You worked for decades, saved for retirement, and dreamed of the day you’d be able to travel, volunteer, and pursue your hobbies instead of punching a clock. But you’re worried about how your retirement savings will hold up. You’re not alone. A recent survey found that 33% of Americans are worried about running out of money in retirement.
Genevieve Waterman, DSW, director of economic and financial security for the National Council on Aging (NCOA), acknowledges that it can be hard to transition from earning a regular paycheck to living on a fixed income. But, she says, it doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite things.
“There are a lot of opportunities to be able to keep up with your lifestyle while also being able to reduce some of those costs that are associated with it,” she says.
Try these eight creative ways to stretch your retirement savings.
Start with a budget: Both your income and expenses will change when you retire. Create a spreadsheet, download a budgeting app, or use a tool like the NCOA’s Budget Checkup to create a budget and figure out how far your savings will go.
Once you create a budget, Waterman suggests reviewing it each month and reassessing your income vs. your expenses to stay on track.
Examine expenses: Retirement means no commutes to work, which may mean you no longer need a second car. In 2022, the annual cost of car ownership, including gas, maintenance, insurance, licensing, and registration, topped $10,000. Selling a second car could add up to big savings.
Downsizing to a smaller home or moving to a less expensive area can also cut expenses and increase your budget for travel or other leisure pursuits. The University of Boston’s Elder Index is an online tool that shows you how much income you’d need to age in different locations.
“If you’re looking to relocate to an area with a lower cost of living, this is a really neat tool to understand what you could anticipate [budget-wise] when you move there,” Waterman says.
Put property taxes on hold: Even if your mortgage is paid, the tax assessor will continue collecting property taxes. The amounts can add up, especially as the value of your house increases.
Waterman notes that some states have programs that allow you to freeze your property taxes or your home’s assessed tax value. Contact your local tax office to ask about your options.
Sign up to save: Free loyalty programs offered at gas stations, supermarkets, drugstores, and big-box retailers have benefits ranging from coupons to cash back. These savings are among the reasons that 80% of Americans are members of at least one loyalty program.
Waterman also advises clipping coupons and shopping on “seniors day” at the grocery store to take advantage of extra savings. “If you have the ability to shop on that day and be able to stack [discounts], that’s when you’re seeing savings,” she says.
Travel for less: Whether your bucket list includes an African safari, a trip to wine country, or watching games at all the Major League Baseball parks across the U.S., the cost of airfare, hotels, and meals can add up. In fact, an AARP survey found the average traveler over 70 planned to spend more than $11,000 on upcoming trips.
Traveling during off-peak season can help cut costs. Memberships with organizations like AARP and AAA also offer discounts on travel. A travel rewards credit card can help, too.
“With a travel rewards credit card, you can earn free airline tickets and also get other cost-saving perks, such as sign-up bonuses, in-flight credits, and waived baggage fees,” says Beverly Harzog, a credit card expert and author of The Debt Escape Plan: How to Free Yourself From Credit Card Balances, Boost Your Credit Score, and Live Debt-Free.
The key is picking the right rewards cards. Harzog suggests an airline-branded credit card if you have a preferred airline, or a general rewards card if you prefer to use points on multiple airlines or hotels.
Start a side hustle: You could make your retirement budget go further by earning a little extra income. Sell handmade items on Etsy or turn your work wardrobe into cash by selling brand-name clothing, shoes, and accessories through consignment stores or platforms like thredUp, eBay, or Poshmark.
Financial planner James Allen CFP, CPA, founder of Billpin.com, suggests renting an unused room in your home through Airbnb or Vrbo. Got a swimming pool? Sites like Swimply let you rent it out by the hour.
“It’s like turning your home into a golden goose, providing an extra income stream without a significant additional burden,” he says.
Before you start a side hustle like that one, check with your insurance company to make sure you have the right coverage.
Ask for discounts: Never be embarrassed to ask for the senior discount, says Waterman. Countless organizations, from restaurants and museums to national parks and hotels, offer discounts and freebies to older peoples. Saving 5% to 10% on a cup of coffee or a restaurant meal might not seem like much, But those discounts can add up over time.
“Always double check or speak with management to see if they do offer discounts, because it’s something that allows you to keep your previous lifestyle while living on a fixed income,” she says.
Find freebies: Borrow books from the library (you can get e-books, too). Check local event listings to learn about free concerts, museum admissions, and festivals. Schools like Harvard University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and University College London offer free classes in topics ranging from the anthropology of social media and game theory to managing happiness.
Remember: The more strategies you use to save money, the faster savings will add up and the easier it will be to stretch your budget during retirement.