Holly has always been a saver and Carter has really never cared about keeping up with the Jones’. Thank goodness! When we decided to retire early, we knew we needed to follow the ugly B-word (budget). What’s been amazing is that we’ve stayed on budget. Below are a few ways we’ve saved each month. Some are pretty basic, a few are a little embarrassing, and others are kind of genius! 😊
1Peruse grocery ads and coupons
Yep, we’ve gone old-school. When we were both working, we didn’t have time to scour weekly grocery ads. Now that we’re retired, time is more abundant. We look through the weekly grocery ads and try to buy what’s on sale. We also use digital coupons. But, one thing we NEVER do is go grocery shopping on the first Wednesday of the month. That’s senior day (i.e., extra 10% off for seniors). Holy moly…it’s like Black Friday, but even worse. The grocery store is packed with lots of slow-moving people trying to get all the deals. Any savings that could be had on those days, are NOT worth it!
2Shop insurance rates
We don’t have a home to insure, but we’ve got lots of other things that require insurance: health, autos, ATV, motorcycle, travel trailer, park model, storage unit, etc. We’ve found that using an insurance broker has been very helpful in identifying options and better prices. We bundle as many insurances as we can and then we try to balance service levels, coverages, and prices. We estimate that we’re saving 20% on all of our insurance coverages by using a broker where we can.
3Shrink our footprint
When we still had our big house in Colorado, the monthly costs were ridiculous. By the time we added up taxes, utilities, maintenance, mortgage payments, insurance, housekeeping, snow removal, yard work, etc., we were paying thousands of dollars each month.
Now that we have downsized to a much smaller home, our monthly bills are right around $1,000 each month for everything. We don’t have a mortgage or property taxes. Our insurance is $250 for the year. We spend 30 minutes doing our own cleaning each week. Our utilities are ~10% of what they used to be. And, we have no yard to maintain.
4Rethink eating out
Remember when we were younger and going out to eat was a big deal? We might have gone out to eat once a month or to celebrate big occasions. We’re trying to get back to that way of eating and make going out something special. Now that we’re retired, we have more time to bake and cook. So, it’s easier to stay home and still eat good food. We have $250 budgeted for date nights each month, but we’ve been consistently coming in under budget by $100-150.
One of our other rules (and, we wish we would have done this years ago) is to never start a bar tab. We pay cash as we go, so we don’t get stuck with a bigger bill than expected or end up paying for drinks we didn’t order.
5Find ways to stay entertained
We have another $250 per month budgeted for entertainment. What is entertainment to us? We consider movies, hosting parties at our house, Netflix subscription, concerts, sporting events, and drinking/eating out with friends all entertainment. So how do we save on entertainment?
- Go to matinee movies or buy Groupons for local theaters.
- Share Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube TV subscriptions with our son.
- Don’t just automatically say yes to concerts. We need to really love the musician and the venue. Before early retirement, Carter was known for saying, “I’m in!” to pretty much everything. One of the biggest changes for him is not always being “in”.
- Buy season tickets for Arizona State basketball for $99 each. With 15-20 home games each year, the average price per game is $5. There’s no better deal in all of sports!
- Suggest restaurants where we know they have great happy hour deals. Yard House, Cheesecake Factory, and Texas Roadhouse are our favorite chain restaurants, but we prefer to go to local hangouts when we can.
- Borrow e-books from our local library and download them to our Kindles.
6Shop Marshalls vs Macys
Holly has always been a bargain shopper. She’s ALWAYS on the lookout for a good deal. She won’t buy anything unless it’s on sale. She comparison shops, looks for used equivalents, and buys things out of season. As an example, we needed to buy a bug tent for our summer travels. We watched the price of that darn thing for 3 months before we actually bought it. We’re currently waiting to buy shampoo, vitamins, laundry detergent, and deodorant until they go on sale at Costco. Sure hope they go on sale soon!
Some of these ways of saving might seem silly, but we’ve decided it’s worth being a little more frugal and retiring early than spending more and working more. That’s a personal choice, and we realize not everyone would be OK shopping clearance racks, going to matinee movies, and changing your own oil.