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As Inflation Rages, Our Members Give Cost-Cutting Suggestions

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

Sept. 22, 2022 — Thanks to the pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and other factors, inflation is raging here in the U.S. and everywhere in the world. While early estimates are the 2023 Social Security COLA will be one of highest in history at 8.7%, that will not be enough for the millions of retirees who are living on a shoestring. To help with that, we have assembled a collection of tips our Members have provided in the past. We hope you will add more of your own in the Comments section below (and thanks to Grace for suggesting this topic!) Note that these are just a fraction of the fabulous ideas our Members have posted over the years. Check out the articles listed at bottom for hundreds more!

Sell stuff. Darla suggests: Downsizing by selling stuff didn’t appeal to me, but a friend has an Ebay store. He takes care of anything I ask him to sell, and I give him 30% (the stuff would have gone to the trash or thrift store anyway).

Use your library. Elaine C provided this excellent tip: Ask for a tour of your public library and take advantage of everything they offer. Mine offers free fishing poles and tackle, tools, estate planning software, 3-D printer, access to a Green Wall to make videos, yoga and ballet classes, recording studio, forklift and other heavy equipment training on robotic machines, plays and musicals, and a whole lot more.

Get a pet – expense free. This was another of Elaine C’s ideas: If you want a pet, but cannot afford one, there are rescue places that need people to foster pets and will pay for medical expenses, food, other expenses. The pets are older and trained.

Medical Equipment. Here is HEF’s tip:  Our town has a Medical Library that loans out all kinds of medical equipment like wheelchairs, walkers, shower seats, crutches, etc. all to town residents for free – no time limit. We used it after husband’s hip surgery last year and I expect to again after my knee surgery in spring. It is run under the Parks & Recreation Dept.

Look for a low-cost pharmacy. You don’t have to pay top dollar for your drugs. There are lower cost options online on in the mail. Louise mentioned is https://costplusdrugs.com/medications/. A friend suggested that some medical practices will put you on their plan in order to get better prices on expensive drugs like Xaraleto. Consumer Reports found that Costco was the lowest cost brick and mortar pharmacy, while Healthwarehouse.com was the cheapest online. We have a friend who swears by GoodRX.

Explore Medical Advantage Plans. As opposed to traditional Medicare plus supplemental plans, Part C plans often cover dental, vision, and prescription drugs – for little or even no premium. You need to see physician availability in your area, but they are worth checking out. See Medicare.gov for more.

Food pantries. Louise points that people who cannot afford healthy food usually have an option. Visit local food pantries to make sure you have enough nutritious foods to keep healthy. In Vero Beach there are 8 pantries: https://www.foodpantries.org/ci/fl-vero_beach This would help stretch your food budget while ensuring that they get better nutrition.

Cut the cord. If you are paying the cable company for TV, Internet, and phone, consider cutting them. Use your cell phone instead of a house phone, and either buy a TV antenna or a service like Sling or YouTube TV. You could use your phone as your Internet service and save that expense at home.

Get a cheaper cell phone plan. There are discount cell phone services worth exploring. T-Mobile offers service for 2 phones with unlimited data here and abroad for $90/month (senior discount). There are others with even lower prices as well.

Get discounts. Francesca suggests: Deals on dining (use Groupons to try out new places) and vacations (use AAA and find great deals) etc. 

Set a budget, and watch how you pay. One suggestion we have heard repeatedly is to set a monthly budget, and stick to it. Knowing where the money goes is very helpful. One idea is to pay only in cash (you feel the pain!), or pay (staying within budget) with a rewards card and always pay the balance in full each month. Research what card you use, some are a lot better than others.

Couponing extreme. Johnny J likes couponing: One of the biggest money savers we have is couponing. My wife is like one of those people (almost) you see on TV on extreme couponing. She will usually save us 50 to 60 percent per trip to the grocery store. Most of the time she matches coupons with items on sale, often getting the items for FREE (Editor’s note: I have seen this in action from my own brother!) 

Entertain at Home: Our friend Patricia Kennedy has this great idea: Entertain at home! People have gotten into the habit of eating out, often because they were too busy while managing a career to cook more than a simple meal. Now that you are retired and have more time,invite friends over for dinner and a game of Bananagrams, or another fun game. Most of your guests will ask, “What can I bring?” Take them up on the offer to share both the time it takes to prepare a meal and the costs.

Grow your own. Marge had a number of tips, including these: We grow our own veggies in the summer, then can the surplus for winter.
We heat with wood from free, downed trees.
Hubby makes his own beer & wine, and we buy eggs and meat from a farmer down the road.

Closing thought

To balance out all of these great ideas, you do have to keep things in proportion. Saving in order to hoard is not so good. Ernie J. Zelinski, author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, posted this quote: “In the end, there is only one purpose for money — and that it is to spend it. Of course, you must be creative and industrious enough to earn enough money to joyfully spend it in pleasurable ways.”

