The latest StatsCanada income trend shows that 6.2% of seniors living in a family, and 28.5% of those living alone are classified as low income. Okay, these 2012 figures are somewhat dated, but there is no denying that many retirees are living paycheque to paycheque. For those with little savings and no company pension and relying for the most part on government benefits, making every dollar count in retirement is crucial.

5 ways to stretch your retirement dollars

Here are 5 ways to help stretch your retirement dollars and survive on a fixed budget.

1. Take advantage of all the financial support available to you

If you are mainly relying on your government pensions (CPP, OAS), ensure that you also apply for all the support you’re eligible to receive from the various governments:

  • federal (GIS, Allowance program, Survivor benefits)
  • provincial (income assistance, affordable housing programs) and
  • municipal (property tax grants or deferments)

Take advantage of all the tax savings available to you. Federal and provincial tax programs are designed to help – pension income splitting, pension sharing, home renovation credits.

Look here to see what resources are available to you by province.

Some newcomers to Canada might qualify for International Benefits. Canada has social security arrangements with various countries that can help secure benefits if you lived and worked in a country that has an agreement with Canada and you paid into the social security plan of that country.

2. Save on meals

Grocery prices are increasing every year. You already know how to take advantage of sales, buy store brands and in-season produce.

Seniors who are socially inclined can participate in meal-sharing options. For example, you and a small group of friends take turns hosting each other for dinner. Prepare economical meals such as casseroles, soups and stews. Pot lucks are another option. You also have the added benefit of socializing and having fun with friends on a regular basis.

Buddy-up on groceries by building a grocery shopping list with a friend or neighbour. You will save by buying larger sizes and splitting them.

If you are involved with a church or other community group, you may be able to take advantage of low-cost organized dinners or pot lucks.

3. Cut costs of prescription medicine

As Canadian age the cost of prescription medications tends to increase and, depending on your state of health, can become quite expensive.

Each province has their own drug benefit program that offer some level of reimbursement for low income seniors. Provincial drug plans such as the Trillium Drug Program in Ontario, Alberta Blue Cross and BC and Manitoba Pharmacare help seniors cover the cost of medications not covered by their provincial health care plan.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for options available to cut costs. Some drug companies offer discounts and usually generic prescriptions cost less than the brand name equivalent.

Don’t forget to track your medical expenses. They are claimable at tax time if you have receipts.

4. Sign up for senior discounts

There are a number of organizations and retailers offering senior rates including zoos, museums and movie theatres. In Calgary an annual transit pass is just $95. BC Ferries gives a 50% discount on a passenger fare (Monday to Thursday, except holidays). Retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart have senior discount days. A number of universities and colleges offer free tuition, at least for non-credit courses.

A list of discounts can be found at Mrs January.

5. Avoid fraud and financial abuse

The Government of Canada lists fraud as the number one crime committed against older Canadians. Scam artists prey on seniors because they:

  • Are often home during the day to answer the phone or door
  • Tend to be more trusting
  • May not have good friends or family close by to help with financial matters

Unfortunately, seniors can also be victims of financial abuse that is often perpetrated by their loved ones who could deplete a joint account, or continually ask for financial help to pay debts, cover expenses, or help start a business.

  • Be forthright with telephone solicitations, “Send me something in writing.”
  • Never give out personal information, such as social insurance number, bank accounts or credit card numbers, over the phone or e-mail.
  • Shred your old receipts and bank and credit card statements.
  • Stay educated on the latest scams, e.g. grandparent scam, CRA taxes owing scam

Final thoughts

Senior discounts have been widely criticized these past few years and no doubt will be reduced or eliminated in the future. In the meantime, pensioners living on a low fixed income don’t have to live a frugal pauper’s existence.

What ways do you stretch your retirement dollars?

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