With the economy being at the top of everyone’s mind, I thought it might be useful to share some penny-pinching tips that you can apply and maybe free up some spending money for the holiday season. I’m sure that my list isn’t complete, so I welcome others to add their 2 cents with other cost-saving ideas.
1. GREAT FOOD FOR ALL. You can get a large amount of food for $30. The December menu is: 32 oz. sirloin steak, 4 lb. chicken, 12 oz. shrimp, 1 lb. thin sliced ham, 15 slices fully cooked Hormel bacon, 1.5 lb. fully cooked meatballs, 3 lb. frozen vegetables, 5 lb. potato wedges, 1 lb. margarine, 12 ct. rolls or biscuits, 32 oz. whole grain rolled oats.
Cash or money orders only. No Checks. Food stamps accepted. For more information call Earl or Jan King at 419-624-0999. The last day to place your order is December 3. Distribution is 9-11 a.m. Dec. 13 at the Sandusky Church of God at 1018 W. Bogart Road or 10-11 a.m. downtown at the Erie County Senior Center.
2. Great clothes can be found at the Goodwill Stores in Sandusky and Huron, the Salvation Army Store in Sandusky Plaza, the Thrift Shop on Market Street in Sandusky and the one inside the Erie County Senior Center. When I say there are some great “finds,” I know. I shop there. There are two consignment shops you should check out, Labels on W. Perkins Avenue -- I shop there too -- and there is a consignment shop in Vermilion. I am told they have great clothes there, as well.
3. Homestead Tax Exemption. If you are permanently and totally disabled or age 65 or older, save on your real estate taxes by applying for the Homestead Tax Exemption. You will receive a reduction on your tax bill. For more information go to the Erie County Auditor’s office or their Web site.
4. If you are on Medicare and your gross annual income is $15,600/year for a single person or $21,000 for a married couple and your assets (this does NOT mean your house, one car, your jewelry, furniture, etc.) are less than $11,990 for a single person or $23,970 for a married couple, you qualify for “Extra Help.” This is a great benefit, and you shouldn’t pass it up. Erie County residents age 60 and older should call Serving Our Seniors office if they would like assistance applying for “Extra Help.”
5. If you heat with natural gas, shop around for the best price. If you buy your natural gas from Columbia Gas, it is selling for $1.19 per ccf. This price varies from month-to-month. If you live inside the city limits of Sandusky, you can buy if from Direct Energy for a fixed price $1.03 per ccf ($1.02 per ccf if you are age 65+). Thank you City of Sandusky! If you live outside of Sandusky, there are still good buys if you want a fixed rate (a price that doesn’t vary month-to-month during the heating season). Integrys Energy is selling it for $1.08 per ccf from Decebmer 2008 to November 2009.
6. If your gross annual income if 175% of the Federal Poverty Guideline or less ($18,200 for a household of one; $24,500 for a household of two; $30,800 for a household of three, space limits me from sharing the full list, but you get the drift) you should apply for HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program). Those who qualify will get a credit on their heating bill to help defray the cost of heating their home. For more information go to http://development.ohio.gov/cdd/ocs/heap.htm. On the left side of the screen, click on the word HEAP, and you can print out your application.
7. Many generic prescription medications are available for $4/script at most chain stores. Tell your doctor to prescribe the generic over the name brand. If you have no prescription insurance there’s the DRUG REPOSITORY at Buderer Drug Store, 433 Hancock St., Sandusky. For $7.40/script you can get up to a 90-day supply of a generic medication if they have a large supply in stock. You can get a 30-day supply of a name brand drug (if they have it in stock) for $7.40/script. These are unexpired medicines in tamper-proof packaging donated by institutional pharmacies to the DRUG REPOSITORY to help people who are without prescription insurance.
8. If you are age 60+, you can get a great meal for $2.50 at the Erie County Senior Center, 620 E. Water St., Sandusky.
9. If you have a low income, you should know about the weatherization program administered by WSOS out of Greensprings. Although the office isn’t in Erie County, they do serve Erie County. This program will inspect your home and implement a plan for improving its efficiency by insulating your home free of charge. Call 419-639-2802 for more information.
10. If you have a computer that you leave on throughout the day, turn it on only when you are using it. Computers use more electricity than you think. Don’t just take my word for it, try it.
11. If you use a credit card, consider doing most or all of your spending on a credit card, and set your money aside so you can pay it off at the end of the month. Use a card that pays you back some type of cash benefit. I use a Mastercard and pay it off each month, but every few months they send me a gift card for $25 worth of gasoline.
OK…now it’s your turn. What do you recommend to pinch some pennies?