MONEY Health Care

Rx Relief: How to Save Up to 80% on Prescription Drugs

Five strategies to help you leave the pharmacy without having to swallow a bitter pill.

The average American filled 12 prescriptions last year, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, and as a result the pharmaceutical industry grossed $329 billion. (You’re welcome, Pfizer.)

Minimize your pain at the pharmacy counter by taking these steps when your next script is written:

1. Use coupons. For expensive prescriptions, you can save 50% or more this way. There are a lot of ways to get your hands on prescription coupons, but start by asking your pharmacist. Call ahead or ask at the counter; the pharmacist may have some on hand or be able to tell you where to find them—most likely online. If you want to search yourself, try the drug company’s website first, then check the website of your pharmacy.

2. Try mail order. Mail-order pharmacies save you money by skipping the bricks-and-mortar middleman and sending the drug directly to you, typically in 90-day quantities. Your health insurer may work with a specific mail-order house, and often you’ll get better pricing by going this route. Alternately, your prescribing doctor’s office may have a preferred pharmacy they work with regularly, so inquire when the prescription is written.

3. Ask your doctor about pill splitting Most drugs come in more than one dosage, but aren’t priced on the same scale as the dosages. This means that, per milligram, higher dosages of the same drug are often cheaper—and you could save money by purchasing double doses of your prescriptions and halving them. Not every drug should be split, so consult with your doctor first. If you’re given the go-ahead, make sure to purchase a pill splitter from a drug store to ensure consistent and equal dosing.

4. Opt for generics If there’s a generic version of your brand-name drug available and you’re not taking it, you could be wasting a lot of money—on average, generics are 80% to 85% cheaper than their brand-name counterparts. Contrary to the myth that generic drugs are held to different standards than brand-name drugs, there is no significant difference between them. Generic drugs are allowed to differ from brand-name drugs only insofar as appearance and inactive ingredients. By law, medication dose, safety, quality and instructions must be the same. Stores have gotten into price wars over generic drugs: Target now charges $4 for hundreds of medicines, for example, and Meijer and Publix are among those that offer some drugs gratis, which is why you may want to…

5. Compare pharmacies. Drug prices can vary widely between pharmacies, even locally, so you may want to shop around before simply going to the nearest drug store. Websites like GoodRx and LowestMed compare pharmacies within zip codes for specific medications, and even offer coupons and drug information. You may be surprised to find that some drugs vary by $50 or more for the same supply and dosage. In that case, the cost of convenience may just be too high.

 

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MONEY Odd Spending

There’s Probably No Cash in Your Wallet. Could That Cost You?

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Nikola Bilic—Alamy

If you walk around with little or no cash, you're in the majority. But choosing plastic over cash for everyday purchases could mean you'll spend more in the long run.

According to two recent surveys, the majority of consumers walk around with little or no cash. Most prefer plastic for the sake of convenience and safety. There could be an unfortunate side effect, however, based on the theory that people spend more when making purchases with credit or debit cards rather than cash.

Last week, VoucherCloud, a UK-based deals and coupon site, released the results of a survey of 2,341 Americans indicating that “over half of American citizens (57%) ‘never’ carry cash, instead relying solely on credit and debit cards to pay for their daily expenses.” Only 10% of survey participants said that they “always” carry cash, and another 33% said that they carried cash “rarely” or “sometimes.”

Could this be true? Do the majority of American adults you pass on the street really have empty wallets? There’s reason for skepticism. Let’s start with the question that prompted the responses: “How often do you carry cash with you on an everyday basis?” Many may read this question as essentially asking, Do you always carry cash? That’s different than asking if you usually keep a few greenbacks in your pocket.

What’s more, another recent survey, from Bankrate, focused on the same subject but ended up with very different results. In its survey, which asked, “How much cash do you usually carry on a daily basis?” Bankrate found that only 9% selected the option “Don’t carry cash/does not apply.”

