Monthly Expenses Draining the Budget?

Learning to budget

Best Ways to Become a Money Miser.

One of the biggest challenges we all face – regardless of whether we’re seniors well into the retirement years or millennials just starting out – is the ability to stretch our budget. It can be quite difficult to maximize every dollar we spend to squeeze out a little extra each month, but with a little creativity, every budget can be squeezed just a little bit.

Let’s explore some of the most common budget-crushing expenses seniors face, and ways to help reduce spending in those categories.

Budget-Crusher #1 – Vehicle Expenses 

According to statistics provided by online resource NerdWallet, the average cost of vehicle ownership per year is $8,698. The figure includes a vehicle that is driven an estimated 15,000 miles per year, along with all associated costs (fuel, tires, maintenance and repairs, taxes, license and registration fees, insurance and interest/financing). Costs can vary depending on the vehicle and area in which is it being operated.

So what are some of the easiest ways to reduce vehicle expenses?

The easiest way to reduce the amount of money spent on vehicle ownership is to not own a vehicle. For seniors who are fortunate enough to live in an area with reliable public transportation or in a senior community that provides transportation for its residents, giving up vehicle ownership is easy.

Not keen on always having to take the bus or subway to go places? Rideshare services like ZipCar and Uber are great alternatives.

If eliminating vehicle ownership from your budget isn’t realistic for any reason, there are still things that can be done to help save money in this area.

First and foremost, a properly maintained vehicle is the best way to reduce unnecessary expenses. When tires are properly inflated, a vehicle will not use more gas than necessary. When oil is regularly changed, it prolongs the life of your vehicle’s engine. Following your vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule is the best bet for keeping your vehicle running smoothly.

For the tech savvy among us, there are a variety of apps available to help keep vehicle costs in check. Among the most popular are:

  • Gas Buddy – this app, available for both Apple and Android operating systems, helps users to find the best prices on gasoline in their area. With the average American spending more than $2,000 annually on gas per vehicle owned, saving on gas can be a great way to cut monthly expenses.
  • Repair Pal – this app is available for both Apple and Android operating systems. It provides users with a rough estimate on how much repairs should cost for a specific issue based on the model of car and its location.
  • Parker – this app, available for both Apple and Android systems, helps users find available parking spaces. It also is handy in helping to find the most affordable parking deals in any area.

Budget Crusher #2 – Food Expenses

Food expenses are right up there with medical costs when it comes to necessities that can be difficult to trim when budgets need cutting.

There are some great ways to reduce the amount of money being spent on food each month or, at the very least, to ensure food is not being wasted once it is purchased. They include:

  • Buying in bulk – stores like Costco allow shoppers to buy items used most frequently in bulk, which can reduce the overall cost per unit purchased.
  • Compare prices – everyone has a preferred store, but when it comes to groceries, being unwilling to shop at lower-priced stores can really hit the budget hard. Stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s provide quality food at discount prices.
  • Meal planning – it can be easy to spend more money on groceries each week than necessary when impulse shopping happens. The best way to avoid buying things you neither want nor need is to create a meal plan for the week prior to visiting the grocery store. Only buy items on your list.
  • Save leftovers – even if you’re just cooking for yourself or yourself and a spouse, make a little extra and freeze it for later. Buying – and cooking – in bulk is a great way to cut costs.
  • Eliminate pre-packaged foods – by preparing your own foods from scratch, not only will you save money, you also will improve your overall health by avoiding the kinds of preservatives and food additives that are included in convenience foods.

Lastly, consider brewing your own coffee (or tea) at home. The average person spends about $120 per month on fancy coffees, lattes and other drinks at places like Starbucks. After just five years, that’s nearly $8,000 spent for the privilege of having someone else make your coffee.

Budget Crusher #3 – Clothing, Furniture, and Appliances

Clothing is considered a necessity, especially for seniors who may be working part time through their retirement and are required to dress in a certain way for their job.

There are plenty of ways to help save money on clothing costs, including shopping at thrift and discount clothing stores. Shopping at the right time of year also can produce significant savings. January and August are among the best months to shop for clothing deals. For individuals who are not slaves to current fashion trends, shopping in the offseason is another great way to save on clothing. For instance, buying summer clothes when they are being offered on clearance before fall/winter clothing is rolled out is a guaranteed way to save.

Furniture and appliances can be significant expenses as well. Fortunately, they are not usually items that need to be purchased every year. If you do find yourself in need of a replacement fridge or couch, consider these cost-savings measures:

  • Buy used – buying furniture and appliances from thrift stores or those specializing in gently-used refurbished items.
  • Watch for sales – if that new fridge isn’t an immediate need, consider waiting until a good deal is advertised.
  • Buy a floor model – stores don’t often advertise this, but many are willing to sell floor models of appliances and furniture at discounted prices. Just ask.

Budget Crusher #4 – Insurance Products

Homeowners, health and vehicle insurance can be expensive.

When it comes to health insurance, considering downgrading to save money, especially if you are in relatively good health and require very little medical intervention each year. Plans with higher deductibles or copayments generally provide lower monthly premiums. Don’t be afraid to shop around each year when Medicare and Medicaid open enrollment periods begin.

For homeowners and car insurance, consider bundling those services with the same carrier to increase savings. Many insurance companies offer discounts for consumers who group their policies. As with health insurance policies, agreeing to plans with higher deductibles can help save on monthly premiums.

Have some ideas for savings you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Mary Spann

Mary Spann

Mary Spann is the founder and president of Upside of Downsizing®. In addition to her 26 years in construction, interior design, and home staging, Mary also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, making her uniquely qualified to assist with the downsizing process. Mary learned the key components of construction and interior design at an early age. Her father was a prominent custom home builder in Minnesota and Texas, and her mother was a successful interior designer and a real estate broker.
Mary Spann

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