3 Ways Seniors Can Save Money Right Now

Chris Hawkins Written by Chris Hawkins
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Senior Care & Assisted Living

Now that you’re retired, you have more time. So why not take the time to do things that will save you the thing you likely have less of—money. We’ll show you some ways you can save over $1,000 a year simply by taking the time to making a few changes in your life—changes that will feel self-empowering.

LIBERATE YOURSELF! GET RID OF CABLE TV

I know. Blasphemy! With all that extra time, turning on the “idiot box" is very tempting, even if it’s just for background noise. So this is a tough one for retirees who average over 4 hours a day watching TV. But depending on your cable plan, you’re likely spending $70 to $100 a month (the average is $86). That’s $1,032 a year.

And guess what, cable prices are rising faster than inflation. And have you noticed that you seem to be getting less of what you actually like to watch. Last year, Comcast took away our favorite channel, Universal Sports. Ouch!

How many go-to channels do you have? I’ll bet you only have a few that you watch regularly. Are those few channels really worth $1,000 a year?

Once you get rid of cable/satellite TV, you can still watch great shows, watch them when you want, and pay a lot less.

Netflix/Amazon/Hulu Plus (from $8/month to $80/year)

Services such as Netflix and Amazon allow you watch instantly and rent videos depending on the plan you choose. For example, with Netflix, you can watch unlimited online movies and have one disc out-at-a-time for $16 month. Amazon’s Prime membership ($79/year) gives you instant streaming of movies and TV shows, Kindle books access, and free two-day shipping.

Hulu allows you to watch hundreds of movies and TV shows at no cost. And for $8/month, you’ll get access to newer movies and TV shows.

If you’re TV is an Internet-ready (Smart) TV, you’ll have access to these services directly once you sign up for each one. If not, you can buy (starting at $50), a streaming video player from companies such as Roku and Apple.

These little boxes plug into your TV and pick up the signal from your wireless Internet, allowing you to watch movies, TV shows, live sports, and more. Some of the programs are free and some (Netflix, Amazon, etc.) require a monthly/yearly fee.

The best thing about these little boxes is the variety of shows you can watch whenever you want to watch them.

Not ready to buy the box? You can still watch movies and shows on your computer or laptop.

Amplified HDTV Antenna ($15 to $50)

Even with cable gone, you can watch local TV with an amplified HDTV antenna. These devices sit on your TV and allow you to pick up anywhere from 15 to 30 stations, depending on the antenna and the signal. This FCC page will give you the low-down on antennas and digital TV. And www.antennaweb.org will show you what antenna you’ll need and what channels you’ll pick up in your area.

You may even be able to use your TV’s existing antenna and still pick up local channels.

The Library: It’s Free!

Have you been to your public library lately? If not, you may be surprised. Most public libraries have a sizeable selection of DVDs and some are offering streaming movies that you can watch on your computer or through a Smart TV or Roku box.

If you live in a small town with a library that has limited resources, consider getting a library card from the next closest city where the library may be better equipped.

How many times do you sit on the couch, mindlessly surfing, looking for anything to stimulate or just pass the time? Do you also eat and/or drink mindlessly while watching? I know I did.

For us, getting rid of cable was psychologically and financially liberating. Try it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s not as if you’re cable company isn’t sending you offers every week begging you to come back.

DROP THE LAND LINE FOR A CELL PHONE

“What, no land line!” This is a tough one for older adults to stomach. But once you drop your land line, you’ll not only save money, you’ll stop getting those annoying recorded sales calls. And like cable, you won’t miss it.

If you already have a cell phone plan, maybe it’s time to reevaluate it, especially if you’re getting rid of a land line. The market is hyper-competitive and there are more providers than ever.

If you don’t own a cell phone, here are some programs with products and services that cater to seniors. These programs are nice because you “pay-as-you-go” and don’t have to sign contracts.

As you're researching phones and plans, keep a few things in mind:


  • When do you most often use the phone? Many of the pre-paid plans don’t include free nights and weekends unless you buy their “premium” plans.

