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Set yourself up with a cushion

Many people mistake cushion funds for emergency funds, which are usually three to six months worth of savings to handle a sudden health setback or other money emergency.

Think of a cushion fund as a step beyond emergency savings, or as some on the internet choose to call it, a “F— off fund”. They act as buffers that can apply to a broader range of purposes that include investments, and help you avoid dipping into retirement savings and what you have set aside for actual emergencies.

Cushion funds offer a great way to ease some of the anxiety about paying day-to-day expenses in retirement.

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Cut the food waste

The pantry is an often overlooked drain on our funds, as many folks literally bite off more than they can chew. A recent report found Americans waste on average one-third of groceries they buy. The lesson? Make a shopping list, stick to it in the aisles, and see how much you can save over time.

Also consider cutting back on eating out or at least switching from restaurant dinners to lunches, which tend to cost less. Meanwhile, plan your meals and cook at home to zero in on exactly what you need when grocery shopping — and where possible, buy items on sale.

Cancel those subscriptions

Forgotten subscriptions can cost more than $100 a month, a huge amount for anyone on a small income. A 2022 study from C + R Research found that Americans severely underestimate what they pay in monthly subscriptions.

Among the leading types of forgotten subscriptions are auto-pay TV and movie apps, with their seemingly small monthly costs that can really add up. While Gen Zers were most likely to forget about which services they subscribed to, around 40% of Gen X and a quarter of baby boomer respondents said they forget about their subscriptions but still pay for them.

The study also found that many Americans feel overwhelmed about the monthly services they pay for; cutting services you never use will save money and stress.

And while you’re at it, consider canceling streaming apps in favor of a traditional cable service if you find the numbers come out on your side.

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Pay your credit card ASAP

This should be a priority in any scenario, especially if you plan to optimize a smaller income. Monthly payments with high interest will sap your cash flow and keep you stuck.

Make a goal to pay off the cards — and stick to it. Otherwise, if you’ve got a large balance, your minimum payments may not make a dent, and you may even wind up falling further behind without even spending a dime.

Find ways to cut medical expenses

Health care costs can eat up retirement savings quickly, so it’s smart to take proactive steps to improve your health and avoid costly doctor’s visits. Programs such as the SilverSneakers gym membership program, available with some Medicare programs, offer free or reduced-cost access to participating fitness centers.

Also, find ways to cut prescription costs, like using generic drugs when possible or moving your prescriptions to an online pharmacy that doesn’t charge based on the overhead of brick-and-mortar stores. Sites such as Needymeds.org can help you find generic or brand name medicines through a patient assisted program (PAP) for free or at a discounted price. Meanwhile, the award-winning ClearHealthCosts website allows you to comparison shop, since there’s no standard price set for any medical procedure.

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Chris Clark Freelance Contributor

Chris Clark is freelance contributor with MoneyWise, based in Kansas City, Mo. He has written for numerous publications and spent 18 years as a reporter and editor with The Associated Press.

Disclaimer

The content provided on Moneywise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.