For further reading:

Comments: We can’t wait to hear more suggestions on how to save money and survive retirement on a budget in inflationary times. Please post yours in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on September 22nd, 2022

12 Comments »

  1. I buy gently used or new clothes on eBay and Poshmark. I have certain upscale brands I look for and pay $15-$20 per item that originally may have sold for $50-$60 or more. As soon as the item arrives, I wash it and I have found some excellent fashions without paying high prices. Plus, I find it fun to bargain hunt.

    We also exclusively use the Costco Visa card for all purchases with a few exceptions like paying our town taxes. We get rewards of around $600-$700 a year. Not a fortune but we get rewarded for things we buy like groceries, gas, big purchases. As mentioned above, we never carry a balance.

    There are certain things that go on sale at Costco maybe 3 times a year. When that occurs, I stock up with enough to carry me thru till the next sale.

    When we were first married and trying to keep a budget, we did the envelope system. Each envelope was for a different purpose. Groceries, taxes, rent, etc. It worked out pretty well for us at the time. I might help others to allocated funds for each category. Kind of old fashioned but can be effective.

    Another thing I read was about a woman who used her rewards credit card. She would use it and as soon as she left the store and got into her car would pay the amount off via her checking account rather than wait for the entire bill to accumulate. She wanted the rewards, but I guess she was afraid the CC would balloon up out of control.

    by Louise — September 22, 2022

  2. Here are a couple of things with some higher upfront cost but lower expenses over the long term. Last year when we downsized to a smaller house on a much smaller lot, I ditched the gas mower and bought a battery powered electric one. No more buying gas, oil, spark plugs, air filters and having to change the oil and dispose of it. All I have to do is charge up the battery and sharpen the blade. It works great and is much less noisy.

    This year, I purchased a plug-in hybrid SUV. It has a range of about 35 miles on electric-only battery power which means that I can do almost all my local driving without using any gas. Electricity is much cheaper than gas. For longer trips, it switches to gas after the battery is depleted. Best of both worlds.

    by LS — September 23, 2022

  3. I’m surprised no one has suggested thrift shops. You can find most anything at a PTA Thrift Shop or other such resource. Clothes especially are insanely expensive and thrift shops are filled with clean, lightly used, even new clothes for everyone at dramatically lower prices.

    by RichPB — September 23, 2022

  4. We save a lot each month on our cell phones, compared to what we used to pay. Now it is $60. for both phones through Cricket, 5 GB data. That is the total charge per month including taxes and fees. They give credit for referrals, and have a local offices in most towns if we need help. Purchasing our phones was reasonable through them also. This also works because we use WiFi when were are at home, which is about $78. per. month. We also bought 2 fire sticks from Amazon for about $30.00 each and we use the apps on our TV’s with no extra charge at all, but you need WiFi. There is plenty to watch. Freevee, Tubi and Pluto are free. My husband can’t find all the football games he would like to watch, but he sometimes can find them on his tablet. See my sad face….haha
    This is a little thing that I have done for years……I wash the slightly used zip lock bags in soapy dishwater to reuse after they dry.
    We irrigate our lawn using a pump from the lake, so we don’t increase our water bill.
    Most residents here take their garbage to the local transfer station, alleviating a monthly garbage pick-up fee.
    Veterans can get some price breaks as well.
    I think it helps to order groceries online, then pick-up (WalMart). It saves the marketing temptation of in-store shopping.

    by caps — September 23, 2022

  5. Yes, thrift stores are a good place to buy used clothes and other household things. It is also a good place to pick up items for resale on Ebay. One thing I used to do when I sold on Ebay was cannibalize appliances. If I had a broken, well-known brand appliance, like a coffee maker, I would sell the parts. You would be surprised how many people need replacement parts. I sold every part I advertised in just days. I had a dryer that I took the control panel off and sold it on Ebay. Sometimes selling parts will produce more money than if you had sold the appliance as is.

    by Louise — September 24, 2022

  6. RichPB, Goodwills/thrift stores I have been buying for years through these type of places. I got 2 friends into it couple years ago & we seldom buy anything at reg. stores. We find we can wear brand name clothing at a fraction of the reg. cost & if you only wear for few times you most likely have gotten your money back. A lot of my house furniture & decorations have been bought this way also. I honestly can’t stand to pay full price for anything. If a person has the time, looks items over & isn’t looking for one special item it is a fun thing to do & in most cases you are also helping others with your purchase.

    by VTRetiree — September 24, 2022

  7. The above suggestions are good ones. I’d like to add a few that work for me.

    Cooking and baking from scratch and dramatically reducing reliance on meat and dairy saves a fortune at the grocery store.

