Thursday, 24 October 2013
Elder Money Part 3 – Money Saving Shopping Tips
There are great sales going on in New York City every day. They are so frequent and so big that during the 40 years I lived in Manhattan, my friends and I insisted to one another that we wouldn't bother unless it was at least 25 percent off. And that wasn't too much of a joke.
Sales that big never happened in Portland, Maine during the four years I lived there and I haven't seen anything like them here in the Portland, Oregon area. But that doesn't mean there are not a zillion ways to save money via shopping and living slightly differently.
Paraphrasing Senator Everett Dirksen, save a little here, save a little there and pretty soon you're talking about real money. My list is not meant to be all inclusive and I'm sure you'll have a bunch of other suggestions for saving money.
COOK AT HOME
It's not really hard to do and it saves a lot of money. If you freeze big batches of such things as soup, apple sauce, stews (leave out the potatoes) etc., you always have a fast meal at your fingertips.
•Make part of eating at home your morning coffee. I'm astonished that so many people go out for their coffee. It's way too expensive - and those lattes and frappucinos or whatever they are called are packed with sugar, fat and calories – not good.
•Save restaurants for occasional treats with friends.
FOOD AND HOUSEHOLD SHOPPING
If you are retired now, you probably have more time for comparison shopping. Where I live there are an astounding number of nearby supermarkets – low end to high end – and after three years I now know all their quirks and sales.
•Use supermarket discount cards. Yes, they keep all that information about you in their database and sell it companies that stuff your inbox and snailmail box with email and catalogs but so what. You lost all your privacy years ago.
•Learn which day of the week your markets give a discount – usually 10 percent – to seniors and do your major shopping then.
•Make friends with the produce manager. You'll learn a lot about prices and when sales will be coming up. As a bonus, he or she will tip you off to what is and isn't fresh, will happily cut cabbages in half for you and track down items you want from the storage room.
•Ditto the fish man and/or butcher. My fish guy often warns me off older fish and points me to what just arrived or tells me that something he knows I like will go on sale in a day or two.
•Coupons. If you can tolerate collecting and sorting, they can save a lot of money. I don't have much fortitude for it and most times I forget I have them until after they expire. That doesn't mean you can't be better at it.
•Buy paper products in bulk. Supermarkets put paper towels, Kleenex, bathroom tissue on sale fairly frequently at good prices. My goal always for those products is to always spend under a dollar per roll or box.
•Know which store brands are good and cheaper. At one market I use, there is only a big-name brand of steel-cut oatmeal for $8 a box. At another store, the in-house brand in a similar, same-size container sells for $5. I can't tell the difference.
DRUGS AND DRUG STORES
Like groceries, there are plenty of sales and discounts on drugs and personal care products if you pay attention.
•Some pharmacies in some places sell generic prescription drugs for four or five dollars for a month's supply. This is sometimes cheaper than co-pays on your health plan.
•Always check prescription drug prices at several pharmacies. Prices, with and without coverage and even considering preferred pharmacies, can vary widely for individual drugs, generic and brand name.
•House brands of supplements and over-the-counter drugs are almost always less expensive. Supplements are not regulated so you're on your own in what you choose. But aspirin is aspirin, as is acetominaphen. There is no need to pay extra for brand names.
•The chain drug stores have good sales (often BOGOs) on personal care products several times a year – worth stocking up then.
Regular readers know I have been on a weight loss and exercise regimen since March and now I've lost so many pounds – coming up on 40 – that I need to replace almost all my clothes. Thank god I don't need anywhere near as many as when I was working.
•Over the years at this blog, many readers have talked about shopping for clothes at resale, consignment and second-hand shops and they are a godsend.
Just last week I bought an Irish Aran sweater, a hand-knit that usually goes for $75-$100 for $18 at a local resale shop. I feel great when I come across such a good bargain.
•If you buy clothes online, make use of websites' wish lists – set an item aside there and if you are patient, you can often get your choice when the seasons change for much less money.
One example: nearly a year ago, I had bought a pair of pants in the size I needed then – let's just say big. Two months ago it was literally fall off my hips and it was not something that could be easily taken in.
Then, as I was perusing that website one day just to see what they had and to my great, good surprise that very same pair of pants was on sale in my much smaller new size for $20. Believe me, I spent a lot more than that the first go.
There really isn't much reason to ever purchase a book or movie again.
•As many readers often mention, libraries. Use libraries for books, magazines and DVDs. You may also find that there are free events such as readings, lectures and music performances to enjoy and, perhaps, make new friends.
•If you are willing to spend some money on books, do try a Kindle (or some other brand of ereader). I have had one now for nearly three years and have finally figured out how to choose between library, paper and ebook for my needs. If you are purchasing, ebooks are always less expensive than paper and many classics are free.
•Movies. For $8 a month, you can stream unlimited numbers of movies and TV shows from Netflix. From Hulu too for the same price.
At Hulu, there are a number of free movies and there are nearly 600 free, streaming classic films linked from the Open Culture website.
The Open Culture website is good too for finding other kinds of freebies online: courses, audio books, classes, language courses and much more.
Senior discounts abound. Some people think they are not fair – asking why shouldn't people of all ages get a discount.
I don't have a good answer for that except that there are, as shown above, many ways for people to get discounts and there have, as for elders, always been student discounts. So use them and don't feel bad about it.
•In fact, there is a whole website devoted to senior discounts searchable by Zip Code. It's called Sciddy. I didn't expect much when I first discovered it but I've had much better luck with it than Angie's List. Give it a try.
Another one is called – duh! - Senior Discounts.
•If you are an AARP member, they have a list of discounts for dining and entertainment, general shopping, home and auto, health and wellness, travel and lately they've added a section of local discounts.
•Movie theaters often discount the price of tickets for elders.
•Senior discounts are so prevalent and widespread that you should ask anywhere you want to buy something. As I said, don't be shy about asking; discounts are there to be used.
Okay. I've got a zillion more ways to save money but this post is getting way too long and anyway, I'm sure you've got just as many I haven't mentioned. So share them with us below in the comments. We all need to pinch our pennies.
At the Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Farewell Tour