Many of us envision traveling more, sipping wine in a nice restaurant and enjoying a comfortable life when we retire. However, the reality could be very different from what we imagine. A recent National Institute on Retirement Security study showed that a typical near-retirement household has only $12,000 in retirement assets. Having to watch what we spend will be an unfortunate retirement reality for many of us. However, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun in retirement. There are many low-cost options for retirees, especially in the summer. Here are some ways to have fun without busting your retirement budget:
Local events. Summer is a great time for free local entertainment options. If you live near a city, there are usually many events put on by the local parks and recreation department. We have attended live music performances by the symphony and opera, outdoor movies, block parties and many cultural festivals this summer. Check your city’s website to learn about the fun events that are waiting for you.
Many museums and zoos have free or reduced fare days for locals. For instance, our science museum only charges $2 on the first Sunday of every month. You can do some research on the Internet or call your local cultural establishments to see if there are any discount days available.
Travel on the cheap. Almost everyone I know wants to travel more after they retire. While you may have a lot more time, money might be an issue. One frugal alternative to spending a lot of money on transport and accommodation is to host a campsite at a park. If you have an RV or camping gear, this is a great way to explore the U.S. As a park host, you will work a few hours per day performing duties such as greeting visitors, distributing park literature, picking up litter and cleaning fire pits. There are thousands of beautiful state and national parks in the U.S. that could keep you busy for years.
Learn how to cook a new cuisine. We all love to dine out and enjoy great food. However, eating out all the time is very expensive and not very healthy. With more time in retirement, we can learn how to cook some of our favorite cuisines. If you enjoy eating and cooking, this can also be a great way to entertain your family and friends. Head to the library, grab a cook book or enroll in a local cooking class to get started.
Use your library. While you’re at your local library getting that cook book, talk to a librarian about the entertainment options available to you for free. Why not borrow more books, music and movies from the library? Most libraries have an Internet reservation system, and you can request the latest season of Downton Abbey with a click of a mouse. Who knows, maybe you’ll be happy enough with the library to cancel your cable subscription like we did.
Take up energy boosting workouts. Sports are a lot of fun, but as we get older our bodies might need some alternative exercise routines. Try yoga, tai chi or pilates to see if you will enjoy them. The easiest way to get started is to enroll in a few classes so the instructor can help you get going. Don’t get discouraged if a particular instructor doesn’t match well with you, though. Try different studios or gyms until you find a good instructor that you like. Once you learn a bit more, you can get books and DVDs to help you practice at home. These alternative exercises are a great way to spend your time, and they will help you feel better as well.
You’ll have a lot of time in retirement, so it’s worth it to research affordable entertainment options or learn new skills. It’s easy to spend a lot of money on entertainment, but you can still have plenty of fun on a budget as well.
Read more on U.S. News and World Report:
Earlier on HuffPost:
1. Rent Your Retirement Toys
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 the 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, storage off-site when you tire of 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 Belonging To Friends
To state the obvious, you can always rent a boat for a day of sailing or a weekend at sea. You also let your boat-owning friends know that you're "thinking" of buying one and ask if they would mind taking you out for the day? Most boat owners love to show off their toys. And 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.