they can graduate.  They just aren’t going to set them loose on the public without supervised practice.  I have gone to the local school in my town and have received great haircuts for a great price.  Schedule someone who is closing in on graduation, so they have some experience under their belt. A supervisor is observing from a distance as the hair is cut and comes over at the end to check for quality. Hair color, manicures and pedicures can also be had at a very reasonable price.

If you are traveling the country in an RV, or living in park model, you will find that often in 55 and over retirement communities you can find someone cutting hair in the club house or a trailer in the park.  Ask around and you will get a good cut at a good price.

Spa Days

Going to a high end day spa when you are living a on fixed income or limited budget can take a big chunk of your living expenses.  If you put a little money aside every week in a few weeks you will have enough money saved to go to a day spa that won’t require using your grocery budget for the month.  In the area where I live there are lower cost days spa called Korean Spa.  There are many of these located around the country. You can spend the day for about $30.  If you are lucky enough to find a Groupon coupon, you can get a massage at a greatly reduced price.

Massage

treatmentroom2If you don’t have a day spa that is affordable near you, then look to see if there is a massage school.  Massage students are required to log a certain number of practice hours to graduate and become licensed.  Often massages are provided at the school clinic for a fraction of what you would pay to see a masseuse in a clinic or spa.  When booking an appointment, request a massage therapist who is close to graduation.  You can often get a really lovely massage for a very moderate price.

Acupuncture

Many consider acupuncture as part of their selfcare regime and find it not only balancing and healing, but also extremely relaxing.  If you are fortunate enough to have an acupuncture school in your area, check out clinic appointments at the school at a very affordable rate.  Again, request to be scheduled with those in their last year of school.

Groupon, Valpack and Local Specials

Remember to double check those value coupon books that you receive in the mail.  Often there are new businesses opening that offer new client specials for hair, nails, massage and acupuncture.  Groupon is a great resource for discounted services.

Do you have other ideas for affordable self-care? Please share your thoughts below.

 

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Copyright 2014 Budget Retirement / Debra Zulawski  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Cheap Thrills: 25 Low or No Cost Entertainment Ideas


Do you know anyone who doesn’t love something for free or at a discount?  Retiring on a budget doesn’t have to mean that you can’t go out and have a great time.  It just requires a little creativity and some online research to find activites and entertainment at low or no cost, so you don’t need to spend your entire month’s entertainment budget in one evening.

Lucky for me and a group of friends, a good friend of ours, Karen, takes the initiative to do all the research online and compiles a list of things to do that are free or are quite inexpensive. Every few months she sends an email called, “Cheap Thrills,” inviting friends to come along. The list of cheap thrills ranges from music to festivals to garden shows and community garage sales.  It makes for a fun circle of people joining together to share in a common experience, while being budget conscious.

Go online and type Free Events (Your City) (Month) and you will see sites that post free and low cost activities that won’t bust your budget.

Concerts – Part of the Cheap Thrills list that Karen sends out is a series of musical shows that cost $45 for a series of seven shows. The entertainers are excellent, and are as diverse as the old time do wop of the Diamonds and a traditional Japanese dance troupe. We also have a free summer concert series at the marina in my town weekly throughout the summer.  At the local casino, there is an outdoor amphitheater where some pretty big name musicians come to play.  Many people show up with lawn chairs and sit on the lawn “outside” the venue, enjoy a picnic dinner and listen to the music for free! Check out your marina, city center and local casinos for free concert schedules.

Music – Some of the best music can be found for free or for a small donation or cover charge at small local pubs, taverns,  and coffee shops.  Don’t miss this great opportunity to enjoy unknowns before they are discovered or  end up on American Idol or The Voice.

Theatre in the Park – Keep your eye out for Shakespeare in the Park or other outdoor theatrical productions for an evening of performance under the stars.

Community Theatre – Small play houses can put on some pretty wonderful shows at an affordable price.  I have seen some pretty good shows for $15-20 a ticket.

