11 Expenses to Cut Now If You Want to Retire Early

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Many people dream of retiring early. In fact, there’s even a movement these days, called FIRE, that offers the hope of financial independence (FI) and the ability to retire early (RE) from the grind.

However, it’s important to note that, in many cases, FIRE requires a great deal of planning — and sacrifice. You might need to reduce or eliminate some of your spending to set aside enough money to reach your FIRE goals.

Let’s take a look at some of the expenditures common to U.S. households, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and ways to reduce spending so that you’re more likely to reach FIRE status.

Note: The following costs from the BLS are for households of all ages and many sizes, including families, single people or more than two people living together.

1. Shelter

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The average spent on shelter by U.S. households in 2018: $11,747

Want to reduce your housing costs? Consider getting a roommate or downsizing. You could even move in with relatives for a time.

However, if you prefer to maintain your own home, you can turn it into a moneymaker. Rent out a room through a vacation rental website like Airbnb or Vrbo, rent out your whole home when you’re not there, or explore the other options we detail in “8 Ways to Earn Extra Income With Your Home.”

You’ll pay off your mortgage faster, reducing your costs and providing a place to live debt-free after you retire.

2. Groceries

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The average spent on groceries by U.S. households in 2018: $4,646

Looking to cut your food bill? While coupons can help, there are other ways to reduce what you spend each week — from buying bread at bakery outlets to learning to make your groceries last longer.

On top of that, if you want to make some extra money, there are ways to earn cash delivering groceries. A little extra, set aside from your gig, can get you to FIRE status that much faster.

3. Vehicle purchases

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The average spent on vehicle purchases by U.S. households in 2018: $3,975

If you want to avoid this cost, one way is to get your car to last a little longer to avoid buying something else.

If you do make a vehicle purchase, consider buying a late-model used car. Some gently used models can save you as much as 56% compared with the price of a new model.

4. Eating out

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The average spent on eating out by U.S. households in 2018: $3,459

Maybe it even makes sense to spend more on groceries while spending less on eating out. Cooking at home is usually a lot cheaper than getting take-out or using meal kits. It certainly costs less than eating at a restaurant.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t go out. With a little planning, it’s possible to slash your restaurant costs, as we detail in “A Former Restaurant Critic Shares Her 11 Best Tips for Dining Out Cheaply but Well.” All that savings can be put into an account designed to help you reach your FIRE goals.

5. Gas and motor oil

Man pumping gas
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The average spent on gas by U.S. households in 2018: $2,109

Keeping your car running can be costly. There are ways to save at the pump, though. Taking the time to reduce what you spend on gas can pay off in the end.

Another way to save money on gas is to use public transit if it’s available and reliable. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the average commuter loses nearly seven days a year to extra traffic delays, which translates to more than $1,000 in personal costs.

Plus, if you’re not using your car, you can make extra money by renting it out. That can offset some of your costs and even increase the capital you end up with, helping you get to FIRE.

6. Clothing and footwear

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The average spent on clothing by U.S. households in 2018: $1,866

One of the best ways to save on clothing is to shop at thrift stores or secondhand shops. For pointers from a veteran thrift store shopper, check out “11 Secrets to Finding Quality Clothing at Thrift Shops.”

There are also plenty of online sites gently used clothing, including brand-name and designer clothing. You can even make money off the clothes you no longer wear by selling them online using a service like thredUP.

7. Cellphone service

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The average spent on cellphone service by U.S. households in 2018: $1,188

Looking to save hundreds of dollars a year on cellphone service? Consider switching carriers, joining a family plan and buying your phone outright instead of buying it on a payment plan. With a little planning and creativity, you can get the connectivity you crave for less.

For help finding cheaper service or a cheaper phone, check out Money Talks News’ phone and plan comparison tool.

8. Car insurance

Couple looking at computer and bill.
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The average spent on car insurance by U.S. households in 2018: $976

Take the time to shop around for car insurance each time your policy is up for renewal, and you could save money each month. If you don’t have time or don’t want to comparison shop, a third-party service like The Zebra or Gabi can do it for you and give you quotes to choose from.

Or, avoid the need for car insurance completely by using public transportation.

9. Alcoholic drinks

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The average spent on alcoholic drinks by U.S. households in 2018: $583

Want to reduce your drinking bill? The best way to save is to give it up. If that’s not your style, consider buying alcohol at a warehouse club. You can get a lower price and those savings can fuel your FIRE effort.

Not a warehouse club member? That’s not a problem at some chains, including Sam’s Club — you can buy wine, beer and spirits there without a membership.

10. Prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and vitamins

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The average spent on drugs and vitamins by U.S. households in 2018: $483

The good news is, you can slash your prescription drug costs by as much as 50% by using tips such as paying with a discounted gift card or even paying out of pocket for some medications, as we detail in “5 Ways I Slashed My Prescription Drug Costs.”

Take the time to shop around and compare prices, too. There are free websites that make this easy, and you might be surprised at how much you can save.

11. Cleaning supplies

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The average spent on cleaning supplies by U.S. households in 2018: $184

This category includes laundry detergent, which can be expensive. You might be surprised to learn that you might not need laundry detergent at all on lightly soiled clothes, and that, if you do want it, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to make. See “3 Easy Ways to Get Laundry Soap for Nearly Nothing.”

Other cleaning supplies are just as easy and cheap to make on your own, as we detail in “9 Expensive Cleaning Supplies You Can Easily Make for Pennies.” There’s no reason to spend much on cleaning supplies at all.

Are you trying to reach FIRE? Let us know how you’re making it happen. Post a comment below or on the Money Talks News Facebook page.

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