  • On average, how many minutes do you talk each month? Knowing this, you’ll be able to compare apples to apples prices on competing plans.

  • Who do you talk to on the phone most often? Your spouse? Kids? Neighbors? Consider a company with a family plan.

  • Are you a texter? Some plans charge by-the-text.

  • Do you need a “senior” phone? These phones have large number buttons and features like medication reminders and emergency call buttons.

Greatcall.com: Home of the Jitterbug—the first “senior” phone. No contracts, no cancellation fees, affordable monthly plans, and senior-specific features make this service attractive. Monthly plans start at $14.99 for 50 anytime minutes and allow you to roll-over minutes. Data plans start at $2.50/month. You can pick up a phone at Walmart for $80.

Some of the special features include Urgent Care, an “app lets you have access to unlimited healthcare advice and a registered nurse….” Medication Reminders reminds you take your daily medications and when to refill prescriptions. The 5Star Urgent Response is one-touch emergency response system where you’ll speak to NAED Certified Response Agents.

Tracfone: One of the first players in the pre-paid phone market, Tracfone uses the phone networks of the biggies such as Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. You can buy phones at Target for as low as $10. Minutes (pre-paid cards) can be purchased at over 90,000 retailers across the country.

With their minutes cards, the more minutes you buy, the less per minute. A 450-minute card runs $80, about 18 cents/minute.

Just5: These “senior-friendly” phones feature large buttons, large digits on the screen and a speaking keypad, meaning the phone will say the numbers you’re pressing. You can text but there is no Internet.

On the back, there’s an “SOS" button that when pressed will start texting and calling your five pre-programmed emergency contacts. They also include a built-in flashlight and radio. You can find phones on sale for $99. Plans start at $10 for 100 minutes.

Consumercellular.com: No contract, phone plans starting at $10 a month, and data plans (text/internet) starting at $2.50/month. They offer phones ranging from the Doro “senior”($60), a basic flip phone with large buttons, to the more feature-heavy smart phones.

Because of the company’s relationship with AT&T (they use their network), you may not have to pay for a phone if you know someone (your kids…hint, hint) who is upgrading their phone. Simply use any phone that was previously on the At&T network.

Also, minutes do not roll over from month to month. Each additional minute cost 24 cents. AARP members get a 5% discount on monthly fees and 30% off accessories.

T-Mobile: If you like the idea of using a smart phone, T-Mobile has pre-paid unlimited talk, text and data plans starting at $50/month. These plans don’t require an annual contract. Their smart phones start at around $85.

Verizon/AT&T, etc: The behemoths of the cell phone industry such as Verizon and AT&T offer non-prepaid “senior” plans. Verizon, for example, offers their Nationwide 65 Plus Plan, giving you 200 minutes for $30 a month. A good value if you don’t plan on talking too much. However, if you go over your limit, you’ll be charged 45 cents/minute. Also, text and data are separate charges.

The 5 Best Things About Going Cell Phone Only

1) Save money by getting rid of the land line

2) No more pre-recorded solicitation calls at all hours of the day

3) The flexibility and security of having a phone with you at all times

4) Easier communication with texting even if it’s just asking your kids: “Can I expect you for dinner on Sunday?”

5) Convenience when out and about: how many times have you gone to the store only to forget the third item on the list for dinner?

SAVE MONEY ON CAR INSURANCE

When was the last time you looked at your car insurance policy? You may be paying too much or holding on to coverage you don’t need anymore, and you may be missing out on discounts.

We’ll look at several areas where you may be able to save hundreds every year.

Your Driving History

When deciding on coverage, think about you’re overall driving record. When was the last time you were in an accident? How many accidents have you been involved in, if any? Were they your fault?

Keep in mind that those 55 and older, according to the US Census Bureau, have far fewer accidents than any other age group per number of licensed drivers.

Consider how many miles you’re driving now. Estimate the number you’ll drive in a year. Are you driving less? If so, your chance for accident is reduced.

Deductibles for Comprehensive/Collision

Around half of your total auto insurance premium goes to comprehensive and collision coverage.

