Portrait of a sick young business woman blowing her nose on her workplace

How to Be Sick on the Cheap

Coming down with an illness can be expensive, but these tips can help. 

Portrait of a sick young business woman blowing her nose on her workplace

When you're sick, the costs can add up. 

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It’s been a long, chilly winter with low temperatures across much of the country. Having a cold or the flu often happens when the weather is cold, and it can be costly. Between medication, a potential doctor or hospital visit plus the time lost at work, sickness can cripple a weak pocketbook. Luckily there are a few ways to send the germs on their way without putting your financial health at risk.

First, consider getting a flu shot. Depending on your health coverage, it can be free or low cost. Look for opportunities to get one in your community or at a local pharmacy. Often no appointment is necessary. Even if you must pay a small fee for the shot, this investment in your health could protect you from wasting more time later in the winter season.

After all, you could fork over the same amount to visit a doctor or more if you need to go to the hospital, and spending a little now can prevent your need to purchase medicine or take time off work. Using the same reasoning, you might want to consider investing in vitamins and healthy food, too.

If you do come down with an illness, don’t count on cold medicine being on sale when you need it. Instead, stock up when it’s on sale. Take a moment before you go to the store and look at the weekly ads to see what’s on sale. Then look for a coupon. You might even be able to use a coupon on an item that’s already on sale for additional savings.

Another way to save on medicine is to purchase the generic version. Each store usually has their own brand that uses many or all of the same ingredients and comes with a lower price tag.

A word of caution before you buy the cheapest medicine you can find: When selecting medicine to buy at the drugstore, you might notice that the same drug is packaged in multiple size boxes and prices range from $5 to $20. Calculating the cost per dose will likely reveal that the larger package is a better value. Colds can last up to a few weeks; if you buy the smaller package, you may be back at the store to purchase a second box or bottle of medicine before your cold symptoms have gone away.

Now that you’ve selected a bottle or cough syrup or a box of decongestant, don’t forget to rack up the rewards when you pay the cashier. Many drugstores – including Walgreens and CVS – have free memberships where you can accumulate rewards that are later redeemed for dollars off your future bill. With any luck, you won’t need to cash it in on more medicine.