Outdoor Movies – Many cities have begun offering a free movie night outdoors in the park.  It’s a great way to spend a beautiful summer evening.  Bring a picnic dinner, a bottle of wine and romance abounds.

Summer Festivals – Festivals come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own flavor. They can be cultural, musical or celebrating something specific, such as the lavendar festival and cheese festival in our area, among many others. With festivals come festival food, great people watching, and always a surprise or two.

Farmer’s Market – Head out to your local farmer’s market. Pick up your veggies and flowers for the week and enjoy your community.

Street Fairs – Summer time is the time of the street fair.  Food, art, crafts, music.  Summer fairs provide everything you need to fill a day with fun and entertainment.

Gallery Art Walks and Gallery Openings – Think free wine and hors d’oeuvres while enjoying beautiful and interesting art.

Free Yoga and Tai Chi in the Park – In many locales you can find group tai chi or yoga classes in the park during the summer for free or a nominal charge.

Brewery and Winery Tours – Wine and brewery tours are often free.  The tasting that follows may have a nominal fee, but there is no requirement to purchase wine or beer to take home. So go, learn and enjoy!

Happy Hour – Smaller portion bar menu foods and discounted drinks, sometimes featuring entertainment, can make for a great evening with friends.

Library Presentations – Many libraries offer free classes or book discussions. It’s a great place to connect with others who love reading.

Book Signings – Bookstores bring in authors who are on a promotional tours to help promote their books.  It’s an opportunity to meet the author, possibly hear a reading and get the book signed.

Museums – Some museums allow you to visit certain parts of the museum without paying an entrance fee or they may offer a senior discount.  Call around and see what kind of deals you can find.

Local Community College and University Events –  The local colleges and universities sometimes offer free presentations, discussions, music etc.  At one of these events, we had an opportunity to listen to a Tibetan monk talk about his experience of being imprisoned by the Chinese government, which was both emotional and informative.

Dancing Under the Stars – Summertime is a time to dance under the stars.  Find out if your town or city offers this type of event.

Nurseries – On occasion nurseries and garden centers will host horticultural and gardening demonstrations and talks.

Parades – There are the standard 4th of July parades all over the country, but there are also many traditional cultural celebrations that include parades and performances.  Check with your local international district to see when they will be having a parade.  Think Chinese New Year!

Travel Stores – Some stores will offer free presentations on travel topics or talks by travel authors.  I recently attended a presentation at REI on El Camino in Spain and also one at a small independent book shop presented by a new author.  Both were equally interesting and free!

Senior Center Think bingo! BINGO! The senior center often has other activities besides bingo, including dances, local day trips and other special events.  Stop in and check out their monthly calendar.

Pow Wow – Often at the end of summer and into early fall there will be Pow Wows around the country.  What a great opportunity to join with the Native American community and watch traditional dance while enjoying some flat bread and other traditional foods.  This is an annual Cheap Thrill that I always look forward to.

Free Day at the National Parks – This a day when entrance fees are waived.  So, if you don’t want to buy an annual or day pass, plan to go on the free entry day.  This year it is August 25th, September 27th and November 11th, 2014.

Dining Out – Many restaurants offer discounts for seniors or early bird specials. Before you head out, check the restaurant’s website and do a general search on the internet to see if there is a coupon.  A local Mexican restaurant that a friend and I really enjoy going to has a coupon right there on the website.  As we sat in the restaurant enjoying our meal, we have wondered how many people there did not know they could have gotten one of their dinners for free.

Hikes – Well, this isn’t exactly “entertainment,” but I had to add it in, because nothing tops being out in nature.  Nature calls for you to come outside, get some exercise and enjoy the beauty that is our world.  Bring a picnic to enjoy at your destination, before turning around and heading back.

So, look for the Cheap Thrills in your area.  Make a list, invite your friends and then head out and enjoy!

