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10 Practical Tips to Save Money on Medical Expenses

Frugal Parenting (featured column)
by Rachel Keller

Good health. We all crave it. No one enjoys being sick, not to mention the lost money from missed days of work, expensive doctor visits, and costly prescriptions and medicines.

"It is easy to get a thousand prescriptions but hard to get one single remedy." - Chinese Proverb

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Adopting a healthy lifestyle and making wise decisions can help prevent illness. Although you may not be able to avoid all illnesses, you can certainly improve your health while saving on medical expenses by following these tips. Most of these suggestions are common sense, but reminders (especially for children) are always helpful.

1. Eat Healthy

Just like your car, your body needs proper fuel to operate efficiently. Feed your body whole grains and healthy fruits and vegetables. You will have more energy and better health than if you eat junk food and refined sugars and grains.

2. Hydrate

As much as possible, eliminate sodas, fruit drinks, and other high-sugar beverages. The extra sugar adds calories while doing nothing to aid your immune system. Instead, drink plenty of cool refreshing water. (See How to Become Healthier and Save Money on Your Food Budget to read more about the effects of soda and for ideas on drinking more water.)

3.  Rest

Your body needs time to recuperate to fight off those sick germs. Neglect rest, and your body may get sick, thus forcing you to rest.

4. Get Moving

Exercise helps you burn those extra calories and boost your immune system. For maximum results, exercise several times a week. Even if you're busy, look for ways to "sneak" in some extra movement ( e.g., take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from a store, etc.). [Our family fits fitness in to our busy schedule while saving thousands every year on gas and vehicle expenses.]

5. Practice Cleanliness

Avoid sicknesses by washing your hands carefully and often. This is especially important with children who often forget to wash hands. Teach your children to scrub their hands properly with soap and water.

When in a public bathroom, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet. (Hint: Dispense paper towels before washing hands and then use that towel to dispense more paper towels as needed.)

At home, clean door handles, faucets, light switches, phones, and other surfaces that could harbor germs to prevent spread of sickness.

6. Keep Hands Away From Face

Teach your children not to put their hands near their mouth nor to rub their eyes or nose with their hands. This is especially important when out in public. Germs are everywhere (water faucets, door handles, light switches, etc). By touching these items and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose, you introduce those sick germs into your bodies.

7. Practice Common Courtesies

Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Throw away the tissue and wash your hands carefully with soap and water.

8. Seek Advice Before Making Appointments

Not all sicknesses necessitate a doctor's visit. Before scheduling an appointment, call your doctor's office and ask to speak to a nurse or doctor if you are uncertain. This can save you time and money.

9. Use Caution at Doctors' Offices

Practice common sense while at the doctor's office–especially during flu season. Avoid touching door handles, magazines, toys, etc. Always wash your hands and your children's hands during and after a visit to the doctor's office. You don't want to take any sick germs home.

10. Reduce Prescription and Medical Costs

If you must have a prescription, ask about free samples or purchase a generic brand which costs less and is usually just as effective. On some prescriptions, you may be able to split the pills using a pill splitter; but always check with your pharmacist and doctor to see if it's safe to do so. Whenever possible, seek or ask for less expensive alternative treatments. Consider some homemade remedies as less expensive alternatives.

Germs abound everywhere. Following these suggestions may not eliminate sickness from your family, but diligence may help you avoid extra missed days of work and costly visits to a doctor's office.

Author's note: I've been a mother of 5 children for over 14 years. Except for occasional routine physicals, we've gone to the doctor for sick visits 5 times. (My youngest child has never had a sick visit.) Only twice have any of my children ever had antibiotics.

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Copyright © 2007 by Rachel Keller. All rights reserved.

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