    Many have learned “meatless Mondays” isn’t a hardship, and have moved to other meatless days, as well. Skip the sausage and eggs and rediscover old fashioned oatmeal for breakfast. (Aldi sells 32 oz of rolled oats for $2.99.) Add fruit that’s been languishing in your produce drawer, freezer or canned goods shelves. Slightly freezer burnt fruit tastes just fine, too – just rinse it first. Dried fruit is also great. Cook the fruit along with the oatmeal or add it at the end. Your arteries and your pocketbook will thank you.

    Canned beans are relatively inexpensive, but dried beans cost less than half the price of canned when you consider yield. The new breed of pressure cookers / multi cookers (Instant Pot, for example) cuts cooking time to 20 minutes or less. Soak the beans overnight, then rinse, put them in the pot, set it, and voila! You can also cook beans without soaking; it just takes longer.

    Many of these cookers cost under $100 and are frequently on sale. I use mine for rice, beans, lentils, split peas, quinoa and so much more. No more burnt rice or having to babysit the stove and cleanup is a breeze!. They’re also great for meat dishes. The internet is loaded with delicious multi-cooker recipes.

    Learn the prices of items you buy regularly and comparison shop! If you can’t remember prices, do as I do: note them in your phone notes app or buy a small notebook from the dollar store and carry it with you.

    Speaking of dollar stores, they’re a great resource for toothpaste, some cleaning supplies, pet supplies like leashes and poop bags, and more. They often have great prices on in-season produce, too.

    Talk to your kids, grandkids, or whoever you know who’s hooked into Facebook “Buy Nothing” groups and learn how to use them. I can’t believe the wonderful FREE baby supplies I’ve gotten for my grandson through these groups. When he’s outgrown them, I’ll pass them along to someone who can use them. I also bought a gorgeous $400 stroller for $60 through a FB ad. Used, but in perfect condition.

    Last but not least, reduce your reliance on disposables and paper products. If you don’t own cloth napkins, thrift stores often have them. Those fancy little cloth hand towels meant for guest bathrooms also make great napkins. Hubby & I each use a cloth napkin for a full day, then it goes into the hamper.

    Break the paper towel habit by temporarily putting the roll in an inconvenient spot and return to our grandparents’ habit of mopping up spills with sponges, rags and dish towels. I go through less than a single roll of PTs a month because they’re only used when the mess is something I don’t want to put through the washing machine. Don’t have rags? Buy some second-hand bath towels at a thrift store for $1 or less and cut them up.

    Washing dishes takes very little time. Unless entertaining a houseful of guests, paper plates are an unnecessary expense and lazy habit that many of us have fallen into. It’s bad for the environment as well as the bank account.

    I’ve gotten through financially lean periods by employing the Depression era mantra my parents and grandparents quoted: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

    I look forward to reading other thrifty ideas here.

    by JCarol — September 24, 2022

  8. I just discovered that my internet-tv-phone provider is charging me $2.99 a month for the privilege of receiving my monthly pill in paper format! I have had my bill on auto pay for a while and admit I have not paid much attention to my monthly bill. Yesterday, the bill came to the house and I noticed the charge. I have no idea how long I have been paying that fee but am pretty outraged. So, I will be calling them and will see if I can have that fee removed and if not, I guess I have to go to paperless billing. That is $35.88 a year so I can receive my bill. I seriously cannot believe they can get away with that! So, people, check your bills if you receive them in paper format to see if you are getting charged that fee. It might save you some money to do away with paper bills.

    by Louise — September 25, 2022

  9. Louise; do like your thinking!!

    by BillyBogey — September 25, 2022

  10. Be glad you can pay electronically. I have been fighting serious identity theft over the past 11 years and cannot put anything on line to pay. These people are relentless and sell your info. It goes on forever. Be careful. Its very ugly.

    by Sharon L Alexander — September 26, 2022

  11. So, the saga of my internet-phone-tv provider goes on. I contacted them today and complained about the $2.99 fee per month they charged me to send a paper bill. The guy on the phone had all the answers and … I was pretty furious and told him so but did end up going to paperless. After I got off the phone, I looked up another provider and investigated it. I spoke to a person at that company and found a package that will save me about $70 a month for 24 months. I know the bill will go back up high at that point, but the lady told me they slowly jack up your bill over the course of a few years. She said about $20-$40 a year till you reach the standard price. I also see the tv channels offered and it is so much more than I have now. I told the woman to sign me up. I cannot wait to tell my current provider they lost a customer due to the $2.99 printed bill fee. …. I really don’t have a problem with paperless billing, but I don’t think they should charge if a customer wants to receive a paper bill. Rather than punish a person for not going paperless, maybe they should offer an incentive to do paperless billing like a $2.00 reduction of their bill each month!

    by Louise — September 26, 2022

  12. If you want to save alot of money…cancel your cable and switch to streaming. I’m saving $100 per month and no longer paying for channels I never watch….

    by Areti11 — September 28, 2022

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