Help grow this list. What Cheap Thrills have you found where you live?  Please comment below.

 

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8 Ideas to Help Reduce the Worry Around Retiring


Feeling a little insecure about being ready for retirement?  You are not alone. Insecurity about having enough money to retire is high and most people are retiring later because of it.

A recent Gallup poll found that 59% of Americans are worried that they won’t have enough money to retire.  Worries of having adequate savings to retire isn’t just for those in their 50s and 60s, it also includes those in their 3’s and up.  The older, pre-retirement population has more immediate concerns regarding the ability to fund their retirement years, including having sufficient savings to cover basic living and medical expenses, and long term, wondering if they will be able to make the money last.  On the other hand, those in their 30’s worry about Social Security being around when they reach retirement age.

Due to these concerns and insufficient funds in their retirement accounts, the average non-retired person expects to retire at age 67, whereas in 2004 people were retiring at age 60.  Times have certainly changed.

I started this blog because I am one of those people who expected to retire at age 62, then it moved to  65; a more recent consideration was 67, but ultimately I landed on 70 as my age of retirement, in order to get the maximum from my Social Security benefits.  I circle around my options and what I can do to increase my retirement savings before retirement and consider a wide range of options for affordable living and making my funds last.

Here are 8 things to consider that can help reduce that worry:

Work a little longer and retire a little later

Of course, I don’t think this is the preferred solution for any soon-to-be retiree, but holding out longer to retire is one way to maximum your social security benefit, while increasing the size of your nest egg.  The extra few years can make a considerable difference.

Maximize your funds

Those readying to retire or those who already have need to look at all their potential options for maximizing their funds. Talk with a financial planner to ensure that your funds are reaching their growth potential.

Consider living where your money goes further

Move to an area of the country where the cost of living is less, in retirement communities where housing is more affordable, or stretch your income and savings by living outside of the country. There are a number of very popular international retirement destinations for expats where a couple can live very well on $1500 a month.

Downsize

You may want to consider cutting costs by moving from your present location to something smaller and less expensive before you retire, so you can put the savings from decreased mortage or rent payment into your retirement account. When you are ready to retire downsizing may mean a smaller home or apartment, a park model in a 55+ retirement community, a “tiny house,” or a house on wheels.

Refinance your home

Interest rates are still low, so if you haven’t refinanced, now might be the time to consider finding a lower interest rate.

Supplement your income

Find a means of making money to supplement your monthly fixed income.  Think about what you enjoy and find a means of increasing your income by doing what you love.  Do you have a hobby that could be turned into a business part-time?  Maybe you have a skill or expertise that is marketable.  Even a few hours a week working in a business that interests you, or is enjoyable, is something to consider. Identify what you love, your skills and interests and then create an income-generating activity that provides you social engagement, while paying you a wage.

Reduce your monthly living expense

If you are pre-retirement, you can increase your nest egg, which will open up your options down the road.  For those who have already retired it will increase the ability to travel, enjoy activities you love, or put money away for future emergent needs.

Share living space

Some retirees are turning to living with others in intentional communities, retirement communities, or living with family or friends.  Many retired people are living with their children and watching the grandkids while the parents work. People are turning to each other. Through rough times comes increased community.  The light in all of this is that people are returning to family and joining together with friends.

Worry is born out of fear and fear is the result of the unknown.  Researching the different options and sharing those ideas with friends and family can release some of the worry that builds up and can generate new ideas and options.  I have found this blog to be helpful for me in thinking “out loud” about what my options are, how I can cut costs, and how I can create a retirement of my dreams, while living on a limited budget.

What are your dreams for retirement?  What ideas have found to help you reach that dream?  Please leave your comments and thoughts below.

 

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Savings Saturday! 20 Simple Ideas To Make Your Money Go The Distance!


