Strategies for Making Ends Meet: Cutting Costs

University of Nevada, Reno
Southern Area Cooperative Extension
Seniors Can

Lesson Plan

Lesson: Strategies for Making Ends Meet: Cutting Costs

Lesson Number: F-1


The “Strategies for Making Ends Meet: Cutting Costs” lesson is designed to introduce Learners to ways to live better within their budgets.

Learning Overview: The Learner will participate in a lesson designed to teach him/her techniques to cut daily living costs and get more for what s/he pays.

Lesson Objectives:

  1. During the lesson, the Learner will be exposed to the following ways to live better within their budgets:
    • The difference between the following concepts: “standard of living,” “quality of life,” “frugal,” “deprivation” and the idea that “quality of life” does not necessarily require large amounts of discretionary income.
    • Ways to cut costs in areas of personal services, clothing, entertainment, transportation and household items and supplies.
  2. During the lesson, the Learner will engage in group discussion regarding cutting costs and increasing the quality of life, describing with clarity at least one example from his/her life experience.
  3. During group discussion, either spontaneously or in response to Facilitator request, the Learner will state with clarity that s/he has selected at least one idea presented during the lesson, what that idea is, and that s/he will try this idea during the following week to see if it works for him/her. Alternatively, the Learner will state with clarity that s/he does not want to try out any of the ideas presented, and the reason for the decision.


Set up at previous meeting:

Next week, we will be exploring strategies for making ends meet by cutting costs.


Set up immediately prior to this meeting:

Facilitator assures that lighting is appropriate for Learners to read the entertainment section of the local newspaper (NEON) or from a senior newspaper (Lovin’ Life).



Provided by Facilitator:

One of the following for each Learner:

Handout: Strategies for Making Ends Meet: Cutting Costs (Seniors CAN Curriculum, 2008).

A copy of a local newspaper, entertainment or senior related section. Schedules from libraries, arts centers and/or parks and recreation programs. Written location of closest senior center and activity schedule. Easel, large notepad and markers (for group planning activity).

Note: Facilitator should review lesson plan for this week, last week and next week because information provided at the beginning of each lesson plan is needed for a smooth transition between lessons.





Consumer Literacy Consortium. (2005). 66 Ways to Save Money [Brochure]. Washington, D.C.

Hedrick, L. H. (1994). 365 Ways to Save Money. New York: Hearst Books.

Clark County Senior Advocate Program. (2006). Royal Pages: A guide to services for seniors. Clark County Parks and Recreation: Las Vegas, NV.

American Association of Retired Persons. (2008). Be a Wise Consumer [Accessed: 8/4/08].

*Brand names are used for illustration purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by Cooperative Extension.


Begin Lesson:

Transition from last week

Last week we talked about (name of last week’s unit). Each of us selected one idea to try out. Let’s talk about how those worked (or didn’t work) for us, and also what we learned from last week’s meeting.

Anticipatory Set:

Today we will explore cutting costs of daily living. We think this topic is important because most of us have a fixed amount of money to live on, yet there are strategies for getting the most out of it. When we discover and use these strategies, we can improve the quality of our lives.

Share the Objective:

  1. During the lesson, we will be discussing:
    1. The difference between the following concepts: “standard of living,” “quality of life,” “frugal,” and “deprivation,” and the idea that “quality of life” does not necessarily require large amounts of discretionary income.
    2. Ways to cut costs in areas of personal services, clothing, entertainment, transportation, household items and supplies.
  2. During this lesson, I will be providing information, but it is also important that we share information and ask questions in group discussion. I would appreciate it if each of you could bring up at least one example from your life experience.
  3. Also during the lesson today, I’m going to ask each of you to select one idea from the lesson to try out on your own over the next week. I’ll pick one, too. Then each of us can share with the group next week how it worked out.

Share the Handout:

This summarizes the main ideas we will be discussing today. [Pass out handout.] Please feel free to take notes and ask questions as they arise.


I. Discussion of the concepts: Ask Learners to give to the group their working definitions of each term, and give them these definitions to consider as well.

