Five Ways to Save When Everything Is Going Up
By Mary Johnson, editor
With persistent inflation around 8.5%, a historic 40-year high compared to a year ago, everyone is looking for ways to reduce costs and save money. That’s a tall order for older consumers living on fixed incomes who already tend to be very careful about staying within a budget.
What can you do to manage? There are no simple answers to this one, but here are six things to try:
- Get a better understanding of the resources available to you. There's an Area Agency on Aging in just about every part of the country. These agencies can help you learn about programs that could help lower your costs and save you money if you qualify. You can find help for food, healthcare, prescription drug costs, cooling, and heating assistance, transportation to doctor’s visits, senior living, and long-term care options in your area. Many of the people who I’ve corresponded with over the years give their Agency on Aging very high marks. To find the agency near you, try Googling — Area Agency on Aging followed by your zip code. You may also want to try the National Council on Aging’s Benefits Check Up tool. This application can screen you for dozens of potential benefit programs for which you may qualify. Find more information at https://benefitscheckup.org. You enter information about your situation and receive a report listing programs, contact information, and phone numbers.
- Compare drug prices and consider using GoodRx coupons at a walk-in pharmacy if you can get a better deal than your drug plan. GoodRx is a company that provides free coupons that give you discounts on prescription drugs. These can sometimes be a better deal and worth comparing with your typical drug plan copayment. You can find the coupons on the website or via the GoodRx app, which can save you 80 percent off the list price of generic drugs at certain pharmacies. The drawback is that these purchases won’t count for helping you reach the Part D threshold for catastrophic coverage. But in addition to saving money, they won’t count towards your initial coverage limit either, helping you save your coverage for drugs that are priced better under your Part D plan.
- Try shopping for new glasses online. Shopping for eyeglasses can be tricky whether online or in retail stores. I always need help, and too frequently, the results have been mixed. My favorite online optical shop is David Kind. They design and produce thoughtfully detailed, beautifully made glasses at an exceptionally reasonable cost for the quality — $340 with single prescription lenses or $465 with progressives. I first gave them a try in 2017, and their frames held up to every task, every unintended punishment, whether it be writing The Social Security & Medicare Advisor, slogging through garden chores, or getting batted to the floor by a bored cat. In addition to the convenience of shopping online, David Kind provides something other online and many retail stores often lack… knowledgeable one-on-one personal service, with a real live person! David Kind allows customers to select 6 pairs to try on at home with free shipping both ways. Before shipping the try-ons back, you take selfies with the glasses you want to order and upload your photos to the David Kind website. Customers will need to upload, fax, or mail a recent optical prescription, as well. David Kind uses sophisticated software to measure your selfie for lenses. I’m not sure how it works (seemed like wizardry to me), but it recently provided me with a great new pair of precision eyeglasses. The fit is perfect and very comfortable.
- Be cautious about using credit cards, and pay off high-interest consumer credit cards and loans first. Today’s shopping and commercial transactions make it next to impossible to do business without a credit or debit card. But the cost of interest for carrying a balance is expected to go up significantly this year. You may want to shop for a new credit card that offers better interest rates and transfer your balance to the new card. Be sure to learn the fee for doing so and compare that fee to the amount you would otherwise pay on your current card. If you tend to pay your credit card balance in full every month, you may want to shop for a card that offers the best points or cashback deals. There are several good sites to shop and compare the best credit cards but offers can vary. Be sure to read the fine print about repayment terms.
- Contact your phone and internet providers and ask for a lower cost plan. If you mainly use your cell phone to make calls and not for a lot of internet-intensive tasks, ask your provider about minimum data plans that could save you money.
- Stream movies for free or at a reduced cost. Unless you are a serious movie junkie, there’s no need to spend a lot of money on subscriptions for streaming movies or buying DVDs. Before you do, visit your local library. Your library probably has a collection of DVDs to choose from and even movies that you can stream for free. If you are signed up for Amazon Prime, your subscription includes hundreds of free movies you can stream. You can also find favorite movies for free on YouTube.