Telling people how and where to spend their money is a risky undertaking, because most people like to spend money and hate to be told what to do. You’ll be glad to hear that I don’t tell you exactly where you must cut your spending in order to save more and accomplish your personal and financial goals. Instead, I detail numerous strategies that I have seen work for other people. The final decision for what to cut rests solely on you. Only you can decide what’s important to you and what’s dispensable.
If you want to reduce your overall spending by, say, 10 percent, you can just cut all of your current expenditures by 10 percent. Or you can reach your 10-percent goal by cutting some categories a lot and others not at all. You need to set priorities and make choices about where you want and don’t want to spend your money. What you spend your money on is sometimes a matter of habit rather than a matter of what you really want or value. For example, some people shop at whatever stores are close to them.
Through the following strategies for reducing your spending, please keep in mind that some of these strategies will make sense for you and some of them won’t. Start your spending reduction plan with the strategies that come easily. Work your way through them. Keep a list of the options that are more challenging for you — ones that may require more of a sacrifice but be workable if necessary to achieve your spending and savings goals. No matter which of the ideas in this post you choose, rest assured that keeping your budget lean and mean pays enormous dividends. After you implement a spending reduction strategy, you’ll reap the benefits for years to come. Enjoy!
3 ways To Manage Food Costs
Not eating is one way to reduce food expenditures; however, this method tends to make you weak and dizzy, so it’s probably not a viable long-term strategy. The following culinary strategies can keep you on your feet —perhaps even improve your health — and help you save money.
1. EATING OUT – Eating meals out and getting takeout can be timesavers, but they rack up big bills if done too often and too lavishly. Eating out is a luxury — think of it as hiring someone to shop, cook, and clean up for you. Of course, some people either hate to cook or don’t have the time, space, or energy to do much in the kitchen. If this sounds like you, choose restaurants carefully and order from the menu selectively. Here are a couple tips for eating out:
- Avoid beverages, especially alcohol. Most restaurants make big profits on beverages. Drink water instead. (Water is healthy, and it reduces the likelihood that you’ll want a nap after a big meal).
- Order vegetarian. Vegetarian dishes generally cost less than meat-based entrees (and they’re generally better for you).
I don’t want to be a killjoy. I’m not saying that you should live on bread and water. You can have dessert — heck, have some wine, too, for special occasions! Just try not to eat dessert with every meal. Try eating appetizers and dessert at home, where they’re a lot less expensive. Also, consider finding out more about how to cook. Folks who eat out a lot do so in part because they don’t really know how to cook. Take a course and read some good books on the topic.
2. EATING HEALTHY AT HOME – As evidenced by the preponderance of diet and weight loss books on health book bestseller lists — and the growth of the natural and organic grocery stores—Urban people allover the globe are trying to eat healthier. Concerned about all the pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones that end up in the food supply, organic food purchases are growing at a fast rate. Problem is, financially speaking, better quality food, especially organic foods, can cost more, sometimes much more — but not always. A number of studies I’ve seen demonstrate that highly processed foods, which are less nutritious and worse for your health, can be as costly or even more expensive than fresh, so-called whole foods. The key to not overspending on fresher, healthier, and organic foods is to be flexible when you’re at the grocery store. Buy more of what is currently less expensive, stock up on sale items that aren’t perishable, and buy more at stores that have competitive pricing.
According to various studies, spending the money to buy organic makes the most sense when buying the following foods:
- Produce: Apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, hot peppers, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, and strawberries have historically been found to carry the greatest amount of pesticides, even after washing.
- Meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy: By going organic, you avoid supplemental hormones and antibiotics. You also greatly reduce the risk of exposure to the agent believed to cause mad cow disease and minimize exposure to other potential toxins in non-organic feed.
- Baby food: Baby food is typically loaded with condensed fruits and vegetables, thus concentrating pesticide residues. Also, children’s small and developing bodies are especially vulnerable to toxins.
One area where many folks are wasting money is in buying bottled water. Although tap water often does leave something to be desired, bottled water is typically not as pure as some folks think. You can save hundreds of dollars annually and drink cleaner water by installing a water filtration system at home and improving your tap (or well) water.
