Comparing Prescription Prices To Save Myself A Ton Of Money.

Within a few weeks, I will be without insurance for the first time in my adult. Why? Well, a few reasons. The biggest reason, and the one I have not mentioned here yet, is that my wife and I are divorcing and I have been on her group insurance plan. She has amazing insurance (one advantage to being a teacher, I suppose) that I will no longer have access to as soon as the divorce is final, unfortunately. And to continue with COBRA under her plan, it would cost me over $500 a month – an expense I cannot incur at this time. The second reason, and why I cannot get insurance on my own, is actually two-fold:

1. I am self-employed, so I need to buy private insurance
2. I cannot get private insurance because I had cancer last year

So, I will be without health insurance until this country joins the rest of the civilized world in offering a government-sponsored health plan for people like myself, I get a job at Starbucks, or I get married to someone in a group plan. Fantastic! Anyway, that’s not my main point of writing this post and I will cover this more in-depth in a future one. For now, I just wanted to talk about buying prescriptions when you don’t have insurance. Did you know that the “no insurance” price for medication varies by quite a bit depending on where you buy it? Even if a Target and a Walmart are right next door to each other, their prices can vary. And since I am on a medication that I take every morning (and need to continue taking), I had to start shopping for the cheapest place to buy my medicine from. I was honestly surprised by what I found out, and I imagine there are a ton of people paying way more than they need to for their daily meds. Some pharmacies discount for supplies longer than 30 days, but some don’t, so I am basing this on a per-month basis.

  • Local pharmacy here in Taos – $17.50 per month
  • Target in Denver – $28.99 per month
  • Walmart in Denver – $23.00 per month (although even if they were free, I wouldn’t get them here)
  • Costco – $12.56 per month (90 day only $23!)
  • Walgreens in Denver – $29.99 per month

The clear winner? Costco, by a long shot. They are $5 less per month than the next cheapest, my current pharmacy for the 9 days I have left in New Mexico. And if I get 90 days at a time from Costco, the price drops to $7.66 per month, which is crazy amount of savings over the regular pharmacies. The best part? You don’t need to be a member of Costco to use their pharmacy! Since I will be a single guy once again, I don’t have much need for bulk amounts of milk from the store, so it’s good that I don’t need a membership to get my discounted drugs.


So for those of you who might not have insurance (or not very good insurance, at least) might want to call up all the local pharmacies in your area and ask them how much your meds cost. I am so glad I did, as it looks like it is going to save me quite a bit of money each and every month. Now if Costco could just offer me health insurance, I would be all set…

Photo from Shutterstock


Listening To Financial And Life Advice From Our Elders.

My grandmother has some amazing anecdotes about live and living that I always enjoy hearing. Since she was born in 1918, she has lived through some amazing times in our history, especially the Great Depression. After hearing what she went through back then, my life seems like a walk in the park in comparison. But truthfully, we really can learn a ton by listening to those who came before us and have experienced many different things that we might not have gone through yet. For those of you don’t have any elders who like to dole out advice, one credit union in Georgia has put together a 5-minute video called A Century of Good Advice, featuring seniors who share financial and life advice from their experience over the generations, intermixed with children from the Boys & Girls Club who talk about the advice they receive from their elders about how to be smart with money and in life. It is in honor of the 100th anniversary of credit unions in U.S., and I know many of you are big fans of credit unions over big banks. (I myself, after being with BofA since what seems like the beginning of time, will probably be switching to a credit union once I finish my move to Denver) Check it out, you might learn something:

And while your elders are still living, make sure you ask them for advice – most of the time, they know best!


UK Government Promoting More Work/Life Balance.

This is definitely something that we here in the United States need to learn from. It’s not about how many hours a day you work, it’s about how well you work during the hours that you do work. For example, when Best Buy switched their work policy to judge performance on output instead of hours worked, efficiency skyrocketed for the company. This is something I learned a lot about when I used to travel to Europe for work several times a year – they really get just how important a work/life balance is. In this country we put in more hours than ever, and our efficiency is actually trending downwards. It’s not a healthy way for us to live, as it leads to more time away from home and more health problems. Is killing yourself at work really worth a few extra bucks? For me it’s not. From The Guardian:

Employers will be expected to offer more part-time jobs for working parents under a major shift in government thinking on family life. The move is likely to provoke an outcry from business and accusations that ministers are not taking into account the financial burden of extending workers’ rights during a recession.

