FREEBIES & DISCOUNTS
By Sylvia Lim
If you're 65 or older, check out the following list for freebies, discounts, and other money-saving opportunities. You may qualify for some of these savings even if you're as young as 50!
Toll free: 1-888-687-2277
Big savings are available for AARP members, offered by many merchants. Some examples include the following:
(a) US Airways (20 percent to 50 percent)
(b) Avis, National, and Hertz car rental discount (5 percent to 30 percent)
(c) Major hotel chains savings (10 percent to 50 percent)
(d) Reebok - Rockport outlet store discounts (20 percent)
(e) Gateway computers (7 percent off) and training (35 percent off)
(f) Various legal and financial services
Check out the savings available to Canadian carp members from carp's website.
More than 125,000 discounts are available across the US . This website searches for discounts in your area using your zip code and search category. Check out the following:
(a) Southwest Airlines offers seniors over 65 fare discounts of 20 percent to 65 percent. Fares are completely refundable, and do not require advance purchase.
(b) Value Village in Seattle offers seniors older than 62 a 20 percent discount off all used merchandise.
(c) Kohl's Department Stores give seniors older than 62 a 10 percent to 15 percent saving on purchases made on selected Wednesdays.
(d) IHOP restaurants offers a 10 percent discount to seniors older than 55. A seniors' menu with smaller portions is also available.
Free eye care: Eyecare America
Toll free: 1-800-222-3937
Go to their public service programs link to find out how to access free medical eye care and eye-health educational materials for seniors. (Free care for those older than 65 years of age, who have not seen an ophthalmologist in the past three years, and who do not belong to HMO or the VA.)
Local community service organizations such as the Lions Club and the Kiwanis often offer free eye-exam clinics for low-income seniors. Check with their local offices.
Free dental care
Check with your local universities and colleges for their dental schools. Often, free or subsidized dental care by apprenticing students is available for seniors.
Free health care
Toll free: 1-800-411-1222
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center is the center for testing the newest medical procedures. There are usually a number of programs under study and testing for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, and heart conditions. You may qualify for free health care at their hospital in Bethesda , Maryland .
Free prescription drugs from pharmaceutical companies
Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America
Free medication to low-income individuals with no drug coverage, regardless of age .
Cost Containment Research Institute
Free and Low-Cost Prescription Drugs booklet
This publication lists hundreds of free and discount medications. Mail $6.00 to:
Institute Fulfillment Center
Prescription Drug Booklet #PDB-370
Dallas , PA 18612-0210
Medicare drug discount cards (up to $30 per year)
These cards can often save you 10 percent to 25 percent off prescription drugs, depending on the drug. There are many different cards for many different drugs, so check which card is appropriate for you before enrolling. You can get only one Medicare-endorsed drug discount card. They are available until 2006, when Medicare's Part D prescription drug benefit will take effect and these cards will no longer be necessary.
Together Rx (free)
This program offers discounts to Medicare participants who don't have prescription drug coverage.
Often, you'll save money by buying from mail-order pharmacies.
Prescription-drug assistance programs
For people age 55 and older, the National Council on the Aging provides a website listing available prescription-drug assistance programs.
Veterans Affairs Health Benefits and Services (US)
Toll free: 1-877-222-vets(8387)
Take advantage of available health and education benefits because of your past military services. Contact your local Veterans Administration Office of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans Affairs Canada
Toll free: 1-866-522-2122
There are various treatments and other health-related benefits available to veterans and their surviving partners. They include medical, surgical, and dental care; home adaptations; and other community health-care services.
Choice of hospitals
When you have a planned hospital admission and have a choice of facilities, it is in your best interest to make some advance enquiries about the hospital. To ensure you will be receiving quality care at the lowest possible cost, select a nonprofit, teaching hospital that is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations ( jcaho ). The accreditation assures you the facility meets certain required standards in its operations and in its delivery of care and services. A nonprofit, teaching facility will give you the highest level of care at the lowest possible cost.
Other Health Care Saving Tips
(a) Take an aspirin a day: Many studies have now confirmed that taking an aspirin a day is a healthy thing to do for your heart. Check with your physician before starting.
(b) Floss and brush your teeth daily: This daily regimen helps prevent cavities and gum disease, and minimizes your dental bills.
(c) Consider using home remedies when safe to do so: For curing or controlling certain minor discomforts, consider tried and true home remedies (such as, depending on the ailment, baking soda, fresh ginger, and other herbs). Consult the many home remedy resource guides available at your local libraries and on the Internet. Note: If you are taking medications, talk to your doctor before using any herbal or home remedies as they may conflict with your regular medication.
(d) Buy generic drugs when that option is available: Real savings can be achieved when you buy generic versus buying name-brand medications. Always ask whether a generic version of your drug is available before making your purchase.
For All Retirees
Here are some realistic, logical, and systematic saving ideas that can be painlessly incorporated into your everyday life.
. Avoid spending money on frivolous things or giving in to impulse purchases. Before making that "need to have" purchase, sleep on it overnight. Buy it only if you still want it desperately the next day.
. Buy only if you have the cash to pay for an item, even if you are using your credit card to make the purchase.
. Reduce or eliminate your magazine subscriptions. Go to your local public library to catch up on the latest edition of your favorite magazine. It's free!
. Save money by borrowing books and movies from your local public library.
