Can a computer/the internet SAVE my analog grandparents money?
September 24, 2008 2:42 PM   Subscribe

How can two elderly people SAVE money by switching from a disconnected, analog lifestyle, to a connected, digital lifestyle?

My grandparents live in the 1980's (they still have an 8-track and use an antenna for their TV). They're not financially challenged, they're just unmotivated and anti-change and extremely anti-social. They've begun purchasing newer consumer electronics (DVD's, CD's, pay-as-you-go cellphones), and I think they could benefit from having a computer. While I think this benefit would be mostly related to quality of life, I'd have to sell it to them financially. It would be good for my grandmother to connect to her sister, as they do not travel at all, and it would help my grandfather to stay more mentally stimulated. Plus they could shop online more instead of having to drive.

Please give me some ideas as to how they could benefit, financially, from having a computer and the internet. Assume they're getting the computer for free, the internet costs $20/mo, they have no cable, a landline without call waiting. I'm guessing much of the gain would be related to saving gas, and price comparison shopping, such as on prescription drugs, appliances, insurance, and banking.
posted by mhuckaba to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
I'm not sure that it matters if they don't have an interest in using it.
posted by k8t at 2:55 PM on September 24, 2008

Is the Internet connection broadband? They could use Skype to call people for $3/month, which is vastly cheaper than using calling cards or having a long distance plan.

They can pay their bills online and save on stamps.
posted by calistasm at 3:02 PM on September 24, 2008

They should keep the cell phone as it is an extra option for contacting people especially in an emergency, but voip calls are much cheaper and have the added bonus of offering video calls which I know my parents really enjoy with my sister's kids. Of course they live some distance away so it has an impact.

I wouldn't know about the other stuff as it relates to the US, but my girlfriend's Aunt uses online shopping for groceries and there is only a slight increase in cost per delivery - which works out better in the long run because they can deliver much more than she could carry herself each trip to the supermarket.
posted by Elmore at 3:06 PM on September 24, 2008

Let's see... if gas is 3.75 per gallon, to save $20 per month they'd have to buy 5.33 fewer gallons than usual, so if their car gets 20 mpg, that's 100+ miles fewer per month they'd have to drive to make up for paying for the internet. Where I am, a grocery delivery service has a fee and a gas surcharge, but it's possible to offset it by applying coupons found online. If they subscribe to the newspaper, they can save that charge by reading it online. If they do buy stuff, bargain shopping online can save money, though it's up to their individual spending habits whether or not it adds up to $20 of savings per month. You might want to look into their specific activities and hobbies to see if they'd be spending more money by shopping locally.
posted by xo at 3:21 PM on September 24, 2008

They can probably save a fair bit if they regularly buy books, movies, or music online. A lot of the savings are intangible, though. I can check to see if the library has a particular book in before I go there. Saves some times, saves a bit of gas (or pedaling), but it's hard to quantify. There's lots and lots of little benefits like that.

If it's something you really think you need to talk them into, you might have better luck finding something that would be worth $20/month to them, instead of something that will save $20/month. Do either of them play chess, mah-jongg, or anything similar? They can play online for free.

Hell, maybe they'd like Metafilter.
posted by echo target at 3:49 PM on September 24, 2008

Don't forget to factor in the fact the inexperienced, elderly users sometimes fall for internet scams. They'll need more support and virus sweep software which will include some costs. Also, they probably won't be the alpha user comparison shopper for quite a while.

If they are interested, why not go with them to the library and use the computers there for free.
posted by 26.2 at 4:00 PM on September 24, 2008

You included an important point:

>they're just unmotivated and anti-change

There is a significant chance that you will set them up with an easy-to-use computer with non-ambitious, useful programs - and they won't use it. They just won't. Happened to me.

Someone who insists on using broadcast TV is likely not tech material - and will be very unhappy come February.

On the other hand, they could take to it like an otter in water, and next year you'll find them uploading homemade porn to their blogs.
posted by yclipse at 6:52 PM on September 24, 2008

My wife and I are older people (near 80). We have dsl connection and 2 computers. My wife does genealogy research online and has had great success. We both use email with siblings and friends.

But financially we find we save with online banking (no postage). And researching a product is amazing. Just 2 days ago I bought an item with an online website and saved $48 and shipping was free. And that was for the exact same item. Buying books and special items online can save considerable. And no gasoline to buy. I love things being delivered and that lets us stay off the road. No online grocery in our small town but if we had it we would use it.
posted by JayRwv at 7:36 PM on September 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

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