I haven't posted in a while. That's because each of my three children got sick, one at a time, and now that they are mostly recovered, I'm sick. It has not been a fun couple of weeks in our house, nor a cheap one--having someone sick in our house is always a stretch of the budget, with doctor visits, medications, 'feel better' items (whether it's special Popsicles or a new video game) and more, having a sick child can cost us hundreds of dollars. Here are some ways we've tried to bring the costs down without sacrificing care--or sanity.
1. Ask the doctor for medications. And not just samples of prescriptions--many doctors also have over the counter medications they can give you. We get about half of the children's tylenol & motrin that we use from our pediatricians office, at no additional cost. If they don't have the medications, ask if they have coupons--you can still save a few dollars.
2. Buy generic. Children's ibuprofen is the same medication whether it is labelled motrin or Kroger brand. Tylenol has had TWO recalls in the past couple of years on their children's medications--I actually trust generic brands better than the name brands at this point! In addition, some hospitals or clinics that have their own pharmacy have brands of medication I've never seen in stores (Q-pap, for example, which is a children's medication brand) that tend to be much cheaper than brands you can buy at retail stores.
3. Substitute. Our twins had severe acid reflux their first year or so, which meant that every time they got sick, the reflux was irritated, they were in danger of dehydration, and we started a pedialyte regimen--at a cost of $100-$200 PER ILLNESS, depending on how sick they were and how long it lasted. Last week, the pediatrician we saw pointed out that while plain water wasn't what my son needed to replace what he had lost throwing up, I could mix 1 cup of water, 1 cup of salt, and 1 cup of sugar, along with any flavoring I wanted, and it would have the same effect as pedialyte or Gatorade. When my twins were four months old and teetering on the brink of failure to thrive due to their reflux, I would never have considered this option. But now that they are older and stronger, it's a great alternative--and costs pennies per gallon, when I have paid $5 per quart for pedialyte.
4. Know your own shopping habits. When I am sick, I am the absolute best person to send to the store, because I will buy exactly what is on my list and nothing else. Some times, I won't even finish the list :P But when one of my sons is sick, I'm the worst person to do the shopping--suddenly a $50 video game or toy seems like a great idea if it MIGHT make my sick child smile. If this is you as well, find someone else to do the shopping when your little ones are sick.
5. Indulge sensibly. If you are sick, you probably aren't spending a lot of money (unless you're shopping online or on QVC :P), so it's OK to spend a little extra on the orange juice you like but don't usually buy, or for a paperback that you usually wouldn't read but would like to (my husband calls these my 'trash literature'-I enjoy them, but they really don't have any value other than entertainment :P), or a toy or game to help keep your child occupied. But be sensible--even sick, there's no reason to spend $75 on a new video game when a used $20 game from a pawn shop would keep your child just as entertained.
6. Stock up on sick-day supplies when you're well. If you have children, chances are someone in your house is going to be sick at some point. So when you see spray disinfectant on sale (or even better, free or close to free after coupons), buy a few extra and stash them in the closet. Same goes for hand cleaner, tissues, chicken noodle soup, cold medicine, or anything else you might need when you're sick--for me, being sick or having a sick child and having to pay a premium price for something that was on sale recently or will be on sale soon is like adding insult to injury. When your local library has a used book sale, spend $5 or so on some books that you or your child would like to read if you were stuck in bed for a few days. I always have a couple of toys or games stashed away in my 'gift closet' in case of a birthday party invitation that arrives unexpectedly--add a couple of items that you can pull out if your kids are sick, too.
7. Miss work judiciously. Depending on your job, it could cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars to be sick or to have sick children, and here in the real world, bosses don't always care that you're sick or you've been up all night with an ill child. And to be fair to bosses, the world doesn't stop just because your house has been invaded by the plague, so somewhere, someone is still depending on your job getting done. However, especially with the pandemic flu we are currently facing, it's important to STAY HOME if you are contagious. If you have a sinus infection and you're miserable and you go to work anyway, then you may gross out a few neighbors, but mostly you're torturing yourself. But if you have a virus and you take your germs out in public, you never know who is seeing you right before visiting their elderly parent or newborn niece. Do not risk killing someone else to prove you are super strong--if you are sick, stay at home.
8. Keep some comfort food in the freezer. I LOVE homemade chicken noodles soup when I'm sick (or, honestly, anytime I want comfort food), so I keep all the ingredients on hand all the time--a bag of egg noodles, some frozen chicken breast, and some chicken bouillon and I'm good to go. I also try to keep things on hand that might tempt a sick child's appetite. If I have some frozen dinners already in the freezer (pasta dishes, like manicotti and lasagna, seem to freeze well) then I'm not as tempted to get pizza or fast food--which also means I'm keeping my germs at home :P
8. Don't get sick. Of course, this is the best way to save money. Eat well, take your vitamins, use good hand washing, avoid enclosed spaces when possible, and make sure your kids do these things, too.