Everyday Cheapskate Mary Hunt

This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

When I pulled out my AAA membership card to get a discount for Universal Hollywood tickets, I locked eyeballs with the words “Years as Member: 43” printed on the card.

I nearly passed out.

That seemed absolutely impossible until I did a little calculation. It’s true. AAA has been an important part of my life for more than four decades.

If you are a member of AAA, it’s likely that you depend on it to get you out of an automotive bind with a roadside jump-start, a gallon of gas or a tow.

And so you know, it also comes to the rescue should you ever lock your keys in the car. Or a sleeping baby.

Let’s just say that AAA has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

AAA membership has so many benefits other than just roadside assistance — some I’ve taken advantage of in the past but many others I didn’t even know about.

If you’re a member, perhaps you’ll also be surprised by all of the hidden benefits in your membership.

AAA is a nonprofit organization with branches in all states. Not all branches offer the same benefits, so be sure to check with yours. Many AAA branches offer the following benefits with membership:

PRESCRIPTION DRUG DISCOUNTS: You can save up to 75 percent on the cost of meds and diabetic supplies not covered by insurance, with your AAA membership.

DISCOUNTS ON TRAVEL: We’re talking hotels, restaurants, auto repair shops, cruises, airfare and train travel. AAA has its own travel agency offering all kinds of travel discounts for AAA members.

You can get your passport picture taken at almost all AAA branches, and the first two sets of photos are typically free. You can get your international driver’s permit at your local AAA office as well.

DISCOUNTS ON ENTERTAINMENT: AAA has partnerships with nearly every amusement park like Sea World, Universal, Disney Parks and Six Flags, as well as sporting events, movie theaters, museums and zoos.

DISCOUNTS ON SERVICES: At this writing, I can get 35 percent off at my local florist, 30 percent off AMC movie tickets, 10 percent discount at Hampton Inn & Suites, The UPS Store, Sprint, The Parking Spot, discounted car washes, driver training, parking and bike services.

RENTAL CARS: I frequently depend on my AAA membership to get significant discounts when I rent cars from Hertz as well as other agencies.

DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES: Some states let you do some DMV tasks right at the AAA office, such as auto registration and driver’s license renewal.

TSA PRECHECK: AAA has recently partnered with TSA. Now AAA members (and nonmembers) can apply for TSA Precheck at certain AAA locations, saving you time and stress on your next adventure.

CAR BUYING: There are many AAA-authorized car dealers that will give you a AAA discount on fleet pricing.

Many AAA offices will give you a free or discounted CARFAX report on a used vehicle you are interested in purchasing.

SAFETY: It was a very hot day when I arrived to pick the baby up to care for her over the weekend.

I wanted the car to be at a proper temperature, so I left the engine running with the air conditioning set to 72 degrees F and went into the house to get the child. So far, so good.

I loaded up all of her necessary equipment and then carefully strapped the sleeping baby into the baby seat in the back seat. Ever so gently, I hit the lock button out of sheer habit and shut the door.

My blood ran cold as I realized my keys were in the ignition and the car was now locked up as tight as a drum.

A few very long minutes later, AAA showed up, and all was well. Thankfully, I didn’t get arrested for child endangerment.

Several weeks ago, I had the occasion to meet up with that baby, after all these years. She’s now a beautiful, fully functional adult woman — without any noticeable effects of childhood trauma. We shared a good laugh, and I enjoyed a huge sigh of relief.

AAA membership does have its benefits.

This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014.

To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.