Smart spending: How to ferret out senior discounts

NEW YORK — There’s a big silver lining to getting older: a bevy of discounts for you to enjoy, from free samples to discounts on car rentals.

For many of these incentives, you don’t have to be anywhere near 65. In fact, some can be enjoyed starting at 50. Of course, to get the freebies or the 20 percent off, you’ll have to admit your age — and then most likely flash your ID, but it can be well worth it.

“Every penny counts,” said Jodi Furman, author of a blog called Livefabuless.com, who said she’s seeing more discounts that start at age 50 than just a few years ago. “All you have to do is mention your age.”

Here are some strategies and tips:

DON’T BE SHY: Many stores or restaurants don’t broadcast their discounts. Even on their websites, the offers can be hard to find. So just ask the manager what’s available.

“Today people are more comfortable with their age — and asking for discounts,” said Alison Jatlow Levy, a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon. She also encourages shoppers to think broadly and look at every area, from spas to electronics.

JOIN AARP AND OTHER GROUPS: Once you’re 50, you can sign up to be a member of AARP, which provides benefits like discounts and freebies to its members through affiliate partners. It costs $16 to be a member for the year, but less than that if you want a membership for several years. There are other organizations like the American Seniors Organization that offer benefits, too.

RESEARCH ONLINE: Discounts keep changing, so you need to keep surfing the Web to make sure they’re current. The AARP.org website has a tab dedicated to discounts. It includes a grocery coupon center powered by Coupons.com and has links to such retailers like arts and crafts chain Michael’s, which offers a 20 percent savings every Tuesday for AARP members. It also has a section on free samples of top brands in food and beauty.

BE PREPARED: Make sure to bring your ID and your AARP card when you go out. Business establishments will likely want to see proof that you are the age you say — especially if you look much younger than you are.