About 3 years ago I wrote a post here recommending that people shop around locally for pharmaceutical deals and talked about some of my experiences. Based on a recent news story about the rising costs of insulin and all the complaints people are making it seemed like it was a good time to bring this up again.

2014/365/307 Eight Bottles
Creative Commons License Alan Levine via Compfight

In the story, it talk about how over the course of just 4 or 5 years the cost of insulin has gone over $400 to $500 a month from around $100 to $200. Yet, when I wrote my initial post in 2013, my insulin at Walmart has remained at the same price, that being $24.88 per vial, still less than $50 a month.

This tells me that my original point about shopping around for medications hasn’t taken hold. It’s probably because many people are relying on insurance to help them bring down the costs of their medications instead of looking for out of pocket deals, which often brings lower rates. For instance, when I first went to Walmart with a prescription my out-of-pocket cost would have been $75 a month for pen needles, which wasn’t bad for those things, as they cost a lot, but it was still higher than going to vials and learning how to inject via syringes instead.

A couple other things have changed since I wrote that initial post. The first is that the cholesterol medication I was on at that time (which I wasn’t taking) that I was getting for free suddenly wasn’t free anymore and had jumped to $40 a month. After having another conversation with my physician (and another physician and a pharmacist lol) because I didn’t have high cholesterol and didn’t want to take the medication, I got them to switch to a different prescription at a lower dose that now costs me $10 for a 90-day refill at a different store.

Also, as I’ve been on Metformin for diabetes for closer to 7 years now and the price changed where I was previously getting it, I called around and found that a store I usually go to, which had other pharmaceuticals at a higher price and forced me to get them elsewhere, offered this particular item for $10 for a 90-day supply; yeah! 🙂

Here’s the deal. Almost every community has multiple pharmacies that you can call and ask the price of specific prescriptions. There are also multiple grocery store chains that have their own pharmacy, and some of them produce their own products like Walmart does. All you have to do is pick up the phone and make the call, and you could possibly save a lot of money on prescriptions.

One last thing is that you can go online and find many deals for items related to your disease. Whereas I’d never buy pharmaceuticals via eBay (I don’t even know if they sell them), I do buy my diabetic test strips through there. You can usually get a great deal on an item that’s close to expiring, and you can get even greater deals on expired strips. That’s okay because, it turns out, most testing strips are good even after a year or two past expiration date. For my money, I’ve purchased strips within 6 months of their expiration date and gotten a lot (100 or more) for as low as $10, and found that they’re still accurate (based on the tests my endocrinologist does).

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about diabetic stuff because that’s what I have experience with. You can still call around for prices on whatever it is you’re taking, whether or not you have insurance, to see who’s offering you the best deal. I recommend that you do; you could save a lot of money!
 

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The concept of paying bills automatically goes back a lot of years. In the past there was only one way of doing it, that being to set up a payment plan with whomever you needed to pay bills to and allowing them to automatically draw money from your bank account.

lots and lots of bills
Sarah Gilbert via Compfight

For some things that’s still the only way you can go. For instance, life insurance payments have to come out of your checking account and some car loans do the same based on the organization. Luckily, these days it’s not the only option; you can also set up bill payments through your bank.

The question is which way is better and why, and do you want to do it in the first place.

My wife and I both have careers that sometimes leads to being away from home for periods of time. That can make it difficult to make sure all bills are paid, especially for her because she can be gone up to 3 months at a time, whereas I get to come home whenever I want to. This has led us to explore these options, and we handle them differently.

The way I handle most of my bills is to set up accounts online so I can pay them when I want to. Instead of giving them my bank account information, I use my bank debit cards, all of which are Visa, and set them up that way instead. I always know when my bills are due and you get at least a one day leeway so this works perfectly for me.

My wife isn’t so tech savvy, so she set everything up through her bank to pay the bills on a certain date every month and for specific amounts. This way she doesn’t have to look at any of the bills and, for the most part, everything’s taken care of without her having to run interference.

The only time this doesn’t work is when we’re paying something jointly. For instance, we split the mortgage, but the mortgage company won’t let each of us pay separately online. This means I pay my half in person while she pays her half via her bank.

That one works out okay but when it comes to our car insurance, they won’t accept payment from her bank if it’s not the full payment of what we owe. Therefore, she deposits money in one of our joint accounts and I write a check for her amount and another check for mine and pay in person.

As you can see, we’ve chosen a different route than setting up accounts to automatically with the companies we owe money to. It might be a convenient way to pay one’s bills, but it comes with complications.

One, you can only set it up to pay exactly what you owe. I like to pay a bit more than what I owe because sometimes it lessens how much I owe later on, in case I need that extra bit of cash in a crunch.

