How To Enjoy Retirement on a Budget

Mature couple taking a break from working and enjoying together stock photo
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An enjoyable, stress-free retirement is the end goal for many workers, but once you ride off into the sunset, you’ll still have to plan your finances. Without a regular source of income, except perhaps a pension or Social Security, you’ll have to rely on making the most of every dollar that you’ve saved. With a few lifestyle adjustments, however, you can free up some space in your retirement budget and enjoy yourself more without making major sacrifices. Here are a few ways you can still enjoy retirement even if you’re on a budget. 9

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Start a Small Side Gig You Enjoy

Yes, most people look forward to retirement as an end to their work life, but picking up some work in a field you enjoy can offer twofold benefits. 

First, you’ll keep your mind stimulated and do something you actually like. This can completely remove the “work” part of what you’re doing. Many people want to retire to get out of jobs they hate, but if you do some work in a field you love, you might be surprised how much you want to stick with it. Depending on what you enjoy and where your skill set lies, these side gigs can range from lecturing part time at a university to selling woodworking crafts out of your garage.

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Second, picking up a side gig can add to your monthly cash flow, which will make your retirement funding stretch much longer. Think about it this way — if your retirement withdrawals and Social Security checks exactly match your expenses, the extra $500 or $1,000 per month or more you pull in from your side gig will be completely discretionary income. This means more vacations, more time with family, more concerts or ball games or whatever you enjoy doing, making for a stress-free retirement.

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Relocate

Many retirees have a fixed income once they decide to stop working. Although Social Security payments are indexed annually for inflation, you generally won’t be growing your income in retirement like you were doing during your work years. One easy way to effectively get an income boost is to move to a more affordable area. Imagine, for example, moving from Manhattan, New York, to Manhattan, Kansas. On the same amount of income, you can likely enjoy a much more extravagant lifestyle. Certainly, you’ll need to have the personality to make such a switch, as those two cities could hardly be more different. But if you don’t mind the change of pace, housing, dining, entertainment and nearly everything else is much more affordable in Kansas than New York City. By reducing the cost of your biggest expenses, you’ll feel as if you just got a big raise, one that could last for the rest of your life. 

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Downsize

Not all retirees can relocate, even if they are personally willing to do so. For example, if you have all of your friends and family nearby, or if you have limited mobility, moving somewhere across the country might not be a feasible option for you. In this case, downsizing might work to do the same trick. If you have children who have long since left your house, or if you simply don’t entertain as much as you did in your working years, you might be able to move to a much smaller house or apartment, remain in the same general location and still save a lot of money. In fact, given the recent housing boom, if you own your own property you’re likely sitting on a sizable gain. Capturing that profit, moving to a smaller place and living off the extra money is a great way to increase your financial position without making any major changes in locale or lifestyle.

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Plan Your Travel in Advance and Be Flexible

One of the easiest ways to reduce your expenses while still enjoying retirement is to modify your travel strategy. During your working years, you likely only had limited windows during which you could travel. If you also had kids in school, you may have been forced to travel during weekends, holidays and over the summer. In other words, for most of your life, you probably traveled only during peak periods. Retirement affords you the great opportunity to travel on a flexible schedule, and that can make all the difference when it comes to cost.

Retire Comfortably

When you’re retired, for example, you can easily travel on Tuesdays or Wednesdays rather than the weekends, or during shoulder seasons rather than at the height of summer. These small changes alone could translate into thousands of dollars of savings, once you factor in the costs of airline tickets, hotels and tourist pricing at your destination. Add it all up and it means you can likely travel more frequently and/or upgrade the comfort of your trip for the same amount of money you used to spend while working. Or, you can keep the frequency and style of your trips the same and pocket the difference.

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About the Author

After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.
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