I've lived in big houses with roommates and once, by myself. I've lived in small houses solo and with a friend. I've lived (part-time) in a studio apartment with my very tall partner. I've lived in a yurt by myself, and I've lived in the attic of the house I bought and cannot seem to sell. At the ripe old age of 37, I can say that for me, smaller abodes are cheaper — in both time and money.

So if you are among the more than 30 percent of Americans in their 50s or 60s who has no retirement savings, and your budget is already stretched to the max, consider how much money you may be wasting living in a house or apartment that's larger than you need. Could you move to a smaller space in a less-expensive part of town, and put the money you have been spending on living into your retirement savings? It could mean the difference between running out of cash at 75 (with plenty of years left in your life), and having enough to enjoy your post-work life. 

Lower rent or mortgage costs are only the most obvious part of the equation, though an important one. If you can save even $200 a month for the next five years by moving somewhere less expensive, that would amount to $12,000 over that same time period (plus interest). 

A small home costs less to upkeep; fewer toilets and sinks mean fewer calls to the plumber, a smaller roof is cheaper to replace, and minimizing wall space means repainting is less pricey. Less square footage means it costs less to put new carpet in, and no place to put new stuff (so you'll be less tempted to buy what you don't need). 

And think about it: Heating and cooling (and lighting) a smaller space will save you cash every month. I know many people who are paying to heat and cool rooms they don't even use — rooms that are just storage and have been for years. What a waste!

But you'll be saving in other ways if you opt for less space. Housecleaning is easier, faster and takes less energy — fewer rooms means less to keep clean, and if you can live with less stuff in your smaller space (do you really need that second easy chair?), you won't feel crowded. Take a hard look at your stuff; it could be costing you some serious cold, hard cash just to house your knick-knacks and old furniture. Is it really worth it? Are you willing to trade a comfortable retirement (and the hours of your life) for the space and time extra furniture sucks up on a regular basis?

While the tiny house movement might not be for everyone, if you are still living in a home you bought when your kids were young, and they are long gone, or if you used your home for a business but no longer use it for that purpose, save yourself time and money and consider downsizing. How much space do you really need to live comfortably? It's probably less than you think. 

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Want more money for retirement later? Downsize now
About 1/3 of us have little or no money for retirement; minimizing your impact by considering a smaller home could help you financially.