Note from Paula: Today’s guest post comes from Mike, who got into thousands of debt not because of reckless spending but because of medical bills — “About half my bones from head to toe were crushed,” Mike tells us. Yikes!!
Without further ado — Here’s Mike with Are You Risking Your Health By Being Frugal?
Going on 3+ years as a personal finance blogger, something I’ve noticed is that a few of my fellow bloggers take frugality a bit too far… to the point of jeopardizing their health and safety just to save money! Now in their defense, they rarely intend for that, but if you dissect their decisions you can see it’s an inevitable outcome sometimes.
Here are three examples …
#1. Buying a cheaper (and less safe) vehicle
Obviously there are times in our lives where we literally have no choice but to drive a beater. But if you have an income and a few bucks in the bank, you may want to re-consider that old sub-compact.
Why? Because it doesn’t give you a reasonable level of safety. And don’t even try and tell me you’re an excellent driver, because how will that save you from all the bad drivers on the road?
Want a real-life example? For my first car I decided to a get a ’99 Taurus. I loved it, but the only drawback was that it had no side airbags (they didn’t start using them until the next model year). I could have spent an extra $1-2k more to get a ’00 or later that was equipped with them, but I didn’t.
Fast forward to a sunny spring afternoon during my senior year in high school. Just got done doing my laundry at my grandma’s house. I always did it there because my mom didn’t have the money for a washer/dryer. So it’s around 4pm and I’m driving back to my mom’s just a couple miles away.
I’m just leaving a stop sign (after stopping of course) and out of nowhere my little Taurus is T-boned on the driver’s side by a massive truck, who was supposed to have turned. The result? About half my bones from head to toe were crushed, organs ruptured, and the list goes on. Should have paid more to get the side airbags, right?
#2. Buying cheaper (and less healthy) food
I can’t remember what personal finance blogger it was, but I remember reading a post by a guy who decided to eat nothing but ramen noodles for 30 days to save money. Assuming he consumed enough of them to fulfill his body’s daily caloric needs, on the outside I’m sure he looked just fine. But do you really think his body was getting the optimal supply of nutrients during that period?
Being cheap is one thing, but you shouldn’t just cut out everything that’s good for you because it costs more. If you do that, over time it will take its toll on your body. I’m not claiming you should max out your credit card at Whole Foods or go buy overpriced raw vegan takeout on a daily basis (though admittedly, I’m frequently guilty of that because of my card’s restaurant rewards program). All I’m saying is you should take a balanced approach and accept the fact that the best things for you won’t always be the cheapest.
However if you insist on saving money, then let me suggest trying #2 on Paula’s habits for saving without trying (the part about growing some veggies).
#3. Skimping on healthcare
This one should be obvious, but it’s amazing how many people do it. Given the outrageous costs (and trust me, I know better than anyone) it’s totally understandable why people do this. But at the end of the day, this may end up costing you more.
Time for another example from that fun car accident of mine. Given the injuries, as you can imagine there was a lot of reconstructive work involved. You can also probably guess that the surgeons whom are best skilled at reconstruction cost way more than what most insurance companies are willing to pay.
That leaves two options:
(a) pay the hefty difference out-of-pocket for someone better, or
(b) go with the in-network provider, who may or may not get the job done right.
Unfortunately I went with the latter for a very complex grafting procedure. The result? Even worse than it was to begin with and ended up needing two more operations just to un-do the damage from the first!
Of course I’m not trying to say cost always correlates with quality, but sometimes it actually does. If it’s your health on the line, you don’t want to cut corners.
I hate the idea of encouraging someone to rack up debt, but if you don’t have the cash it might make more sense to use those darn credit card balance transfer checks they mail out to pay for a better doctor (if your condition requires it). Because believe me… having more credit card debt is better than having to endure more operations!
I think we can sum this up in just a few words. Saving money is good, but saving money to sacrifice your health is bad!
This post was written by Mike, the creator of Credit Card Forum, which is a place to discuss cash back, airline miles, balance transfers, and anything else related to credit cards.
Photo courtesy Carlos A. Martinez.