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Is Retirement Turning You Into a Cheapskate?

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

December 7, 2019 — We don’t know about your experience, but in ours we are starting to see signs that many of our retired friends and relatives are getting more and more frugal. Some have to cut back from necessity, but even many of our very well off friends seem to be pinching pennies, at least in some corners of their life. Folks that might fly business class to Australia on a luxury vacation, but hoard plastic bags from the supermarket to line their kitchen trash bin. Many like to save money for the sport of it. After all, who likes spending money on unimportant stuff. Snagging an inexpensive vacation, landing a great deal on a rental car, or getting a better internet deal is a lot more fun and exciting than paying top dollar!

If you search on the Internet for “live like a cheapskate” you will strike a frugality bonanza. There are authors like Jeff Yeager who have written best sellers on the subject (“The Cheapskate Next Door“). There’s even a show on TLC, “Extreme Cheapskates“. Not to mention all of the articles Topretirements has written on the subject over the years (see Further Reading at bottom). This article will roll up advice from all over into some of our top tips on how to live like a cheapskate, and have fun while doing it!

First of all, a little etymology – if you are going to be a cheapskate you might as well understand where the term came from. Although there is some uncertainty about the origin of the word, the main dictionary sites think that “skate” was a late 19th century slangy term for a worn-out horse, to which cheap was added to imply mean or miserly. One Wiki source claims it refers to inexpensive strap-on roller skates; while we acknowledge those were horrible to skate on back in the day, we doubt that is the term’s origin.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Our Top Cheapskate Ideas
Here are some of the best ideas we have heard for saving money in retirement. Although there are lots of things you can do to save little amounts, we are trying to concentrate on opportunities that can save serious money. What we are really hoping is that you will all add your best ideas for saving money in the Comments section. Here goes our list:

Move to a smaller, more efficient house. Real pennypinchers don’t waste money heating/cooling, painting, maintaining, and paying taxes on a house that’s bigger than they need. If you expect company, rent them an Airbnb.
Buy a reliable car, preferably second hand. Buy a basic model, and keep it until big things start breaking on it. If you have 2 cars – get rid of the gas hog and use Uber or rent for occasional use.
Move to a less expensive state. Hopefully one with reasonable real estate costs along with lower income and property taxes.
Plan your major purchases in advance. Avoid impulse buying so you have the time to take advantage of deals.
Buy only with cash. People get themselves into the most trouble with credit card-backed, sudden urge purchases. Having to pass over a wad of $50 bills is a powerful way of promoting restraint.

Plan…. to be flexible about your travel plans. An airplane that takes off with unsold seats or a cruise ship leaving the dock with empty staterooms means lost money for the company. Sign up to get deals from the companies you are most likely to travel with. If you have the flexibility to go at the last moment, maybe to a place you hadn’t even considered, you can save huge dollars. Sites like hopper.com, airfarewatchdog.com are a great source. Search on Google for “last minute cruises” and you will find big discounts on all the big cruise lines. Many offer additional savings on excursions, upgrades, and drink packages as well.
Take all available discounts. If you travel, get an AAA card. You’ll usually save 15% on motels. Senior discounts are about everywhere – ask if you don’t see them. If you live in a tourist area ask for the local discount – most places give them. Or, just ask – do you have any discounts – you’ll often be surprised.

Cut the cord. Even with the so called “Triple Play” from the cable companies, your internet, phone, and cable bills can add up to thousands of dollars a year. Plus your cell phone bill. Most people couldn’t live without an Internet connection, but you can shop around for the best deal. Nobody needs a home phone anymore. And if you are anywhere near a TV station you can use an antenna to catch signals from the air for free. Investigate streaming services like Hulu, Sling, Netflix, and others for your home entertainment.

