Retiree Budget: Time For Frugality

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It’s commonly said that the first few years of retirement feature increased spending.  And in my case it’s shaping up that way, at least in the first month.  We rebuilt a deck, had major work done on the car, and spent way more on food than is usual for me.  So it’s time for frugality.

What changed?

First of all, the major bills like the car loan and the house loan are unchanged.  They shouldn’t be there ideally but one of them has a few months left and the other not a long time.  So we deal with them.

The utilities haven’t changed.  Gas is not costing as much since I don’t drive as much any more.  I still have to call the insurance company about that.  Had to have expensive coverage for work since I drove people around.

This was the first month of Part D coverage and I was sweating that, let me tell you!  I don’t really understand how it all works, you see, and though the insurance website seemed to say my four prescriptions would be reasonable, I have trust issues and need to actually see it happen.  Well, we are doing great with that!


Food is where I have the problem.  One week I had to get some paper products and cleaning stuff and that put me over $100.  Two weeks I had to go to a second store to top off on decent chicken and cheaper frozen yogurt, then spent the normal amount at the usual grocery store and ended up paying over $80 those weeks.  I was used to paying less, maybe $70, to feed us for a week.  At the office I had cheap bread and peanut butter for lunches, maybe $6 every 10 days or so.

So I fussed and worried and then remembered this is summer.  In summer we buy bread for home instead of making it ourselves.  We avoid using the oven a lot because that stove will heat the house up and we don’t have central air.

Another thing is the frozen yogurt.  We eat that or light ice cream all summer.  At my usual store they only sporadically have such items so I end up going to another store to get it.  But I have to watch out not to forget what I spend other places on food.

Same goes for the farmer’s markets.  If I go to one, I have to remember to prune my main trip to compensate.  The produce is SO much better though so it’s worth the trouble.  We eat loads of salads in summer too.

Fact checking

So I looked back through last year’s checkbook and found that I was spending about $80 for a week of food in summertime then too.  So not to panic, just keep the receipts for the quick stops and watch the list for the main shopping trip.  That ought to get it.

In fall I expect costs to go back down as we give up our dependence on frozen yogurt and storebought breads.  We like to bake in the cool months for our daily dessert and baking is cheaper than a gallon plus of frozen goodies each week!

Meanwhile, I got upset that the car needed $1100 of work done, but that’s part of having a car.  What upset me most was that I’m going to have to get money out of savings to cover stuff I thought I had covered already.  Life is just more expensive than I thought.  But then, that’s why we have the savings.

The deck project was mostly funded by my husband, who had the money for it.  I did pick up a few things for him while out on another errand, and that left me needing to cash a check.  But guess what?  My former employer gave me a wellness bonus for getting an annual physical last year, so that covers the tools I got.  And the deck’s now low-maintenance so no recurring expenses next year.

By the way, did you know that Lowe’s has a 10% discount program for veterans?  My husband and I both signed up.  All it takes is to show the customer service person your DD-214 and they put it in the computer.  You just present an ID each time you buy something and ask for the military discount and off comes that 10%.  I believe anyone on active duty or in the reserves can get it too.

Time for frugality?

In a word, yes.

With our government acting like fractious children always taking their marbles and going home after a spat, who knows if there will be enough adults around to fix Social Security?  I’m beginning to get concerned.  It’s only 14-15 years away that the cuts come.

Plus I have a mostly do-it-yourself kind of retirement plan.  An impulse got me started and I just put away what I could.  Turns out is isn’t $1 million.  We have to be frugal because I’m never very sure what I’ve done to get here!

So frugality is the way to go.  I know I didn’t do the frugal thing and ditch the car yet.  I haven’t paid off the home equity loan yet.  But I’m working on these things.  So far the car has done more dump runs in July than in the three months before.  I may need it to get rid of a bunch of things.  It has much better gas mileage than the truck, so I’ll hang onto it in my rural situation for a while yet.

While we have to hit the savings later this year, we don’t have to eradicate it either.  We do have the possibility of a trip together next year if all goes well, and there’s money set aside for that.  People get along just fine on less than what we have in retirement and we have a few tricks up our sleeves here.  So frugality isn’t a bad thing, it just takes a little getting used to.  Comments?




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