If you’re currently financing or leasing your vehicle, you’re required by the note holder to have collision and comprehensive coverage. Collision pays for repairs to your car if you’re in an accident with another car or object. Comprehensive is non-accident related coverage for things like theft, vandalism, storms and natural disasters.

Even if you’re required, you can change the amount of your deductible—the amount you pay before your insurance company begins to pay for a claim—and save money on your premium. Typically, you can choose a deductible between $0 and $1,000.

How much you save depends on a number of factors (your age, number of claims, car’s value, et al). Find out from your insurer what the yearly savings would be for different deductible amounts. Then decide if you can afford the $500 or $1,000 out-of-pocket deductible in the event you’re in an accident.

Do I Need Collision and Comprehensive Coverage?

There is no hard rule for determining whether you need collision and comprehensive. But a good rule of thumb is if you’re paying more than 10% of your car’s value in yearly premiums, you probably don’t need the coverage. (You can find your car’s market value using Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds.com)

For example, say your car is worth $3,500 and your deductible is $500. Your risk is $3,000. You pay $200/year for collision and $100/year for comprehensive or $300/year combined. $3,000/$300= 10%.

In this case, you probably don’t need the coverage.

This 10% rule is based on the average number of years (10) between accidents for the average driver. If you’re an above average driver, you may want to adjust the percentage up even higher.

Rental Reimbursement

Another coverage to consider dropping or adjusting is rental reimbursement. As a retiree, having a rental car to drive while yours is in the shop may not be as important as when you were working. And if you have a second car, this coverage doesn’t make much sense.

Car Insurance Discounts

Insurance companies offer an array of discounts to their customers. Contact your agent to make sure you’re taking advantage of these discounts. Here are some you’ll see most often:

  • Low Mileage discounts are given for the number of miles driven every year. When was the last time you adjusted this with your insurance company?
  • Multiple Policy discounts are given if you bundle policies (auto, home, life) together.
  • Multi-Vehicle discounts for having more than one car insured
  • Anti-theft (alarm system), Anti-Lock Brakes, Passive Restraint System (air bags)
  • Safe Driver (clean driving record)
  • Affinity discount for belonging to a certain group.
  • Paying premium in full rather than monthly/quarterly.
  • Loyalty for the length of time you stay with insurer.
  • Green vehicle for driving a hybrid or similar eco-friendly car.

Mature Driver Class

Finally, many of the big insurers (e.g. USAA, Allstate, State Farm) offer a discount if you complete a defensive driver course. The courses vary by state but most of them involve actual class and road instruction, usually at a local senior center. Some courses are entirely online and offer valuable benefits.

For example, in New York, by taking the online driving course, you can earn 10% off your insurance and be eligible to reduce 4 points off your driving record.

Learn more about it at www.aarpdriversafety.org/. You can also find info at the National Safety Council.

Shop Around

Finally, it’s worth your time to shop around. Car insurance is an extremely competitive industry as you can probably tell from the commercials that run 24/7. This means lower prices for you. Just make sure the insurer you go with has a good reputation for service.

If you find a policy lower than what you’re paying, talk to your current insurer and see what they’ll do to keep your business.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Making these changes—especially dropping cable and your home phone—will be difficult at first. But the alternatives are so much better that once you do, you’ll never look back. Putting an extra $100 in your pocket each month will be like gravy on the biscuit.

Reevaluating your car insurance is a no-brainer. Why pay for protection you no longer need? Why not get discounts you’re eligible for?

Take the time to research these areas. You may be surprised at what you find.

 


Updated: Aug 11, 2013

Comments

[2] Comments... Read them below.
Mary Olin On Dec 4, 2014
I'm trying to do those steps now - especially since Bright House just hiked my bundle beyond my willingness to pay. Started with the phone today. Hope it goes well. Then, inter is more important to me than TV, actually, so next is finding an inter provider. Then...the TV...This is scary. I am a widow, a sr. citizen, and have some health probs. Sorry to leave Bright House-their service was stellar, but I just can't do it anymore...GREAT PAGE! THANKS!

susan On Apr 2, 2014
Sounds like good advice, now to implement it, guess I'm a little spoiled