Take advantage of free entertainment. Read the newspaper and online guides – you’ll be surprised by how many free (and good) events there are. Many museums have one day a week or month that’s free. Use your local library; they have many audio books, movies, books, and subscription materials. Plus great programs of all kinds.
Stay healthy. Co-pays, drugs, and other out of pocket expenses can actually drive you into bankruptcy. So save big bucks – get yourself into shape, cut down your vices, take your medicine, and generally take care of yourself.
Travel by bike, walk or take the bus. At $3 a gallon every car trip you take costs you money. We guarantee you will enjoy a short bike ride or walk a lot more, and it will be free! Many municipalities have free or discounted bus service for seniors. Or live in a place where you don’t have to drive everywhere.
Practice frugal gifting. Think ahead about what gifts you need to purchase in the coming year. Buy when they are on sale, or knit, draw, or build something more meaningful at a fraction of the cost. Last minute excursions to buy gifts almost always cost you more.
Cut out smoking, alcohol, and sweets. Besides killing you, the price of a pack of cigarettes is obscene (remember when you could buy a carton for $3?). Cut down or stop your consumption of alcohol and sweets, both of which can turn out to be a pretty big (and unhealthy) part of your budget.
Maintain your stuff. You paid a lot of money for your car and household appliances. Read the manual and take the simple steps they outline to preserve their long life and cut down on repair bills.

Shop at consignment stores. Particularly if you are furnishing a new home, you might be astonished at how inexpensive you can find the things you need. In wealthier areas the clothing castoffs are often top shelf at a fraction of the cost. You can save enough there to fund some really nice items.

What is your experience? Are you finding it a little harder to part with your hard-earned dollars, even if you have enough to go around? Or are you the opposite, figuring you can’t take it with you, so you might as well spend it before your children get their hands on it. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments section below.

For further reading


Posted by Admin on December 6th, 2019

19 Comments »

  1. First of all, this is a great article and has lots of cost saving measures which I think we have done a good job of following, including frugal gifting and free entertainment. Buying in consignment shops is truly a great way to find furniture and treasures, and is a lot of fun. But, getting rid of my van which holds my grandchildren’s car seats for all of our great outings is not an option, gas guzzler or not. And getting rid of alcohol and sweets is just not going to happen!

    by Jemmie — December 6, 2019

  2. We’ve always practiced virtually all of the “cheapskate” measures mentioned in the article, with the goal being to save enough for a comfortable retirement. It worked! Now that I’m retired and no longer have to set aside a large percentage of my earnings for IRAs, 401K’s, and other savings, and am now in the “spending” time, we have more disposable income than ever before–and are not the cheapskates we used to be. It is hard, though, to stop behaving in long-established cheapskate ways. We’ll never stop most of them.

    by JoeG — December 7, 2019

  3. We’ve always lived below our means so I’m not sure if we find it hard parting with our hard earned $ or are just continuing life long habits. We enjoy the simple things in life, feel guilty about waste as so avoid it as much as possible, and I LOVE bargain hunting! If time is short I have no problem heading to a fancy store where I know I will find something but it’s not nearly as gratifying as an amazing deal ( like the super premium golf shoes I got in October at that brands outlet store – regular price in a golf shop- $145, after a few mark downs at the outlet and a final 50% off the lowest I snagged them for $40!!!! What fun!) But we do keep most of the savings as savings. Seeing close relatives in each family living way into their 90s, watching spending now hopefully will allow us to live the was we want to should we also live into or 90s or beyond. And in the event we check out sooner the plan is to leave whatever $ is left to a couple of charities that we always support and to family. The suggestions above are all good. I’d add, that besides going for the big saving, just developing thrifty habits that save a few cents here and a few cents there add up over time.

    by jean — December 7, 2019

  4. I believe if you have been frugal through life it will continue into retirement. I agree with JoeG we have more disposable income now then when we both worked and for many of the same reasons of saving for retirement.
    You don’t need to be a cheapskate to make good financial decisions and save yourself dollars. Our property taxes are less then 1/2 of what we paid in Minnesota, and Arizona don’t tax SS as does Minnesota. Our home is of course much smaller and very energy efficient even in the hot summer months, compared to heating our 5 bedroom home over the long winter months.
    Bruce

    by Bruce — December 8, 2019

  5. There are people at each end of being really frugal/cheap or spendy pants. I like to be in the middle and spend wisely but enjoy some of the good things in life.

