In the face of rising living costs and high levels of household debt, the notion of retiring comfortably seems beyond reach for many South Africans. However, retirement income specialist Just maintains that soon-to-be retirees can facilitate a smoother transition towards a sustainable lifestyle in retirement by rethinking their essential spending.
Essential expenses are the cost of physical survival, covering the basic costs of living; accommodation, food and clothing, utilities, medical, transport and insurance. Latest figures from Statistics SA reveal that a household’s essential spending makes up between 65 and 75% of total monthly budget across all socio-economic categories, with only nominal fluctuations between income levels.
The first step is to take an inventory of all your current essential expenses and then account for inflation each year leading up to retirement. The next step is to calculate how much capital you’ll need at retirement to secure a level of income to cover your essential expenses for life (allowing for current tax rates). The table below provides some guidelines: 
To ensure retirees are able to fund their basic living costs in retirement, Just encourages over-50s to change their spending habits now and rethink retirement, by identifying saving opportunities by asking the following question: is this spending sustainable?
Here are some tips to get started.
When thinking about retirement, many people dream about spending the lump sum they’re allowed to take from their retirement savings tax free. Given the above figures, it’s clear that funding even a modest retirement income requires substantial savings. Therefore, instead of planning to spend your lump sum, think about re-investing it.
Consider renovations, for example.
Recent research  showed that 55% of retirees surveyed spent their lump sum retirement savings from an employer’s pension/provident fund on renovations and home improvements. Is your ‘dream home’ really essential for retirement?
More sustainable options include:
Think about major repairs and maintenance that could arise first before considering renovations that are more cosmetic in nature. Do you really need a new kitchen, or is that merely something you want? It’s very tempting to spend part of your lump sum on such nice-to-haves but never forget that you’ll regret it deeply if in 20 years’ time you’ve run out of retirement income. Before you retire, while you’re still earning an income, think about replacing old appliances with good quality new ones that will go the distance throughout your retirement
The same applies to big ticket furniture items that might need replacing such as a good quality bed.
Downsizing from your current home to a smaller property. You’ll save on insurance, rates and taxes, and utilities this way, while also possibly liberating a further lump sum to add to your retirement savings and thereby increase the possibility of having enough income to live comfortably.
Food, Clothing and Cosmetics
Keep a careful note of what you spend on food and groceries and make a concerted effort to bring this figure down by consuming fewer luxury items, buying no-name brands, and shopping for specials.
Start investigating affordable, quality clothing brands. As your pace of life is likely to ease in retirement, you should be able to get greater wear out of your clothing.
Learn how to do your own beauty treatments such as facials, manicures and pedicures – you’ll have more time on your hands. It’s also time to move away from expensive imported cosmetic brands and look for good quality local replacements.
Scrap the store and credit cards to help put a lid on any impulse purchases you actually don’t need. Pay off any existing card debt so you can enter retirement with a clean slate.
Is buying a car with your lump sum a wise move? Rather think about buying one in the last five years of your working life, and get it paid off while you still have a full income. At the same time, think about downsizing to a smaller, less powerful model that will cost you less to maintain and fund when you finally retire.
Internet and phone
Are your current service providers competitive? All-inclusive packages may be easier to arrange but aren’t always the most attractive in price. Shop around for the best deal. Do you really need both a cellphone and a landline?
Do you really need the latest and greatest cell phone in retirement? Ditch the expensive model for a functional phone that covers the essentials.
Entertainment and leisure
Rationalise your entertainment needs. In the age of online streaming providers such as Netflix and Showmax, is DSTV premium still a priority? Could you get by with a Compact package for global news and watch your series and movies online?
Could you purchase cheaper online magazine subscriptions instead of having print editions and periodicals delivered to your door?
 To determine the required capital, Just calculates these guidelines using competitive with-profit annuity rates that target increases in line with inflation. For the purposes of these calculations, a spouse’s income is set at 75% of the household income. This is broadly appropriate given that when one member of the household dies, the remaining person will probably incur similar costs for housing and utilities, but half the spend on the other categories.
 Old Mutual Savings & Investments Monitor 2019