  1. Standard of living: how much money you spend on your lifestyle.
  2. Quality of Life: how much fulfillment you get from your lifestyle.
  3. Frugal: avoiding unnecessary expenditures.
  4. Deprivation: a state where we go without what is necessary to the extent that we lower our quality of life.
  5. The relationship between quality of life and income: If we spend our resources on what we get the most fulfillments from, we can have a high quality of life whether or not we have a high standard of living.
  6. For example, if our grandchildren are important to us, spending time reading to them from a book we borrowed for free from the library, or sending them cards with little jokes and loving reminders, can be every bit as fulfilling, and possibly more so, than buying them the latest fad toy. If good food, good friends and conversation are important to us, then inviting friends for dinner and a good talk can be as fulfilling as going out to an expensive restaurant with them. The key is to be able to focus in on what is important to each of us as individuals.

II. Ways to cut costs:

Each of you has lived for a long time and undoubtedly knows some good methods for cutting costs. As we go through the list of ideas that I have for you, I would like to hear from you what your ideas are. When we hear different ideas on this topic from different sources, we eventually find several ideas that work well for us.

  1. Personal Services
    1. Beauty schools, especially on senior citizen discount days, have very low cost services.
    2. Inexpensive dry cleaning - $1.25 and $1.50 cleaners. (Many people stop buying or wearing “dry clean only” garments). Also, many past participants have had success using home dry cleaning kits like Dryel*. You are able to dry clean garments at home using your dryer.
    3. Services offered for free (or reduced expense) at senior centers for example toenail clipping service with foot massage (not available for people with diabetes). Senior centers also offer blood pressure checks, Medicare counseling, health fairs, flu clinics, exercise and educational classes and social activities.
  2. Clothing, Household Items and Supplies
    1. Second hand stores - both thrift stores and consignment stores.
      • a. Thrift stores have good deals, though you might have to search through the inventory a bit. They are good for finding household items in good shape, such as area rugs, tablecloths and gardening equipment. There are many thrift stores in the Las Vegas area—check the Yellow Pages under “Thrift Stores.” (adapt to your local area) Opportunity Village Thrift Stores, Catholic Charities Thrift Stores, Charleston Outlet, Goodwill, Salvation Army and Deseret Industries usually have good clothing selections as well as household goods. There are other good thrift stores as well.*
      • b. Consignment stores usually sell clothing and occasionally, some household items. Their goods tend to cost a little more, but often are of higher quality than what is found in thrift stores. Also, consignment shops allow you to sell older clothes you no longer use that are in good shape. You split the resale price with the store after the item is sold. Check the Yellow Pages under “Consignment Service.”
    2. Factory outlets - Some factory outlet stores are not truly full of factory overstocks, since the factory outlet store now serves a market niche of its own. Sometimes cheaper versions of products are manufactured to meet the demand for name brand products at reduced prices through these stores. You can still get good deals, however; just be aware that everything is not a bargain.
    3. Warehouse club stores - like Sam’s Club and Costco do offer some good deals when you buy in bulk.* Make sure that anything you buy in bulk will be completely used, or it’s not a bargain. You may want to split the cost of a membership with a friend. You would have to have the membership in one of your names (and the person whose name is on the card will have to go every time because the other will always have to go in as a guest). You could buy in bulk together, splitting the cost and the merchandise.
      • a. Watch out for “consumer buying clubs” that have no location, or that you never heard of, because those can be fraudulent.
    4. Discount Stores - There are also a number of good discount stores in this area, including: Big Lots, Smart and Final, Walmart and K-mart. Don’t forget the 99 cent store or Dollar Tree when purchasing household supplies, personal care items, gift wrap, decorative items, 2 for 1 cards, inexpensive gifts, etc.*
    5. Other Tips on Stores
      • a. Get yourself on the mailing lists of stores you like so that you are notified of sales.
      • b. Most thrift stores in the Las Vegas area, and some retail stores, such as Ross, Kohl’s, Home Depot, have senior citizen discount days.*
      • c. Shop the newspaper’s Sunday advertisements to see what is on sale and at what store. Save even more and buy the newspaper at the dollar strore!
      • d. Sign up for the store saving cards which can help save money at grocery stores and pharmacy stores. Examples include CVS, Albertsons and Petsmart.*