    I know this guy who worked at a local manufacturing plant. The maintenance guys wore blue pants and a pin stripe shirt. Very nice looking outfits. Well, this guy retired and took his uniforms home and is still wearing them every day! It is ridiculous considering his uniforms are all threadbare and tattered with holes and worn out thin areas. The uniform looks as if it has acid burns all over. He wears them everywhere, not just around the house. I know this guy was frugal and probably has a million in the bank. He will be the richest person in the graveyard.

    Another guy I knew was beyond frugal. He was proud of the fact that he would buy chicken drumsticks for 29 cents a lb. He was unmarried till mid life. His girlfriend did not want to eat 29 cent chicken drumsticks and liked boneless chicken breasts. He decided he didn’t want to be lonely the rest of his life so he caved in on the boneless chicken breasts!

    Then there are people who buy things recklessly with no idea how they will pay their credit card when the bill comes in. They live in the moment.

    A couple of years ago our local grocery store was having Senior Tuesdays. They had a coupon in the sale flyer you clipped and handed to the cashier. I think it was 10% off. I used it and was kind of amused to think I was a SENIOR citizen! Wow, how did that happen?

    I search for bargains but I don’t let it take over my life. I admire some who are bargain hunters but I don’t want to be consumed by it or feel guilty that I splurge now and then. Sometimes I want a lobster and I buy it from the grocery store and they steam them. It is an expensive pleasure I have now and then.

    Seniors should take advantage of any discounts offered. Check your town hall to find out if your income is low enough to get tax relief. If you are low income, see if there is assistance for utility bills such as heat. In one grocery store I go to now and then they have a produce bargain bin. I have scooped up packages of green peppers, brought them home, sliced them and sautéed them up. Then I freeze them for a future dinner. Sometimes they have tomatoes or other produce that is still good but getting a tad old. Some stores have bread they have reduced. Buy up a few varieties and make croutons! So simple! A tiny package of croutons is expensive. You can make oodles of them for a few dollars. When I have an over abundance of apples, I make applesauce in my crockpot! So good and you can control the sugar or no sugar. There are lots of ways to be frugal. I bought a bargain turkey at Thanksgiving. It was $0.39 cents a lb if you purchased another $25 worth of groceries. My turkey was just under 15 lbs and cost around $5.50. With that turkey we had around 3 dinner meals, a few sandwiches and I made a huge turkey soup. I made bone broth from the bones. That turkey was a super bargain! I also have one more in the freezer!

    Bargains and deals are everywhere. Just have to keep and eye out!

    by Louise — December 9, 2019

  6. If you have al Aldi’s near you it is worth shopping there! We save 25 to 30 on our grocery bill and still get quality food! Everything is not lower priced but vegetables and other essentials are!

    by Ron — December 10, 2019

  7. I know my kids will appreciate my thoughtful frugality. I know I certainly appreciated my parent’s.

    by Peder — December 10, 2019

  8. Before you spend any money, ask yourself if there’s a cheaper way of doing the same thing. Examples:

    • So long as you have a designated driver, have your glass of wine at home BEFORE you go out to dinner. Otherwise have it when you return. Likewise, paying $40 for a bottle at a restaurant doesn’t make sense if you can get it at a store for $10 or $12.

    • Talk to your local utility about ways of saving — avoid using appliances during more expensive, peak times of day, for example.

    • Have a salad at home before going out rather than wasting five or seven bucks on a couple of bowls of lettuce.

    • Share dinners. Lots of retirees do this, and if you find restaurants with large portions, you may even have enough left over for tomorrow’s lunch.

    • Try big-box warehouse stores for staples, such as paper towels, tissues, TP, sodas and other items.

    • See if your local theater has seniors night, like $5 films on, say, a Tuesday that would otherwise cost $15. Or go to discounted showings in the afternoon.

    • When traveling, give yourself leeway. A shift in one day for departure or return can cost much less.