There’s no denying that folks carry a lot less cash than they used to. According to Bankrate’s data, more than three-quarters of people generally walk around with $50 or less: 40% usually have less than $20 on hand, 29% say $20 to $50, and 9% typically go cashless (or “does not apply,” whatever that means).

In both surveys, participants said they felt safer that way. The top reasons given in the VoucherCloud survey were “concerns over safety and the risk of theft” (65%) and “risk of losing my wallet and/or its contents” (53%). Women tend to carry less cash than men—77% of female respondents said they keep $50 or less handy, versus 61% of men—perhaps owing to the fact that women “may prefer to carry less cash than men so as to reduce the risk of being a target for criminal activity,” according to Bankrate chief financial analyst Greg McBride.

As for whether it’s wise to carry little or no cash, the surveys come to very different conclusions. When asked, “Do you spend more or less when paying by card instead of cash?” 84% of VoucherCloud respondents said they do more damage when spending with plastic. “While using payment cards rather than cash is a widespread modern phenomenon, because it is so quick and convenient, it can become a dangerous trend for some of us!” VoucherCloud’s Matthew Wood warned. “It’s much harder to keep up with what you’re spending as you don’t see the money leave your hands and, because it’s just a little piece of plastic, it doesn’t feel like a real exchange. It’s easy to get carried away.”

There’s plenty of research out there to back up this theory. Generally speaking, the idea is accepted that handing over cash feels more tangible and “hurts” more compared to quickly swiping a card. Many budget and personal finance experts recommend going cash only and maybe even freezing credit and debit cards in a block of ice as a strategy to limit one’s spending.

The Bankrate study, on the other hand, makes the argument that people today think of any cash as “petty cash” that will inevitably be spent quickly and carelessly. So it stands to reason that people don’t want to carry around too much. “If you’re carrying more, maybe you feel you have more, and you feel you spend more easily,” Joydeep Srivastava, a professor of marketing at the University of Maryland, told Bankrate. To many consumers, cash on hand is as good as cash spent. “As soon as you draw it from the ATM, it’s like you’ve already spent it,” said Srivastava. “You don’t feel that pang of guilt of spending it anymore.”

So which theory is true? If you’re trying to avoid unnecessary spending, should your primary mode of paying be plastic or cash? And by extension, is it best to carry lots, some, or no cash? The truth is, the answers probably vary a lot from person to person.

If you’re the type who is constantly piling up credit card debt or getting hit with overdraft fees on a debit card, it may be time to put the plastic on ice and limit yourself to cash-only expenditures. And it’s probably best to try to plan out your daily expenses and limit how much cash you carry around. Because if you have more cash than you need, you know you’ll just spend it.

TIME Apps & Web

10 Apps and Sites That Will Save You Money

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Reuters

Too many online services claiming to save you money just end up costing you precious time without much in return. Here are 10 free websites and apps that will help you keep more dollars in your wallet.

Those who know how to find a deal, whether coupons or rebates or rewards points, know the satisfaction that comes with slashing your bill at checkout.

But too many online services claiming to save you money just end up costing you precious time without much in return.

We’ve gone through the big ones and found 10 free websites and apps that will help you keep more dollars in your wallet.

Savings.com

With more than 200,000 coupons and local deals, there’s a good chance Savings.com will help you save money on something you want to buy.

Just search its database for your favorite brands to find coupon codes you can use online. A Local tab uses your ZIP code to surface printable coupons and daily deals for nearby brick and mortar retailers and restaurants.

You can also install a Savings.com DealFinder extension for Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox. The app will follow wherever you go online, alerting you if you’re on a site for which it has coupons.

RetailMeNot

RetailMeNot works similarly to Savings.com, claiming to offer 500,000 coupons from more than 50,000 stores, but what you might really appreciate is its app for iOS and Android devices.

Give it permission to track your location and find nearby deals, bookmark your favorite stores, save coupons for later use, find trending in-store and online deals and sort coupons by category.

