According to an article in "USA Today," the average Social Security benefit check is $995 a month. This needs to cover your housing, food and utilities. By using a few tips and making a few changes, you may be able to live on this amount comfortably and still have a few dollars left over to spend on yourself.
Get your housing costs under control. If you rent, you need to apply to senior citizens state-run housing. The rent for these units is usually 25 percent of your income. This is a big savings in and of itself. If you are living in a home you own and even if the mortgage has been paid off, you still have taxes, upkeep and utilities to pay. You can rent out a room in your home to help defray costs.
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Call the city or town hall and inquire about tax programs for seniors if you own your own home. Many localities have property tax programs to lessen the payments. In Wareham, Concord and Littleton, MA, along with many other places, seniors can work off part of their property tax bill through community service. Other cities and towns have lower rates for seniors or freeze the taxes so they cannot increase in cost. Tax-deferment programs are widely used across the country to allow senior citizens to stay in their homes. These programs defer the taxes until the house changes hands due to death or sale.
Budget your food costs using coupons and checking weekly circulars for specials. The food-club stores work well if you can buy in bulk with a group of friends. Apply for food stamps through your local senior center. "Meals on Wheels," a program that delivers a hot meal, is available for those who cannot go out due to disability or sickness. Senior centers usually provide low-cost lunches. Find the location of your local food bank and use this resource to obtain food as well.
Call the local fuel-assistance program if you pay for your own heating. Assistance varies by state, but you generally can get free oil, gas or electric energy in a predetermined amount to cover heating if you fall within the income guidelines. Some programs also sell oil at a huge discount. Call your electric, cable and phone companies and ask if they have any programs geared to senior citizens or low-income customers. Even if a discount is not available, you can get on an installment plan that helps you budget by allowing you to pay the same amount each month throughout the year.