. If you like to shop, go window shopping for fun but leave your money and credit cards at home.
. Shop in the off season, especially for clothing and seasonal items. Better-label clothing usually goes on sale between Thanksgiving and January.
. Quit smoking. This will not only help you save money on your life insurance premiums today, but also on potential future health care and medical costs.
. Keep your car for longer. Keep up with regular maintenance and refrain from trading in your current car for a newer model too soon. This can potentially save you thousands of dollars.
. Unplug or recycle that extra refrigerator in the storeroom or garage. Running this extra appliance can increase your electricity bill by up to 25 percent.
. To save energy costs, run your clothes washer and dishwasher only on full loads. Better yet, hang your wet laundry out to dry on a sunny day to save even more.
. Rent a video instead of going to the movies.
. Stay away from garage sales and auctions. You probably don't need any of the available items.
. Many restaurants offer free birthday dinners. Check with your favorite eatery to see if they offer this courtesy. Bring your id for proof of your birth date.
. Make a commemorative video on the cheap. Videotape that special event by posting a request at film schools' bulletin boards. Senior students are willing to do it for a fraction of the professional price.
. Be a mystery shopper! You can be hired to shop and to eat out. It's a great way to get free products and services, and you may even get paid for your time!
. Go grocery shopping on a full stomach. You'll find you buy less.
. Shop with a list. Don't stray, except to buy seasonal products you can use.
. Buy generic brands whenever possible. Their quality is usually equal to name brands, and you will save money.
. Reduce prepared food purchases. Make your meals from scratch. They are healthier and easier on your pocketbook.
. If you live in a large city, shop in ethnic grocery stores. Their prices are usually better.
. Make food in bulk quantities. Portion and freeze them in individual containers for later use.
. Grow your own vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers to save money.
. Shop for in-season food products. For example, buy and eat more fresh berries in the summer and root vegetables in the winter.
. Make your own household cleaners. You can expect to save many times over the cost of commercial brands. For example, to make window and glass cleaners, mix 1/4 cup each of white vinegar and ammonia with 1/2 bucket of warm water. Add a few drops of blue food coloring for a professional look. You can fill many spray bottles that cost only pennies each.
. Whenever possible, use coupons. They all add up to real savings. Download online coupons for additional savings.
. Audit your cash register tapes. Make sure you are charged the correct price at checkout. Pay special attention to advertised sale prices.
. Each month, pay off in full your credit card bills to avoid paying outrageous credit card interest rates.
. Review the interest rates you're paying on all your debt, including credit card debt. Pay off the most expensive debt first. If you carry a balance, switch to a lower-rate credit card. Potentially, this can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
. Put your loose change into a glass jar at the end of each day. Deposit the proceeds into a savings account each month. You'll be amazed how fast it can accumulate. Invest 90 percent of this money every six months, or use it to pay down your debt. Reward yourself with the remaining 10 percent.
. Audit your bank charges. Compare different bank packages offered by the various banks. Bank charges differ tremendously. Some banks even offer free banking to retirees. Shop around.
. Always invest - seriously - any excess money that comes your way, including money received from the sale of assets and properties, unless it's needed for medical and other emergencies. It's too easy to mindlessly squander extra cash or windfalls.
. Be aware of interest-rate movements. Never pass up an opportunity to earn a higher rate of return. But be informed of the additional risk that you are required to take on. Ask if your bank offers any senior's rate premiums on savings and investments.
. Many cruise lines will give you a free trip in exchange for you presenting a lecture on your unique specialty or hobby. Often, cruises have themes, and your specialty may be a perfect fit. For example, get a free cruise by presenting a lecture on board about your unique investment style that has earned you an average annual return of 25 percent for the last decade!
. Discounted airline tickets can be obtained by signing on as package couriers for courier companies.
. If you are a passenger on an overbooked flight, and if the airline offers free flights to anywhere they fly to any customer who'll take the next flight, volunteer!
. Travel during off-peak seasons.
. Travel closer to home to save on transportation costs.
. Be a tourist in your own city, and save on transportation and accommodation costs.
. Become a tour guide.
. Organize a tour group. You can usually earn a free trip by arranging a group of people who want the same travel itinerary. The magic number is usually a minimum of 12 people.
. Work part-time for a cruise line. You can earn money and discounts on future cruises.
. Single men with dancing skills and good knowledge of etiquette are in demand on cruises. You can earn a free passage in exchange for providing single female passengers with your charm and platonic companionship.
. Join a discount travel club. You will be able to save as much as 50 percent on your travel costs including accommodations, meals, transportation, entertainment, and tourist attractions.
. Partner with another solo traveler to save on travel costs. A number of organizations will pair you with a traveling companion of similar personality and travel style.
. Shop the web for travel bargains.
. Frequent flyer programs are still a good deal and are getting better. Credit card companies will give you frequent flyer miles for using particular credit cards. Check and compare frequent flyer programs, and sign on for free and discounted travel.
. Many states offer seniors fishing and hunting licenses for free or at a 50 percent discount. Check with your local licensing bureau.
Excerpted from Finances After 55: Make the Transition from Earning a Living to Retirement Living by Sylvia Lim. Copyright © 2005 International Self-Counsel Press LTD. Excerpted by arrangement with International Self-Counsel Press LTD. All rights reserved. $11.95.
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