How to Live on Low Income during Retirement

The day you receive your last paycheck can be as exciting as it is terrifying. Reality hits. From that day forward, you will be living on a considerably smaller income. If you depend on Social Security checks, which come out on the same day of the same week each month, you will seldom receive Cost of Living increases. Should you be fortunate enough to have savings and/or supplemental income from pension or other sources, you will want to remain cautious concerning spending. For most Americans, finances were a concern while gainfully employed, and they will remain a concern during retirement. So, just how does one adjust to low income in retirement?

Financial Visual for Upcoming Year

First of all, look ahead for the entire next year. Mark the date for each month on which you will receive your retirement check(s). Using a different colored ink mark on the calendar the due date for each ongoing bill. As additional bills come along, add them to each appropriate month that payment will be required. This process allows you to keep track in advance so payments are not missed. Be sure to add those items that occur periodically. For example, insurance payments (auto, home, life and health); automobile licensing, inspection, oil changes and upkeep servicing; taxes and any other miscellaneous expenses.

By reviewing your year’s financials, you will know whether or not additional income will be necessary. Should you be financially stable, you will be able to enjoy your retirement. However, if you are coming up short or too close to be comfortable, determine the amount of income that would be required to live without worries and yet not be penalized for earning above Social Security’s allowable limit. Be sure to read all of the material provided to you by Social Security so you have a thorough understanding of your benefits and what is required of you.


Perhaps you never had the time for meal planning and coupon usage. Now is a perfect time to begin. Go through your magazines and newspapers each week and clip those coupons that are for items you would normally purchase. The best way to store them is to have envelopes labeled: Refrigerator; Freezer; Cans; Soaps; Produce, etc. Once a month go through each envelope and remove any for which the expiration date has passed.

When the weekly grocery ads arrive, determine which store has the most items on sale that you would typically purchase. Keeping those sales in mind, prepare your meals for the coming week. Try to purchase mainly the sale items. Prepare a grocery list. Check your coupons to see if you have any for items on your list. Also pull out coupons for necessities that are not on sale, such as tissue paper, aluminum foil, toothpaste and other toiletries.

Avoid shopping when you are hungry, since you will most likely be tempted to make unnecessary purchases and run up your grocery bill.

The Public Market is an amazing place to purchase produce at less than grocery store prices. If at all possible, it is worth your time and energy to make a weekly trip to the Public Market. Again, buy items that are on your list or foods that you know you will eat within the week.


Adjustment in income may also mean an adjustment in your current housing situation. The house in which you reside may be too costly. While this should have been a consideration prior to retirement, it is something to be dealt with right away.

Determine whether it is feasible for you to purchase a smaller residence or rent one. Weigh the pros and cons as well as all the costs involved. If need be, obtain the advice of someone you trust who has expertise in the real estate market.

While everybody has dreams and desires, sometimes our wallets can’t afford them. List the absolute “musts” for your residence. Can you live in a less expensive neighborhood, county or state? Would it be more beneficial to move into a seniors apartment complex or independent living situation? A suggestion would be to conduct research using such tools as AARP, local senior groups and the Internet. One such site on the Internet is, which has a wealth of information and suggestions.

Consider the possibility of building onto the home of one of your adult children or converting their basement or garage into a living space. Speak with them about this being a possibility. In this way you would have your own space and you would have the security of knowing a loved one is nearby to be of assistance or to check in on you.

Medicaid and Medicare

Your physician’s office should be able to provide you with information and contact telephone numbers to obtain all the important details concerning these benefits. There are time lines and other specifics to be met and choices to make. Check with your local senior citizen agency for help to understand what these plans entail. Trying to comprehend it on your own may be too overwhelming. However, you will want to take advantage of the benefits for which you are eligible as they will cut down on your medical expenses.

 Only you can review your normal daily living to decipher what needs your attention now that your lifestyle is changing. Since you don’t want to overspend, decide what can be eliminated or changed. If you have the newspaper delivered daily, you may wish to change it to a couple times a week; don’t renew all of your magazine subscriptions, just those you enjoy the most; eat out at restaurants less and plan your errands. By planning your errands you will save on time, energy and, most of all, you will use less gasoline.

Retirement will be a most enjoyable time, if you use your income wisely. Take advantage of the activities in your community that are senior-oriented. Participate in the meals served at senior centers, which will give you meals out and the compatibility of others. In addition, you’ll pick up other ideas and tips from speaking with those in your financial situation.

Happy Retirement. You deserve it.