Tag Archives: Savings

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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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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Countdown to Retirement


How Much Longer?

A few years back, I lost my retirement nest egg, not unlike many others, due to the stock market crash, banking debacle and housing market bust. Closing in on retirement age, I started to wonder what retirement would look like for me. Most everything that I had saved was severely diminished by those events – Poof! Nada! Gone! Well, not completely gone, just reduced to a laughable amount. And now, at the age of … well, closing in on 62, rebuilding that nest egg seems like a daunting task. How in the world am I going to make this work? Will I ever really be able to retire? Will I have to work the rest of my days?

One day I realized just how many of my friends were retired. Lots! I would hear of their plans and how they spend their days. They are having a ton of fun! Living the life! Having worked from the age of 13, I am more than ready to move into a life of NOT getting up before the crack of dawn to ready myself for a long commute in the dark, a high paced day of work, and a long exhausted commute home. How long until I can retire, I would think to myself, how much longer? I started obsessively thinking about how to rebuild my nest egg in time for retirement and how long until I can make that shift. Age 65 was no longer an option. Neither was 67. So, 70 it is, I decided! I can do this! I can!

The Countdown

About 30 years ago I remember a high level manager who worked for a large corporation who was getting ready to retire. He would walk through the factory every day of that last year prior to his retirement and yell out to the workers…365! 364! 363! Each day the number would decrease, until it was 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1! And retirement began! What a brilliant idea!

It was a few years ago when my retirement fretting began. Looking back, it started just a year or two before my 60th birthday. I wonder if that is the time when retirement creeps into the thoughts of most people. Anyway, I decided that having a countdown would help. How could I start my count down, I wondered? A little over 11 years seemed like forever! I thought of counting down in hours, but that seemed a little excessive. Days? Way too many! I tried working the numbers in a variety of ways, until I finally arrived at months! I decided that counting months seemed to allow for a more rapid countdown, and once I broke the great 100 mark, it would be smooth sailing from there. I first started my countdown at 136 months. As of this post, I am at 100 months and counting. I see the future ahead. I have my destination date. Now, I just need a plan.

Birth of a Blog

And so, this blog was born…out of fear, anxiety, trepidation of the future unknown, as well as a lot of excitement, anticipation and dreams for the years to come. I focus on the anticipation and excitement, in order to overcome the less than productive emotions of fear and anxiety. Positivity and problem solving are my friends!

On this page, I will take you on my journey to and into retirement on a budget. I will share ideas – the pros and cons – the traditional, as well as the out of the box ideas that arrive without thought, in both my night time dreams and my waking hours. Join me on this journey and please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below!

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
~ Mark Twain