4 Everyday Ways to Help Your Elderly Parents Save Money

8 Comments

If you're finding a large amount of new purchases and shopping bags on display when visiting a grandparent or parent, you may be justifiably concerned. Just like younger people have problems with spending, older adults sometimes do too.

The fact is, shopping can be a highly social activity, and aging individuals need social contact just as much as anyone else, even more so if they spend the rest of the day fairly isolated. Spending money can be a quick release and source of mental happiness. Unfortunately, it also comes with a very visible price tag, too. (See: Is my elderly parent a shopaholic?)

Rather than discourage a loved one from buying things, try these four money-saving strategies to keep them within their budget:

Apply Senior Discounts

There are multiple ways to help older adults save money, just as there are for anyone else, but this is one time that aging individuals have the advantage. It is a well-established practice that older adults get a "senior discount" from most businesses, particularly restaurants and hotels. Anyone who is eligible and doesn't use this discount is literally leaving money on the table. While the savings aren't tremendous in one transaction, they will accumulate over time when applied consistently.

Use Coupons

While some may consider coupons as more of a hassle than an effective money saver, coupons can add another 10 to 20 percent of savings on the average purchase from food to appliances to durable goods. In some cases, the savings can be as much as 50 percent. Again, once a person realizes how much is discounted regularly when using coupons, it's foolish not to take advantage of them. Older adults are fairly used to using paper coupons, but many businesses have switched to electronic coupons and advertisements by email or text—so it's just a matter of teaching the older generation how to use a new format.

Buy Lightly Used Appliances or Surplus Goods

Big savings can be had on large purchases (appliances, cars, etc.) if they are bought a year old. In almost all aspects, these units work perfectly fine and will last reliably for at least another five to seven years. The savings gained from targeting lightly used or surplus new items can be hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Especially with surplus goods, savings can be anywhere from 50 to 80 percent, particularly on clothes and accessories. Again, these are often new goods or almost-new durable goods. When one realizes how much these items can stretch a dollar, folks often kick themselves for not doing it sooner.

Avoid Offers That Are Too Good to Be True

The number one way older adults get separated from their money? Scams and too-good-to-be-true offers, usually on TV. However, many aging parents will react negatively to any kind of control on their liberties. Instead, the way to save them hurt and money is to support them by offering a second opinion. This may mean having to be patient with a lot of oddball questions, but it can be worth the effort saving your loved ones from a scam that can steal thousands of dollars from them. Ultimately, offering your help versus trying to control the situation will be much more effective in the long term.

Helping aging parents save money is not a one-time affair. It's an extended effort that takes time. However, your loved ones will appreciate the help when they realize the benefits as they materialize.


Mark Westerman is the Chief Marketing Officer for CareOne, Inc., a provider of debt relief services nationwide.

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8 Comments

This article is much, much too simplistic because it assumes that seniors can be taught to change lifelong habits, while ignoring the social and psychological implications of bargain hunting, coupons and buying second hand goods. Editor: lets get serious about the dangerous habits of spending that are brought on by loneliness and a lack of active socialization.
Unfortunately my Mom sees her incoming mail before i do. No way around that. She takes all too-good-to-be-true offers to heart and believes all requests for money are serious demands which which she must comply. Whenever i manage to get a few under control (notify them to stop sending mail) others pop up. I sincerely wish there was a way to prevent such mail from ever being put into the US Mail system -- but free speech and free enterprise will always be abused by the unethical.
This is a very wise article. I am 74 years of age and live in a senior community center.
I highly recommend every suggestion you have. As far as spending goes, I have been one of the worst in the past; however, being a new frugal, I buy shoes and clothes off of ebay for so much less money. I go to Thrift Shops for so many other things that are almost like new and great finds. Shopping therapy could be as much the issue as buying things. So, going on trips to these stores can be well worth the effort as hunting bargains/gifts at a much larger discount as well as shopping for some less advantaged children / school students who have much less. Shopping can symbolize the need to fill a lonely hole, find connection in the community, and have something new in life to brighten one's days. Involvement with church activities truly helps focus on important needs of service. Older people have time, talent, skills, and energy to share. All of us elderly need to have the freedom to write a check and/or use a credit card. When my mother was alive, the most powerful person in her life was her doctor and whatever he said she would do. I worked together with him and his staff to monitor her health needs. In fact, he could get real tough with my hard headed mother when she was needing guidance on any issue that came up.
My advice would be to look at her income, her expenditure, and her social emotional needs. If she is far exceeding her limitations that would impact her ability to live independently, stay in her home...etc.... then I would seek her doctor's help for an intervention for her to live freely and have independence. Having worked with myself on this issue, I have come a long way. But if you feel you can manage her finances and agree on a monthly amount for her to have fun, then you may have to do it.
Criticizing her for spending is cruel and mean, but analyzing her constant and variable expenses would be critical to follow. But be fair, clear, involve her, and involve her doctor if you think you need assistance. With his support, you can also file to become her POA over her finances. Make this a loving and freeing experience for her.