Health Care Costs: The Most Challenging of All Expense Categories?

It’s time to tackle a tough one: health care costs.

The mean annual health care related expenses, per 2-person household in the US, is $4,928.

That covers prescription drugs, health insurance premiums, medical services, and medical supplies.

That’s a bit under 10% of total household expenses, which is a sizable amount. But, it doesn’t even begin to cover all of the preventative, exercise, grooming, and maintenance health related expenses that we might have, including:

  • health care expensesgym memberships (ave. monthly cost is $58 in US)
  • sporting goods (bikes, shoes, clothing, gear, equipment, etc.)
  • workout supplements (to get TOTALLY ripped, of course)
  • vitamins & nutritional supplements
  • over-the-counter drugs (non-prescription cold medicine, cough drops, nasal sprays, pain reliever, etc.)
  • tension/stress relieving products and services
  • self-help books
  • eyeglasses and contacts
  • health related consumer packaged goods
  • hygiene/grooming related items (skincare, dental products, shaving, hair care, feminine hygiene, etc.)
  • health food and drink – the expensive stuff that we normally wouldn’t buy if it didn’t promise some sort of health benefit

The BLS does not break down their data into these categories, but I think it’s safe to assume AT LEAST another $3,000 per person for all of this stuff, on average.

Here’s where it gets tricky – health related expenses are EXTREMELY justifiable. Whether it’s opting for a less scary but pricier PPO health insurance plan, paying list price for a medical service at a certain location because our doctor recommend we go there versus shopping around or negotiating, justifying the continued monthly gym membership that goes mostly unused, or buying the $5 per tiny bottle of pomegranate juice because it’s got those cancer fighting anti-oxidants we’ve been hearing so much about – it’s quite easy to justify consumption behavior because it’s all in the name of health. And what’s more important than our health?

For those reasons, health related expenses can quickly grow out of control and take up a huge share of our monthly budget, if we don’t exercise proper restraint.

Preventative health expenses are even trickier because if we don’t get whatever ailment, disease, or affliction we were hoping to prevent, we chalk it up as a success (whether the expense really helped or not). We don’t really know what the alternative might have been – but man, does it scare the crap out of us.

At the same time, when we invest smartly, this is a category that can produce outstanding personal and financial returns. Sometimes you have to spend a little to save a lot. So there is a balance and some expenses truly are justifiable.

And that is why health care costs are probably the most challenging of all spending categories.

However, there is still a lot of fat we can all trim and techniques we can use to limit our health related expenses. So for the next two weeks we’ll discuss how to navigate the challenging world of health related expenses, including:

  • how to find affordable health insurance
  • how to cut your medical bills
  • how to get rid of that pricey gym membership without negatively impacting your health
  • how to cut some of the most notoriously pricey grooming related expenses

and much more.

This is another one of those areas where I am just one small fish in a big sea, and I feel we can all really benefit from our collective expertise and wisdom. So stay tuned in and please contribute to the brain trust!

Health Care Costs Discussion:

  • What do you estimate you are paying, per year, for all health related expenses?
  • What areas pertaining to health care costs do you find the most challenging?
  • What do you pay up for, no matter what, when it comes to preventative health?

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  1. Steve

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