When income is fixed but inflation goes on, it is particularly important to spend as widely as possible. Help with this problem is available from a number of sources, especially consumer affairs officers, which provide guidelines for prudent buying and precautions for avoiding exploitation. They also aid victimized consumers.
The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Affairs (279-1776) publishes and distributes "Consumer Tips," a listing of do's and don'ts about such expenditures as home improvement work, appliance repair service and automobile repairs. That office also has prepared detailed bulletins on checking accounts, comparing services of the various banks in the Washington area, and on savings account provisions by banks and savings and loan of offices.
The Montgomery County Office also has an education program offering minicourses on auto repair problems and home maintenance concerns. Staff members serve as speakers on consumer issues for a wide variety of community groups.
Among the publications of the Prince George's County Consumer Protection Commission (952-4700) is a 20-page pamphlet on car buying, designed to help buyers make informed decisions. The pamphlet includes information about financing and insurance.
Another helpful publication is a leaflet on door-to-door sales. It discusses protective regulations, consumer rights and has suggestions for dealing with door-to-door salesmen. For problem that may rise, however careful a buyer may be, the office telephone number is given for getting help.
Help for consumers is also provided by the Cooperative Extension Service, which traditionally has aided homemakers in managing household needs. Through workshops and demonstrations in local communities, help is given in buying, preparing and storing foods and in buying or making clothes. Television and radio programs on homemaking tasks are broadcast regularly. In addition, a range of bulletins and pamphlets have been prepared to help homemakers provide the necessities of life economically.
One of these publications, Facts About Buying Meat, was prepared and distributed by the Extension Office of the University of Maryland and gives the followingf advice: "Figure and compare meat, as well as other foods, on a cost-per-serving basis. For example, assume ground beef and chuck roast are both $1.39 per pound. Ground beef, four servings to the pound, costs 35 cents per serving; chuck roast, two servings to the pound, costs 70c per serving."
Numerous federal publications of consumer interest are available from the Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, Colo. 81009. These publications, free or for a small price, have titles such as "More Miles Per Gallon," "Consumers Guide to Food Lables," "Wise Rental Practices" and "Dog and Cat Food." A catalog of selected publications is supplied free of charge. Reference copies are usually on file at local consumer affairs offices.
For many seniors, a major expenditure can be for prescription drugs. One way to keep these costs down was made possible by the pasage of a generic drug substitution law by the Marylad Legislature during the 1977 session. Generic drugs are those known and marketed by their generic names rather than brand names and in almost all cases are priced lower than their brand-name counterparts.
The Maryland Office on Aging reports wide variation in generic prices, making comparison shopping advisable. The state office adds this advice. "Ask your doctor and your pharmacist to prescribe and fill your prescription with a generic drug - and insist that it be the least expensive one available."
Still another way to help make ends meet is to obtain a discount directory distributed as a service to seniors by the county offices on aging. These directories list businesses that offer discounts to seniors, including appliance sales and repairs, clothing and shoes dry cleaning and laundries, hardware, medical supplies and recreation.
The prospect of saving through wise buying is sufficient to justify a trip to the neighborhood library, which stocks a number of books and periodicals on the subject. Many libraries maintain a box file of various bulletins and pamphlets designed to help consumers buy wisely and avoid exploitation