As more and more of the baby boomers reach retirement, there seems to be a steady flow of articles and advice in magazines and newspapers, on TV, and all over the internet about how we should plan out our expenditures and budget for the future.
Chief among the savings that can be realized is the cost of commuting to work. In the years that I worked for DC Comics, commuting costs -- parking at the train station, train fare and subway fare -- were a hefty chuck of change. Working for Preload reduced those costs substantially as my commuting was all in the car and, even at their highest prices, gas costs were lower than the trips to New York City. And when I moved to Combined Resources, only five and a half miles from home, the gas cost was substantially reduced (and eliminated on those days when I rode my bicycle).
Another big reduction could be the cost of meals eaten out. Plenty of people I've worked with stopped for coffee and a (fill in the blank) on their way to work, went out for or ordered in lunch, and even got take-out for dinner on the way home. Maybe they're still going out for meals -- we know of couples who've retired in which the spouse who had been preparing the meals all these years has announced "I'm done cooking...forever!" -- but there's still the potential for a reduction, if only because the odds on anyone going out to eat three times a day seems a bit extreme.
And a third category of savings is on clothing. Since you don't have to dress up to go to work, you save on the cost of new clothes (particularly such things as suits), as well as dry-cleaning and any other laundry services you might require.
There are certainly some potential increases in expenses that can come along with retirement too. Many articles talk about people who decide to go traveling near and fall victim to being in "vacation mode," overspend and blow their budget away. Others warn that as we get older, we start to wear out and need more medical attention; even with the best insurance, co-pays can add up quickly.
I have not seen any articles, however, that talk about the little things, those hidden expenses that can add up, so let me bring up just a few that I have noticed in my relatively short period of retirement.
* Coffee, milk, sweetener: I drink two or three cups of coffee a day. When I was working, I drank virtually all of them in the office, where we had a coffee pot and it did not cost me anything. Now that I'm home, I'm making it myself. I actually had to buy a new package of coffee filters last month; I hadn't done that since I got a package of 300 back in about 2003!
* Electricity: Maybe not such a big difference, but I'm sitting at my laptop at home checking my email, roaming the internet and playing Words With Friends, rather than doing it at a desk in the office. And if it's hot, I've got the a/c running, which certainly wouldn't happen if I wasn't here.
* Supplies for those chores I never got around to: Case in point, I've been systematically removing and re-leveling most of the paving stones in our back yard. This is not something I'd be doing if I was still working; I would have pulled up the half dozen that had sunk particularly low and that would have been it. Instead, I've bought eight bags of sand (and counting) because after I do one spot, I realize that I now have another section that needs adjusting.
* And, finally, toilet paper: Not saying any more except that when you were out of the house eight to ten hours a day, there was stuff happening regularly that is now happening at home.