Are you trying to increase your nest egg for retirement? Are you already putting money away into savings or a retirement account on a regular basis, but you know you could be doing more?  Or maybe you are living on a tight budget and you just need to find ways to make your money go father. Making simple changes to your lifestyle choices can make it easier to save more.

  1. Volunteer at a theatre. Often they will allow you to go in and watch the performance in-between your volunteer responsibilities. Check with the local theater in your area to see if they have this type of program. This way you provide a service and get to see a show for free!
  2. Reduce the number of times you eat out each month. Homemade food always tastes better than restaurant food, you know the ingredients are fresh and you don’t have to leave a tip!
  3. Party the old fashioned way. Have a potluck! Putting on a full-blown party can add up quickly in the cost department. Ask everyone to bring a dish to share and the beverage of their choice.  Everyone enjoys contributing to the event and feels part of the community. It’s a win-win!
  4. Skip the brand name foods and household products at the grocery store. Private labels products are generally made by the same manufacturers as the well known brands, but cost less.
  5. Save on gas. Combine your trips to run errands with other appointments. If you are close enough to walk to shopping, work or your volunteer activity, well, why not walk and get some exercise at the same time?
  6. Shop around for the best gas prices. Some gas stations offer a discount for paying cash or using a debit card for your purchase rather than using a credit card. Some grocery stores have an associated gas station and using their loyalty card will provide you an additional discount, and some of the big box stores have pumps with good prices right outside in their parking lot. But weigh the distance traveled to get the best price against the amount you would be saving. Check out the phone app, GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas on the go.  The prices shown in the app depend on a community of users updating gas prices, so I am not sure how current the information always is, but it’s worth checking it out.  It’s free!
  7. Go the inexpensive route when cleaning your clothes. Do it yourself vs. using a laundry service, and make it easy on yourself and buy the no-iron shirts.
  8. Shop at the outlet mall. If buying clothing in thrift stores or garage sales (some of my favorite items came from there!) are not for you, then find a local outlet mall near you. They carry brand names with greatly reduced prices.
  9. Get the basic cable package for your television viewing.  Many weekly TV shows can be watched on the computer the day after it airs on TV and some movies can be watched. Netflix can provide you the ability to watch movies with money left in your pocket. Cheaper than going to the movie theatre! If you like the idea of saving a few bucks a month then basic cable may be well worth it to you.
  10. Wait for the latest movies to come on TV, rather than heading to the theatre.  But if you do go to the movies, take a snack in with you.  The prices of food at the movies is out of this world.  OK, so you aren’t supposed to take your own snack in, so if you do get caught, don’t say you got the idea here!
  11. Skip those fast food chains. Although you may think that they save you money in the moment, a cheap meal on the run now can, in the long run, because of the lack of nutritional content and high fat and sugar content, be the cause of an increase to your medical expenses. Be smart. Eat well.
  12. Have snacks with you at all times! This will keep you from running to the fast food restaurant, local coffee chain or convenience store to buy something that won’t satisfy and isn’t good for you. Bring along a travel mug or jar with water, coffee, tea or juice when you head out for the day. A piece of fruit and a bag of chopped veggies, nuts, trail mix or granola will come in handy for those moments when you feel hungry.  Think picnic!
  13. Get a roommate if you live alone and if you have the space. Think of the savings on rent or mortgage payment and utilities and the potential fun! Golden Girls anyone?
  14. Learn what days and at what stores they offer senior discounts. Even the thrift store in my town has a senior discount day. Most shopping discounts for seniors are during the week.
  15. Do it yourself. Using a lawn maintenance service? Start mowing the lawn and weeding yourself. It’s great exercise and you will save a pretty penny.
  16. Sign up for those online sites that send emails of discounted services and activities in your area, such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and Amazon Local, to name a few.
  17. Be careful of the “it’s on sale, so I have to buy it” mentality. If you don’t really need it, then is it really a savings?
  18. Reducing the temperature on your thermostat in the winter just a few degrees can cut down your bill each month. Remember to weatherproof your home by caulking holes and cracks and replacing old weather stripping on the doors, if needed, before the cold weather hits.
  19. Skip the bookstores and head right to the library.  Books are expensive and the library is free.  It’s easy to see that this is a huge savings for rabid readers.
  20. Don’t window shop. It seldom works out well in terms of saving money. Don’t wander around a mall just to kill time.  Head to the mall only when you have something you need and that needed item is on your list. That way temptation doesn’t creep into the saving equation.

