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Advice & More May 2016

Financial Fortitude

Pricing and Timing Deals

By Karen Telleen-Lawton

I’ve heard there are some downsides to aging, including what’s at the end of it. For now, I don’t mind morphing into a little old lady, as long as I can be savvy about making life livable.

Have I told you how much I enjoy becoming a senior? This has nothing to do with the grandparent thing, though there’s nothing better on earth. I am grateful not to be always in a rush anymore. Whether or not you’re retired, age and experience can allow you a certain latitude to be flexible, so you can take advantage of being active in off‑peak times.

Timing your schedule to avoid crowds is more pleasant and efficient in terms of time and money. I’ve noticed, for instance, that the grocery store is a much more pleasant place in the middle of the morning. Missing are the rushed parents and cranky, hungry kids. The smattering of shoppers typically include relatively relaxed parents who may take advantage of teachable moments to discuss nutrition and choices.

What’s more, staff people are easier to find and are more willing to grab an item off the top shelf. Lines are shorter and your fellow lines occupants are pleasant. Maybe I just timed it right a few times in a row, but it seems like a trend. The same goes for clothes shopping, though I don’t practice this enough to know. I just heard on a “news” show that the average American woman buys 63 items of clothing per year. This sounds like torture to me. I have joined the masses of online shopping in this regard, but I don’t feel guilty about neglecting local businesses: they don’t miss me in the least.

The local businesses I have started patronizing are the movie theaters. I just took advantage of a senior‑priced movie for the first time, and was happy to fess up to my age for the privilege of a few dollars saved. Couple this with an early‑bird dinner and you’re on your way to an enhanced date‑night budget. Early-bird dinners and happy hours are available to all, of course, but it’s our relative time freedom that allows us to take full advantage.

Off‑peak vacations are another senior specialty, though not without risk. You have a stronger likelihood of weather delays and poor weather. But weather being what it is, you may encounter flawless travel weather in off‑peak times and, of course, fewer crowds.

Fifty‑eight of the best destinations in the U.S. are the national parks from the Florida Everglades to the Gates of the Arctic, Alaska. Naturally, there’s another deal. After age 62 you can buy a senior pass for $20 ($10 for the pass and $10 processing fee) that lasts the rest of your life. Each park is worth the plane, train, boat, bike‑ride, and/or Uber to get there.

Did I say Uber? You may not have tried a ride‑sharing app yet. If you have, I’d like to hear about it. Uber, Lyft, Carma Carpooling, Sidecar, Trees for Cars, ZimRide, RideScout, Hitch, Red Ride, and Rideout are a few of these businesses; I’m sure there will be more by the time this publishes. My son has sold his car and uses only ride‑share apps, and he’s a Californian, where they say you’re nothing without a car.

I haven’t tried it yet, but retail ride‑sharing is bound to be our transportation go‑to as we face the inevitable future of giving up driving. Well‑to‑do little old ladies have always ridden in the back of taxis, but ride‑sharing makes it less expensive and arguably even safer.

I mention ride‑sharing here because Uber and some of the others practice surge pricing (or convenience pricing, priority pricing, or a number of other handles). This means the prices vary depending on the supply and demand at that moment. To the working stiff who has to get to the office or a meeting now, it can mean higher prices and a degree of uncertainty. But to those of us who can be flexible, it means another way to get a deal, by avoiding peak hours of demand. It’s the same as the airlines have practiced for years, but it stands out more, perhaps because repeat car trips are more common than repeat flights, and thus the “regular” price is known.

I’ve heard there are some downsides to aging, including what’s at the end of it. For now, I don’t mind morphing into a little old lady, as long as I can be savvy about making life livable. Besides, in the process of accomplishing our lives off‑peak, we are improving the lives of those who can’t adjust their schedules. By being out of their hair, they can rush around without knocking us over!


Karen Telleen-Lawton is as the principal of Decisive Path fee-only financial advisory in Santa Barbara, California ( You can reach her with your financial planning questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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