Smart Ways to Save Money in the Empty Nest
Once your children are no longer living at home, empty nesters can find many ways to save money. The myriad extra expenses that raising children brings, from clothing and feeding them to private tutors, extracurricular activities, college tuition and more are gone, and it's time to start thinking about yourselves and what you want to do now and in retirement and beyond.
Downsize Your home
The most significant expense for any family is more often than not the mortgage or rent payment. If you have thought about downsizing at retirement, there's no reason not to consider it now, if you are still employed. For those who qualify, there is a one-time gain exclusion of $250,000 after the age of 55, which can make downsizing even more appealing. If you own your home, many of the extra expenses - pool maintenance, high heating, and a/c bills, gardening and household cleaning services and overall maintenance - can be reduced or eliminated completely.
Household Utility Bills
Without even trying, it's likely that you will notice a nice reduction in your household utility bills. With fewer people living in the house and using the bathrooms, appliances, TVs, washers and dryers and so many other things, utility bills will go down.
Take a close look at your cable bill now that you are empty nesters. If you don't need the premium channels, cancel access to them and save a nice sum of money each month. If you don't watch much television at all, install Apple TV, Hulu or Netflix and cancel cable access altogether. With only the Internet service to pay for and fewer TVs in the house, you can save upwards of $200-$300 a month, depending on what you've been paying up until now.
Your grocery bills will go down with fewer people in the home. But beyond that, you no longer have to buy food you don't eat or want in your house with your kids gone. The chips, cookies, ice cream and other treats being that were readily available are no longer needed, for the most part. It is a great time to revamp your diet and focus on what you want to eat and not what your children want.
As empty nesters, dining out becomes more and more appealing. Cooking for two can be a time-consuming task that, especially for those who work outside the home, can be reduced dramatically with inexpensive options available for restaurants. If it works with your schedule, lots of places have happy hour deals that can be great money savers, and there are discounts at a great variety of restaurants, too. Always ask at restaurants if they offer discounts for patrons who are 50 plus.
When your kids are still college students, you can get a discount from most insurance companies if they are not driving while they are at school. If your student is getting good grades, that can also help with the cost of insurance premiums. If you have older kids who are on their own and still on your plan, there's nothing wrong with asking them to pay you on a monthly basis for the cost of their insurance.
Increase Your Savings
Many empty nesters are concerned about having enough money to be able to retire someday in the not-so-distant future. If you have lived comfortably while raising your kids, calculate how much you are saving each month with them moved out and on their own and increase your savings or 401k contributions if possible. Avoid making any big purchases the first year or so of being empty nesters and see how much cash you have to divert to investments or savings.
Travel More for Less
Family vacations are a huge expense that is cut by half or more for empty nesters. Traveling with family while raising children means following school vacation timelines, and for the most part, those are the most expensive and crowded times to be on the road. As empty nesters, you can now travel during the offseason when room rates are often lower, along with plane fares. Organizations like AARP offer discounts on everything from car rentals to excursions for members and those who are senior citizens, so take advantage of them.
Cut Life Insurance Plans
Once your kids are supporting themselves - and even their own families - your life insurance needs may change substantially. Re-evaluate what your monthly expense for life insurance is vs. what you need to have in insurance benefits for your spouse. Depending on the health of your financial investments and savings, you may not need as much life insurance as you did when the loss of your income would have been a burden for your spouse.
Find Part-Time Work
If you were a stay-at-home parent, it might be difficult to find work once your young adults leave home. Whatever industry you were in when you left the workforce to raise your children, it's likely to have changed dramatically since your exit. Whether you are looking for extra income or a new challenge, a part-time job is a good place to start. Let friends and neighbors know you are on the hunt for something and put together a resume' with your skills and experience highlighted instead of your work history. Once you find a job, put all of your income into savings as if you weren't working at all, and watch it grow rapidly.
Start a Home Based Business
If you are skilled at making or doing something - knitting, painting, writing, cooking, baking, etc. - a home-based business can be a wonderful way to earn extra cash without having to spend weeks - or months - searching for a job. Hire someone to create a website for you and get started. Use social media to promote your business and ask friends and family to let everyone they know that you are available and have skills that they need. It may take some time to get things going, but the process can be exciting and fun with the right attitude.
Get Organized and Sell
Cleaning out closets, drawers, attics, and basements are always something empty nesters finally find the time to do when kids leave home. It's very possible you will discover valuable items that you no longer want or need. Designer clothes, handbags, and shoes can be sold on dedicated websites like The Real Real, while other items - china, silver, artwork, decorative objects - can be listed for sale on eBay or other resale sites. Scour your home for things you no longer need, want or can store, if you have decided to downsize. Just be sure to ask your kids before selling anything of theirs!