The UK government is actually stepping in to try to help promote even more work/life balance for its citizens. It’s unfortunate that anywhere in the world there is a “live to work” mentality instead of a “work so you can live”, but I am not sure that the government stepping in to help people is a good thing. It would never fly in the U.S. (and this concept probably won’t in the UK either), but I am glad to see how other countries value the “life” of a person rather than just how much they can create/build/bill for. That much I can be happy about, and some people I personally know could benefit from being told to spend more time at home! You guys all know which side of the political spectrum I stand on by now, but in this case I am not sure that a government needs to get involved and force employers to follow this new idea. I would think that we the citizens and employees could demand it on our own if we so chose. I have chosen to follow a more balanced work/life balance on my own time, so I don’t know if I could go back to work for someone who told me what time to arrive and what time to go home.

What do you think? Do we need more work/life balance in this country? The average worker in the US receives, and uses, way less vacation time than most in the industrialized world. Has our work taken priority over what should probably be the most important thing to us, our free time and family?


Tips For Budgeting When You Are Self-Employed.

I have been self-employed for almost 4 years now, and let me tell you – budgeting can be very difficult when your income is sporadic at best! Some months I make more than others and some I get paid right on time, so budgeting during those times is easy as there is money coming in the door. But other times, payments are late and you have slow months, which means you have to have money nearby you can access quickly. After all, just because you had a slow month doesn’t mean that rent isn’t due or you don’t need to eat.

Since this is a topic near and dear to my daily existence and I haven’t covered it before, I figured it was time to take a look at how I budget on an irregular pay schedule. My quick-start guide to budgeting when self-employed involves the following that I would advise you to do immediately:

  • Figure out how much money you need to bring home each month and divide it by 4. That’s your weekly paycheck.
  • Direct ALL your income to a central location to keep track of it easier.
  • From the central income location, pay yourself, your taxes, your investments, and your savings. Nothing more. Anything left over each month just gets rolled over to the next to help out during slow months – and there will be some.
  • Charge any and all business expenses to a single credit card so you can easily track your spending, and have an easy-to-read synopsis at the end of the year.

Sounds simple enough, right? To expand on those 4 tips, here is how I budget for myself…

First of all, I have as much of my income as I can directed to a single bank account. One of my ING Direct sub-accounts is labeled “Work Income” and receives almost all of the payments from ad sales, direct deposits, and other online ventures. Anyone who cannot send money directly to an actual bank account either sends a check to me by snail mail or sends money via PayPal. Many people who freelance open separate “business” bank accounts, but I have found that my system works fine for me right now. I barely have any monthly expenses directly related to my work, so just having a sub-account works great. I keep a healthy balance in this account, as I actually give myself a paycheck every week from it.

Re: the weekly paycheck – Every week, I automatically transfer X amount of dollars to my main checking account that I use on a daily basis. This is my “pay”, times 4 weeks, that I have decided was how much I wanted to “bring home” each month. After looking at my expenses, I pretty much know what my monthly requirement of money is to keep me afloat, so that’s how much I pay myself. This money pays my rent, car payment, utilities, groceries, etc.


Also out of that “Work Income” sub-account I move money into a “Taxes” account. When you are self-employed, no one takes taxes out of your paychecks for you, so you have to remember to do it all year while paying estimated quarterly taxes. And while I do pay my estimated taxes by credit card every quarter in order to get the rewards, I use the money in my taxes account to pay that balance off immediately. Of every penny I receive in income throughout the year, no matter how big or small, I immediately move about 30% of it into this taxes account. That way I always have enough to pay the tax man! Here is what to do if you missed the tax deadline.

All my investments come out of this “Work Income” account as well, going towards my funds and Roth IRA over at T.Rowe Price. I keep meaning to open and fund a SEP-IRA for myself, but this year isn’t going to be the year. So for now, I will continue my monthly investments in my funds.

5-10% of all dollars earned goes into yet another sub-account at ING called “Emergency”. This is my short term savings account that I consider to be paying myself first as so many advisers suggest.

Budgeting on irregular income can be very difficult, and if you don’t pay close attention you may end up without enough money to pay the bills. For example, in the course of 4 years being self-employed, I have had months where I have made 1/3 of what I made the month before. That can be quite scary if you aren’t ready for the ups and downs that are inherent with being your own boss. But by preparing well in advance for those dips, you can be ready for any drastic income variations. The ability to work your own hours, on projects you wish to work on, is well worth the extra effort of tracking your own income!

Are you own your own business or freelance for others? If so, do you have any tips/advice to add about your own budgeting habits? Would love to hear about them!

Photo from Shutterstock


Money Quote Friday – Leader Among Men Edition.

I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.“ — Lao Tzu

Have a fantastic weekend…

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