3. JOINING A WHOLESALE SUPERSTORE – Superstores such as Costco and Sam’s Club enable you to buy groceries in bulk at wholesale prices. And contrary to popular perception, you don’t have to buy 1,000 rolls of toilet paper at once — just 24. I’ve performed price comparisons between wholesale superstores and retail grocery stores and found that wholesalers charge about 30 percent less for the exact same stuff — all without the hassle of clipping coupons or hunting for which store has the best price on paper towels this month! (At these discount prices, you only need to buy about $150 per year to recoup Costco and Sam’s Club’s membership fees, which start at $50 and $40 per year, respectively.)
In addition to saving you lots of money, buying in bulk requires fewer shopping trips. You’ll have more supplies around your humble abode — so you’ll have less need to eat out (which is costly) or make trips (which wastes time and gasoline) to the local grocer, who may be really nice but charges the most.
Perishables run the risk of living up to their name, so only buy what you can reasonably use. Repackage bulk packs into smaller quantities and store them in the freezer if possible.
If you’re single, shop with a friend and split the order. Also, be careful when you shop at the warehouse clubs — you may be tempted to buy things you don’t really need.
How To Cut Housing Cost
Housing and all the costs associated with it (utilities, furniture, appliances, and if you’re a homeowner, maintenance and repairs) can gobble a large chunk of your monthly income. I’m not suggesting that you live in an igloo or teepee (though they’re probably less costly), but people often overlook opportunities to save money in this category.
1. REDUCING RENTAL COSTS – Rent can take up a sizable chunk of your monthly take-home pay. Many people consider rent to be a fixed and inflexible part of their expenses, but it’s not. Here’s what you can do to cut down your rental costs:
- Move to a lower-cost rental. Of course, a lower-cost rental may not be as nice — it may be smaller, lack a private parking spot, or be located in a less popular area. Remember that the less you spend renting, the more you can save toward buying your own place. Just be sure to factor in all the costs of a new location, including the possible higher commuting costs.
- Share a rental. Living alone has some benefits, but financially speaking, it’s a luxury. If you rent a larger place with roommates, your rental costs will go way down, and you’ll get more home for your rental dollars. You have to be in a sharing mood, though. Roommates can be a hassle at times, but they can also be a plus — you get to meet all sorts of new people, and you have someone else to blame when the kitchen’s a mess.
- Negotiate your rental increases. Every year, like clockwork, your landlord bumps up your rent by a certain percentage. If your local rental market is soft or your living quarters are deteriorating, stand up for yourself! You have more leverage and power than you probably realize. A smart landlord doesn’t want to lose good tenants who pay rent on time.
- Buy rather than rent. Purchasing your own place may seem costly but in the long run, owning should be cheaper than renting, and you’ll have something to show for it in the end. (Actually, the late 2000s decline in home prices coupled with low interest rates has combined to make housing the most affordable it has been in decades.) If you purchase real estate with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, your mortgage payment (which is your biggest ownership expense) remains constant. Only your property taxes, maintenance, and insurance costs are exposed to the vagaries of inflation.As a renter, your entire monthly housing cost can rise with increases in the cost of living (unless you’re the beneficiary of a rent-controlled apartment).
2. REDUCING HOMEOWNER EXPENSES – As every homeowner knows, houses suck up money. You should be especially careful to watch your money in this area of your budget.
- Know what you can afford. Don’t make the mistake of overspending when buying a home. Whether you’re on the verge of buying your first home or trading up to a more costly property, crunch some realistic numbers before you commit. If too little money is left over for your other needs and wants — such as taking trips, eating out, enjoying hobbies, or saving for retirement — your new dream house may become a financial prison. Although real estate can be a good long-term investment, you can end up pouring a large portion of your discretionary dollars into your home. In addition to decorating and remodeling, some people feel the need to trade up to a bigger home every few years. Of course, after they’re in their new home, the remodeling and renovation cycle simply begins again, which costs even more money. Most home renovations or remodels will never recoup anything close to what they cost. In addition, a major remodel may result in higher property taxes, as well as higher homeowner’s insurance costs. Appreciate what you have, and remember that homes are for living in, not museums for display. If you have children, why waste a lot of money on expensive furnishings that take up valuable space and require you to constantly nag your kids to tread carefully? And don’t covet — the world will always have people with bigger houses and more toys than you.
- Rent out a room. Because selling your home to buy a less expensive place can be a big hassle, consider taking in a tenant (or charge those adult “children” still living at home!) to reduce your housing expenses. Check out the renter thoroughly: Get references, run a credit report, and talk about ground rules and expectations before sharing your space. Don’t forget to check with your insurance company to see whether your homeowner’s policy needs adjustments to cover potential liability from renting.
