PENSIONER CHALLENGE

REPORTER: Georgia Main

Gabrielle Smith reckons she's smarter and richer than your average pensioner, "I've been able to save thousands and thousands over four years, she says.

Gabrielle is convinced life for the Aussie pensioner is pretty good…almost too good.

"It makes me angry when I see pensioners on TV complaining about the lack of money I know they are getting all the benefits pensioners get.

77 Year old Pensioner Margaret Thomas is that Pensioner. "First of all I'd like to know what planet she is on. Because she's certainly not on the pensioner planet." comments Margaret.

Gabrielle says that "pensioners in this country can practically live like millionaires."

Margaret disagrees, "They can hardly live as it - let alone like a millionaire!"

For Margaret every week is a struggle.

"I find $350 a week very, very hard to live on that and I am very careful with my money," says Margaret.

But for Gabrielle pensioners live in the land of plenty.

For example Pharmaceuticals - people spend up to $100 on these prescription medications and all a Pensioner has to pay is $5.30.

Margaret disagrees, "half of them have six and seven scripts. Okay it's only $5.35 but so many get so many tablets - that adds up.

Gabrielle says, "They go to the doctor for free, medicare bills, they go to the dental clinic for free, its all done for free. $2.50 Excursion pass covers you all day for as many trips on buses, trains and ferries you want. It saves a fortune."

It is just as well that's all they get - if it was dearer pensioners wouldn't go anywhere at all. They'd stay at home

Gabrielle has a few simple tips for Pensioners like Margaret.

Instead of putting the heater on, I'm sitting in front of the television on the lounge in the sleeping bag. You can sleep in the sleeping bag in the bed under a dooner to save on electric blankets - makes a big difference.

Gabrielle is 50 years old and on a Disabled Pension. "I'm just frugal with money and very wise with money. I want to see the biggest bang for your buck."

She is a frugal Lady, no car, no kids. Not sure how this is the life of a millionaire. But Gabrielle insists pensioners are doing well.

"She lives on $700 a fortnight. Out of that she pays $150 a fortnight in rent. On average $80 to food and supplies. She says she saves so much because unlike most Pensioners she can budget. She's even been able to give to charity.

"I sent a thousand dollars to Father Chris Reilly, sponsored a Bear." She says.

"A bear? My goodness - Pensioners would rather buy food - forget about sponsoring a bear!" Says Margaret.

Margaret also gets $350 a week on her Aged Pension, after expenses she has about $50 left.

"I'm whingeing - I'd like more money. I'd like to put $1000 away too = but it's impossible I do not believe this." Says Margaret.

So how does Gabrielle do it? We followed her to the shops as she worked her miserly magic.

Home Brands are my greatest weapon in saving money. Most of them are at least half the cost of the known brands and the quality is just as good if not better.

We took Margaret shopping too.

"A lot of Pensioners don't want to buy everything in Home-Brand we'd like something a bit different." Says Margaret.

Keep your eye out for reduced to clear - they're fantastic for saving money - this is only $2.29 lamb mince. With $2 worth of veges, for less than $2 you have a beautiful nutritious meal.

Just because we're Pensioners why should we go around getting scraps - that's what it sounds like this woman's doing - she can put all that money away - this is what she's got to be doing...

Here's another tip for pensioners - to buy in bulk whenever you can. Here we've got long life, Lite Milk which would have been a $1.90 but you can get four for four dollars, a saving of $3.36.

"All well and good to buy in bulk but how do we get it home?" asks Margaret.

"I'm with a lot of pensioners who I know this is certainly going to make them angry - very, very angry. It's impossible to do what she's saying." Says Margaret.

But there's one burning question Margaret has for Gabrielle.

"She sponsors a bear? Where's the bloody bear?" asks Margaret.

Let us know what you think at : tt@7perth.com.au