Diabetes isn’t just challenging physically; it can affect every aspect of your life, especially your financial health. From doctor visits and lab tests to supplies and prescriptions, the ongoing expenses of life with diabetes can seem daunting. To address this, writer Sharon Goldman asked financial experts Jane Honeck, CPA, PFS, author of The Problem With Money? It's Not About The Money (2010), and Sally Herigstad CPA, personal finance columnist and author of Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis (2007), for their top tips on saving money while supporting your health.
Jane Honeck’s Top Tips:
1. Take advantage of local farmers’ markets or grow your own garden for healthy food. "Diabetics typically need to start eating healthier, and buying local, fresh food usually costs less than going your local supermarket or gourmet chain," says Honeck. "Just by purchasing from a local market, growing your own vegetables and herbs, or looking into a community supported agriculture (CSA) membership, you can get food that supports your health, as well as your pocketbook." One helpful, free resource is Local Harvest; just enter your zip code to find CSAs, farmers’ markets, and family farms in your area.
2. Join free local diabetes support groups. "Joining local support organizations can help you connect with others who might have the inside scoop on inexpensive ways to access supplies or medications or carpooling," Honeck says, suggesting Meetup.com or the American Diabetes Association as good ways to find groups in your area. "You can also make new friends and go on outings that can take you away from dwelling on an illness, which enhances your total life in a way that doesn't cost money and may even improve the way you feel."
3. Tackle your budget piece by piece. When expenses change after a diabetes diagnosis or with a change in your management plan, re-jiggering your budget can be overwhelming, says Honeck. "Try not to feel like you're tackling your whole spending plan," she suggests. "But if you know you have to now spend $200 on new healthcare expenses, figure out how to squeeze the money from other categories – whether you eat at home more, see fewer movies out, or spend less on a more basic cable plan."
4. Don't forget your flexible spending plan or health savings account. “The reality is that medical expenses are only deductible to the extent that you itemize your deductions on your income tax,” says Honeck. “But if you don't own your home, you usually just take the standard deduction; and even if you do itemize, the medical expenses have to exceed 7.5% of your gross income in order to be deductible. However, don't forget your medical savings plan, if your company offers one. These allow you to pay for medical expenses with pre-tax dollars," she says.
Sally Herigstad has a special interest in diabetes-focused money-saving ideas, since her husband was diagnosed with T2 several years ago. Here are her top tips:
1. Buy testing strips and other supplies online. "They are often half the price, even cheaper than the chain stores."
2. Pay for healthcare expenses with your credit or debit card for easier tracking."The hardest part of medical expenses is often keeping track of them. And keep them separate from grocery expenses."
3. Ask restaurants to replace carbs with diabetes-friendlier foods to save money. "Don't let restaurants give you sides you're not going to eat: ask for a healthier alternative like a salad or veggies so you'll get more bang for your buck."
4. Track medical expenses – you never know if you'll have enough to deduct at tax time. “It’s true, you can only deduct what is over 7.5% of your total income, but you might as well track them from the beginning of the year anyway, because you never know – if October comes along and you have a big health expense, you'll wish you had saved the receipts. You might also have less income over the year if you're not working as much.”
5. Know your deductions. “Finally, people don't always realize how many things are deductible. For instance, you can deduct travel expenses like auto, plane, and hotels if they are healthcare-related. If you're going to the doctor a lot, that standard deduction for car mileage, for instance: the current rate for medical purposes is 23 cents a mile in 2012 – can start to really add up." Check out the complete list published by the IRS.
Sharon M. Goldman is a New Jersey-based freelance writer who has written on health, fitness, and nutrition for such publications as Health, Self, Marie Claire,Whole Living, Yoga Journal, and EatingWell. Her family history of diabetes inspires her to learn more about how to try and stay healthy by eating right, exercising and reducing stress. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2012 The DX: The Diabetes Experience