Senior Finance Means Cutting Some Corners

Apr 17th, 2011 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Senior Finances

As the economy continues to lumber along at a very slow pace, and with the ongoing threats from the federal  government about cutting Social Security, we seniors might be wise to look at possible ways we can save money here and there.    AARP came up with some suggestions  and SCJ has some to add.

Jeff Yaeger wrote an article this week that was published in the AARP Bulletin.  Here are his suggestions, with SCJ editorial comments:

  1. Stop using the Grocery Cart: If you are making a quick trip to the grocery store for just a few items, don’t use the cart or basket.  You will buy only what’s on your list if you have to carry the items.  A study by the University of Wisconsin showed that shoppers making a “quick trip” to the grocery store usually bought 54 percent more than they planned.
  2. Drive Without Spilling a Drop:  When an SCJ editor recently bought a Prius, she made a game of trying to keep the gas usage indicator as high as she could.  As a result her driving habits changed.  You can do the same thing in your non-hybrid vehicle. Keep a cup filled to the brim with water in the driver’s side cupholder of your car. Make a little game out of trying to drive without spilling the water.  You will slow down, avoid jackrabbit-type starts, drive more safely… all resulting in better gas mileage and spending less at the pump.
  3. Pack a Bag Lunch or Eat Just Two Meals a Day:  You can save a lot of money if you eat lunch as if you were taking a bag lunch to work.  Or eat just two meals a day (breakfast and early afternoon) with fruit/cheese/nuts snacks in between. 
  4. Good Gifts, Good Prices, Good Cause:  Do your shopping at thrift and secondhand stores.  SCJ editors found the local Goodwill Store, and frequent it regularly.  And every other Saturday, prices throughout the store are at 50% of the tag.  Goodwill Industries also has an online auction site (Shopgoodwill.com) where you can bid on special items from Goodwill stores across the country. 
  5. Go Generic: Buy generic and store-brand products instead of brand names.  You can save 20% or more, and many times generics are the identical product, produced by the same manufacturer as its counterpart. 
  6. Clean Something You Already Own:  One of Yaeger’s ‘Miser Advisers’ says that whenever his kids want to buy something new, he tells them to first go clean something they already have.  He says the act of sprucing up a possession they already have usually convinces them they really don’t need something new.
  7. Cellphone Plans:  If you use a cellphone, check around for the best plan for senior citizens.  You will frequently find phone companies have special plans for seniors, with better prices than offered to younger generations. And if you use a cell phone, cancel your long distance plan on your landline, or have your landline turned off completely.
  8. Make Mine a Cheapskate Spritzer:  Yaeger believes the average family of four could save $800 a year by ordering water when dining out or getting fast food.  Sodas, coffee and alcohol have the highest markup in the business. You can order a ‘cheapskate spritzer’ by asking for a slice of lemon in your water and adding sweetner at the table.
  9. See the Light:  Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) save money.  They use 75% less energy and last about five times longer than regular lightbulbs.  They cost more, but they save about $10 per year for every regular bulb you replace, and even more for lights you leave on the longest.  Replace those bulbs first, then check with your electric company provider; see if they’re giving away freebies to get customers to switch.
  10. Can you Break a Hundred?  Studies have shown that you are likely to spend less when you force yourself to pay cash rather than a credit card.  Psychologically, it’s harder to part with actual greenbacks.  And if you carry only $50s or $100s, you will find them really difficult to part with, and sometimes hard to break.
  11. Go Overseas: Take an exotic vacation abroad with your evening (or mid-afternoon) meal.  Ethnic recipes (Hispanic, Asian, African, Thai) tend to be less expensive to prepare than typical American fare, and they rely less on expensive meat and dairy products.  They’re healthier too.  Check out ethnic cookbooks from your local public library or go online to the many free recipe sites to find new ideas for meals.
  12. Host a Naked Lady Party: Ladies, rather than go shopping for new clothes, have your same-sized girlfriends over gor dinner (potluck!) and ask them to bring clothes they no longer want so you can all swap.  Guys can do the same thing, but may have problems with a Naked Man Party!  So you guys may want to swap tools or gym equipment instead.

Special thanks to Jeff Yaeger for these great suggestions!



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