    6. Cleaning Products
      • a. Did you know that baking soda makes a great scouring cleanser? And a mixture of vinegar and water makes a good cleaning solution for floors, sinks, bathrooms and kitchens? And your old newspaper offers great streak-less window cleaning?
      • b. If you do buy regular cleaning products, use store brands. Get products in lower-priced refill containers, you just refill your existing squirt bottles.
    7. First Aid
      • a. You can make frozen gel packs to apply to injuries: Combine ¼ cup rubbing alcohol with ¾ cup water and partially fill a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag with the mixture. Seal the bag. Place this bag inside another bag and store it in the freezer. The more alcohol you use, the softer the gel pack will be.
  3. Prescription Medication – If your insurance plan does not offer prescription coverage, try the following to save money on medication:
    1. Ask for generic equivalents, if available.
    2. Shop around: Call several pharmacies to find the best price on a given prescription medication. Prices vary greatly from store to store. Check on individual prescriptions, as one pharmacy might have a good price on one drug but charge much more than other stores on another drug.
    3. Consider mail-order pharmacies for medications used on a long-term basis, as their prices are often lower than those of full-service pharmacies.
    4. Costco offers many discounts on prescription medications. You do not need to be a member to get prescriptions filled there. Check with your local store for their prices.
  4. Food
    1. Packaged and processed foods tend to be more expensive than unprocessed foods.
    2. Store-brands are generally comparable in nutrition and quality to name brands, but cost less. If you don’t use store brands now, why not give them a chance?
    3. There may be occasions when there is a brand name you prefer. When you have a preferred brand on a product you use, that’s when manufacturers’ coupons come in most handy. Most of the time, manufacturers’ coupons are not a good deal when compared to store brands.
    4. In many grocery stores, more expensive brand name products are on the shelves at eye-level, while the better buys are on the bottom or top shelves.
    5. Compare cost per serving. Use unit pricing labels on the shelf. Use a pocket calculator if unit pricing is not available on the shelves. If there is an item on sale at an especially low per-unit price, stock up on the item if it is something you need and will use.
    6. Usually, buying items packaged in bulk gives you a lower cost per serving. It can be economical to buy in bulk as long as you are sure you will use the entire package you buy—that it won’t spoil before you have used it all. One way to help with this is to buy in bulk with a friend.
  5. Entertainment
    1. Las Vegas offers a wide variety of free or low cost entertainment, through libraries, senior centers, arts centers, and parks and recreation programs.
    2. Check the entertainment section, “NEON,” each Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal* for information on local, low-cost or free events. Similar information can be found in the free newspaper Las Vegas Weekly*.
    3. Movies: Discount movies are listed daily in the Las Vegas Review-Journal*.
    4. UNLV has many free or low cost theatre productions. Call their box office for details.
    5. You can get free instruction in how to use the Internet at local libraries. This way, you can email friends and family, saving money on long distance calls. You can even use the Internet to read magazines or the local newspaper (or your home town newspaper). If you don’t have a computer, you can get free Internet access at local libraries and many senior centers.
    6. Email accounts and internet access are free and available at many public libraries across the United States. This is an excellent way to keep informed and to communicate with friends and family who live in other areas.
  6. Transportation
    1. Bus system – RTC of Southern Nevada
      • a. Senior citizen bus discounts: If you are age 62 or over (or disabled), you are entitled to ride the Citizen Area Transit (CAT) bus for a reduced fare. The regular fare for a one-way trip is $ 1.75 (or $3.00 on The Deuce-Las Vegas Blvd.). The reduced one-way fare is $0.75 (or $1.50 for the Deuce) per boarding. To take advantage of this reduced fare, you must get a CAT photo reduced fare card. You can get this card by going to the downtown or south east bus station. Call CAT at 228-7433 (CAT-RIDE) for further information.
      • b. Monthly bus passes save money: A regular bus pass costs $55.00 for unlimited CAT bus rides for a period of 30 days, starting the day the bus pass is activated. If you qualify for the senior citizen discount, and you have the CAT photo reduced fare card described above, you can get the same bus pass for $25.00. Although you have to go downtown to get the photo card, you can order your monthly bus pass by mail, at a vending machine or online after you get the card.
