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No COLA Raise? Discounts to Help Seniors Budget

Author: Michael Smith

Social Security recipients just got the bad news that there will be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) raises in Social Security payments in 2016. The reason: Cost of living did not increase overall in 2015 – attributed especially to the drop in gas prices. However, seniors don't use that much gas, and many prices of things they do use (eggs and healthcare, to name two) have continued to rise.

Even if you haven't used them much up to now, this may be the time for seniors to make a point of taking advantage of the wide array of discounts many retailers offer to older customers. (You may not even need to be a senior; the majority of McDonald's restaurants, for example, offer coffee and, sometimes, other beverages at a discount to anyone over 55.)

The problem is, senior discounts aren't always widely advertised. However, there's an easy way to find them: Go online and search the websites that track them. Here's our list, divided by things you're likely to purchase.

Where the Senior Discounts Are

Restaurants

The Senior List, a Florida-based website, includes information about senior discounts at more than 40 regional and national chains including Applebee's (15% off with Golden Apple Card), Papa John's Pizza (25% for online orders) and Wendy's (10%).

Another website, Senior Discounts notes that since so many restaurants give a senior discount, the best way to find out is to call and ask. In addition, the site has a search form at the top of each page that can be used to locate restaurants (and other types of businesses) that offer a discount to seniors.

Groceries

Not every meal involves eating out. Brad's Deals has posted a list of grocery stores featuring senior discounts. Most grocery stores that offer a discount to seniors only offer it on a specific weekday – often Wednesday. Look for 5% to 10% off in most cases.

Free4Seniors is another website with detailed information about grocery-store chain discounts for seniors. The site also includes links to find coupons that offer money off on products.

Clothing and Other Retailers

Check out The Senior List (mentioned above, under Restaurants) for a list of retail establishments for clothing and other items that offer senior discounts. You'll also find other discounted products; try the search box if you can't easily locate the information.

State Passes and Discounts

Many states offer a discount card to seniors. Others have additional programs offering discounts to residents of the state.

The easiest way to see what your state has is to search online: Type in the name of the state followed by department of aging. From there, a search on senior discount should pull up information about which discounts are available to seniors in that state.

Trains and Planes

Amtrak, the national railway system, starts handing out senior tickets at age 62; passengers save 15% on the cheapest ticket for their destination, though they are not valid on some special trains. Cross-border trains between the U.S. and Canada have a 10% discount, but it starts at age 60. Airlines also offer senior fares and perks. Check the airline's website for details. And don't forget local commuter trains and buses; many offer discounts as well.

National Parks and Recreational Areas

The U.S. Department of the Interior issues a lifetime Senior Pass to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are 62 or older for $10. This is a terrific deal since a regular-price annual pass costs $80.

The senior pass provides access for a car with up to four adults to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by the federal government. This includes all national parks and recreational areas.

AARP

AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) is a non-governmental organization and interest group for people 50 years of age and older. Members, who pay an annual membership fee, have access to a large number of discounts and reduced-price services in a wide range of areas including electronics, clothes, travel, flowers and many more.

Search Tips

Research – Go online and, using the keywords senior discount plus the specific item or service in which you are interested, conduct a search.

Ask – Call or visit the business establishment and ask if there is a senior discount.

Scrutinize the fine print and conditions – Discounts for seniors sometimes apply on certain days or during certain hours – i.e., early bird dining specials.

Check out other deals – Sometimes the senior discount is not as good as another discount being offered by the business or organization.

The Bottom Line

Not all businesses offer senior discounts but you will be surprised how many are there for the taking if you ask. Some simple Internet searching yields numerous results, as well.

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