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Want to save money, get free stuff? Turn the page

By the time we reach 50, most of us have heard of the discounts on such items as movies, meals and motels for senior citizens. Free Stuff & Good Deals for Folks Over 50, by Linda Bowman, opens the door to more money savers than even the most dedicated bargain hunter can think of.

Whether advertised or not, to get the best deals, Bowman writes, always ask two questions:

• Do you have discounts for seniors?

• What is the lowest available rate?

The book's 239 pages are liberally sprinkled with URLs, mainly for Web sites of national organizations. For instance, under travel, the longest of seven chapters, Bowman writes of AARP discounts in hotel chains such as Best Western, Holiday Inn and Hampton Inn.

Variations to hotel stays that are often cheaper include home exchanges, house sitting, hostels and truck stops, as well as camping. Want to travel for free? Possibilities include becoming a tour escort or arranging a group tour of your own.

Other chapters cover unexpected subjects: freebies from banks, the IRS, and countless publications on retirement planning, Medicare, auto insurance, education, etc.

Another chapter is devoted to sports, fitness and exercise. One nonprofit organization called Volkssporting (www.ava.org) offers noncompetitive events in walking, biking, swimming and cross country skiing. Largo and Inverness have groups in this organization.

Despite much practical information on good deals, Bowman has missed a few:

• The chapter on travel did not mention AAA, which often offers the same discount as the major chains provide to seniors.

• Neither the chapters on Fitness nor Health mentioned Silver Sneakers, an exercise program developed especially for older adults. Yet at least one HMO, Humana, pays all the charges for Silver Sneakers.

Then there's food. What's put on the table has become one of the highest dollar amounts in the budget for the average older adult, but only restaurants are mentioned in the book. Nothing is written about the farmers' markets and pick-it-yourself farms that have joined sales, coupon clipping and bulk purchases as ways to save a buck.

There's even a national volunteer-two-hours-a-month for a frozen meat and fresh produce program that beats Wal-Mart prices. For more information on this, Floridians can click on www.shareflorida.org or call toll-free 1-800-536-3379.

Because the author focuses on the whole country, little here is specific to Florida — and some of what is mentioned is incorrect (Cypress Gardens is in Winter Haven, not Tampa, and Sea Escape Cruise Line left the bay area years ago).

Freelance writer Adele Woodyard lives in Tarpon Springs.

Bay area discounts

For more discount options, check the St. Petersburg Times' Weekend magazine, as well as the tourist-oriented coupon magazines placed in many retail locations and restaurants. These publications typically note or have coupons for free or low-cost attractions such as museums, gardens, etc.

Check the phone book for the nearest senior center, community center or library, for free movies and other events. Many of these are not restricted to those over 50; for example:

• Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, Tarpon Springs. Free dance and opera videos, 1:30 p.m. Sat. and Sun. respectively. www.spcollege.edu/museum.

• Tarpon Springs Community Center shows free movies at 1 p.m. two Tuesdays a month during tourist season. (727) 942-5628 for dates.

• Downtown Art Walk, St. Petersburg; one Saturday evening a month. (727) 821-6767.

• D.G. Yuengling & Son Brewery, Tampa. Free tours, weekdays. (813) 972-8500.

Review

Free Stuff & Good Deals for Folks Over 50, third edition; Linda Bowman; Santa Monica Press; 239 pages. $12.95.

There are at least two other current books on this topic. Check the major bookstores or online sellers for such titles.

Want to save money, get free stuff? Turn the page 03/24/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 4:36pm]

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