- Refinance your mortgage. This step may seem like common sense, but surprisingly, many people don’t keep up-to-date on mortgage rates. If interest rates are lower than they were when you obtained your current mortgage, you may be able to save money by refinancing
- Appeal your property-tax assessment. If you bought your property when housing prices were higher in your area than they are now, you may be able to save money by appealing your assessment. Also, if you live in an area where your assessment is based on how the local assessor valued the property (rather than what you paid for your home), your home may be over-assessed. Check with your local assessor’s office for the appeals procedure you need to follow. An appraiser’s recent evaluation of your property may help — you may already have one if you refinanced your mortgage recently. Also, review how the assessor valued your property compared with similar ones nearby — mistakes happen.
- Reduce utility costs. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. Old refrigerators, for example, can waste a lot of electricity. Insulate to save on heating and air-conditioning bills. Install water flow regulators in shower heads. When planting your yard, don’t select water-guzzling plants, and keep your lawn area reasonable. Even if you don’t live in an area susceptible to droughts, why waste water (which isn’t free) unnecessarily? Recycle — recycling means less garbage, which translates into lower trash bills (because you won’t be charged for using larger garbage containers) and benefits the environment by reducing landfill.
7 Ways To Cut Your Transportation Costs
Purchasing a quality car and using it wisely can save you money. Using other transportation alternatives can also help you save. Contrary to advertising slogans, cars aren’t built to last; manufacturers don’t want you to stick with the same car year after year. New models are constantly introduced with new features and styling changes. Getting a new set of wheels every few years is an expensive luxury. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses as they show off their new cars every year — for all you know, they’re running themselves into financial ruin trying to impress others. Let your neighbors admire you for your thriftiness and wisdom instead.
1. RESEARCH BEFORE YOU BUY A CAR – When you buy a car, you don’t just pay the initial sticker price: You also have to pay for gas, insurance, registration fees, maintenance, and repairs. You may also have to pay sales and/or personal property taxes. Don’t compare simple sticker prices; think about the total, long-term costs of car ownership. Speaking of total costs, remember that you’re also trusting your life to the car.
2. DON’T LEASE, DON’T BORROW: BUY YOUR CAR WITH CASH – The main reason people end up spending more than they can afford on a car is that they finance the purchase. You should avoid borrowing money for consumption purchases, especially for items that depreciate in value (like cars). A car is most definitely not an investment. Leasing is generally more expensive than borrowing money to buy a car. Leasing is like a long-term car rental. Everyone knows how well rental cars get treated — leased cars are treated just as well, which is one of the reasons leasing is so costly. “But I can’t buy a new car with cash,” you may be thinking. Some people feel that it’s unreasonable of me to expect them to use cash to buy a new car. Please consider the following:
- If you lack sufficient cash to buy a new car, I say, Don’t buy a new car! Most of the world’s population can’t even afford a car, let alone a new one! Buy a car that you can afford — which for most people is a used one.
- Don’t fall for the rationale that says buying a used car means lots of maintenance, repair expenses, and problems. Do your homework and buy a good quality used car. That way, you can have the best of both worlds. A good used car costs less to buy and, thanks to lower insurance costs (and possibly property taxes), less to operate.
- You don’t need a fancy car to impress people for business purposes. Some people I know say that they absolutely must drive a nice, brandspanking-new car to set the right impression for business purposes. I’m not going to tell you how to manage your career, but I will ask you to consider that if clients and others see you driving an expensive new car, they may think that you spend money wastefully or you’re getting rich off of them!
3. REPLACE HIGH-COST CARS – Maybe you realize by now that your car is too expensive to operate because of insurance, gas, and maintenance costs. Or maybe you bought too much car — people who lease or borrow money for a car frequently buy a far more expensive car than they can realistically afford. Sell your expensive car and get something more financially manageable. The sooner you switch, the more money you’ll save. Getting rid of a car on a lease is a challenge, but it can be done.
