By Mark Westerman
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.
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.