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  • Michelle Varela

Simple Ways Seniors Can Cut Costs NOW

A study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that in the first two years of retirement, 45.9% of households spent more than what they had spent before retirement. Costs can add up quickly, so it’s beneficial to find ways to save money when possible. Seniors can save money through various cost-saving measures, such as budgeting and taking advantage of discounts. Here are some great ways for seniors to stretch their retirement savings and consider new options that can help save some money.

Shop for lower-cost utility services

Many people stick with the same service provider for years because it’s too much of a hassle to quit. Looking for a better value could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars annually. Look for less expensive options for cable, telephone and internet services.

Reduce Cell Phone Bills

· Consumer Cellular- offers AARP 30% discount on accessories and 5% discount on monthly services.

· AT &T: AARP discounts including up to $45 off upgrade and activation fees, 15% off accessories

· T-Mobile: Discounted phone plans for over 55.

· Verizon: Gives 55 and older discounted rates for one or two lines.

Reduce Electric bill

· Many electric providers offer discounted rates for seniors. A simple google search will allow you to see every company in your area that gives a senior discount.

Reduce Internet Services

· Optimum, Spectrum, and Comcast Xfinity all offer internet discounts for seniors who are eligible for SSI. Optimum also offers discounts to veterans receiving public assistance

Ditch Your Landline

· If yours is one of the few households that still contain a landline, retirement may finally be the time to eliminate this recurring expense.

Consider Telephone and Internet Assistance Programs

Telephone and Internet Assistance Programs are part of utility bill resources Low income families, seniors and the disabled will receive discounts on their monthly phone bills from Lifeline or Link-Up. Or they will get free cell phones, tablets, or even savings on their high speed cable Internet connection. Some of these services are combined with other electric bill programs as well, such as LIHEAP, so a customer will automatically be eligible for them.

LIHEAP: Get help paying for utilities

If you can’t afford to heat or cool your living space, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can offer relief—whether you own or rent. This federally sponsored, needs-based program helps millions of households across the country pay for home energy bills, certain energy-related repairs, and even some weatherization projects. LIHEAP also provides emergency financial assistance if you’re facing a shutoff.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Grant is funded by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). There is both emergency financial help and ongoing utility assistance. (Note the program goes by different names in some states). It provides two basic types of services as well as application processes.

  • Eligible low-income families, via local governmental and nonprofit organizations, will receive financial assistance to pay for the costs of electric bills for heating and/or cooling their home

  • LIHEAP priority applications are available for senior citizens, people on social security and the disabled before others.

Shop for new health care coverage

Medicare healthcare coverage that doesn’t match your needs can end up costing you more in the long run. A data report by HealthView Services found that the average 65-year-old couple will pay $11,369 in their first year for healthcare. By age 85, those retirees will spend $39,208.

Medicare Savings Programs: Get help paying for health care

Medicare isn’t free, and out-of-pocket costs can add up quickly—especially for older adults who live with chronic conditions. That’s where Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) come in. Sometimes called Medicare Buy-In Programs or Medicare Premium Payment Programs, these state-administered benefits are designed to ease the burden of certain expenses such as monthly premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. Eligibility varies depending on where you live, as do the specific benefits available. That said, if you’re enrolled in an MSP, you are automatically eligible for Extra Help. Between 2-3 million older adults who are eligible for an MSP either don’t know it or haven’t applied, which leaves as much as $5.9 billion on the table every year.

Shop for lower Prescription Drug Costs

Prescription Discounts

Prescription discount cards like GoodRX and America's Pharmacy work like coupons for your prescriptions. You simply show your free discount card at checkout and receive any available discounts. You can use the companies' websites or applications to see what deals you can get at different pharmacies. This is an excellent option for those without health insurance or seniors with limited medication coverage.

Extra Help: Get assistance paying for prescription drugs

On average, Medicare beneficiaries spend as much as $500 of their own money each year on prescription medications. The Extra Help program, jointly administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), subsidizes the cost of these drugs for older adults with limited income and assets. Additional benefits may also include zero premiums on Medicare Part D prescription plans and limited out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy.

Take advantage of senior discounts

One of the perks of being an older adult are senior discounts. All you have to do is ask businesses if they offer them. You can also look on a company’s website to see if they advertise any discounts. Look into retailers, restaurants, grocery stores, gyms, utility providers, auto services, hair salons, transportation and travel services, and low-cost cable TV providers that may offer discounts for seniors.

Visit public institutions

Take advantage of public institutions like public libraries, parks, schools, and community centers that may offer free or discounted services, educational opportunities, and events. Not only can you rent out books and movies from the library, but many also offer free programs and classes. Parks typically hold concerts in the summer for free. Some colleges offer reduced or free non-credit college tuition to those 55 years of age and older.

Freeze Your Property Taxes

Property taxes can be a large expense each year. The constant increase of property taxes can be difficult to budget for down the line. Luckily, many states allow their seniors to freeze their current property tax rate to avoid an annual increase. You’ll need to contact your local tax office to see if this is an option for you.

Think about making improvements for long term savings

Free Home Energy Audits from utility companies are available to anyone. Many utility companies will offer these as a free service, or provide it for a very low fee. These audits will help a homeowner identify where their home needs to be improved or updated in order to help reduce their energy usage. If an audit identifies an area that can improve, some utility companies will even contribute towards the expense that is incurred to fix the home, if the customer meets their income criteria

The Weatherization Assistance Program will provide free energy conservation measures to help people save money on their utility bills. The benefit is for those in need to help improve the energy efficiency of homes. Some services included are free weatherstripping, wall or attic insulation, minor home repairs, windows, and furnace tune ups. There may be other related energy saving measures that will help people lower their electric bills and save money. More on weatherization assistance.

Government programs that can help with food costs

One in four Americans who receive Social Security depend on it for 90% of their income. When the costs of housing, medical care, prescription drugs, and food rise, it becomes harder and harder for these older adults to make ends meet, through no fault of their own. Every year, $30 billion in these benefits go unclaimed—often because those who are eligible either don’t know about them or are unsure how to apply

SNAP: Get help paying for food

Once called Food Stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a vital lifeline for individuals and families who otherwise might face hunger, malnutrition, and the stress of not being able to put enough food on the table. As the largest anti-hunger program in the United States, SNAP helps many older adults stretch their budgets by providing a monthly stipend they can use at participating grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and other retail outlets that sell food. Each year, as many as 5 million older adults are missing out on $6.3 billion in SNAP assistance alone.

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