This is part of an ongoing series about how to trim the budget of the average American. As this series focuses on such broad-based tips, some will work for you and some will not. You’re invited to mention in the comments the tips that you found to be the most useful for inclusion in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of this series.
Healthcare – $2,853
This is one of those “averages” that somewhat hides the real truth of the situation. For some, there is almost no expense at all when it comes to health care. They’re covered fully by a strong health insurance policy and rarely (if ever) have doctor visits.
For others – those with poor health or those without insurance – the cost of healthcare in a year can be much, much higher.
Thus, there are two big ways to keep your health care budget under control. First, if you’re in the first group, do what you can to avoid slipping into the second group. If you’re in the second group, find ways to reduce the multitude of expenses.
Ask your doctor about independent and preventive steps. Whenever you have a doctor’s appointment about a particular ailment, always ask the doctor about independent steps you can take that don’t require a doctor’s constant monitoring. Are there exercises you can do? Are there natural remedies you can take to ease the situation? If there are simple independent steps you can take to reduce the number of doctor visits you have, then you’re saving money on the deductibles.
On the other hand, get regular checkups. Many people who are in great health never go to the doctor – and thus they often don’t take care of, or aren’t even aware of, serious conditions until they’ve progressed to the point that expensive treatments are the only option. Regular checkups are like regular maintenance on your car – you pay a little now to avoid paying a lot later on.
If you’re healthy, switch to a plan with a higher deductible. If you rarely visit the doctor, you’ll find that by switching to a less expensive plan with a higher deductible, you’ll save money annually. If this is a job benefit, you can re-route the savings into other benefits more useful to you.
Eat a healthier diet. Focus on making fresh fruits and vegetables a central part of the diet you consume. If you cook at home, this can actually be done quite easily.
Exercise. Be physically active at least thirty minutes a day, even if it just means walking around for thirty minutes. Our bodies are dsigned to utilize regular motion and exercise to maintain health.
Practice self-examination. Self-examination of your body can go a long way towards detecting many medical problems before they become too serious – and thus too expensive. If you don’t know how to do such things, ask your doctor, as this is clearly an indepnendent, preventive step.
Be aware of the health risks of lifestyle choices. If you choose to smoke, drink regularly, consume drugs, or eat excessive amounts of processed foods, you will have increased risk of many different serious ailments. Make lifestyle choices that promote good health, not only for your personal standard of living, but for the sake of your budget.
If at all possible, choose outpatient or same-day surgery. Few things can hit your finances like a long hospital visit when you’re expected to pay some percentage of the bill. If you can, avoid this by choosing outpatient care. Then, learn how to manage your own recovery at home.
Save the emergency room for genuine emergencies. If you can treat it at home, treat it at home. If you’re not sure, call a nurse hotline – a service offered by many hospitals to help filter the legitimate emergency room visits. If you can wait until a regular appointment with your doctor, you can save a tremendous amount of money.
Study your medical bills. When you receive a medical bill, review it carefully and make sure there are no errors or unclear items on the bill. If something doesn’t add up, request an explanation, and if it still doesn’t hold up, challenge it.
I want your help! In the comments, please let me know which of the tips you find most useful for trimming these costs. I’ll include the top choices in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of the series.