Retirement looks different for everyone, as every retiree has a unique budget, interests, passions and hobbies. One thing rings true for all retirees, however: The more you can cut expenses and save your pennies when you are young, the more financially secure you will be in retirement — and the better able to spend your retirement, and your savings, as you please. As you plan out your retirement, don’t neglect to factor in these five simple strategies for trimming your expenses from month to month:
- Get out of credit card debt. This is likely the number-one way you can save money when you are younger. If you carry high balances on your credit cards and credit lines, you will be throwing money away on interest — money that you could instead be saving for your retirement. If you are working to pay off credit cards, pay more than the minimum amount due so you can get out of debt more quickly. Decide on a set amount you will pay each month, and stick to it — perhaps even set your bill to autopay through your checking account so you won’t be tempted to pay less than what is due. Above all, pay your bills on time to avoid any dings on your credit report and score.
- Pay down your mortgage. As with credit card debt, the sooner you can pay off your mortgage, the sooner you can start putting that money toward your retirement. There can be tax advantages to writing off the interest on a mortgage, so work with a tax adviser to be sure this strategy is right for you, and be sure to check whether there are any prepayment penalties. If you decide it’s best to pay down your mortgage sooner rather than later, try accelerating your payments — for instance, pay every two weeks instead of monthly, or add $200 every month to your minimum payment.
- Get a smaller car. If possible and it makes sense for your family, buy a smaller car with lower monthly payments. Look for something with good gas mileage and positive consumer reviews so you can reduce your maintenance and gas costs. Naturally, your choice of a car will be a function of how you want to spend your retirement — for example, maybe you dream of traveling cross-country in an RV. However, if you aren’t able to cut your car expenses, know that you will need to cut costs in another area, perhaps in your home.
- Get your house in order. Do as many home repairs, upgrades and maintenance tasks as possible before you retire, when you have the income to spend on your home. Not only will you maintain and increase the value of your home, but you also will reduce problems later, when you won’t necessarily have the money to spend on repairs.
- Track your expenses. By simply writing down each expense throughout the month, you will get a clear picture of where your money is going. You might be shocked to learn you are spending $100 per month on lattes, for example. Take things a step further by calculating the retirement savings you could earn by investing that $100 instead of spending it, using one of the many free online financial retirement calculators. When you see an area where you are spending too much, take steps to cut those costs and invest the money in your future retirement.
The compounding effect of saving your money instead of spending it or using it to pay off debt can be huge. It’s well worth your while to investigate any problem spending areas and take steps to correct them. You might not be able to solve every problem before you retire, depending on your age and your income, but make an effort to address as many issues as possible and your finances allow.
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As the creator of www.FeliciaGopaul.com, Felicia Gopaul helps consumers to make smart money choices for their current and future financial health. Her articles appear throughout the Web on various financial websites and blogs focused on providing quick, simple strategies for achieving financial security. Felicia recently moved to California from New Jersey and is happy to be soaking in the sunshine alongside her husband and two daughters.