      • c. If you have a CAT Paratransit ID card, you may use it to ride the regular bus system (fixed route) for free. RTC’s Paratransit service is a shared-ride, door-to-door program available for those who are functionally unable to independently use the fixed-route system either all of the time, temporarily or under certain circumstances. This program requires an evaluation process to determine eligibility. Fees begin at $2.50 (one-way) with an option monthly pass at $75 and a personal care attendants ride free.
      • d. The Silver STAR bus program designed especially for seniors, offers 11 loop routes throughout Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City. Each Silver STAR route operates on a fixed schedule (no holiday service) with a 50 cent fare upon boarding (some routes its optional and monthly passes are accepted).
    2. Cabs
      • a. Senior Ride Program: If you are 60 or older and a Clark County Resident, you can buy cab fare coupons for ½ price. Each discount coupon book is $10.00 and worth $20.00 of cab fare. The coupons cannot be exchanged, refunded and must be used by the expiration date. The initial registration must be done at the Division for Aging Services office and then coupon requests are by mail. All local cab companies accept the coupons.
    3. City Ride Bus Service (not part of RTC)
      • a. The City Ride Bus Service offers two routes: Fremont and Senior Neighborhood Bus Route. The Senior Route goes from several area senior housing complexes to several local stores. Seniors ride for $0.25 one-way. Seniors must be at least 62 years old. A Medicare card or CAT photo reduced fare cards are accepted as proof of age upon boarding. Call 229-6024 for further information.
  7. Credit Cards
    1. Credit card terms vary so shop around. Is there a “free” or “grace” period that permits you to pay your current balance in full before a specified date in order to avoid a finance charge?
    2. Pay bills promptly to keep charges as low as possible.
    3. Keep a list of your credit cards, including account number and telephone number of card issuer, in a safe place. If your cards are lost or stolen, you can minimize the amount of charges you are responsible for by reporting their loss as soon as possible.
  8. Exchange services with others—friends and neighbors
    1. Household repair, cooking, cleaning, mending, shopping, gift-wrapping—if you can’t do it, chances are that someone you know can. What service could you provide to him or her in return?
  9. Close the bank
    1. Loans of money to family and friends are hard to collect. Often, relatives are the last to be paid. “No” is often the best answer to requests for loans. Also, if you agree to cosign on a loan, be prepared to pay it off.
  10. Cars
    1. Pump your own gas, compare prices at different stations and use the lowest octane gas recommended by your owner’s manual. You can further save on gas by keeping your engine tuned and your tires inflated to the correct pressure.
  11. Local phone and cable
    1. Do you have any optional services (such as conference calling) that you don’t really need or use? Call your phone company and ask them what services you have and how much your monthly bill would be lowered if you dropped some of them.
    2. Also, review your cable bill. Are you paying for channels that you rarely watch? Many people save money by eliminating features that they do not use.
  12. Inexpensive gifts for grandchildren -- Past Seniors CAN group members have contributed the following ideas:
    1. Subscriptions to children’s magazines—these are low-cost, perhaps $12.00 per year, and the child gets something every month.
    2. Birthday cards that become a drawing board or a puzzle.
    3. Sticker books.
    4. “Family” gifts on holidays—a box full of inexpensive things everyone can use—a candy dish, candy, small items purchased at thrift stores, etc.
    5. Written/illustrated “fairy tales” based on memories of family events.

Modeling and Guided Practice:

Let’s try to apply some of the things we have talked about.

Plan three activities that could be done alone or with a friend, one costing less than ten dollars per person, one that can be done for less than five dollars per person, and one that can be done for free. I’ll do one first for less than five dollars per person. We’ll use these activity schedules.

Facilitator models planning one activity, then the group does the assigned three activity plans together. Facilitator makes notes on large notepad as the Learners come up with ideas, to facilitate Learners’ planning.

Monitoring / Discussion:

Q: What is the likelihood that you will engage in an activity similar to the ones we planned today?

Independent Practice:

This can be done at any time during the lesson. It seems to work better when it is not done in the rush at the end of a meeting.

"I’d like for each of us to select at least one idea, from what we're learning, to try out this week. Let’s choose something easy to experiment with. Next week we can all compare our experiences and see what worked and what didn't."


Look at next week’s lesson plan for: “Set up at previous meeting.”

It begins: “Next week, we will be exploring . . ..”