The bad news: in 2016 there will be no Social Security increase, not a dime. More than 60 million Americans get those benefits, but the government has held fast to offering no jump in the benefit. That is just the third time in four decades that there’s been no increase.
And yet many seniors have been grumbling ever louder about rent hikes, more expensive grocery bills and steadily climbing health care costs. That is why a year of no Social Security increase will put many on the edge of despair as they struggle to balance their budgets. For 24% of Social Security recipients, the government dole is their only income. For 65%, it’s the majority of their income.
But there are many easy - painless - ways to take a whack at a senior’s monthly budget. From groceries to prescription drugs there are ways to cut costs that will not lower quality of life. Read on for a 2016 survival guide.
Forget brand names, buy generics and store brands, advised Alex Matjanec, CEO of MyBankTracker. He pointed to a 2014 study by economist Bart Bronnenberg at Tilburg University that found Americans spend an extra $44 billion per year on name brands when they could buy the same products for cheaper by going with a store or generic brand. In many cases a store brand - at a grocer or drugstore - costs just half as much as a name brand. Often there is no meaningful quality difference.
Shop around before filling prescriptions. Prices vary wildly. In Phoenix, a month’s supply of cholesterol medicine Lipitor is $10.30 with a free discount card at Walmart. At CVS it is $146, discounted down to $41.68 with a coupon. Blood thinner warfarin is $4 at Walmart. At Safeway it is $12.05 with a free coupon. A free website - GoodRx - makes it easy to track drug prices and to pinpoint the cheapest. Or just call around. Either way - and especially when a drug is not covered by insurance - comparison shopping is key to painless cost savings.
Borrow movies from your library, suggested Gary Weiner, a frugality expert at SuperSavingTips.com. That saves $7.99 per month at Netflix, and more than that per ticket at most movie theaters. Different libraries have different film strengths. Some are good at documentaries, less so at R-rated films. Others mainly only have kids' films. So this may not work everywhere. But a library card is free in just about all towns, so check out what’s available. That same card of course will bring you a supply of free reading material - so that means potentially huge savings at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.