4. KEEP CARS TO A MINIMUM – I’ve seen households that have one car per person — four people, four cars! Some people have a “weekend” car that they use only on days off! For most households, maintaining two or more cars is an expensive extravagance. Try to find ways to make do with fewer cars. You can move beyond the confines of owning a car by either carpooling or riding buses or trains to work. Some employers give incentives for taking public transit to work, and some cities and counties offer assistance for setting up vanpools or carpools along popular routes. By leaving the driving to someone else, you can catch up on reading or just relax on the way to and from work. You also help reduce pollution. When you’re considering the cost of living in different areas, don’t forget to factor in commuting costs. One advantage of living close to work, or at least close to public transit systems, is that you may be able to make do with fewer cars (or no car at all) in your household.
5. BUY COMMUTER PASSES – In many areas, you can purchase train, bus, or subway passes to help reduce the cost of commuting. Many toll bridges also have booklets of tickets or passes that you can buy at a discount. Electronic passes like E-Z Pass help you keep moving through toll plazas and eliminate sitting in toll collection lines that waste your time and gas. Some areas even allow before-tax dollars to be withheld from your paycheck to buy commuter passes.
6. USE REGULAR UNLEADED GAS – A number of studies have shown that “super-duper-ultrapremium” gasoline isn’t worth the extra expense. But make sure that you buy gasoline that has the minimum octane rating recommended for your vehicle by consulting your owner’s manual. Paying more for the higher octane “premium” gasoline just wastes money. Your car doesn’t run better; you just pay more for gas. Fill up your tank when you’re on a shopping trip to the warehouse wholesalers. These superstores are usually located in lower-cost areas, so the gas is often cheaper there, too. Also, don’t use credit cards to buy your gas if you have to pay a higher price to do so.
7. SERVICE YOUR CAR REGULARLY – Sure, servicing your car (for example, changing the oil every 5,000 miles) costs money, but it saves you dough in the long run by extending the operating life of your car. Servicing your car also reduces the chance that your car will conk out in the middle of nowhere, which requires a humongous towing charge to a service station. Stalling on the freeway during peak rush hour and having thousands of angry commuters stuck behind you is even worse.
How To Lower Energy Costs
Escalating energy prices remind all of us how much we depend upon and use oil, electricity, and natural gas in our daily lives. There are a number of terrific Web sites packed with suggestions and tips for how to lower your energy costs. Before I present those to you, however, here are the basics:
- Drive fuel-efficient cars. If you’re safety minded, you know how dangerous driving can be and aren’t willing to risk your life driving a pint-size vehicle just to get 50 miles per gallon. That said, you can drive safe cars that are fuel-efficient.
- Be thrifty at home. Get all family members on the same page, without driving them crazy, to turn off lights they don’t need. Turn down the heat at night, which saves money and helps you sleep better, and turn it down when no one is home. Hint: If people are walking around your home during the winter with shorts on instead of wearing sweaters, turn the heat down!
- Service and maintain what you have. Anything that uses energy — from your cars to your furnace — should be regularly serviced. For instance, make sure you clean your filters.
- Investigate energy efficiency before you buy. This advice applies not only to appliances but also to an entire home. Some builders are building energy efficiency into their new homes.
How To Control Clothing Costs
Given the amount of money that some people spend on clothing and related accessories, I’ve come to believe that people in nudist colonies must be great savers! But you probably live among the clothed mainstream of society, so here’s a short list of economical ideas:
- Avoid clothing that requires dry cleaning. When you buy clothing, try to stick with cottons and machine-washable synthetics rather than wools or silks that require dry cleaning. Check labels before you buy clothing.
- Don’t chase the latest fashions. Fashion designers and retailers are constantly working to tempt you to buy more. Don’t do it. Ignore publications that pronounce this season’s look. In most cases, you simply don’t need to buy racks of new clothes or an entire new wardrobe every year. If your clothes aren’t lasting at least ten years, you’re probably tossing them before their time or buying clothing that isn’t very durable. True fashion, as defined by what people wear, changes quite slowly. In fact, the classics never go out of style. If you want the effect of a new wardrobe every year, store last year’s purchases away next year and then bring them out the year after. Or rotate your clothing inventory every third year. Set your own fashion standards. Buy basic, and buy classic — if you let fashion gurus be your guide, you’ll end up with the biggest wardrobe in the poorhouse!
- Minimize accessories. Shoes, jewelry, handbags, and the like can gobble large amounts of money. Again, how many of these accessory items do you really need? The answer is probably very few, because each one should last many years. Go to your closet or jewelry box and tally up the loot. What else could you have done with all that cash? Do you see things you regret buying or forgot you even had? Don’t make the same mistake again. Have a garage sale if you have a lot of stuff that you don’t want. Return recent unused purchases to stores.
