The Cons of Online Shopping

I will be the first to tell you that online shopping is great.  You do not have to leave your house and your items will arrive at your door within days.  What started out as shopping for presents online in order to avoid crowds around the busy holiday season has now turned into ordering clothes, electronics, and even household items such as cleaning supplies, groceries, and paper products.  It is easy to fill your refrigerator, pantry, closet without going to the store, which is the problem, it is too easy.  According to a recent study by Statista’s Digital Market Outlook, on average, Americans were expected to spend $1,804 on online shopping last year, which is more than any other country in the world.  While online shopping may be one of our greatest advances, there are also cons that go along with.

Costs for Shipping

Sure Amazon Prime has free shipping that can have items arrive at your door within 2 business days, there is a $79 yearly fee that is associated with that, of which is expected to rise.  If you are someone who does not order items online that could be a hefty price tag to not wait a couple extra days for an item to arrive.  For other websites that do not offer free shipping, if you do most of your shopping online, that can quickly add up for much more of a cost than driving to the store.

Impulse Shopping

When you are at a retail store and are physically holding an item in your hands, thinking if you should make the purchase, it can make or break the deal, especially seeing the price tag or handing over the money to the cashier.  For online shopping, the transaction is digital, so it can feel like an unlimited pool of money to spend, especially if using a credit card and are not seeing the balance until the next month.  There have been plenty of times when my items have arrived in the mail and I ask myself why I ordered and I did not really need it. My wife does a lot of impulse shopping at Victoria’s Secret. I’ve noticed it’s helpful if I routinely go to her victoria secret credit card login and check her purchases. Simple reminders go a long way to curb impulse spending.

Hassle to Return Items

If you receive your item and it is not what was expected, now is the hassle to return.  Although standing in the customer service line at a retail store is not the best experience, at least it is easier than having to figure out how and where to send back your item.  Amazon is easy and provides a label, tracking, and quick refunds, but other online sites are not as simple.

Do you by your drugs at the drugstore? If so, you might want to reconsider

The fact is, for the best deals on drugs (as well as many other items), your best bet is definitely not your drugstore but rather “big box” stores and regular grocery stores instead. While the fact is that most modern drugstores now carry everything from aspirin to cards, food, toys and even tools, it’s very infrequent that they offer cheaper prices than grocery stores and big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target, including on the drugs that they sell.

Of course drugstore prices can vary widely from one franchise to another and can even very from one store in the same chain to another. Also, most of today’s drug stores carry some items that are almost always cheaper than at big-box or grocery stores and many of them offer all sorts of great deals to their repeat shoppers. But these few items and great deals don’t mean that you should use a drugstore as the main place to do the majority of your shopping. Indeed, when it comes to drugs they might not be the best place at all as, according to a study released by Consumer Reports magazine in 2013, their prices on many “big name” drugs were much higher and even their prices for over-the-counter medications like Aleve, Motrin and Advil were higher than big-box stores like target and grocery stores like Publix, ShopRite and Kroger.

What Consumer Reports found was that, on five of the biggest drugs that have recently become available as generic, drugstores were definitely the most expensive places to buy them. This includes the drug Actos for diabetes, Lexapro the antidepressant, Lipitor for high cholesterol, the blood thinner Plavix, and Singulair for asthma.  In fact, they found that the cheapest place to buy drugs was Costco while CVS was the highest and Rite-Aid came in right behind them at second. Walgreens was also more expensive than Kmart, Wal-Mart or Costco.

So while drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS might offer something in the way of convenience, they definitely are not a place that you want to go on any regular basis, especially if you have a lot of shopping to do. Your best bet for drugs as well as food, toys, household goods and the hundreds of other items that you can find there is simply at your neighborhood grocery store or your big-box store like Target, Wal-Mart and Costco.

Do You Try to Save Money on Medical Expenses With Home Remedies?

