Although retirement is meant to be the time when people start taking it easy and really enjoying life, the reality is that many pensioners simply can’t afford to “take it easy”. We’re living longer and retiring on smaller pension pots, and for all too many folks, the life phase that they might have referred to as “the golden years” when viewed from a distance turned out to be fool’s gold when viewed close-up. It’s tempting to say we should just do away with the whole myth of retirement and be done with it.
But we humans are nothing if not resilient, not to mention resourceful. And although it might be pleasant to while away the days on the deck of a cruise ship or explore the Continent in a luxury travel trailer, people who can’t afford to do so are nevertheless finding ways to add enjoyment to their lives. It just takes a little creativity and even, perhaps, a willingness to turn frugality into a game.
Never overlook an opportunity to save!
Whether retirement finds you sticking close to home or spending your time travelling, there are discounts available for the asking. Some are free, while others charge a modest fee for membership.
Travel – With some restrictions such as eligibility age, you can get free or discounted travel passes on local bus and rail lines. British nationals born before September 2, 1929 can get a new or renewal passport at no cost. Some holiday travel businesses and ski resorts also offer discounted rates and free lift passes to seniors.
TV Licence – Seniors who are 75 or older can get a free television licence.
Energy bill subsidies – Some seniors can qualify for a £200 to £300 annual rebate on energy bills. Seniors on pension credit can also qualify for a cold weather payment of £25 for every seven-day period of cold weather during winter months.
Cinema tickets – Several cinema companies offer discounted admission to seniors during select showing times, and some even include a complimentary tea and biscuit in the price.
Dining out – Even seniors as young as 50 can qualify for the free Diamond Club card, which will get you discounts on meals at many pubs and carveries, with the best discounts offered during normally slow business periods, weekdays and Saturday afternoons.
The trick is to save money as much money as you can where you can, but don’t fret if you can’t save as much as you wanted. If you’ve lived the life of a frugal senior for any time at all, you know that every little bit helps, and those small discounts and freebies can add up quickly. Just don’t become such a fanatic about saving a few pence that the frugality game isn’t fun anymore.
Make shopping a creative adventure instead of an ordeal
When you find yourself out shopping, you will have even more opportunities to play the frugality game, but in order to play, you might have to break some unwritten “rules” governing proper British behaviour. In particular, you need to learn the fine art of haggling. We Brits are hesitant to engage in haggling, probably because we’ve been raised to view it as a gauche behavior, best left to indigents and the patrons of third-world bazaars and markets. That’s too bad, as it can not only help us get significantly lower prices on the goods we buy, it can actually be a lot of fun and foster new and interesting relationships with merchants with whom our exchanges are usually brief and impersonal.
Again, the purpose here is to save money and have fun doing it. Don’t be too attached to the outcome; if you can’t haggle something down to an acceptable level, walk away and try again elsewhere. (Note: Walking away from a sale is sometimes the final step toward getting the price you want. And it is always a nice surprise when a previously unbending merchant beckons you back into the store to make the deal.)
Take advantage of all available resources
Although it often seems that older people become invisible to society, fortunately there are organisations that exist specifically to help these overlooked citizens. One such organisation is Age UK, which describes its vision as being “for a world where everyone can love later life”.
That’s a pretty tall order, but Age UK is a pretty ambitious organization, and for good reason; the over-60 age group is growing faster than any other age group. As such, it – and Age UK – represent a powerful consumer demographic, one to which more and more businesses and industries are catering.
Age UK offers advice and support to seniors in virtually all aspects of senior life, from finances to health and fitness to becoming more fully engaged in your community. They also have over 450 charity shops / recycling centres in operation, which offer a wide array of goods, with surprise offerings cropping up at virtually every visit.
The time for idealising old age is long past; enough already about the golden years. On the other hand, the later years do not have to be a nightmare of austerity and lack. Facing the problems of this life phase head-on is the best way to ensure that more people can have a retirement that, whilst perhaps not entirely “golden”, is nevertheless filled with colour and light and the things that make life a gift instead of a burden.