    • Change the oil in your car frequently to avoid costly repairs down the road (no pun intended). And buy a vehicle that’s reliable. To hell with peer pressure — buy something that makes sense for you and your budget.

    • Look for coupons in any local flyer that may come your way, for groceries, oil changes, restaurants.

    • If you have multiple grocery stores in your area, compare prices on things that you buy frequently, and watch for weekly specials.

    • Try to find community arts and performances rather than plays that will cost you $100 per ticket. Even high schools and local community colleges can put on impressive performances.

    • Rather than competing with friends for restaurants or theater, do a lot of potlucks. Just as much fun, much lower cost, and you can have fun themes — like foods of your childhood.

    • Avoid expensive gifts. Does anyone really need more junk at this age???

    • Shop at outlet stores if there are any in your area. You’ll pay less than half. And compare prices on the Internet. Get items on sale.

    • Generally, develop the mindset that you may well be able to save money on the vast majority of your expenditures.

    by Ed LaFreniere — December 11, 2019

  9. Excellent article!

    I would like to expand on the suggestion to take advantage of free entertainment.

    In the Phoenix area, the libraries offer a Culture Pass that provides free admission for two to many of the local museums and attractions. Check to see if there is a similar program in your area.

    As stated above, some museums and other attractions offer a free day or evening once a week or once a month.

    Stay tuned to the concerts and theatrical productions being offered by local colleges. They are usually free and of reasonably good quality. The students will appreciate the audience!

    At higher-end local venues, volunteer to be an usher. Once the patrons have been admitted and seated, you can enjoy the performance.

    Dave Hughes
    RetireFabulously.com

    by Dave Hughes — December 12, 2019

  10. I have the Costco Visa card and rack up bonus bucks throughout the year just by buying what I normally do. This year I will get approximately $600. I can collect the cash at Costco in February or spend it at Costco. I never, ever spend it at Costco because I want to rack up more bonus bucks. So, I take the cash and stuff it into my piggy at home.

    I just joined this thing called Rakuten. You go thru their website to buy things from let’s say Walmart or Sears or J. C. Penny as examples. Then I use my Costco Visa to buy the items. Rakuten will send you notice on how many Rakuten bucks you racked up from the purchase and they will either credit your Paypal account or send a check…I think quarterly. Another way to make money! I have just dipped my toes in the water on this but I have a friend who loves it!

    Ed LaFreniere has a lot of good points in his post.

    Another thing I do occasionally is to buy a beef tenderloin section on sale and have the butcher cut it up into fillet mignons. I buy chicken oven roasters (7-8 lbs.) on sale and have the butchers spatchcock them. That way when they are flat, they freeze more efficiently and are stackable. They roast in the oven beautifully too! Make sure to take the backbone and other things like liver, heart…Make broth out of the leftover carcass.

    by Louise — December 12, 2019

  11. The spatchcocking mentioned by Louise allows roast chicken to cook in considerably less time, too. So it saves energy and, in summer, doesn’t heat up the kitchen as long. Because the chicken is somewhat flattened, without affecting the meat itself, it also means you can roast chicken evenly on many outdoor grills. Spatchcocking itself is relatively easy to do. It’s nice if one’s butcher will do it, but a person can easily do it at home. The internet and YouTube can help you learn the technique.

    by Clyde — December 13, 2019

  12. Clyde, you are so right about everything you said. Yesterday, our local grocery store was selling Purdue Oven Stuffers for $0.98 a lb.! I bought 3 at approx. 7 lbs. each. Had the butcher spatchcock them. I requested to keep the backbone and organ meats. If you don’t tell them, a lot of times they don’t include them. Tonight we will have one of the chickens and two will go to the freezer.

