Money saving expert brings bargain hunters to Santee Library

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Sally Gary drew quite a crowd for the presentation on “Bargains for San Diego Seniors” based on her book, “The $Best Freebies & Bargains and Deals & Steals in San Diego.” The book chock-full of money-saving tips and resources on everything from clothing to health to travel has been so popular since she first published it in 1990 that it is now in its 9th version. Since then, Gary has also done extensive research into bargains just for seniors. 

Sally Gary drew quite a crowd for the presentation on “Bargains for San Diego Seniors” based on her book, “The $Best Freebies & Bargains and Deals & Steals in San Diego.” The book chock-full of money-saving tips and resources on everything from clothing to health to travel has been so popular since she first published it in 1990 that it is now in its 9th version. Since then, Gary has also done extensive research into bargains just for seniors. 

Santee Library Manager Cheryl Cosart introduced Gary to the audience of more than 30 people. 

“Sally is highly experienced in finding the best deals in the whole area. I like the idea that she is presenting this here at the library, one of your best resources for free activities,” Cosart said.

Calling herself a recovering schoolteacher, Gary said that she first got the idea for her book when she was in a bookstore in the Bay area and found a book about bargain hunting. 

“A light bulb went off in my head. I could do the same thing for San Diego,” Gary said.

But why make bargain hunting a full-time project? 

“I’ve never seen a bargain-hunter who was not happy. Once I saw an 80-year-old lady thrilled that she had found a wire whisk for 25 cents. It totally made her day,” Gary said.

 Then Gary read a humorous email that an old friend had written, entitled “No Retirement Home for Me.” The friend explained that he had despaired about how much retirement homes cost, but found that a major hotel would be able to charge only $50 a night for someone who wanted a senior discount and long-term stay, continental breakfast included. 

“That leaves enough money for lunch, dinner, plus there’s an exercise room and a pool, and heating included,” he wrote.

Is the TV broken? The hotel service people will fix everything and you get daily maid service. If you fall and break your hip, Medicaid will take care of you. 

Besides it takes months to get into the nursing home, he rationalized.

Everyone laughed. Gary put down the letter. 

“I’m with him. No retirement home for me, either,” she said. “Seriously, though, people can save and get lots of free things if they just know how. Especially seniors.”

Who exactly is a senior? Gary asked everyone. Answers ranging from 50 to 80 years came from the audience.

It depends where you are, Gary said. People get their AARP cards at age 50; that is also the magic age when many discounts are offered, such as factory outlet stores Ross for Less and Kohl’s.

Other places offer discounts starting at age 55. 

“Like Goodwill,” pitched in Dan Haslam. “I was just there yesterday with my walking group.”

“Dan and I are both big on thrift shops,” Gary said. “You can find real treasure.”

She told the story of a man she read about who had bought an old armoire. He took it home and opened up the drawers and there found an old map. “This gives me chills just thinking about. The map happened to be an old one of Paris commissioned by King Louis. The man sold it for millions,” she said.

Gary invited Haslam to tell everyone about Walkabout International.

“Dan is a friend of mine, and I am a member of Walkabout. One of the best free activities you can think of,” she said.

Walkabout International holds free walks, Haslam explained. Just $20 for yearly membership gets a monthly newsletter announcing all the walks and special events.

“Plus you meet some really nice people—like Sally,” Haslam said.

Gary threw out some more tidbits on bargain-hunting: H & M Whale Watch offers a $13 cruise for seniors through “Scroll,” the City of San Diego’s Senior Publication. Amtrak offers a 15 percent discount on lowest available fares. Southwest Airlines offers their lowest fares on the spot with their “Ding” division. 

“You just have to be ready to pick up and go when they call,” she said. 

One of the best deals in the county for seniors is the $18 monthly bus and trolley pass. Another unbeatable deal is the National Park Pass available for $10 after age 60. 

“You can go to our very own Cabrillo Monument and get your pass. It’s good all year at any national park. That includes everyone in your car—for life,” Gary said.

And you really can get a free lunch or dinner, especially on your birthday. For instance, the Boathouse Restaurant offers a free Prime Rib meal with all the fixings on the third or fourth Thursday of the birthday month. Denny’s offers a free Grand Slam on your birthday; Acapulco offers a birthday freebie with an email sign-up.

Other deals and steals for seniors include free classes at San Diego State University for people over the age of 60. 

“I would like to take Elementary School Music so that I can learn how to play all the instruments I’ve picked up at rummage sales,” Gary said.

So much living to do, on so many bargains. When Gary wrapped up her talk, everybody went up to her with questions. 

Gary will be speaking on March 7 at 1pm at the Fletcher Hills Library. Email Gary at sallygary@aol.com for a presentation. Buy her book at www.amazon.com.

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