20 Signs You're Scrimping Too Much in Retirement

Maybe I should take up a hobby...


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Maybe I should take up a hobby...

A Penny Pinched Too Hard

Few of us can afford to splurge day in and day out, especially on the fixed income of retirement. Even seniors who have good savings are watching their wallets more these days, though, and they should remember — as we all should — that there’s a big difference between a budget-busting lavish lifestyle and taking frugality too far. When your quality of life suffers unnecessarily, it’s time to take a fresh look at spending habits.

Related: Worried You May Be Too Cheap? Here Are the Tell-Tale Signs 

Senior couple buying coffee to go

1. You’ve Banned Gourmet Coffees and Other Treats

Ordering an extra-large, $5-plus fancy-pants coffee every day will add up, but it’s nice to share a cup of joe with friends every so often. Don’t sacrifice that just to save a bit by drinking only the caffeine you brew at home. Same goes for pastries and other simple pleasures. 

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Close-Up Shot of Cutting Old, Gray, Elderly Person's Hair
Jeremy Poland/istockphoto

2. You Cut Your Own Hair

If the pandemic lockdowns taught us anything, it’s that most of us cannot — we repeat, cannot — replicate the work of a skilled barber or hairdresser. You don’t have to get your hair done at the most expensive salon or the town’s hipster barber shop, but, please, unless you have the skills, treat yourself to a hairstyle created and maintained by a professional. 

Seniors in a restaurant

3. You Rarely Eat Out

There are some people who never turn on their stove, preferring to dine out or live on a diet of takeout and delivery. While dining out often costs more than eating at home, it doesn’t have to be banned. If you avoid eating out solely to save money — and when you do, stiff the waitstaff with a paltry tip (“It’s their job to serve me”) — you may need to rethink. Dining out is about more than just the food; it’s a chance to be social and sometimes, to try new things.

Related: 50 Ways to Spend Less When Eating Out

Mature black woman shopping in a clothing store

4. You Refuse to Buy New Clothes

A new sweater for the season or dress for a special event are small splurges that can yield a little boost of happiness. We’re not advocating compulsive shopping, but if you’re someone who simply rotates out the same selection of clothes year in and year out, there may be a problem. If you wear classics and keep them in excellent condition, that's fine. (It even helps the environment.) But don’t wear shabby, outdated clothing and shoes with worn-out heels simply to save money. 

A black senior woman takes an online yoga class
Fly View Productions/istockphoto

5. You Forgo Any Exercise That Has a Fee

No one wants to feel guilty for never using an expensive gym membership, but those who simply refuse to invest in any exercise program (“I can walk through my neighborhood anytime I want”) may want to broaden their horizons. Virtual classes, pay-as-you-go options, and community programs offer thrifty ways to stay in shape and socialize. 

Modern Library Building

6. Your Library Is Your Second Home

We have always loved our local libraries. Many were able to reimagine themselves during the pandemic to offer virtual programs and helpful curbside pickup of materials. Now you may rely on them even more for their free offerings. But think about whether it’s worth the effort to go to the library to read the newspaper daily. It doesn't have to be your only source of books or magazines, or the only way you watch movies or see concerts and lectures, or attend craft programs.

seniors wine tasting
Alex Potemkin/istockphoto

7. You Never Offer Invitations (but Never Refuse One)

You do not want to be the kind of person who always says “yes” to an invitation but saves a few bucks by never reciprocating. Many people extend invitations simply out of kindness, others to build a community or network, especially when new to an area. You don’t have to “repay” a kindness, but even a small gesture — an invite to cake and coffee if you’d rather not host a dinner party — is considerate. 

Senior couple at the movies

8. You Won’t Pay for a Movie Ticket

It’s okay to wait out a nationwide wave of illness until it feels safe to return to the theater. It’s not so okay if your aversion to the movie house has so much to do with the cost of the ticket that it means refusing to take the grandkids to the latest blockbuster. Catching “Forrest Gump” again on broadcast TV with microwave popcorn may save money, but it's not the same. 

