Somewhere in your 50s, it dawns on you that maybe ― just maybe ― you don’t have enough money to live as you’d like to live in retirement. There are two ways to handle this: Roll back your retirement expectations or just stop spending so much now and save it for the future. Here are some concrete things you can do to quit wasting money:
1. Refinance your house.
Chances are, at age 50+, you’ve owned your humble abode for quite awhile now. The average buyer stays put for 13 years.
No matter what your mortgage interest rate is, see if you can do better. Interest rates on home loans are at historic lows. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is down to 3.44 percent ― close to its all-time low of 3.31 percent in November 2012. A 15-year fixed mortgage rate is now 2.76 percent. Plus the market is filled with loans that have zero closing costs ― not even a loan application fee or charge for the appraisal.
This means there is absolutely no good reason not to pick up the phone and call your lender. A drop from 4.25 percent to a 3.5 percent interest rate on a $400,000 mortgage saves about $400 a month. Wouldn’t that be a nice addition to your piggybank?
2. Meet for drinks on your home deck, not the hotel bar.
Alcohol is one of those things where the markup can be jaw-dropping. Wine in restaurants is often marked up 300 percent, says Decanter magazine. Going for drinks is really about socializing, right? So why not invite folks over instead of meeting up some place commercial? You’ll not only spend less on booze, think of all those 20 percent tips that will stay in your pocket.
3. Skip the hotel when you travel.
The sharing economy has opened lots of new options for travel, not the least of which is the idea of staying in other people’s homes. You can start small if a jump into AirBnB scares you. Offer your sister-in-law a house swap, or ask your old college room-mate if you can stay with her for a few nights.
Couch-surfing will save you a bundle. According to TripAdvisor, the average cost of staying in a four-star hotel in San Francisco was more than $380 a night in 2014. Consider that your host is likely to offer you breakfast and your savings begins to mount.
4. Rediscover the public library.
Long before there was an Amazon to mail you books, there was the public library system that would let you borrow them for free. Today’s 120,000 public libraries offer more than just free book loans; they also let you borrow movies, music, use their computers and WiFi, and provide tons of free programming. Your free library card is worth its weight in gold. Entertainment doesn’t come any cheaper than this.
5. End your love affair with Apple.
Speaking generically here, do you really need to upgrade your phone every time a new one hits the market? Is the iPhone 7 really that much different from the iPhone 6? (Besides, we like our headphone jack.)
6. Rethink car ownership.
I know in some Los Angeles circles, such talk is heresy. But seriously, work out the numbers. Is it cheaper to keep making car payments, buy gas, replace tires, change the oil and replace brakes, not to mention pay for car insurance and parking? Or would you save money and still get to go where you needed to go by using Uber and Lyft, public transportation and the occasional car rental? Private automobile ownership may offer convenience, but how much are you willing to pay for it?
Some couples have pared down to just one car, realizing that the other one had been a costly driveway fixture. Some even car-share with neighbors.
And of course there is always the bike ― good for both your wallet and your heart.