16 Things You Should Never Buy if You’re Getting Ready To Retire

Discover the essential list of items to avoid spending your retirement savings on.
Updated Nov. 27, 2023
frustrated senior couple reviewing bills

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It’s a good time to review your budget as you get close to retirement, and that includes taking a hard look at what you’re spending money on.

You might not realize you’re spending money on things you don’t need when you’re retired and living on a fixed income.

Before you spend cash on more things, here are some items you should avoid wasting money on.

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Physical books

Prostock-studio/Adobe african american man reading book

Reading can be a great way to spend time when you’re retired as you can fill your former work hours with more leisure activities.

But you don’t have to spend money on physical books that will take up space in your home or add to clutter you may already be trying to reduce now that you’re retired.

Instead, make sure you get good use out of your library card by checking books out or splurging on an e-reader that will allow you to download free ebooks from your local library.

Streaming services

Prostock-studio/Adobe senior couple watching TV together

Streaming services can have some great movies and television shows you might want to catch up on now that you’re retired.

Limit your streaming services to reduce the amount of money you’re spending on multiple services.

It’s also good to remember that, unlike cable services with contracts, streaming services are usually on a monthly payment plan, so you can rotate which ones you’re subscribed to each month to save extra cash.

Luxury goods

Andrii Nekrasov/Adobe attractive man enjoying sun in balcony

You may want an expensive item of clothing, a luxury car, or a high-end dining experience. 

But luxury items come with luxury price tags, and you may regret spending that money when you’re on a fixed income. 

Ditch the big price tags and choose something more affordable to stay within your budget.

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InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe senior couple signing documents with advisor

A timeshare can be a money pit that will be difficult for you to extricate yourself from once you sign a contract.

It’s important to review the pros and cons of a timeshare before you agree to pay for one, as well as the expensive annual fees and difficulty getting out of the contract. You may be able to find better deals on vacation spots without having to pay the extra fees.

Individual stocks

Monkey Business/Adobe stressed senior couple reviewing bills

Your retirement plan may include a 401(k), an important asset in your retirement portfolio.

But you’ll want to reduce the risk you’re exposed to with your investments as you get closer to retirement.

Instead of holding individual stocks, consider rebalancing your portfolio with index funds or investments with less risk. You also might want to talk to a financial advisor specializing in retirement portfolios, who can help you rebalance your accounts.

Risky investments

Starmarpro/Adobe senior woman paying bills online

Individual stocks aren’t the only things you might want to avoid when investing your cash right before retirement.

Avoid investments that you may think can get you rich quickly or could be a big risk for a big reward, as you could also lose plenty of cash on those investments. 

Any losses could be a major blow to your portfolio on a fixed income and not something you can easily recover from.


pikselstock/Adobe senior woman filling out statements

One of the biggest financial issues you don’t want to follow you into retirement is debt. Avoid taking out new loans like a car loan or a mortgage that could limit your budget.

It’s also important to pay off any debt before you retire so it’s not on your balance sheet when you stop working. 

Consider paying down student loans, credit cards, and other debt before your last day of work, so you’re not worried about covering the costs on a fixed income.

Higher education

annaspoka/Adobe confident senior student in classroom

You may like the idea of getting a college degree later in life or going back to school to learn again.

However, higher education can be costly if you need student loans. If you want to continue your education, you should find more affordable or even free options rather than taking out loans for school.

You should also consider the costs of higher education for your children as well. It may be a good idea for them to get a student loan that they can pay off during their prime earning years rather than putting yourself in debt right before you retire to pay for their tuition.

The latest technology

shurkin_son/Adobe woman using tablet on couch

You may enjoy the latest technology and feel you need to stay hip with the latest smartphones, televisions, sound systems, and computers.

But the latest technology can also be the most expensive, taking a big chunk out of your retirement budget.

Consider more affordable options instead and wait for sales to take advantage of saving money on tech that may be older but still works great.

A big house

Gorodenkoff/Adobe family enjoying outdoor bbq party

Retirement can be a great time to downsize as you don’t need a big house for kids who have moved out or aren’t constrained by living in a particular place because of your commute.

Buying a big house can be a waste of space and money in your retired years. And while you may enjoy the extra space, remember to factor in the hefty price tags on things like maintenance, utilities, or furnishing your bigger home.

Credit card purchases

JackF/Adobe senior female designer inspecting room

You may be buying things on a credit card and think you don’t have to worry about the cost until later.

But credit card interest will eat away at your retirement savings with nothing for you to show for it. Make sure you pay your card off completely each month to avoid extra interest costs and only charge what you can afford to pay off each month.

Expensive vacations

Spotmatik/Adobe senior friends sailing on yacht

You may be excited to travel more now that you’re retired and have plenty of options to book new experiences.

But you don’t need the most expensive penthouse room at the priciest hotel or the most exotic and expensive experience while on your trips.

Set a budget for yourself before you head out on your next adventure to ensure you stay within your spending limits and allow yourself to go on more trips in the future.

Home renovations

New Africa/Adobe senior couple consulting insurance agent

Some home renovations should be done before you retire, especially if your home needs a major repair.

But don’t spend extravagantly to get a huge renovation you don’t need. You may have to incur debt right before you retire, or perhaps you’ll be downsizing in a few years and unable to fully use that update.

Extra life insurance

CandyRetriever/Adobe asian family on beach vacation

A life insurance policy may be essential to your estate planning, especially when you have young children or are working full-time with others, depending on your income.

You may want to revisit your life insurance policy when you’re ready to retire to see if you should reduce the policy now that you’re older or no longer have dependents. And it may be a good idea to evaluate your long-term care coverage now that you’re older.

High-ticket items for other people

Monkey Business/Adobe senior friends celebrating at restaurant

You might love lavishing your kids and grandkids with gifts for holidays and birthdays. Perhaps you have an adult child who wants cash for a new car or a better apartment.

But you need to focus on yourself before you start giving cash and gifts to others. Your family and friends will understand if you have to cut back on your gift-giving and handing out extra money to them as you move to a fixed-income lifestyle.

Everyday items that add up

Vadim Pastuh/Adobe senior woman working from home

Your everyday working life may have included going to the coffee shop in your office building or grabbing lunch at a nearby restaurant with co-workers.

But retired life means you can cut those things from your regular spending routine and keep more money in your wallet for more important things.

Instead, buy yourself a new coffee machine to encourage yourself to make coffee at home rather than going to a shop, and try out different recipes now that you have time to make your own meals.

Bottom line

It’s tough to change your spending habits as you prepare for retirement, but you can benefit from those changes.

Remember to create a current budget so you can find different ways to save extra cash. It’s also good to have an estimated retirement budget, which can give you a better idea of how much money you may be spending when you’re no longer working. 

This can be especially important if you’re worried about struggling financially on a fixed income after retirement.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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