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3 Medical Basics – Some Things Aren’t Optional

When it comes to medicine, some things are optional–especially if you’re uninsured. But there are three things which you should always prioritize when money’s tight, you can’t afford not to if you need them. Because two of them can lead to more and greater expenses and the other—well, it’s not really worth saving money if you won’t be around to use it.

Those three things are:

  1. Antidepressants
  2. Birth Control
  3. Oral Hygiene

1. Antidepressants – Money’s No Use When You’re Dead

I took antidepressants for three years as part of my recovery from suicidal depression. I found that when you don’t have insurance, or good insurance, they can get very expensive.

When you’re depressed and money’s tight, it’s very hard to bring yourself to refill prescriptions. Heck, it’s hard enough if you’re a student know your parents would happily pay for them if you didn’t want to spend the money. But saving money is only important when you’re saving for your future.

We spend money on food, after all, and shelter. These things keep us alive. For some people, antidepressants are as important as food. They stabilized my brain long enough for me to get well enough that I don’t need them any more. I couldn’t have done it without a lot of other things, but I couldn’t have survived without them any more than food.

Money-saving options include talking to your doctor about generics. Most antidepressants have similar generics which only cost $4-10/month, even without insurance. This is contrasted to $90/month for name-brand. But since each antidepressant has a different chemical component, some work better for some people than for others. You may need to try several to find which one works for your brain’s chemistry. And if only the name-brand works, then it’s still better to be alive for tomorrow.

2. Birth Control – Children Are More Expensive Than Pills or Condoms

…or spermacides or IUDs or anything. If you’re sexually active in a way that could lead to pregnancy, money’s tight and you’re not planning on having kids, then unless you’re really, truly using natural family planning (checking that thermometer every morning, checking cervical fluid, etc, not just hoping you get it right), you can’t afford not to use protection.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can get generic birth control pills for $5/month. Condoms are even cheaper in bulk. New IUDs are much more reliable than the old ones and a one-time expense to last you 5 years or so.

Children cost much more than a lifetime of birth control. Adoptions require 9 months of your life, explanations, proper pre-natal care, and deliveries. And, to be bleak about it, abortions cost more than a year of birth control. If it’s too hard for you to afford birth control, it’ll be exponentially harder to afford raising your children.

3. Oral Hygiene

This is one I learned first-hand growing up. During his 20s, my father neglected his oral hygiene. And he’s been paying the price for it ever since. His expensive and painful dental surgeries taught me the value of simple steps.

Flossing and brushing are the two basics and are pretty cheap. If money is too tight, an old toothbrush will still do the trick, floss can be reused if necessary, and baking soda can be used for toothpaste (though I think it tastes disgusting).

I’ve found that I’m such an enthusiastic brusher that I wear away enamel if left to my own devices, so I use an eletric toothbrush. A bit more expensive, but it does the job very well. I also rinse a couple times a week with Act, something I started when I had worn away the enamel on one tooth.

In fact, that was a dental lesson in itself, s couple months of Act every day saved me an emergency trip to the dentist’s office (one which probably would have resulted in the same instructions anyway). Fortunately, my husband had done the same thing a few years ago and gotten that advice from the dentist, so he recognized my problem.

You Can’t Afford Not To

Cover the basics. Doing that will saved you a lot later on.

Do you have anything to add? Are there medical basics you’ve found save thousands later on?

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Allison September 25, 2009 at 9:37 am

That’s great advice, Mrs. Micah! Call me naive, but I just learned yesterday at the dentist’s that once you get a filling, it’s not a one time thing. There’s maintenance involved. I’ve had one cavity in my life, six years ago, and didn’t really think about it much after that. It is now “leaky” and I have to get it replaced. Because I have dental insurance, it’s not expensive, but what if I had to get ten fillings replaced every five years? Yikes!

Rachelle September 25, 2009 at 9:39 am

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that great dental health is actually linked to better general health. So more than anything else, people should focus on their dental health!!
.-= Rachelle´s last blog ..I love this Blog =-.

Michael September 25, 2009 at 11:21 am

Children rank with suicide and dental decay on your list of bad things a little maintenance can prevent? I see you trying to qualify it with “if you need them,” but this is horrible.

Mrs. Micah September 25, 2009 at 11:30 am

I’m talking purely about things related to medicine which people are inclined to skimp on because of cost and will cost them more in the future.