Two, there’s no way to account for times when your incoming pay might be late. That happens when you’re a contracted worker every once in a while, and if you haven’t built up your bank account amounts yet it can cause you double banking fees and an immediate increase in your interest rate; that’s never fun.

Three, it’s sometimes hard to stop those automatic payments from coming out even when you don’t owe them anymore. My wife bought a new car but for some reason the company she’d been paying the warranty to on her previous car continued taking the money out for 4 months, even though they knew she didn’t have the vehicle anymore. Even when they finally stopped doing that, it took another 2 months to get her money back.

Can you tell I’m leaning towards telling you about using your bank for automatic payments? As I said, I don’t use it but my wife swears by them, and here are the reasons why.

One, if you want to you can go in and change the amount your bank will take out of your account to pay your bills as often as you like without a penalty. Obviously the amount owed a creditor each month isn’t always the same, so having this kind of flexibility is nice.

Two, you can suspend payments every once in a while and, once again, no penalties. This has benefited her when we’re way ahead on a bill and I can tell her she can skip a payment for a month and use that money for something else.

Three, it’s easier for her to manage her account because when there are discrepancies she can contact the bank and easily take care of issues more quickly.

Four, these types of bank transfers are more secure than giving your bank account number to other parties. These days when so many companies seem to be getting hacked, this is probably the safest way to set up your automatic bill paying process.

If you’re someone who forgets to pay bills on time but you’re confident that you’ll always have enough money to pay them, using one of these methods makes sense to help protect your credit rating. At least now you have the information you need to make the best decision for yourself.
 

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On another blog, I wrote an article titled 7 Financial Issues To Discuss With Elderly Family Members. Although that article was specific to elderly family members, truth be told some of those issues are the same that couples or those who are thinking about becoming couples need to think about.

couple
by Désirée Fawn

Unfortunately, not everyone who gets married stays married, and these days even people who don’t get married but decide to live together as a couple end up having to deal with financial decisions on the back end that they never considered. It rarely ends pretty, so thinking about things like what’s below makes a lot of sense before mistakes are made that can’t be fixed.

1. Joint Checking & Savings Accounts

Many married couples will have one checking or savings account that they share. That makes life pretty convenient, and protects one or the other long term in case something happens to the other… until it doesn’t.

The smart thing to do would be to have one account that’s a joint account where both parties put in enough money to pay bills and add a little bit extra for shopping and family life, while keeping their own checking and savings accounts separate. That way, each party can have their own money to do whatever they want to with, and if something happens in the future and they separate, each person will already have an established account to draw money from, just in case things end badly and one party decides to take over the joint account and close the other one out.

2. Make Sure Real Estate Is In More Than One Name

Each state addresses community property laws differently. Some states will divide assets in half no matter whose name is on it while other states recognize that if only one person’s name is on something they’re entitled to full ownership.

The last thing either party wants to have to deal with is finding out they legally have nowhere to live when things are contentious. If you get married, unless you have a pre-nuptial agreement, both parties should have their names on the deed of the house. Love isn’t forever for everyone but protecting oneself is.

3. Create A List Of Debts To Pay Off

This one is slightly different than in the other article because instead of assets we’re talking debts this time. I know few couples that are ready to get married who have full knowledge of what their potential spouse might own on bills. Sometimes even within married couples one person might not know that the other is creating a mountain of debt that both of them will be responsible for.

The joint checking account is great for paying off consistent bills, but a real discussion needs to be had about outstanding debt with the intention of getting rid of as much of it as possible. This is why I’ve always recommended it’s smarter to pay off debt before investing too much money because percentage rates on debt are higher than the interest on returns from investing.

4. Get A Lawyer, Set Up Wills

Trust me on this one; you and your spouse need a will to not only protect each other but detail what’s supposed to happen to the estate as it regards other family members, friends or charities. Most people balk at this one; I waited until I was close to 50 before I would even entertain the idea, and realized after I did it how stupid I’d been.

If one or the other is a business owner, there’s going to be the need for another lawyer to handle the business decisions, especially if other employees are involved and you want the business to continue once you’re gone. It’ll also be a good time to talk about whether the business should be incorporated or not for long term protection, which also becomes family protection in case the business is ever sued.

5. Children

This last one could be the most important decision of them all. It’s predicted that the total cost of raising a child in America to age 18 is approximately $304,480; that’s around $17,000 a year… per child! It’s one of the reasons for paying down as much debt as possible as well as looking forward as it concerns both your income possibilities and health insurance costs (which are higher for children because they tend to need to see health providers more often).

Although the numbers are growing, the overall percentage is still pretty low, only at 23% of single child families in the country. Since financial distress breaks up more families than anything else, and the impact on children is worse than on adults, it’s a very important topic to discuss beforehand because waiting might be too late to get a handle on it. It’s unfair to bring children into the world if you can’t afford to take care of them.
 

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