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Unexpected changes in post-retirement expenses
Old 02-06-2020, 10:27 AM   #1
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Unexpected changes in post-retirement expenses

I was just going through the process of reconciling our bills this month and noticed that our quarterly water bill was up from last year, with about 25% more water used since October. I was little perplexed, because it is not lawn watering season (when our bills can and have varied considerably depending on how dry the summer is), nor has there been a rate increase. So I wondered whether we might have a leak.

It was the young wife who figured it out - since we're now home everyday, we flush the toilets a lot more than we did when we were both working last year. I expect that if I dig into the bill details, our electric and gas usage will also be higher, since we keep the house warmer when we are home (we have had set-back thermostats for years) and have more lights on during the day.

These are small bills, but I had not really thought about the fact that they would inevitably go up after we retired. For me, an interesting lesson in the limits of my abilities as a planner.

Have you found that some of your expenses changed in ways you did not expect?
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Old 02-06-2020, 10:45 AM   #2
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Our water bill went up big time also as I w*rked 22 out of 28 days and took showers at work. Laundry is about the same as I wore uniforms underground. Around the house, I have a set of "w*rk" clothes that I use around the house and at rentals, so my "civvies" are good for a couple of days, as I only eat breakfast and dinner in them.
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Old 02-06-2020, 11:10 AM   #3
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I am so glad that I live in an area with no shortage of water. OK, we have floods now and then, but my house has never flooded. Anyway, I don't think I have ever paid more than the minimum water bill, which is $3.02/month, and that is even with F doing his laundry over at my house for the past year or so (since his washer broke and since I don't care if he comes over to wash his clothes because I enjoy his company; we have a great time chatting).

A while back F had a bill that was a couple of dollars higher than the minimum, and immediately called his plumber who fixed a leak for him that was under the slab and not easy to see.

What really surprised me after retirement, is how low my entertainment expenses have been. I am perfectly happy doing relatively cheap things like posting here, playing video games, browsing youtube, and so on. And then lately we discovered that we love going to watch the seagulls and sailboats on Lake Ponchartrain for an hour or more every day, and that is totally free entertainment. I thought I'd have to pay a lot more for entertainment because of not working.
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Old 02-06-2020, 11:23 AM   #4
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I'm still working, but I have noticed the electric bill has been considerably lower this winter than last, and the level in the oil tank has been dropping more slowly.

Last year, I had a houseguest from around late November to the end of February, a friend who was out of work, and got put out of his house. He was around the house most of the time, while my house mate and I would go off to work, so I couldn't cut the heat back during the day like I normally do. He also took a long shower, every single day.

This year, we're back down to just two people, so I cut the heat back during the day. The downstairs unit, which has oil backup, I usually keep on 68-69 when we're home, but cut it back slightly to 67 when we're away. The upstairs unit is all electric heat pump, and I'll normally keep it on 70-71 when we're home, 67-68 when we're away. When my house guest was here last year, we was always complaining about it being cold, so I'd sometimes crank the upstairs unit to 72 or 73.

I could tell he never had to be fully responsible for a utility bill, in his entire life.

However, the lower bill this year isn't solely because of him not being there. This winter has been considerably more mild, as well. So, I can't tell how much of the difference is losing the mooch, versus the milder temps.


I also closed up the pool earlier this past season, which might have helped slightly. The pump would come on and run from something like midnight to six AM every night, and we'd sometimes turn it on during the day. I closed it up on September 23 this past year. The year before that, I was late in getting on the pool company's schedule, and they couldn't get out until October 31. But, I don't think the pool really adds that much to the electric bill.
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Old 02-06-2020, 01:55 PM   #5
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Our water bill went up big time also as I w*rked 22 out of 28 days and took showers at work. Laundry is about the same as I wore uniforms underground. Around the house, I have a set of "w*rk" clothes that I use around the house and at rentals, so my "civvies" are good for a couple of days, as I only eat breakfast and dinner in them.
No kidding. I thought once we got out of September and yard watering (Oregon so maybe four months), it would drop $50 for two months. Nope. It has stayed steady no matter what. I guess in the summer I wear less clothes? Anyway the occasional hot tub filling doesn't help. Cost of having fun I guess.
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Old 02-06-2020, 02:01 PM   #6
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I knew health insurance & vacation expenses would increase. But, surprised the food category went up .... upon reflection, probably because liquor is included there. : )
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Old 02-06-2020, 03:54 PM   #7
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Our water didn't really change, been FIRE'd 3 years. Heating costs have gone up a bit as I refuse to be cold when at home in the winter. I also spend more time in my shop which is also heated. But gasoline costs are WAY down with no commute. Most days I might drive 2-3 miles to go hike with the dogs.

Since I have found a newfound hobby in cooking though, our food budget may have gone up a bit. We treat ourselves to finer proteins, usually seafood with good wine on the weekends. And our weekend is Wed-Sunday.....
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Old 02-06-2020, 04:21 PM   #8
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Our water bills are 25 in winter and 40 in summer. It used to be 200/month in the summer until we put in Astro-turf. We live in a drought area so it was the right thing to do. Surprised in 8 years that it hasn’t faded at all even though we get a lot of sun.
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Old 02-06-2020, 04:51 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
Have you found that some of your expenses changed in ways you did not expect?
The first big unexpected change happened when our children moved out. The decline in household related expense was much greater than I anticipated, and the meal quality improved as well.

