Frugal Eldercare Part 2: Overall Savings Strategies

Saving money to make ends meet during eldercare is not impossible.  It can even be fun as evidenced by these creative stuffed peppers dressed up to look like Jack-o-Lanterns for our dinner last Halloween. Here’s how:

Brainstorm with the family on how to reduce expenses, including asking your elderly parent if possible. Ask what can be substituted to reduce expenses or what people are willing to give up. You might be surprised by their ingeniousness. For example, my husband swapped fresh milk with dried milk for his morning coffee, saving several dollars every week. When my husband was growing up, his mother cut the family’s fresh milk 50:50 with dried milk to save on grocery costs. Today, my in-laws are comfortably retired.

Elderly parents are often fonts of willing knowledge because they want to contribute to the family and be useful. My father has been reading the 500 page manual for our car, and introduced me to an economy mode which increases gas mileage. He also has many ideas on how to repair things cheaply rather than replacing them.

Back in the 1990’s, I was a regular reader of The Tightwad Gazette emails. While the author is now retired, you can pick up her book, The Complete Tightwad Gazette at your local library or used bookstore. This tome has literally hundreds of frugal ideas to choose from.

Other people have since taken up the tightwad cause in a variety of flavors. Here’s a few of them:

Resources on budgeting and saving abound. This little blog cannot list them all, and each family’s circumstances vary so not every savings tactic will be applicable. Basically, however, they all revolve around the idea that by reducing purchases, we can reduce expenses and save to improve our financial security. Here are a few other ideas of the many available:

While the minimalistic movement may be grounded in using and owning a minimal number of resources and belongings for a variety of reasons, it also stresses financial security. Some of the more radical examples of minimalism may not be realistic for eldercare, but taking an inventory of what is required for a good standard of living vs. what is simply desired may be helpful for caregivers in sorting out some of the more confusing feelings surrounding eldercare.

Collaborative Consumption, also call the Sharing Economy, saves money by sharing resources instead of purchasing them individually. Public libraries are the original example of this strategy. Other options include tool libraries, car and bike sharing programs, clothing memberships, etc. Many of these options are available via the Web.

Finally, I like to remember my Depression-era grandparents’ advice:

  • “The best way to save money is not to spend it in the first place”.
  • “Your belongings are meant to be used”.
  • “If you get hard up, sell the family heirlooms to make ends meet”.
  • “Take care of your belongings. Fix them when they wear out”.
  • “Don’t gamble your hard-earned money away”.
  • “Use both sides of the paper”.
  • “Put on a sweater”.
  • “Dogs have been eating table scraps for thousands of years. If it was really bad for them, they’d be extinct”.

Next post will be about specific savings strategies that come with eldercare. Remember my $400 water bill? I’ll tell you how I cut it by 50%, and some of the other strategies I did to bring our budget back in line. Stay tuned!

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