How to Downsize: Empty Nesters Edition

By Angela Epley

Adjusting to life after kids leave home can be a challenge, especially when faced with the daunting “empty nest”: The house is much quieter, and routines that revolve around offspring come to an abrupt stop.

This transitional period provides unique opportunities, especially when it comes to reducing your material and financial footprint. Learning how to downsize can help you find money in an empty nest, which can benefit not just immediate surroundings but your wallet and even your outlook on life as you embark upon this new life chapter.

How to Downsize: Cancel Unused Subscriptions

We all know how a Starbucks habit can add up, but recurring subscriptions can do the same. With media-hungry kids out of the house, having multiple streaming services might not be necessary, so cancel all but the one used most.

Other recurring costs, like housekeeping services, are worth re-evaluating: Is it really necessary to hire help now that kids (and their friends) are no longer tracking mud and junk everywhere? Some monthly expenses may be worth keeping, like charitable donations to a local public radio station or a gym membership to keep fit; all it takes is a quick review to see how to downsize strategically now that your needs are more streamlined.

How to Downsize: Clear Out Clutter

There are organizers and life coaches who promote the idea of holding each and every item you own in your hands, asking if it truly “sparks joy” in your heart and keeping only the items for which you can answer in the affirmative. For everything else, consider selling stuff online or in a garage sale, donating goods to charities like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or disposing of them in an eco-friendly manner.

How to Downsize: Go Mobile

By now, most millennials and Gen Xers are so tethered to their smartphones that they’ve ditched their landlines, but some baby boomers are still hanging on to this legacy technology. In this digital era, the best way to connect with kids and friends is via mobile devices, so if you’re already using a mobile phone, think about removing the landline. After all, texts and social media apps are surefire ways to get much quicker responses from younger generations. Just remember that a landline still offers some advantages, like pinpointing your exact location during 911 calls, before you totally cut the cord.

How to Downsize: Rethink “The Nest”

This one’s a biggie, but not to be overlooked. Now that younger dependents are out of the house, it’s time to consider whether it’s worth the mortgage and property tax expense to pay for a spare bedroom (or two or four) no longer in use.

More square footage means more to clean and repair, which means more effort and costs without a good enough reason to justify it all. Since housing costs tend to eat up the largest line item in most budgets, this might be the perfect time to downsize the suburban McMansion and pick up a user-friendly condo in a walkable neighborhood

Being an empty nester doesn’t mean life has to feel empty. Embrace this time to focus on quality instead of quantity and meaningfulness instead of materialism. Getting rid of the clutter can open up new avenues of peace, focus, and additional cash flow and get you back in touch with the things in life that matter most.

New to the retirement lifestyle? Check out the USAA Stories retirement articles for more tips and inspiration.

 

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