By Chris Orestis
Special to The PREVIEW
People who reach or near their retirement years often need to watch every penny.
Sure, some of them are financially fit and don’t lose sleep worrying that their bank accounts and investments will run dry, out of money. For many, though, frugality is the watchword as they struggle to make it through each month.
Fortunately, aging does come with at least one financial perk — senior discounts that restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores, airlines, car rental companies, hotels and other businesses offer to their older clientele. These discounts give older Americans a break on prices for everything from a gym membership to a fast-food meal to a movie ticket.
You would think all seniors and their families would be all over these opportunities. But, surprisingly, many people don’t take advantage. In some cases, that could be because it doesn’t occur to ask whether a discount is available. In other cases, people just have a hard time thinking of themselves as seniors.
But you need to be aware — and you should always ask. In scouring for discounts, here are a few other things to keep in mind:
• Don’t assume you’re too young. How old do you need to be? It varies. That’s one reason it’s always good to ask. You could already be eligible for a discount at a business and not realize it. For example, AARP membership starts at 50 and comes with numerous discounts built into the membership. Chili’s restaurants offer a 10 percent senior discount to those 55 and older. At the other end of the scale, Taco Bell will give you a free beverage, but not until you are at least 65.
• Sometimes when you go matters. Some discounts happen on a particular day of the week. Just as an example, some Captain D’s restaurants offer a “Happy Wednesday” discount where once a week seniors can choose from among eight meals at a reduced price. No one expects you to schedule your entire life around discounts, but for some individual things — such as a night at the movies or dinner out or even a shopping trip to a retail store — it’s worth knowing that going a day earlier or a day later might make a difference.
• Occasionally, you don’t even have to be a senior. Plenty of opportunities exist to save money whether you’re advancing in years or not. Many stores offer store “memberships” that come with a discount with each purchase. Also, the American Automobile Association is another organization whose members enjoy a number of discounts in much the same way AARP members do.
• Individually, some discounts might amount to just a dollar or two. But as you take advantage of more of them, those savings grow. When you’re on a fixed income — or just want to get the most out of every dollar you have — the difference over time can be significant.