This is just a starter list.  Take some time to look at your lifestyle, your monthly expenditures, shopping habits and entertainment choices.  Ask yourself, is it important that I have more in my retirement account or savings as I move into retirement or now that I am living on a limited budget?  If you deem it important, then make the choice, make the change, and save some money!

What have you done to reduce your monthly expenditures?  Was it hard to make those changes?  What made it easier?  What other things have you done to cut costs?   Please share in comments below.

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3 Easy Steps To Saving An Additional $20K In Less Than 10 Years


Are you closing in on retirement and your nest egg could use a little boost?  Mine too, so I came up with a plan to increase my savings by just making a couple of small changes in my life.

Step 1. Take an honest look at your spending habits.

Most everyone I have talked with has lost a considerable about of their retirement nest egg over the past decade, or two, due to economic shifts. I know that I am right there with a lot of other hard working and hard saving people who got caught in the crossfire. The challenge for me was that without a huge increase in salary, or moving into a hut in the woods until I retire to cut down on housing expenses, I wasn’t sure how in the world I was going to increase my retirement savings.  What a dilemma, it seemed.  That’s where I took control of my future, taking an honest and detailed look at my spending habits.  What an eye opening exercise that was!  Yikes.  My money was slipping away like water through a sieve.  The next logical question was, what can I do about it?

So, this is what I did and it is going to result in a pretty nice payoff.

Step 2. Replace unnecessary spending with less expensive options. 

When looking at your monthly expenditures, find a daily expenditure of about $5, one that can be eliminated or decreased substantially.  I decided to say good-bye to coffee shop coffee and hello to coffee at home.

I started by cutting out the $5 cup of coffee, one day a week to start.  Overtime, I eliminated the number of trips I made to the local coffee shop during the week, and made my daily order of a grande, soy, extra hot, no whip mocha a special treat on the weekend.  Goodbye baristas!  Hello retirement savings!  I decided to replace those $5 daily trips to the coffee shop with a more cost effective morning coffee tradition.   Now, I make a nice cup of coffee in the morning at home.  It took me a while to find the perfect coffee combination that felt just as special as the one that my favorite barista would make for me, but I did!   I take my freshly brewed cup of joe, pour it into my favorite feel good ceramic mug, and top it with a splash of delicious hazelnut coconut creamer.  I get up just a little bit earlier in the morning,  and after preparing my new favorite coffee drink, I settle into my cozy recliner by the front window where I can watch the sky shift color as the day begins. It has become a lovely tradition and I wouldn’t trade it for waiting in line at a noisy coffee shop for anything!   At work, I switched to tea, just regular tea.  I got used to it.  It’s my new “habit.”  And, that new habit, plus my new morning coffee tradition, is saving me a lot of money.

Making My Morning Coffee At Home: 

Savings per week = $25.

 

Savings per year = $1300.

 

 

Amount saved by the time I retire in 8.2 years?  $10,660!!!

Next, find a $10 expense that you have on a daily, or almost daily basis. Maybe it’s buying bottled water and pop during the day and making a run to the vending machine for an afternoon pick-me-up snack.  For me, the next savings opportunity was not going out for lunch.

Let’s see what the savings amount to with this change.

