Some people who’ve envisioned retirement to be a welcome reward for years of hard work instead feel overwhelmed and anxious when they think about financing such a long-term vacation. And those feelings aren’t totally misguided.
Most Americans feel they don’t have enough money saved to maintain their lifestyle once they retire, and going from a comfortable salary to a fixed income is worrisome. Luckily, when it comes to retirement coin, there are two sides we must consider. Yes, your available income might decrease during retirement, but your ability to live frugally also gets much easier.
Retirees are privy to many discounts and savings that younger workhorses are not. So, in addition to a refreshing decline in work-related responsibilities, something more awaits new retirees, including discounted expenses. Here are 15 things that get a lot cheaper once you retire.
1. Dine at your favorite spots — for less
Savings: 10-25% off meals plus a free drink or appetizer
Have no shame in your game when it comes to discounts on dinners out of your home. Most places offer early-bird specials and senior discounts that can seriously lessen your food bill. Suddenly, it won’t seem as difficult to make a 5 p.m. dinner reservation when there’s no project deadline looming. You might even find cooking at home becomes more enjoyable with extra time, so it’s likely you’ll spend less on takeout and delivery services, too.
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2. Plan your dream trip to Europe
Savings: varies depending on destination
Without a dedicated work schedule, retirees can travel during the offseason for a fraction of the high-season price. Airlines offer senior citizen discounts, and cruises offer special rates to cruisers 55 and over. The first few weeks of May and early December can be the best times to cruise because kids are back in school and the Christmas holiday hasn’t arrived.
AAA, AARP, and veterans’ groups may get your discounts with airlines and hotels. For example, Starwood Hotels gives seniors 50% off their hotels, including Sheraton, Westin Hotels, and W Hotels.
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3. Stress less about taxes
Savings: An additional $1,300 on the standard deduction (for taxpayers over 65 years old)
After you retire, you’ll probably pay less in taxes every year. For starters, you won’t be paying into Social Security and Medicare unless you are still working in some capacity. And whether you choose to itemize or take the standard deduction, you’ll be getting a sizable cut either way. You could also be eligible for an additional elderly or disabled tax credit.
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4. Get the degree you always wanted
Savings: varies depending on course and university
Eventually tee times and tennis matches will get boring. If you want to avoid having your brain turn to mush, retirement is a great time to continue your education. Many colleges allow seniors to attend if there are empty seats, or they can audit a class for free. It only costs retirees $800 to attend three classes at Harvard. Check with your local university on its specific policy, and use this as an inexpensive way to stay sharp and meet new people.
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5. See all the blockbuster films
Savings: $4-8 savings on movie tickets, as well as popcorn and drink specials
Many items, such as museum and movie tickets and hunting licenses, are cheaper with a senior citizen discount. Retirees can go see a film in the middle of the day when tickets are cheapest. Nine states offer free hunting an fishing licenses, with many other states offering heavily discounted licenses with the goal to “maintain senior hunter and angler numbers.”
“The key is to always ask if there is a senior discount available,” RetiredBrains.com founder Art Koff says. “More than 50% of the companies that offer these discounts tell RetiredBrains that those entitled to them do not ask, and in most cases, the discounts are not offered unless they are requested.”
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6. Keep your house in tip-top shape
Savings: about $25-$45 per hour in housecleaning fees and $50 per lawn mow
It’s easy to outsource your home repairs and household chores when you’re putting in 40 hours or more of work each week, but during retirement you have the time to shoulder some of the work yourself. With all that extra time, you can clean the house, mow the lawn, landscape, and remodel without having to pay others to do it. You could become a regular Mr. or Mrs. Fix-it, just by watching YouTube videos or reading how-to books.
Next: No more dress code.
7. Say goodbye to stuffy suits
Savings: $300-$1,000 annually for business attire and dry cleaning fees
Once you leave the corporate confines, everything pertaining to your wardrobe becomes much cheaper during retirement. Long gone are the days of pressed suits, button-down shirts, and dresses. Dry cleaning one suit costs about $10 to $15 depending on your location, according to Angie’s List, so you could save a nice chunk of change every week just by wearing casual clothes.
