Retirement, by definition, was supposed to be our "Me Time." It was when we -- no longer shackled to a job that claimed the bulk of our waking hours -- would be able to indulge ourselves: kids grown, house downsized, golf clubs at the ready. And then along came the recession and self-indulgence -- spending -- became a four-letter word.
Never mind that the recession depleted our savings, extended our support of offspring and killed our idea of retirement -- working until we are 70 is the new reality. What it also did was change our attitude about spending. In short, it demonized it. Being maxed out on your credit cards is no longer something everyone does. Tell someone today that you want to buy a second home and they offer to make you an appointment with their brother-in-law, the shrink.
Big Spending is about as evil as Big Banks and Big Pharma. It's what got us into this mess, the masses believe, in denial that Big Spending may actually be the fix, not the problem. But party lines aside, we have become a nation of spendthrifts and frugality is our secret handshake.
So how can you have the retirement you always dreamed of and still be frugal?
1. Rent Your Retirement Toys, Don't Buy Them.
Where do you see most RVs? Parked in their owner's driveways for 11 months a year. So instead of rushing out to buy one for $100,000, check out renting it instead. We're told a pretty nice Airstream that sleeps six will set you back $2,000 per week. In general, the rule of thumb has always been to own what appreciates and lease what depreciates. Do you really want to walk past that behemoth in the driveway five times a day knowing it devalues a little more each month with age? And don't forget about the other costs of RV ownership: insurance, maintenance and storage off-site when you tire of using it as a lawn decoration.
2. When You Do Buy, Buy Used.
Our favorite places to shop are thrift stores near retirement communities. Golf clubs and golf carts show up frequently in these shops at a fraction of their original cost. We also comb the classifieds of the retirement community newsletters for gently used cars; you can find some gems with low mileage.
3. Boats Are Things That Belong To Friends.
To state the obvious, you can always rent a boat for a day of sailing or a weekend at sea. You can also let your boat-owning friends know that you're "thinking" of buying one and ask if they wouldn't mind taking you out for the day? Most boat owners love to show off their toys. You can become the guests they always invite back by going a little overboard with the food and drink you bring. Boat owners we know say the guests they like the most are the ones who stick around long enough after the sail to help clean up and secure the vessel.
4. Swap And Trade Are Words To Live By.
Offer your guest room to out-of-town visitors and you'll feel better asking to use theirs. Use a home-swapping service when you visit new places. Trade your plumbing skills with the house-painter's. You sew and your neighbor bakes like a pro; order up a birthday cake and offer to take up a few hems. The one commodity that retirement gives everyone is time. Barter it for the lifestyle you want.
5. Get What You Can For Free, And That's Plenty.
Public libraries rent out not only books and movies, but they also run lots of free programs including lectures. Parks hold concerts in the summer for free. Colleges frequently allow those 55+ to audit classes for free; you won't earn credits toward a degree, but you will learn some new things.