I easily fell into the “Where do you want to go for lunch?” mode at work.  It is a social time for me, a time when I can sit and enjoy some good conversation and laughs with my co-workers.  The restaurants we go to are middle of the road with lunches running somewhere between $8-10. Usually, we go for Thai or Vietnamese, so the food is healthy, and that was part of my justification for eating out.  Healthy food!  Eating lunch out became a regular pattern for me, as not only was it a time to nourish my body, but also my social soul.  As I looked at my bank statement closely, I noticed just how many times I was going out for lunch each month.  It hits hard when you see the numbers in print!  So, I decided that I would started bringing my lunch, a good healthy, fill-me-up, well balanced lunch and only go out for lunch one day a week.

Making My Own Lunch:

 

Savings per week = $40.

 

Savings per year = $2080.

 

Now, for the grand total, the increase to my nest egg over the next 8.2 years?  Are you ready for this?

 

A whopping $17,056!!!!

Step 3. Redirect that money to an untouchable savings account.

Increased savings, the result of cutting down on coffee and lunches out over the next 8.2 years until my retirement begins, totals $27,716!!!  Woah!  That’s a nice chunk of change with just a couple of small lifestyle changes!

After identifying what expenses I could reduce or eliminate and putting those changes into action, the critical last step was to put that money away somewhere where I couldn’t easily access it.  Under the mattress or in a jar in the kitchen cupboard came to mind, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from just “borrowing” a little of it and, well, you know, promising to put it back.  I had to chuckle to myself that I had even considered that might be an option!

It seemed to me that the best way to keep my hands off that money was to put it in a place where I couldn’t just open the jar and borrow a little of it.  So, I decided to have my payroll deductions adjusted to the amount I was now able to save, as a result of these small changes, and have that amount automatically deposited into my retirement account.  I was already spending it, now I am just redirecting it!

The end result of this redirection of funds gives me an increase of over $25,000 dollars in my retirement savings account when I retire.  The long term results make me smile, as I sit here in my cozy chair watching the sunrise, with my little dog, Maggie Mae and a delicious cup of coffee.

Redirected to Retirement Savings:

 

Coffee shop annual savings = $10,660!!!

 

Eating lunch out annual savings = $17,056!!!!

 

Money redirected to my retirement account in time for my retirement in 8.2 years = $27,716!!!

Have you taken a close look at how you spend your money? Maybe for you it is dinners out, getting snacks at the movies, daily visits to the vending machine, drinking sodas, bottled water or those expensive energy drinks.

What is your money sieve?  With a couple of small changes to your lifestyle, how much more money will you be able to contribute to your retirement savings?  Share your ideas and thoughts in the comment section below.

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Using the “B” Word to Create Your Retirement Dream


The question at hand – Are you ready to use the “B” word?

Dreams

What is your biggest consideration when planning for your retirement?  What questions are you asking yourself? Where you will live?  Will you move to the land of the sun, be a snowbird or stay near the grandkids, family and friends? Will you travel the United States or venture out to the far corners of the globe?  Is your health good or can you get those health challenges in control, in order to open up your options?

Certainly, all of those questions need to be addressed at some point, but before answering them there is one key aspect that needs to be looked at, and that is money.  Maybe you are one of those lucky people whose retirement fund has grown exponentially or has remained stable throughout the economic fluctuations of the past decade or two. However, if you are like most Baby Boomers, your future retirement has been greatly impacted by the economic shifts and you need to reassess and reconsider what your future holds.

Humpty Dumpty

A number of years back, I moved to Peru with a dream of starting a non-profit. At that time, I considered myself pretty set for retirement.  I had worked for over a decade for a large corporation that had an excellent 401K matching program, and as a result, I had stashed away a considerable amount of money. With continued growth of that account, even after leaving the company, those funds would over time have created a very nice retirement nest egg.  Security for the future!  So, off to Peru I went, and during the time that I was in Peru – CRASH! – the market dropped dramatically, and I saw my nest egg go from ostrich to hummingbird in the blink of an eye. To make matters worse, the big bad wolf had snuck in the coup while I was gone, leaving nothing but a tiny shattered shell.