All our children are now married and parents, and our spending on family, gifts and get-togethers has risen more than I expected.
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Old 02-06-2020, 06:13 PM   #10
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Health insurance has been by far my most volatile expense. In 2009-2011, my first years of ER, my premiums rose 50%. Then, I switched to a bare-bones plan which left me underinsured for a few years but had me paying very little. That lasted until the end of 2013.


Then, in 2014, the exchanges began so my premiums rose again but this was good because I could now better afford a more comprehensive plan like the one I had in 2009-2011. I was still paying less than I did even in 2009 (before the big increases) and that's without the small subsidy I was getting.


Premiums rose from 2014-2019 and by 2017 I had lost the growing subsidy by going over the cliff, further increasing my overall premium to about what it was in 2011 when I ditched the policy.


But starting this year, I unloaded part of my portfolio which was pushing me over the cliff so I can now get that still-growing subsidy. My premium is down again to what it was in 2014 when the exchanges began. So I keep going around in circles, it seems, with this very volatile expense.
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Old 02-06-2020, 11:46 PM   #11
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We're burning more firewood, but no distinguishable change in cost, since we do it ourselves. More work though.

Electricity has gone up to about $60, whereas it used to be $55. I assume most of that is because of increased water consumption from the well.
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Old 02-07-2020, 06:04 AM   #12
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I traveled a lot for my old job and ate on Megacorp's dime. I'm sure that our grocery bill is up because I'm home to eat more.
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Old 02-07-2020, 06:21 AM   #13
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Yep - there are some unexpected changes in expenses.

Electricity & nat gas a little more
Septic tank pumped out more frequently
More money spent on landscaping and home improvements because I now have more time to spend on house/landscaping.
Grocery bill is more $ because DW has more spare time to drive to Whole Foods/Trader Joes, etc
I thought the amount that we would spend on gasoline would go down, but it hasn't gone down as much as expected due to road trips and day trips
And hobby expenses have escalated exponentially. But that's ok and somewhat expected.
On the good side, clothing expense is a small pct of what it used to be.
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Old 02-07-2020, 06:30 AM   #14
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I helped my 21 year old DS move out yesterday (in a snowstorm) to an apartment that he, and a buddy will share. This is the first time in 27 years that my DW and I will be living without kids in the house, so it will be interesting how it will affect the electric/water/insurance/food bills (probably dramatically lower).
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Old 02-07-2020, 06:33 AM   #15
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I helped my 21 year old DS move out yesterday (in a snowstorm) to an apartment that he, and a buddy will share. This is the first time in 27 years that my DW and I will be living without kids in the house, so it will be interesting how it will affect the electric/water/insurance/food bills (probably dramatically lower).
Congrats on your empty nest. Hopefully they come back just to visit.
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Old 02-07-2020, 08:42 AM   #16
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I helped my 21 year old DS move out yesterday (in a snowstorm) to an apartment that he, and a buddy will share. This is the first time in 27 years that my DW and I will be living without kids in the house, so it will be interesting how it will affect the electric/water/insurance/food bills (probably dramatically lower).
Our daughter just moved out a few weeks ago. I'm still waiting to see if it will have any effect on our bills. I turned down the heat in her old room and she won't be showering or computing, so I would think our electric usage might go down slightly. I'm hoping our food costs go down as that is our largest monthly expense. Too early to tell, but we have noticed our meals are lasting a lot longer (a day or two of leftovers now). And we won't be buying expensive juices and frozen dinners for her.

This month has been a bit of a transition, as we've been helping her move, eating out more, etc. So I probably won't know for a month or two what our normal expenses will be. I'm gonna miss the rent money she was paying us every month though.

As for other expenses, we're still working but I wouldn't expect a major change once we retire. I work from home now and am by far the biggest water user, so that will probably stay about the same. We're on a private well, so more water just means a bit more electric usage. My wife isn't as good about turning off lights when she leaves a room, so that might have an impact. On the other hand, we have LED's in every fixture so even leaving a light on all day wouldn't make a big difference. When she is home she tends to use the appliances a lot, toasters, blenders, coffee makers, oven, etc. So that could bump up our electric a bit.

On the flip side, she won't be driving to work every day, so I would think the expenses would balance out about the same. We'll see...
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Old 02-07-2020, 08:57 AM   #17
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In regards to "more flushing" when you are retired and at home, than when you were working..........I'm surprised at how fast a roll of toilet paper gets used up. Didn't know how much we used on the company's dime prior to retiring.
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Old 02-07-2020, 09:23 AM   #18
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Interesting concept. For sure more flushes since retirement, but less laundry and showers. Otherwise, I think most of my budgeted expenses have been pretty close. Overages in one area seem to generally get canceled out by savings in another.

The big variable, the rate of inflation, has been kind to me so far. I factored in an average value, but going well below that for over 3.5 years at the start of my retirement, when inflation would be most impactful, has really helped.
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Old 02-07-2020, 09:39 AM   #19
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I knew health insurance & vacation expenses would increase. But, surprised the food category went up .... upon reflection, probably because liquor is included there. : )
Our food category went way up.

We had time to be foodies, and time to cook at home much more.

Our eating out went down as we weren’t so time constrained plus we were enjoying great eats at home. Plus we ate out plenty when traveling, and that was in a different category, lol.

I never got into the details of utility changes as our bills were low, plus DH had been working from home for a few years.
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Old 02-07-2020, 10:21 AM   #20
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My clothes budget went way up since I wore scrubs to work and now I need gym clothes , regular day clothes and social life clothes.
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