Shopping and Budgeting Tips for Retirees, and Not Bad Advice for the Rest of Us

PiggyBankWhen asked to write for our website, I thought about what some of my pastimes are and how I could relate one of them to our clients and their needs. Is it okay to admit that I like to shop? Not really until I drop mind you, but shopping for most anything is fun for me. However, I am a responsible shopper and never go without my budget far from my mind. In fact, I like putting budgets together. I was even flattered when my neighbors solicited my help with their budget. It was fun to help them feel empowered with how they were spending their money and meeting their goals. You too can get that same euphoric feeling by creating your family’s budget, sticking to it, and getting on track financially. You may not need to budget to the last penny, but sometimes it is good to have a few ideas of how to watch the small spending, so you can more easily enjoy bigger spending, such as trips and expensive toys. So, here are some basic shopping tips and tricks for retirees, and not bad advice for the rest of us, to get you started on a path to financial responsibility and freedom in your golden years. A financially secure retirement involves more than building a substantial nest egg. To maximize each dollar, you also need to adapt long-term spending habits to your new way of life. You can do this! You have already done this many times throughout the years: paying off student loans, saving for a down payment on a house, paying off the mortgage on the house, paying for tuition, buying a car, paying for Christmas, etc. So you have already shown yourself that you can do this.

However, adjusting to this new normal isn’t always easy, especially when a little retail therapy is a tempting excuse to get out of the house.

“Many of the retirees I interviewed have the same structure of spending that they did when they were working,” says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow in an interview with USA Today. In her book, Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy, Yarrow analyzes the motivations and behavior of thousands of consumers, including retirees. She cautions that when consumers are anxious, isolated or bored, they may try to fill the void with a trip to the mall.

To avoid some shopping pitfalls, here are some tips for smart retirement shopping:

1: HAVE A BUDGET Reconsider your priorities, including the possibility of scaling back to a more affordable lifestyle. List essentials and factor in the unexpected, like car repairs, and then calculate your disposable income. Get in the habit of saving a little each month just for those unexpected financial pitfalls that happen to all of us eventually. That way, they don’t create as much havoc on your budget when you have to pay those unexpected bills because you were prepared for them all along.

2: USE A SHOPPING LIST Stores are designed to encourage impulse buys. Enroute to the paper towel aisle, consumers may pass by enticing items, landing at check-out with unplanned purchases, like a new 70” TV. One tip is to invoke the 24-hour rule, and head home whenever you are gripped with the urge to buy something expensive that you weren’t planning for. Most of the time, you will probably not even go back.

3: THINK TWICE ABOUT BARGAINS Retailers lure in bargain hunters with the “great deal.” For retirees on a tight budget, discount havens such as dollar stores may be treacherous. Everything is so inexpensive that it’s a license to stock up with warehouse size quantities. Plus, you then have to find a place to store everything when you get home. Sometimes that thought alone is enough to make me put an item back before I reach the check-out. My home is only so big.

4: DON’T CONFUSE SHOPPING WITH SOCIALIZING Retirees who feel isolated may head to the store to socialize. Instead, consider more rewarding options that are free: volunteer in your community or join organizations that interest you. Perhaps meet a friend for coffee (cheaper that a shopping spree), and chat the whole afternoon. Fun!

5: PICK A MODERATE SPENDING SHOPPING COMPANION Consider the kind of shopper you’re heading to the store with before inviting this person along. If your friend has expensive tastes, you may end up spending more yourself. Again, it really does help if you are a list person. I like to take one with me on every grocery shopping trip I do. Make a list and STICK TO IT!! Maybe allow yourself a maximum of one or two impulse buys (did I mention the 70” TV? just kidding).

Have fun shopping. I hope you feel more empowered knowing that when you are walking up and down the aisles that you aren’t spending more than you wish you had. That way you can responsibly save up your funds and get the 70” TV! Of course, now you may need to start thinking about a new home with a wall big enough for it.