As of last year, the first of the baby boomers became the most recent batch of Americans to enter their golden years. Senior citizenship, for these newly minted members of the U.S. retired segment, shouldn't come as a challenge to a generation accustomed more than any other to changing times. From childhoods spent growing up in an optimistic Post-World War II climate to the tumultuous social and political upheavals of the 60s, facing the end of one's career may seem like a simple afterthought, all things considered.
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But times have changed once again, and boomers are among the first to face retirement amidst an economy wounded by the recession, a slumped housing market, and insecurities over the future of Social Security benefits. More than ever before, retirees are concerned about saving money and making the most out of their dollars after age 65.
It is possible, however, to live on less without sacrificing all of the good things that make for an enjoyable retirement. With a bit of careful budgeting and some common-sense spending, scaling back your expenses doesn't have to mean diminishing your quality of life.
1. Move wisely, buy smaller, save bigger. If you and your spouse are empty nesters and your children grown and moved away, all those extra rooms in your house may lose their necessity. But downsizing doesn't mean less. Many newer homes and condominiums can be had for cheaper, with more modern amenities than their older, more expensive and high-maintenance counterparts. If health and mobility are an issue during retirement, opting for a one-level, ranch-style dwelling reduces the need for stairs, levels, and the overall real estate price. (In the best-case scenario, you may walk away with a profit after the sale of one house for the purchase of another.)
Depending on the location, your savings can be compounded further. Warm climate, access to water, and affordable recreation were a few of the priorities boomers placed on their retirement wish lists, according to a recent Huffington Post survey. Choose wisely where you hang your hat, so your overall cost of living is cheaper. Areas in Texas, Georgia, Idaho, and Nevada have still been untapped by the growing retirement market and are more affordable than California or New York.
Residing in a temperate climate without the seasonal ups and downs of frigid winters and humid summers cuts down on monthly utility costs. Retiring to a more affordable region makes a world of difference in property taxes as well--think $3,600 per year in Florida versus $10,000 annually in the New York City metro area.
2. Two people to one car. Carpooling doesn't have to be just for the working class anymore. With gas approaching the $5 mark in some states this week, choosing to cut back on driving is an economical choice for motorists of any age.
For retirees, keeping a single car to share between both spouses reduces both your fuel and insurance costs, and helps the environment at the same time. Plus, it gives the perfect opportunity to get out of your car, reduce your carbon footprint, and stay healthy simultaneously. If you live close to a downtown or local shops, get in some exercise, and take the time to walk or bike where you can.
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3. DIY. Were you always handy around the house or skilled with your hands? Many retirees discover their hidden artistic talents. Learn to paint or sculpt, and display your wares at the weekly downtown art walk. There's a great chance that the sale of your work could net some extra income while doing what you love.
Did your career and raising a family set back your dream of becoming a master gardener? Retirement and the free time it offers now gives you that chance to put your green thumb to the test and hone your landscaping skills. Planting the vegetable garden you always wanted and seeing it thrive is not only personally gratifying, but sustainable, and a healthy and affordable option to avoiding overpriced groceries.
4. Long live learning. Don't fight the urge to cancel that cable TV subscription if you don't think it's a needed household staple. Save money from one less bill to pay, and opt for other, free-of-charge information centers, like our old friend, the local library. If movies and TV are a given for you and your spouse, the library offers a wide selection of movies for rent, and outlets like Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu provide video on demand at affordable prices. Knowledge knows no age. Discover the eternal student in you. Local colleges and universities may offer a senior discount in their tuition plans, and many permit retirees to attend classes for free as a non-matriculating student.
5. Keep it simple. What should be a lifetime practice applies best in retirement. Don't buy more than you need in groceries, clothing, or household goods. If you've planted that garden filled with lush vegetables, save money by supplementing with frozen greens in bulk. Freeze leftovers to reduce waste and cooking time. Become a coupon maven when shopping. And remember, with material belongings and everything else, that less really is more.
Retirement is your time to relax, slow down, and enjoy life. By creating a few smart ways to cut back and spend less, living on less can mean living bigger than ever before, with a lifetime of years ahead of you.
Paul Sisolak writes for www.GoBankingRates.com, which provides readers informative personal finance and investing content, as well as the best interest rates on financial services nationwide.