Over time, I worked to rebuild that nest egg, but without an amazing matching program and a financial market that just won’t bounce back, it became increasingly apparent that that Humpty Dumpty had fallen and even all the King’s men weren’t going to be able to put him back together again.  All that I had left was a little shattered egg, laying there in little broken pieces, unable to grow.   Time for a financial funeral, some grieving and then, as healing begins – move on.

Before the big bad wolf had its hay day with my savings, my dream for retirement was to take a trip around the world and see all the places that I hadn’t been to yet.  I wanted to have a nice, modest home and live as I always had, enjoying time with family and friends, attending a wide array of entertainment of my choosing, traveling, adventuring, just living a comfortable life.

Looking for Some Answers

It was time to begin “re-saving”, if that’s a word, and start some major problem solving! With my retirement looming only 100 months away, I started concerning myself with retirement income.  One Saturday morning I got up, made myself some coffee and turned on the computer to start figuring it out.  What were my options? I looked and searched, and looked and searched some more, until finally, with a zillion ideas circling my head, I said to myself – How can I decide what to do in the future without all the information I need? It was then I realized that I couldn’t come up with the answer until I had asked and answered all the right questions.

The “B” Word

So, I started with the basics, a budget.  Yes. There, I said it – the “B” word. Budget. I began looking with a critical eye at my day-to-day spending, down to the penny.  I use my debit card for all my daily spending, checks for some of my living expenses, and credit card only for large purchases or expenses that were emergent. Fortunately, I only had 3 accounts to look at. With a hot cup of coffee, my laptop, and Maggie Mae, my forever companion by my side, I created a spreadsheet that showed me exactly what my monthly living expenses were for the past 12 months.  Included were those expense items that fluctuated, such as gas, groceries, medical expenses etc., as well as those that were the extras, things like travel expenses, entertainment, lunches out, and coffee.  Yes, coffee.  Living in the Northwest corner of the U.S., there is a coffee culture and it sucks the money right out of your bank account.  What an eye-opening exercise this had been!  So long major Seattle coffee chain!  It has been good knowing you!

All of this information went into a spreadsheet for future reference, saved onto the computer and printed out.  Now, I have the information I need to make an informed decision!

Boone’s Farm Wine

As I looked at what my monthly resources will be in retirement, and after detailing out my present budget, and estimating my retirement income, I realized that I could stay in my house after retirement if  A) I never go anywhere, B) I never do anything, and C) I sit in the dark in the evening with a candle for light and warmth, sipping a glass of Boone’s Farm Strawberry wine.  It’s not exactly what dreams are made of. So, after a “feel sorry for myself” moment, I decided to take the bull by the horns and find a way to make it work.  As a result, I have come up with a number of exciting options and I feel optimistic for the future!

Tips

My recommendations to those readying for retirement is to first bite the bullet, sit down and looked at your budget with a fine tooth comb.  Asking the right questions and having the necessary information at your fingertips, will allow you to make informed decisions.

  • Know your current monthly expense. Create a budget based on the real numbers. Make it detailed.
  • Identify your monthly retirement income. Include the guaranteed monthly retirement income from your employer’s plan, social security income, monthly annuity payments.
  • Ask yourself – Does my projected retirement income cover my present expenses?
  • If your anticipated retirement income doesn’t meet your present expenses, then recognize that some creative thinking and problem solving is in order. How much is the gap? If you make some minor changes in lifestyle and spending, can you make it work? If not, then it’s time to regroup and look at options.  Oh, and remember to add inflation into the mix.
  • Take a deep breath and visualize a great retirement. You deserve it. Know that there are a myriad of amazing options out there for you to choose or create, regardless of your retirement income!  It’s like plucking apples off of the tree!

Have you taken the time to look at your present budget and projected retirement income?  What are some ideas that you are doing now that can help close that gap?  Share your thoughts and ideas below.