8 ways to make your retirement savings go farther

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Many retirees welcome hearing about ways to stretch their savings and improve their finances.

You can upgrade your finances in two basic ways: either reduce your expenses or increase your income. There are many opportunities nowadays to do either.

One of the easiest ways to cut back on your expenses is to find ways to save on things that you buy. You may not gain much with each change, but by taking small steps your savings can add up big over time. Here are some ideas for lowering your monthly cash outflow.

1. Change your cell phone plan. Smartphone plans are expensive and often include features that you don’t regularly use. Because there are many companies and plans, you would benefit by comparison shopping. Along the same lines, you might also consider a no-contract arrangement. Although this might cost you more upfront, you may save more down the road and also have the flexibility to switch if you find a better deal later.

Another idea is to try prepaid phones. This can be an option if you don’t use all the minutes each month. You can also try free calling and texting apps to save more.

2. Look for savings when dining out. Many establishments offer senior discounts, either in the form of a senior menu or a percentage discount on the entire bill. Even if a senior discount is not advertised, ask the server or cashier. Often they do not volunteer this information. Since your schedule is flexible, you can also benefit from early-bird and off-peak discounts. Also check out deal sites like Groupon for savings vouchers.

Another idea is to have something to eat before you go to the restaurant. This may seem strange, but going out to eat on an empty stomach can lead you to order more than you really meant to. Also, stick with water instead of more expensive drinks or soda. If you’re dining with your spouse or a close friend or relative, you might consider ordering larger portions and splitting them.

3. Cut the cable. Many people think cable is one of life’s necessities, but is it? With the Internet, you can view many TV shows on network websites. You can also rent movies you want to see. You may enjoy cable, but if you try going without it you might well find that you don’t miss it as much as you thought.

4. Look for shopping deals. You can save a significant amount by shopping at discount stores instead of at high end shops, and by buying generic or store brands instead of national brands. For example, regular and discount supermarkets have many of the same brands as premium grocery stores, at lower prices.You can also join buyers’ clubs at stores you frequent and look for coupons and sales for even more savings.

If you want high-end brands you can also consider shopping at outlet stores. For items you use regularly but don’t have expiration dates, like trash bags and paper towels, consider joining a warehouse such as Costco and buying in bulk.

5. Save on prescription drugs. Pharmacies often vary in the rates they charge for prescription medications. You might do well by shopping different pharmacies, and also getting generic instead of brand name versions. If another pharmacy has a lower price than yours for a medicine you take, ask your pharmacy whether they will match the price.

For medications you take on an ongoing basis, try getting a 90-day supply at a time – you’ll save on co-pays. You might also try getting a prescription for a higher dose and splitting the pills. A 100 mg pill is often not much more than a 50 mg pill. Check with your doctor or pharmacist whether this is a safe option for your medicines.

You can also discuss with your doctor about ways to save on prescription costs, and look for savings options on the pharmaceutical company’s website. The NeedyMeds website also provides information on almost 6,000 financial assistance programs.

6. Turn off the lights. It’s surprising how many people leave the lights, fans, and other electric appliances on even when they’re not using them. Some people even go away on trips and leave things running. You’ll save by turning these off when you’re not using them for a while. While you’re at it, consider replacing incandescent bulbs with longer lasting, more efficient LED or CFL lights.

For electronic devices like computers, TVs, and phone chargers, consider going a step further and unplugging them when you’re not using them. These devices frequently use power even when they’re turned off.

7. Watch out for banking and other fees. Those hidden fees and expenses that your banks, investment companies, and mutual funds charge you can add up and take a significant bite out of your savings and income. Take note of all fees and expenses each institution is charging you and compare with others. Consider switching to lower cost institutions and funds.

8. Pay down debt. Perhaps the biggest cash sink is debt servicing. Payments on credit card and other high interest debt can be particularly detrimental to your pocketbook. Pay off or dispose of debts as quickly as you can, starting with the highest interest ones first. Consider refinancing to lower interest rates. And don’t take on any new debt if you can possibly avoid it.

Happiness in retirement is more about freedom and experiences than accumulating stuff. If your idea of happiness includes expensive meals out and cable TV, then feel free. But if you’re having financial shortfalls as a result, then you may want to reconsider your priorities. Remember that there are many ways to have an enjoyable and fulfilling retirement without spending a lot of money.

Watch this video for more ways to save.

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