It wasn’t intended as a value judgment on children or on having them.

However, if a person isn’t responsible enough to use birth control when they’re not ready to be a parent, and if they don’t have enough money for birth control, then maybe having kids right now is a bad thing for them.

I’m in no way ready to have children–financially, emotionally, etc. Were I to find myself pregnant, I’d probably have a complete mental breakdown. I’d also do my best to be a good mother, etc, but that doesn’t mean it’d be a good thing for me….or for the child.

Judge me as harshly as you like for saying that.

Michael September 25, 2009 at 3:09 pm

I hope it’s not too harsh to say that I disagree with your negative assessment of yourself as a mother. It’s obvious from your capabilities displayed here that you would be an excellent mother right now.

A child is not purely a medical problem like a dead tooth. It frightens me that you felt okay reducing children to an expense because that’s all you wanted to consider here. You can’t do that to people.

And even seen through the purely medical/financial perspective, children provide benefits. There are proven mental and physical health benefits for parents. And how many elderly parents depend on their children to help them with papers, expenses, or even just keeping an eye on nursing home care?

Mrs. Micah September 25, 2009 at 3:32 pm

I don’t mean to imply that a child is simply a medical consideration. Nor was this article meant to be a dissertation on the many advantages and disadvantages of having children. Even were I to limit it to one aspect of having children–financial, since this is a personal finance blog–it would take many posts to address everything.

Rather, I’m addressing a particular thought which people sometimes have–“I can’t afford it”–and asking them to consider the different effects that not being able to afford it will have down the road. Specifically, the financial repercussions, because “can’t afford it” is the basis for their decision, and this is a personal finance blog.

In this case, I’m focusing on things which are related to medicine–I’m not including, say, whether private school for children is worthwhile because that’s not medical. I decided to limit my focus so narrowly because otherwise it would take pages and pages to write. I may do more in the future on other limited topics. Since birth control can involve medicine and usually involves pharmacies, I included it here.

If you are seeing me compare a child to a dead tooth, maybe I didn’t execute my concept well enough.

I believe that having a child is such a life-changing, nuanced (financial, emotional, and other reasons), and important decision that a couple can make that it shouldn’t be made casually and accidentally because you can’t afford birth control that week. Children also come through accidents, and those children are often no less loved and do well in life (my mother, for instance), but just because you can bring something good out of an accident doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to avoid that accident in the first place.

Dad September 25, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Well put. Too many people don’t think these through and pay the price.

Squawkfox September 25, 2009 at 6:52 pm

My grandmother used to tell me to take care of my teeth and my feet because you need to eat and walking is cheaper than taking the bus. 😀 She never mentioned anything about condoms, though. 😉
.-= Squawkfox´s last blog ..Anatomy of a Killer Cover Letter =-.

Alison October 20, 2009 at 4:44 pm


Children are an expense. It is disingenuous to argue otherwise. If you are struggling to pay the bills, you have to actively make choices. You have to choose to get out of debt and if you are smart, you choose to wait for children until they can be cared for properly. Living in a home that exists paycheck to paycheck or worse is a terrible burden on a child, one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Every child should be wanted and should be born into a situation where they can be cared for properly. Surprise babies due to poor planning and lack of prevention can do considerable damage, both to your finances and to your relationships. Yes, children can take care of YOU but you have to raise them first. Kids whose parents had to work multiple jobs just to pay the rent know how hard that kind of life can be. Why put yourself and your children in that position when you don’t have to?

In terms of the mental and physical benefits, talk to parents of kids who run away from home. Who get involved with drugs, who get pregnant themselves before they’re even 15. Kids who have serious birth defects or who develop serious illnesses. Kids who are autistic or blind or deaf. Life is HARD for those parents and those kids and while I’m sure there is a lot of love there, it’s not the kind of life that someone who has to make choices about what they pay for and they don’t will really be able to handle.

I’ve had too many friend and relatives have surprise babies and have it ruin their lives. Not every child is born healthy, not every child is happy and pleasant. There are complications to every parent/child relationship. To think that having a baby will make life rosy and sweet no matter how little money you have is simply naive and frankly ignorant.

I believe that until you are actually pregnant, then it is a medical issue and it does come down to money and prevention.

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