How To Manage Fun And Recreation Cost
Having fun and taking time out for R and R can be money well spent. But when it comes to fun and recreation, financial extravagance can wreck an otherwise good budget.
- Entertainment – If you adjust your expectations, entertainment doesn’t have to cost a great deal of money. Many movies, theaters, museums, and restaurants offer discount prices on certain days and times. Cultivate some interests and hobbies that are free or low-cost. Visiting with friends, hiking, reading, and playing sports can be good for your finances as well as your health.
- Vacations – For many people, vacations are a luxury. For others, regular vacations are essential parts of their routine. Regardless of how you recharge your batteries, remember that vacations aren’t investments, so you shouldn’t borrow through credit cards to finance your travels. After all, how relaxed will you feel when you have to pay all those bills? Try taking shorter vacations that are closer to home. Have you been to a state or national park recently? Take a vacation at home, visiting the sites in your local area. Great places that you’ve always wanted to see but haven’t visited for one reason or another are probably located within 200 miles of you. Or you may want to just block out some time and do what family pets do: Relax around your home and enjoy some naps. If you do travel a long way to a popular destination, travel during the off-season for the best deals on airfares and hotels. Keep an eye out for discounts and “bought-but-unable-to-use” tickets advertised in your local paper. Also, be sure to shop around, even when working with a travel agent. Travel agents work on commission, so they may not work hard to find you the best deals. Tour packages, when they meet your interests and needs, can also save you money. If you have flexible travel plans, courier services can cut your travel costs significantly (but make sure that the company is reputable).
How To Lower Your Phone Bills
Thanks to increased competition and technology, telephoning costs continue to fall. If you haven’t looked for lower rates in recent years, you’re probably paying more than you need to for quality phone service. Unfortunately, shopping among the many service providers is difficult. Plans come with different restrictions, minimums, and bells and whistles. Here are my recommendations for saving on your phone bills:
- Look at your phone company’s other calling plans. You may have to switch companies to reduce your bill, but I find that many people can save significantly with their current phone company simply by getting onto a better calling plan. So before you spend hours shopping around, contact your current local and long distance providers and ask them which of their calling plans offer the lowest cost for you based on the patterns of your calls. Get help when shopping for other providers.
- Cellphones are ubiquitous. And although being able to make calls from wherever you are can be enormously convenient, you can spend a lot of money for service given the myriad of extra charges. On the other hand, if you’re able to take advantage of the free minutes many plans offer (on weekends, for example), a good cellphone service can save you money.
- In addition to downloads, text messaging, Web surfing, and other services, kids (and adults) can find all sorts of entertaining ways to run up huge cellphone bills each month. Also, I hear a lot of complaints from parents about kids talking too much and going over their minute allowances and racking up large extra-usage charges. The primary reason that some parents elect to provide a cellphone to their teenage children is for safety reasons and the ability to call home for a ride and so on. Thus, you don’t need all of the costly bells and whistles. A cellphone need only be set up to place and receive calls.
To deal with going over the minute allowance, you have a few options:
- Examine family plan options that don’t limit minutes so strictly. Shop around and make sure you sign up with the best calling plan and carrier given your typical usage. Consumer Reports and TRAC can help you research wireless phone services. Reputable carriers let you test out their services. They also offer full refunds if you’re not satisfied after a week or two of service.
- Set and enforce limits. If you provide a cellphone to a child, keep in mind that kids don’t need to talk for hours.
- Check out prepaid plans that have no contract obligation. Costs start as low as 10 cents per minute for calls, and you pay only for what you use. If you typically use a few hundred minutes per month or less, you should save money with one of these plans.
A thoughtful letter is usually cheaper, more appreciated, and longer lasting than a phone call. Just block out an hour, grab a pen and paper, and rediscover the lost art form of letter writing. Formulating your thoughts on paper can be clarifying and therapeutic. Computer users may find that they can also save money by sending e-mail.
Spend Wisely in Technology
We’ve got e-mail, cellphones, iPhones, voice mail, BlackBerries, satellite TV, the Internet, and too many other ways to stay in touch and entertained 24/7. Visit a store that sells electronics, and you’ll find no end to new gadgets. Although I enjoy choices and convenience as much as the next person, I also see the detrimental impact these technologies have on people’s lives.
