If you are a baseball fan, you are probably familiar with the term, small ball. Usually, it means a team is concentrating on doing the little things right: stealing bases more often, bunting, forcing the opposing pitcher to throw more, attempting to walk when at bat, or using the hit and run play instead of depending on base hits and big plays to win a game.
For this post, I am using the term, small ball, to make the point that a satisfying retirement is very often putting together a series of small steps and simple decisions to create the life you want. Major life adjustments, inheriting a sizable estate from a long, lost uncle, or cutting food costs by eating mac and cheese for every dinner are rarely needed. Instead, by focusing on the little things, by playing small ball, we can be big winners.
What qualifies? Here are just a few things that come to mind. I am sure you can share some of your own examples:
1) We check the newspaper circulars (they come in the mail...don't even need a newspaper!) and on-line sites (like Cents' able Shopping) to pare our grocery bills. I am not talking about becoming an over-the-top coupon clipper, just looking for the best deals. The grocery store where we shop will match competitor's prices, so paying $1.89 for milk instead of $2.69 is just common sense. Betty and I spend no more than 30 minutes a week on this task and cut our grocery bill by $25 or so each trip.
2) We cut out the bloated cable TV package and dropped back to the basic channels while our youngest daughter is living with us. When she moves out next month, even the basic will go. We can pick up network HDTV signals for free using a simple antenna for the two or three shows a week that interest us. Specialty networks, like Discovery or PBS offerings can usually be streamed from their web sites. Netflix fills in all the gaps.
3) Betty has been using s smartphone for the past four months. She has determined that she never uses the data package and rarely texts. Yet, because she has a smartphone, Verizon insists she pay $40 a month for the "ability" to use data. She is going back to a basic flip phone, without a data package requirement, and save us $120 a year.
4) One of our cars is 10 years old. Maintaining full comprehensive and collision damage coverage is silly. We'd see nothing after a claim on a vehicle worth less than the $1,500 deductible. Dropping them saves us a few hundred dollars a year.
5) Arizona State University, several medium size colleges in the metro area, and an extensive system of community colleges offer a constant stream of free concerts, movies, lectures, and exhibitions. The Phoenix public library offers all sorts of artist talks and book discussions. We take advantage of as many of these events as we have time and interest.
6) I read a lot (again, I say, a lot). I used to help support Amazon. Now, my library card gets a full workout. Not only do I save close to $500 a year on books, but I don't need to buy more bookshelves.
7) Groupon...need I say more?
8) We bought an RV. Obviously, that isn't small ball. Actually, it is a 30 foot long, 12,000 pound behemoth. But, by eliminating those things in our budget that really don't make us happier or make our lives better, we freed up some of the money to fulfill a dream to hit the road and travel the back roads of America.
By playing small ball in part of our life, we can live large in another. And, that has been a tremendously positive trade off.
How about you? What examples of "playing small" can you share?