Let's face it: Many things will never be free. But some things can come cheap. When shopping for food, filling prescriptions, buying over-the-counter drugs, and paying for diabetes supplies and health care, there are ways to get more bang for your buck. Here are money-saving tips for the thrifty.
At the grocery store:
- Use coupons. You can clip them from fliers and newspapers, but you'll rack up additional savings by visiting coupon-savings Web sites and manufacturers' sites for discounts. Save unused coupons from previous grocery store visits, too, plus the ones the clerk gives you with your receipt.
- Join the club. Sign up for a free membership card if you don't have one, and use it every time you visit a store to get all the sale prices. Stock up on half-price items if they're not perishable.
- Hit the market. Local farmers' markets sell fresh, in-season produce, sometimes (but not always) at a lower cost.
- Avoid unneeded packaging. Foods that come with extra packaging—like the separate bags for 100-calorie-pack cookies—cost more than buying food in bulk and splitting it into single-serving portions at home.
Click here for 10 more ways to save on health care.
At the pharmacy:
- Comparison shop. Prices on over-the-counter and prescription drugs can vary widely from one pharmacy to the next (for more information, check out "Shop Around for Diabetes Supplies"). Wal-Mart and Target offer plenty of generics for $4, and Kmart fills many 90-day prescriptions for $15. Before choosing one pharmacy over another, check to see what your medications will cost in total. Keep in mind, too, that pharmacy hopping can make it tougher for your pharmacist to have a full record of your meds and anticipate harmful drug interactions.
- Talk to your insurance provider. Find out if you have a preferred pharmacy or preferred brands for your drugs and supplies; then save by switching brands of test strips or going to a different pharmacy.
- Have meds shipped. Mail-order pharmacies like Medco and ExpressScripts spend less on distribution costs and can often offer your prescriptions at a lower price.
- Buy in bulk. If you rarely change medications, you may be able to save if you fill a larger prescription once at your pharmacy, rather than small ones more frequently. And buy test strips in boxes of 100.
- Use a prescription savings card. Ask your pharmacy what cards are accepted, and see if you qualify.
For more money-saving tips, click here.
At the gym:
- Try your employer. Many workplaces encourage employees to stay healthy by partnering with major fitness chains and offering gym membership discounts.
- Enlist friends and family. Most gyms' family memberships are a better value than their individual memberships. Many also offer special friends-and-family discounts from time to time.
- Haggle. If cost is keeping you from joining a gym, ask the membership director to offer you a lower monthly rate, waive your sign-up fee, or match a competitor's price.
At the doctor's office:
- Check your insurance. Every time you visit your doctor, verify that your health insurance is still accepted. Each year, before electing benefits through your employer (or when shopping for your own insurance), pay close attention to the out-of-pocket expenses under various plans.
- Talk to your doc. When your doctor writes a prescription, find out if the medication is available in a lower-priced generic, or whether it is on your insurance company's formulary, the list of drugs covered in part or in full.
- Time it right. Keep a detailed calendar of your doctor visits and tests, and space them out according to your medical needs and what your insurance will cover. For instance, if you have an A1C test less than four months after your previous one, you may be forced to pay for it out of pocket.