As it is, most families struggle to find quality time together given their work obligations, long school days, and various other activities. At home, all these technology choices and options compete for attention and often pull families apart. The cost for all these services and gadgets adds up, leading to continued enslavement to your career. Err on the side of keeping your life simple. Doing so costs less, reduces stress, and allows more time for the things that really do matter in life.
Especially when it comes to new technology and gadgets, don’t be among the first to get something. HDTV is a good example why — in the early years, these new sets were extremely costly and more prone to problems. Now, prices are down substantially, and sets are more reliable.
The worst way to shop for electronics and technology-based products is to wander around stores selling lots of these goods and having a salesperson pitch you things. These folks are trained in what buttons to push to get you to whip out your VISA card and be on your way with things you don’t know how you ever could’ve lived without. Educate yourself and determine what you really need instead of going to a store and being seduced by a salesperson.
How To Save Personal Care Costs
You have to take care of yourself, but as with anything else, you can find ways to do it that are expensive, and you can find ways that save you money.
Try this money-saving advice:
- Hair care. Going bald is one way to save money in this category. I’m working on this one myself. In the meantime, if you have hair to be trimmed, a number of no-frills, low-cost, hair-cutting joints can do the job. You may insist that your stylist is the only one who can manage your hair the way you like it. At the prices charged by some of the trendy hair places, you have to really adore what they do to justify the cost. Consider going periodically to a no-frills stylist for maintenance after getting a fabulous cut at a more expensive place. If you’re daring, you can try getting your hair cut at a local training school. For parents of young children, buying a simple-to-use home haircutting electric shaver can be a great time- and money-saver —no more agonizing trips with little ones to have their hair cut by a “stranger.” The kit pays for itself after just two haircuts!
- Other personal-care services. As long as I’m on the subject of outward beauty, I have to say that, in my personal opinion, the billions spent annually on cosmetics are largely a waste of money (not to mention all the wasted time spent applying and removing them). Women look fine without makeup. (In most cases, they look better.) And having regular facials, pedicures, and manicures can add up quickly.
- Health club expenses. Money spent on exercise is almost always money well spent. But you don’t have to belong to a trendy club to receive the benefits of exercise. If you belong to a gym or club for the social scene (whether for dating or business purposes), you have to judge whether it’s worth the cost. Local schools, colleges, and universities often have tennis courts, running tracks, swimming pools, basketball courts, and exercise rooms, and they may provide instruction as well. Community centers offer fitness programs and classes, too. Metropolitan areas that have lots of health clubs undoubtedly have the widest range of options and prices.
How to Manage Medical Expenses
Healthcare is a big topic nowadays. The cost of healthcare is going up fast. Your health insurance — if you have health insurance, that is — probably covers most of your healthcare needs. But many plans require you to pay for certain expenses out of your own pocket.
- Medical care and supplies are like any other services and products — prices and quality vary. And medicine everywhere in the world, like any other profession, is a business. A conflict of interest exists whenever the person recommending treatment benefits financially from providing that treatment. Many studies have documented some of the unnecessary surgeries and medical procedures that have resulted from this conflict of interest.
- Remember to shop around when seeking health insurance. Don’t take any one physician’s advice as gospel. Always get a second opinion for any major surgery. Most health insurance plans, out of economic self-interest, require a second opinion, anyway.
- Therapy can be useful and even lifesaving. Have a frank talk with your therapist about how much total time and money you can expect to spend and what kind of results you can expect to receive. As with any professional service, a competent therapist gives you a straight answer if he is looking out for your psychological and financial well-being.
- Alternative medicine (holistic, for example) is gaining attention because of its focus on preventive care and the treatment of the whole body or person. Although alternative medicine can be dangerous if you’re in critical condition, alternative treatment for many forms of chronic pain or disease may be worth investigating. Alternative medicine may lead to better and lower-cost healthcare. If you have to take certain drugs on an ongoing basis and pay for them out of-pocket, ordering through a mail-order company can bring down your costs and help make refilling your prescriptions more convenient. Your health plan should be able to provide more information about this option.
- Examine your employer’s benefit plans. Take advantage of being able to put away a portion of your income before taxes to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Make sure that you pay close attention to the “use it or lose it” provisions of each plan.