Mother and son embracing at home
FG Trade/istockphoto

9. You Never Have Relatives Stay Over

Some people are uncomfortable hosting others. But if the reason is expense — extra meals, laundry loads, and the like — you’re missing the point of hospitality. Most people try to be well-behaved guests, often arriving with gifts and offers to pay for a meal out.  

Car mechanic working

10. You Neglect Routine Car Maintenance

There’s something to be said for avoiding excess costs related to car ownership, but if you’re driving with a broken taillight, faulty windshield wipers, or bald tires, it becomes a safety issue or can lead to bigger problems down the line, such as when you push the limit on miles between oil changes. (You might consider springing for a car wash, too.) 

Woman selecting milk from dairy aisle in supermarket

11. You’ll Never Allow a Single-Errand Trip

Out of milk, but you decide to do without since a trip to the store isn’t planned until Thursday? If errands are done only back-to-back to save gas, you’d better be sure you make the absolute most out of “errand day” and take care of anything that might pop up before the next trip.

Cup of tea with teabag

12. You Reuse Your Tea Bags

Anyone who’s encountered a cold, used tea bag perched on a sink can be forgiven for wanting to toss it out. As Apartment Therapy notes, tea bags can be reused, but there are some rules to follow, as “once they get dried out they become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.” Are tea bags that expensive? 

A Weekend Getaway

13. You Think Staycations Are the Only Way to Go

Yes, travel costs more than staying home, but it’s about exploring, meeting new people, seeing new things — and, yes, sometimes paying for a very pricey meal or a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Isn’t it kind of hard to compare that to your local park or your backyard?

Senior Woman Knitting

14. You Give Homemade Gifts

If your idea of celebrating someone is by making something, that’s a generous thought ... so long as you have the skills. A wobbly vase, an uneven scarf, or a portrait of someone that’s unrecognizable might be charming coming from a child; less so from a retiree. While it may be the thought that counts, that thought is not supposed to be “I want to save money.”

Senior Black Man Home Repairs

15. You Attempt Ill-Advised Home Repairs and Maintenance

There are many home repairs and maintenance projects better left to professionals. You may be able to rake your leaves instead of paying for lawn service, or assemble a small shelving unit on your own, but reconsider climbing a ladder to clean the gutters, shoveling a long driveway and straining your heart, and most anything electrical and beyond.

Related: Repairs to Leave to the Pros and Avoid DIY Disasters

Old friends on the road trip
FOTOGRAFIA INC./istockphoto

16. You’re a Fan of Carpooling — as a Passenger

“I’d love to go. What time can you pick me up?” Don’t be the friend who always is ready to hop in but never offers to drive. You might feel pampered and save a little money, but you’ll lose points on friendship. If you are the perennial passenger, always offer gas money and consider a small gift after multiple “free” trips. 

Woman hands tying a ribbon onto a Christmas gift
Vladimir Vladimirov/istockphoto

17. You Are Not Ashamed to Regift

Regifting shouldn't be the only way you “shop” for others. I’ll never forget the wealthy supervisor who give me back the same cosmetics bag I had presented to her the year before. Regifting can be done if you are careful, but are the savings really worth it? 

Senior woman deciding what to order

18. You Order Meals by Price, Always

If you do eat out, you glance at the menu and realize you’d sure like to have that signature steak or elegant dessert — but then stick to the cheaper options. Again, if you don’t enjoy a treat now and then, life can be pretty dull. 

Unrecognizable mature man having backache.

19. You ‘Deal With Pain’ on Your Own

Wow, your back is still hurting? Or maybe you are still favoring your ankle after a recent stumble? There’s a difference between being a hypochondriac and taking care of yourself when needed. The old-school “tough it out” mentality — coupled with “I don’t need to pay for a doctor to tell me it’s nothing” — can be dangerous. 

Senior man and granddaughter decorate christmas tree

20. You Forgo Holiday Traditions

Celebrating the holidays can be pricey, especially with the rising costs of everything from favorite foods to real Christmas trees. You’re allowed to complain and seek more affordable alternatives, but don’t let contrived deprivation put a damper on a festive season.

Related: Cheap or Free Family Traditions for the Holidays