July 23, 2024
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Sightings Over Sixty: Whip Inflation Now

Remember that old line from President Ford? Actually, I think it was subject to a lot of ridicule, because it seemed so ineffective at the time. And of course it is ineffective as a national policy. But there are some practical ideas — as well as a particular frame of mind — that can help us save some money and deal with inflation that’s currently running at about 6 percent or so.

For example, Billionaire Warren Buffett knows a thing or two about saving (as well as earning) money. He famously lives in the house he bought for $31,500 in 1958, now worth about $700,000. He equally famously relied on a $20 flip phone for years before he finally gave in and bought an Apple phone in 2020 — coincidently at about the same time he also bought a chunk of Apple stock.

Says Buffett: “I do not save what is left after spending. I spend what’s left after saving.” He also said, “If you buy things you don’t need, you will soon sell things you do need.”

The Library: It’s not just books

Of course, that’s Buffett, who has a way with money that the rest of us don’t have. But I saw a good suggestion from a more normal woman on the internet:  Use your library, she says.

Ask for a tour of your local library and use everything they have to offer. Free books and DVDs. Free access to a computer. Many libraries also offer free classes, book clubs, movie discussion groups, day trips to local museums and concerts.

A neighbor of mine has been after me now for a couple of years about changing over to a Medical Advantage plan, instead of traditional Medicare plus supplemental plan. He gets prescription coverage as well as dental and vision coverage . . . all for a lower price. The one caveat is that he has to stay within his medical network, but that doesn’t seem to bother him at all. Plus, he gets free admission to a local gym — and he’s over there twice a week for a yoga class.

It’s not for everybody, he says. But it’s worth thinking about for the next Medicare open enrollment period in the fall.

Speaking of medical expenses, a friend of ours recently had his knee replaced, and he told us about a medical library run by our Parks & Recreation department. The town loans out all kinds of medical equipment like wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, etc., to town residents for free. If you’re going to need some equipment, it might be worth checking out if your town has a similar program.

I know many people who have “cut the cord” and dispensed with their cable plan, in favor of streaming Netflix and Amazon. It seems like a smart thing to do if you’re not the kind of fan that watches live sports on network TV. But even that is changing as some streaming services are starting to carry live sports.

Others have switched to cheaper cellphone service. We have Verizon. It’s a good service, no problems. But it is expensive. So we’re beginning to explore some alternatives offered through AARP. There’s another service called Cricket. Don’t know much about it; but I’ve got it on my list of services to check out.

Shop at thrift stores. My brother-in-law reports that he finds lots of gently used name-brand clothes at Goodwill, the Salvation Army and GreenDrop. It takes a bit of picking through the racks, he admits, but he finds some good stuff that looks brand new once he gets it home and puts it through the laundry.

I’m sure you might have some other ideas. But they all seem to come down to one basic philosophy, as Will Rogers once said: “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.”

One last tip, since it’s getting to be tax time, and you might be puzzled and frustrated with all the different forms and schedules. Various organizations have volunteers who will do your taxes for free, if you make less than a certain amount of money. In my area it’s the Bucks County Opportunity Council. In your area . . . well, check at the library, they probably know where to go.

Meantime, just a word of sympathy from the smartest person in history. It was Albert Einstein who said, “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”

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