There has been so much debate over the price of health insurance especially as related to income. I’m not going to beat on the health care drum, I’m tired of it. Instead I’m going to simply offer some tips that I’ve found to “magically” stretch my too few dollars into to trying to survive in this economy: you know, the recession that’s over with 10-15% true unemployment. I’m rattling off a few of my favorites that I’ve discovered during the past year of unemployment.
1) Before the price of your health care insurance goes up or if you’ve met your deductible, renew any medications that have either a high co-pay or you use in frequently but keep on hand. For example, I have a non-narcotic pain patch that I use about 20 a month of on my back. My former insurance had a maximum out of pocket that included prescriptions. My new insurance does not: I renewed the prescription twice as I had met the maximum out of pocket (thanks ankle surgery!) saving $50 a renewal on the new prescription.
2) It’s been said a ton: ask if there is a generic option for prescriptions. Check into local pharmacies to see if they have options: many offer free antibiotics (so you’ll shop at the grocery store) on some types of antibiotic prescriptions. Some have savings programs that are lower priced than insurance co-payment. Ask your doctor if they have samples: many do.
3) If you are in an area with a dental school and don’t have dental insurance, check to see if there is a student clinic. Boston University has one for students as well as people without insurance. It is like a residency for dentists: the work is overseen and at a much lower rate than a private dentist.
4) Eat ethnic. Seriously. Many, if not most, cuisines from developing nations can be both nutritious, better for you and cheaper. I purchase many groceries from local “ethnic” grocery stores. I’ve picked up a few words of Portuguese thanks to the Brazilian grocery, a bit of Hmong thanks to the Cambodian market saved money as well as put money back into locally owned businesses in my community. Black beans, brown rice and a myriad of interesting foods wait: with recipes abounding all over the internet!
5) Soup really is good food. It’s easy to make from scratch and a great way to stretch out meals.
6) Do the math. Remember in the 8th grade when you thought “I’ll never use this”: well, now you need it. Basic calculations: is that “on sale” item really cheaper? Price divided by quantity. Some are bargains: some are smoke screens.
7) Recycle! Bringing your own bags to many retailers earns $.10-.25 off per bag. In states where you pay a bottle deposit, return them. I’m stunned at the number of people who toss the bottles they paid a deposit on in Massachusetts.
8) Did you know that you save 10% on purchases from www.target.com if you are a member of AAA?
9) All those crazy, batty loyalty programs do add up. It’s back to doing the math: especially some of the grocery shopping = gas discount.
10) Consolidate errands.
11) Click and ship from USPS: not only do you NOT have to stand in line from the airport, there is a discount for printing your postage at home and having them pick it up. Go figure!
12) Do you really need the cell phone and land line? With most smart phones and advanced 911 systems, you can dial 911 from your home and be connected to YOUR 911 system.
13) Think those on-line surveys are a waste? Depending on your family, you can earn $50 or so a month by taking surveys while watching TV.
14) Shop online? www.ebates.com – you receive a percentage of the purchase price as a refund. You can still take advantage of coupon offers, etc. The retailers set the rebate but places like www.drugstore.com and www.target.com participate! You receive a rebate check once every 6 weeks based on what you have purchased. Between the Ebate refund, a drugstore.com coupon and free shipping: I was able to buy Luna Bars for .50 each versus the .99 at my local grocery.
15) Create a budget. You don’t need fancy budgeting software: Excel works just as well (although MS Money is also good and comes preinstalled on most windows based systems). Write down everything you spend money on: it’s an eye opening experience.
16) Know what is tax-deductible if you itemize. Keep track of expenditures for medical bills including mileage and parking! If you met the deductible for medical expenses, this is additional expenditure you can “write off”.
17) Remember the lesson you probably learned from kindergarten: there are things you need and things you want.
18) There are times you do need that want just to pamper yourself either emotionally or physically and just have some fun.
19) Utility budget payments: many utilities have an equal payment plan. While it’s not so much of a savings plan, it does make budgeting easier!
20) Did you know if you divide your house payment into 2 equal payments during the month, you save on the overall price of the house due to the reduction in principle?
I’ve learned more about myself in the past year: I actually can make it through life without some of the things I thought were necessary. I’ve been humbled into saying “I need help.” It’s humbling: it’s not shameful. There are times when just admitting I’m worried about finances takes a bit of the stress off. There are days when I let myself be upset: it does hurt. Collectively, we place so much of our identity on our occupation: having that go awry robs us of a construct. I am frustrated equally with the economy and the hate. Maybe just finding a few ways we can all help each other out will improve the situation over all. I can dream, right?