And because you no longer need a closet full of professional attire, consider donating your work clothes to charity to get an additional tax write-off.
Next: Get rid of traffic jams and commuting costs.
8. Never sit in rush hour again
Savings: $2,600 per year on average for gas and maintenance
Your time as a highway vagabond will diminish drastically once you retire. Actually, you’ll save significantly in both time and money when it comes to gas, maintenance, and traffic annoyances. The average full-time commuter travels 200 hours annually and spend $2,600 just to get to work. So consider that time and money back in your pocket in retirement.
Outside of personal travel, Amtrak offers a 15% discount to travelers 62 years or older. And those age 55 and older receive a 10% discount on Greyhound bus travel, according to Retiredbrains.com.
Next: Insurance changes when you’re a senior, too.
9. Cut your insurance costs
Savings: varies per state and provider
Access to Medicare and Medicaid is a no-brainer, but there are also other insurance hacks retirees can take advantage of. Because most retirees are through working, disability insurance is unnecessary. Depending on your situation, it might also be possible to forgo life insurance once you’re retired if you don’t have any dependents.
AAA says it costs $8,558 annually to own and operate an average sedan. But luckily, you can make cuts to your transportation during retirement. You’ll be driving fewer miles, so slimming down to just one car for your family during your later years could lower your insurance rates.
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10. Visit America’s national parks
Savings: $80-$4,640 depending on how many national parks you visit
It’ll never be cheaper to explore the U.S. landscape than when retired. Whether you want to see the Badlands in South Dakota or Glacier National Park in Montana, the all-access pass is your ticket to over 2,000 federal recreation sites and national parks. Seniors 62 and older can purchase a lifetime pass for $80, which is good for entry and, in some cases, other discounts on amenities, such as camping or swimming.
Next: You should hop on the phone with your cable company.
11. Watch all your favorite shows
Savings: varies per state and provider
Those at retirement age also have an opportunity to save on their utility bills. Time Warner Cable offers senior discounts if you call to inquire about services. Some power companies, such as those in Georgia, offer special senior pricing, as well. This will vary by state and company, but it never hurts to ask.
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12. Achieve the fitness goals you never had time for
Savings: $10+ annually
Staying active and involved in retirement is crucial for both mental and physical health. Luckily, gym memberships are another thing that gets cheaper once you stop working. Many national gyms, such as Gold’s Gym or the YMCA, offer senior memberships at a discounted rate.
Also, you might be able to get reduced membership dues through your insurance provider in some states. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield offers a $20 per month credit to members in Minnesota who exercise a certain number of times per month. Silver Sneakers has a fitness program offering eligible Medicare recipients discounted or free gym memberships, as well as other benefits, such as customized fitness classes for seniors.
Next: Cut back your phone bill.
13. Talk to your grandchildren wherever and whenever
Savings: varies per provider
According to Pew Research Center, 42% of those age 65 and older are now smartphone owners. But that fancy new iPhone might not be the most cost-effective for your new low-key lifestyle, especially when considering other discounts that are available to retirees. Most cellphone companies have discounts for those over 65.
If a discount isn’t available to you, consider reviewing how much data and overall usage you’re using now that you’re not working full time. You can likely reduce your plan to a much cheaper rate once retired.
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14. Enjoy the money you saved all these years
Savings: varies per person — how much were you setting aside each year?
After all those years of diligently putting away retirement contributions, it’s finally time to enjoy your money in your life of leisure. It seems obvious, but one thing that keeps costs low is the fact that you no longer need to save as much. Before retirement, you might have allotted 15% of your income to your 401(k) and other accounts. Now, you can withdraw from your accounts and relish in the glory of a life well saved.
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15. Join ‘the club’ for even more savings
Savings: varies per person — how much do you take advantage of your membership?
As an AARP member, retirees can get discounts on just about everything. Even if you’re not yet retired, you still can get a head start on saving because the only eligibility requirement is age-related. You must be 50 or older to join and get discounts on things pertaining to shopping, dining, fitness, health services, home and auto repair, and home security.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.