    What a bargain and if I had more freezer space, I would have bought more!

    by Louise — December 14, 2019

  13. Louise, I had to laugh when I read about you buying the Purdue chickens, I too buy when they run $0.98/lb, I get so much mileage out of one bird & use all the bones, organs etc. & make stock that also goes in the freezer. I’ve never had one spatchcocked, but am lucky that I have a 25 cu chest freezer in the garage & take advantage of sales like the chicken, knock on wood our freezer is over 30yrs. old & still going strong, not a thing of beauty but is beautiful to us when we open it up!!

    by VTRetiree — December 15, 2019

  14. VTRetiree Ahh, soulmates on cheap Purdue chickens! Had that spatchcock chicken last night and it was perfect. We put some seasonings on it then roasted in the oven 450F for exactly 80 minutes. Comes out perfect every time! Been cooking, in my slow cooker, the broth, bones and leftover scraps. Will cook till about 5 pm tonight. A little less than 24 hours. The broth looks rich. Yes, VTRetiree, we get miles out of our chickens!

    by Louise — December 15, 2019

  15. Louise, chicken soulmates yes! Got a 7+ lb chicken out yesterday ($.77/lb) will prep today & have tomorrow night letting the lemon/herbs do their thing, then stock making Wed. I also use left over ends of veggies such as asparagus in the stock process that I have thrown into freezer, too tough to eat fresh but since the bones etc. all get thrown away they just add more to stock!

    by VTRetiree — December 16, 2019

  16. VTRetiree, I am squealing with delight on your $0.77 a lb. chicken! Oh, that is the bargain of all time!

    Today is a snowy, icy day here in CT. Yesterday, I finished the chicken broth. Cooked it close to 2 days. I decided to let it keep cooking another day. Today I will degrease it and make a tortellini chicken soup with veggies and fresh lemon juice. Perfect day for hot soup!

    by Louise — December 17, 2019

  17. Wow – I’m totally impressed by the people who cook! I have found that I’m living on fast foods, frozen dinners & canned soup since I retired. I just don’t eat as much anymore (not that you can tell from my weight — sigh…although fat does fill out the wrinkles lol, and it means I don’t have to spend $ on new clothes). My cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. are all great, which my kids & doctor attribute to good genes instead of healthy living. A kid’s meal from McDonald’s is fine, a Boston Market meal or frozen pizza can last two days, and I’m a fan of occasional doggy bags from eating out so I’m spending very little on food. Still, your posts were motivational and made me hungry!!

    by Kate — December 17, 2019

  18. Kate, I love to cook & make things that I break down & freeze for future meals such as Shepherd’s Pie, Baked Beans, Soups, etc. I lost my husband last year & while he spent a lot of time in the hospital etc. I didn’t eat or ate frozen dinners etc. It was not a healthy style for me & I decided even though it was just me & my other family member (my dog) I would continue to make good healthy dinners. Plus during the cold long Vermont winters running the oven is a great heat source! Louise, the $.77/lb chicken was not Perdue but a PC store running a special on a Market brand roasting 6-7+lb birds so I bought several & in the freezer they went. They have the little pop up tester & when seasoned & cooked taste as good as the Perdue. Never seen Perdue for cheaper than a rare $.89/lb, so you can stop squealing my ears are ringing up here!!!

    by VTRetiree — December 18, 2019

  19. Kate, what you want considering is one of the great benefits of retirement — cooking for yourself. Although I always had some interest in cooking (like any other creative endeavor), my desire to cook didn’t rise to the top until I got a good grill and went beyond burgers, hotdogs and occasional steak or chicken (those were seldom great successes). In the past 10 years, I’ve become a “grill master” (not in my opinion — that term I reserve for Bobby Flay, Steve Raichlen and other chefs who deserve it), but I can do almost anything in a grill and do it well. It doesn’t have to be a grill (though that’s my preference) — any good stove/oven, even a good toaster oven plus time, recipes, attention, and practice will work. And you get the benefit of eating well to your standards. Start from scratch or modify even a frozen pizza — it’s your tastes that count. I discovered not only great “typical” recipes, but have learned the joys of fusion cooking. Get past the first “mistakes” and you can eat better, healthier and more cheaply than with prepared foods or eating out. Start simple, build on the good stuff.

    by RichPB — December 18, 2019

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