Lighten up living expenses

Housing is the single biggest outlay in retirement: 37% of the average retiree budget, says a new report from the Social Security Administration. Act now to cut costs. Bonus: You may even be able to free up money to save.

81. Seize this market moment. If a smaller home is in the cards, don't dawdle. Nationwide, the inventory of homes for sale is down 20% over the past year, just as buyers are returning. Homes are selling quickly. This won't last. New-home construction is up. And as the market gets even healthier, notes Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko, more sellers will be competing with you.

82. Swap towns. Once the kids are gone, you can trim your costs without sacrificing space. Prices for homes near high-scoring public schools are 2.4 times higher on average than what you'll pay near a low-scoring school, a Brookings Institution study of the 100 biggest metro areas found. Property taxes and other costs can be more than $11,000 a year less.

Related: Compare the cost of living in another city

83. Pay down your mortgage. Say you got a 15-year $300,000 fixed loan at 4.5% three years ago, at age 53. You'll be 68 when it's paid off. By adding $500 to your $2,295 monthly payment, you can shave 2½ years from the loan, save $17,500 in interest, and cut your effective rate to 3.8%. Do your own math with HSH's PreFi calculator at hsh.com.

84. Test-drive a frugal lifestyle. You shouldn't head into retirement without knowing whether you can truly support your lifestyle. Estimate your retirement income, then live on that for a year, suggests adviser Jeff Townsend, author of The Road to Retirement. You can get in one last burst of savings, and if the test is a failure, you have time to adjust by, say, working longer.


  @Money - Last updated April 18 2013 04:35 PM ET
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