Especially nice: You don’t need to print coupons onto paper; just show the barcode on your phone to a cashier for scanning. You can also send coupon links to others via text or email.

PoachIt

Specifically created for online shopping, PoachIt works via a little button you drag to your bookmarks bar that you click once you’re on the product page of something you may want to buy.

Not only does PoachIt offer coupon codes you can use upon checkout, but it tracks the price of your chosen items and alerts you when they go on sale.

FatWallet

As a tool for earning and saving money, this website does what its name suggests.

Not only does FatWallet connect users with coupons, local deals and sales, but if you use it to shop online at other sites, you can earn cash-back rebates that accumulate within your FatWallet account.

Once you’re ready to get paid, FatWallet either sends you a check or transfers the money to your PayPal account.

Cartwheel

Frequent Target shoppers may want this app for iOS and Android. Select from hundreds of discounts — mostly 5% off on brands such as Market Pantry and Archer Farms — and add them to your Cartwheel barcode, which a cashier scans during checkout at the store.

Depending on how much you share on Facebook, you might like that the app makes you sign in with either your Target account or your Facebook account (with the latter probably being the easier and more popular choice).

If you do, however, your friends will be able to see what you’re buying unless you select “only me” when giving the app permission to post on your behalf during installation.

Ibotta

This free app for iOS and Android gives you cash back for consuming or sharing advertising by watching a video, reading facts, taking a poll, getting a recipe or sharing on Facebook.

Do these things within Ibotta for your favorite brands at home; once you get to the store, use your smartphone to scan the barcode of an item for which you earned a rebate, then scan the receipt once you’ve made the purchase.

You can transfer money you accumulate to your PayPal or Venmo account or to various gift cards including Starbucks, Redbox or iTunes.

ShopKick

This free iOS and Android app shows you products and rewards available from stores such as Target, Macy’s, Best Buy, Old Navy, American Eagle, JCPenney, Sports Authority and Crate & Barrel.

With the app turned on, you get points just for walking in the door, as well as scanning or buying products there. Points build up to earn you gift cards.

ShopKick recently announced it has doled out $25 million in rewards to 7 million gift cards since launching in 2010.

SavingStar

Use this website to zap deals on products to the loyalty cards of more than 100 grocery stores and drugstores. When you use your card at a store to redeem a deal, the savings are applied to your SavingStar account.

Once you accumulate at least $5 in your account, you can have it paid out to your bank or PayPal account, an Amazon gift card or the nonprofit American Forests. Earn cash back with SavingStar by using its mall and coupon codes to shop online.

A few special features stand out. Every Tuesday, SavingStar introduces a new Healthy Offer of the Week that gives you money back on designated fruits and vegetables.

Friday Freebies give 100% cash back on a new product every Friday. SavingStar also offers high-value deals that let you save $5 if you buy a certain amount of a particular brand in one or several store visits.

Chippmunk

This coupon search engine lets you search for online coupon codes according to your budget, department, store or type of offer (coupon code, sale or free shipping).

Narrow your results according to delivery area, payment type and estimated delivery date. When you search for a particular brand, Chippmunk also shows you competitor deals. (When you’re looking for Chippmunk, note the double Ps in the name.)

PointsHound

While it’s not a coupon tool, the PointsHound website lets you earn points, miles and even digital currency when you book a hotel room at one of more than 150,000 properties around the world.

It’s worth checking out, since hotel rooms cost the same through PointsHound as they would booked via Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz or direct booking — yet you can tell the platform to translate the credit from your stay into one of 11 loyalty programs including several frequent flier programs, your My Best Buy account or even into a Bitcoin wallet, where you can accumulate digital currency to use to buy things online or at a growing number of physical stores.

These 10 tools only scratch the surface of the digital tools available for saving money. Which are your favorites?

This article was written by Christina DesMarais and originally appeared on Techlicious.
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