IC on a Budget
In today’s tight economy, it is even tougher than usual for people with interstitial cystitis (IC) to stretch dollars to meet the needs and necessities of living with IC, such as IC-friendly foods and beverages, medicines and supplements, and home care and personal care products.
One surefire way to save money is to start keeping track of it better. Creating a budget is a great way to see what you are spending and how and where you can start saving. Several websites, such as Quicken Online offer free budgeting tools to help you to simplify the process of developing a budget.
Surf the Net
Shopping online is a great way to comparison shop for just about anything that you could find if you physically went to a store. Use a comparison-shopping search engine such as Bizrate or Shopzilla to find the best buys online for the item that you need. Or, try Comparison Shop, a portal which allows you to access multiple comparison shopping engines from one website. Even Google, which is typically thought of as an information search engine, and Amazon which started out as a bookstore, can help you to find the product or products that you are looking for, and at great savings.
One caveat: Check into shipping and handling rates when ordering online. What may look like a bargain price could end up not saving you much or even costing you more than you would usually pay because of the shipping and handling fees or other built in charges.
Look for Ways to Save on Medicines
There’s many ways to save on prescription medicines, and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and supplements:
- Ask your healthcare provider for samples. Oftentimes they will have samples of medicines provided to them by pharmaceutical companies.
- Buy generic if available and you can tolerate the ingredients. This applies to prescription medicines as well as those that can be found OTC. Sometimes patients do not find generics to be as effective as their brand name counterparts. You may have to experiment to find what kinds work best for you.
- Fill your prescriptions at discount stores. Target, Walmart, and K-Mart offer discount prescription programs.
- Check manufacturer websites for coupons.
- Try a prescription mail-order service. Many offer medicines at discounted prices. However, be sure to check the credentials of the pharmacy, how your medicine will be delivered, how quickly it will be delivered, and if there are any legal considerations involved.
- Learn more about the prescription coverage with your medical insurance — be sure to use it. If your insurance company uses a tiered program, and the medicine that you are using is at the high tier (high cost) level, find out from your healthcare provider if you can switch to an equivalent drug that is on a lower tier (lower cost).
- Ask about buying a three-month supply of your medicines. Many pharmacies offer discounted rates if you purchase medicines in bulk.
- Find out if you qualify for a Patient Assistance Program. Most pharmaceutical companies offer these programs, which offer low-cost or free medicines.
Put Your Grocery Budget on a Diet
Saving money on groceries can be challenging for those who are following an IC diet. Sometimes the least costly items are the ones that are the most processed and they may contain far too many ingredients to be on your “safe” list. However, there are ways to save, even if you are on the IC diet or have food allergies and sensitivities, as so many with IC do:
- Buy store brand or generic versions of name brand products.
- Buy local and in season, if possible.
- Take advantage of sale items and stock up if nonperishable.
- Cook in large batches and then freeze for future use. Soups and stews are especially good for this.
- Shop the perimeter of the store and stay away from the processed foods which are typically located in the center of the store and in the frozen foods section.
Don’t be tempted to buy premade items if they are going to cause you an IC flare. A general rule of thumb: The simpler the better. The least amount of ingredients the better.
Also check out:
- Dollar Stretcher for ideas on how to live better for less, including strategies for lowering your grocery bills.
- Grocery Savings for more than 200 ways to spend less at the supermarket.
Make a list of foods that you enjoy and are bladder-friendly for you. Look for brand-name coupons that provide discounts on items that agree with your bladder.
Then, get out your scissors and re-join the trend! Look for coupons in magazines, newspapers, and online. There are several online sites that specialize in coupon savings, from storewide discounts to individual items:
- Coupon Cabin
- Coupon Mom
- Grocery Coupon Guide
- Mr. Deal Finder
- Retail Me Not
- The Coupon Cupboard
To help you track how you are spending money, considering joining the online financial community, Wesabe. Wesabe members also share ideas and discuss strategies for making sound financial decisions.
Hmm. Thanks for the Gift Card, Is it for My Health Insurance Plan?
The gift card concept continues to expand, as some health insurance plans offer cards that can be used to pay bills and insurance premiums or cover the costs of specific services at eye doctors and dentist offices. What a cool gift idea for an IC patient! However, as usual, be a savvy consumer. Before purchasing, take a minute to carefully review the terms of each card and check out exactly how the gift card works. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida sells cards at Winn-Dixie and CVS stores. The $59 Blue Cross Blue Shield card can be used to pay premiums. The $19 card, however, only offers discounted prices on brand name and generic medicines at participating pharmacies, dental procedures (braces, dentures, crowns, fillings, oral surgery, and cosmetic dentistry) and eye exams, glasses, and contacts. Also, read the fine print and find out if there is a cost to activating the card and any other associated fees.
Also check out Better Budgeting for lots of tips, financial calculators, links to coupons, and more.
Revised Tuesday, January 12th, 2010