Save money at any age

Whether you’re 25 or 65, single or married with children, there are countless ways to save money on everything from transportation to prescriptions to home repairs. Here is a list for three groups: singles, families and senior citizens.

SINGLES

Learn to cook – Eating more meals at home is one to save money. With practice, you can learn to make restaurant-quality food in your own kitchen. Ask your parents or grandparents to show you how to make a favorite dish. Buy a good cookbook, get recipes online or watch cooking shows.

Consider a roommate – Sharing an apartment or house with someone else means paying less for rent, utilities and groceries since you’ll split the costs. You might be able to afford a nicer, larger place than you could if you were living by yourself. Pooling your resources can also make furnishing your place easier.

Lower car costs – You can save on gas and wear and tear on your car by walking, riding a bike or using public transportation whenever possible. In Houston, you can take the bus, park and ride or rail. Driving sensibly is another way to save money – speeding, rapid acceleration and hard braking can waste gas. Consider carpooling with co-workers or neighbors.

Be responsible with credit – If credit cards are new to you, don’t abuse them. They can help you build credit and practice money management skills. Only charge what you need and what you can afford to pay off each month. Shop around for a low-interest credit card.

Use student discounts – If you are in school part-time or full-time, shop at places that offer discounts to students with a school ID. Check out what your campus has to offer in terms of activities, rather than spending money on going out. Some campuses offer movie nights, museum visits and other social events cheaper or for free.

FAMILIES

Enjoy free activities – Houston has more than 370 parks, along with community and fitness centers, skate parks and nature trails. Your family can swim, play basketball, romp on the playground or walk the dog. Houston also has libraries in every part of the city offering computers, classes, story times, exhibits and more. The Children’s Museum of Houston is free for members, children under 1 and on Thursdays from 5-8 p.m.

Cut food costs – Making a grocery list and sticking to it is essential to a food budget. It helps to use coupons and money-saving apps as well. If your kids shop with you, don’t be distracted by impulse purchases, especially junk food. When eating out, pick restaurants that let kids eat free or for 99 cents during certain hours and days.

Start a garden – Growing your own fruits or veggies is another way to cut food costs. By learning a few basic skills and techniques, you can make gardening a pleasant family experience. Grow what your family likes to eat and stay away from hard-to-grow plants. If yard space is tight you can grow plants like strawberries, radishes, spinach and herbs in a window box.

Cut energy costs – Save money at home. On hot days, avoid using the oven. Instead, cook on the stove, use a microwave or grill outside. Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes. Take short showers instead of baths. Turn off the light when no one is in a room. Use light fixtures and bulbs that promote energy efficiency.

Learn to fix stuff – If you’re the do-it-yourself type, learn how to fix things around the house. There are online tutorials and videos that show you how to make simple home repairs. You can unclog a toilet drain, repair a broken toilet lever, fix a leaky pipe or loosen a stuck window, among other things. Be careful when attempting electrical projects.

SENIORS

Take advantage of discounts – Many restaurants provide discounts to older adults. Various retailers offer 10 or 15 percent discounts to shoppers 55 and older, often on Tuesdays. Museums, movie theaters and theme parks often offer senior discounts. Certain auto stores give senior discounts. Your utility and cell phone provider may have discounts as well. It never hurts to ask.

Lower prescription costs – Save money by using a generic prescription. If that option isn’t available, ask your doctor if there is a lower cost brand-name drug used to treat the same condition. See if a 90-day supply from your pharmacy can be less expensive out of pocket than refilling every 30 days. Some prescription drug plans have a preferred pharmacy network where you can pay a lower out-of-pocket copay for the same drug.

Shop for new Medicare coverage – Don’t assume that last year’s Medicare coverage is still the best deal for you. Costs for health and drug plans can vary, and it’s important for people with Medicare to review their plan, shop and compare all their options during open enrollment.

Save on tuition or continuing education – You’re never too old to learn, and more than 50 percent of U.S. colleges and universities let older students take classes at a lower tuition rate or for free. Some groups and foundations offer grants, scholarships and fellowships for seniors.

Join an organization for seniors –AARP, the largest membership organization for older adults, offers discounts, member-exclusive insurance rates and various webinars. Other organizations include the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) and the American Seniors Association (ASA).

Websites to visit: 

www.aarp.org

www.cmhouston.org

www.energy.gov

www.houstonlibrary.org

www.houstontx.gov/parks/

www.kids.usa.gov.

www.medicare.gov

www.ridemetro.org

www.walgreens.com

Other ways to save

Adults of all ages can save more money by examining their lifestyle choices.

“It is important to review your spending habits at least monthly,” said Sonya Troullier, a senior vice president and registered investment advisor with Wealth Development Strategies.

“You might not realize exactly what you’re spending on all the bells and whistles that come with your cable or phone contract, or just how many times a month you dine out. Once you do, you’ll see that there are some simple steps you can take to improve your financial fitness and recapture hidden wealth.”

Troullier’s suggestions include:

Re-evaluate your gym membership – If you’re among those who have a gym membership but never use it, save the monthly dues and stay fit in other ways. Take walks, hop on your bike, start using free weights and exercise bands you keep at home, and see if you don’t end up saving time and exercising more.

Negotiate with your cable provider – We all love the endless viewing options available on cable TV, but you can pay a steep price for all that channel flipping. Consider checking with your provider regularly to see if you qualify for any discounts.

Survey your cell phone statements – Do you find yourself only using your cell phone for occasional texts, or is it attached to you at the hip? Regardless of how many minutes you tally a month, you stand a good chance of scoring a better plan these days because the competition among providers just keeps increasing. Many providers will pay off the balance of your contract and offer you a lower-cost monthly deal – and a phone upgrade too.

Have more movie nights at home – Treat yourself to the latest releases once or twice a month, not every weekend. Save the hefty cost of a movie theater ticket by waiting a few months until you can rent a movie for a fraction of that, or stream it for free.