When Not to Reduce Spending

High gasoline and food prices have people tightening their belts in one place where frugality is not likely to pay off: their healthcare. MarketWatch reported on a survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, in which about one in five (22 percent) Americans said they have reduced their visits to the doctor in order to save money. About one in ten (11 percent) said they have cut back on the number of prescription drugs they take or are taking a lower dosage than prescribed in order to stretch their supplies.

This survey brought to mind the old auto repair shop commercial, which warned anyone tempted to scrimp on their car maintenance, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” When it comes to our health, the pay later option is not a good plan. And that’s not the easier-said-than-done advice of a guy who’s never felt any medical bill pain.

Our family is getting hammered on the healthcare front this year. Our two-year-old has been hospitalized twice, I’ve had two “procedures” (medical-speak for “prying many thousands of dollars from a patient’s wallet while under anesthesia”), and we’re about to have another baby. This year, our out of pocket expenses will exceed the maximum amount we’re allowed to put into our Health Savings Account – by a long shot. Still, we’re keeping up with regular check ups. It’s not easy, by any stretch, but it’s easier with an emergency fund and a budget. A budget gives us the knowledge we need to adjust our spending in other categories to cover our higher than expected medical expenses.

Regular readers know that I’m a big fan of a budget. If you’ve never put one together, check out my Budget Quick Start Guide.


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