Medicine Drug Pills on Plate

Medicine Drug Pills on Plate (Photo credit: epSos.de)

I’ll admit that I tend to self-diagnose. For lots of simple things it is cheaper and easier to figure out yourself that you have the flu or a sprained ankle. Likewise, I usually self-medicate. I’m a big boy. I know if I need a muscle relaxer or pain medication stronger than ibuprofen. Of course, without taking a day off of work to see a doctor, I don’t have access to that kind of stuff once I run out of an old prescription. And for some ailments, medical science simply doesn’t have an answer for. In both those cases, I usually turn to home remedies.

Home remedies can get a bad rap. They are usually relegated to “old wives tales” meaning that they are based on anecdotal evidence and no proof that they actually work. Some of them really are worthless, but it is important to remember that, before modern medicine, home medicine was all there was and that a lot of early prescriptions were merely extracts of things that people had been taking on their own for centuries.

In the health care reform debate, a lot has been said about the group known as the “young invincibles” who do not have health insurance because they feel they do not need it. I’m not as young and as invincible as I used to be, but I will admit that my affiliation tends toward that label. I’ve always felt that one of the things that has been increasing the cost of health care was the moral hazard that health insurance creates by making expensive procedures cheap and therefore routine even if not necessary. Health insurance tends to increase the demand for health care, and we all know what the law of supply and demand says about increased demand.

Home Remedies for Hiccups

I’ll admit, if there was a prescription medicine for hiccups, I would go to the doctor and get it. I’ve always been prone to fits of hiccuping, but after my surgery two years ago, they have gotten worse. These aren’t little “hic, hic” hiccups. These are great, gut-wrenching spasms that shake my whole body and can even make me sick. But alas, there is no medicine that I have found for the lowly hiccup. So I’m stuck with homegrown “cures.” There are such a dizzying array of these that everybody knows a couple and will trot them out when they see somebody hiccuping. Eating sugar or peanut butter has never had any effect on me but here are two that have:

Drink water upside down

My boss shared that one for me and it seems to work for me for all but the worst attacks. Simply tilt your head back and lean back to the point where your nose is facing upside down. Then take a long drink of water, at lease several successive swallows without pausing. I don’t know what this does to stop the stomach spasms, but it seems to do the job.

I’ve found that this is easiest to accomplish by using a water bottle and bringing it to your mouth before you tilt your head. Just keep the opening stopped with your tongue until your head is in position.

Hold breath for 30 seconds

When that doesn’t work, holding my breath usually will. The standard advice is for 10 seconds, but that has never worked for me. I have to hold it for 30 seconds. Of course, the issue with that is that I have difficulty holding my breath for longer than 20 seconds. It usually takes me 4-5 tries before I’m successful.

If you also have difficulty with this, I’ve found that physically pinching my nose close and counting with my fingers tend to make it easier.

Home Remedies for Heartburn

My father has acid reflux disease. He has gotten to the point where he cannot drink or eat anything acidic, like coffee, soda, orange juice, or tomato sauce. And still he needs to take a prescription heartburn medication. My sister and I seem to have inherited this curse. Fortunately, I am still at the point where it is infrequent and doesn’t need routine management. Strangely, it is also not pegged to any particular food or type of food that I can determine but simply strikes at random times. After a bad hiccuping fit, I typically get it, but other times simply seem capricious.

Heartburn and indigestion is a big industry. Tums, Rolaids, Alka-Seltser, plus Prilosec and other maintenance drugs. I don’t bother with any of them. There is something that nearly everybody keeps in their kitchen cupboard that does the job as well as any tablet. This miracle cure is simply baking soda. All those heartburn tablets are simply carbonates. Calcium carbonate is the most popular one because it also provide Calcium, which many people don’t get enough of. But baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate. Sure you get extra sodium, but my diet tends to be low in that anyway and my blood pressure is phenomenal. So I take baking soda.

Pour about 4 ounces of warm water (stuff dissolves better in warm water) in a glass and stir in a teaspoon of baking soda. Drink it and it will start to settle your stomach.

Home Remedies for Muscle Pain

There are basically two kinds of muscle pain. One is when the muscle tears. When that happens, there is nothing to do but to simply deal with the pain and wait for the muscle to heal, perhaps taking extra protein to give your body what it needs to do the job.

The other, more common muscle pain is soreness. This happens when the muscle is overworked. There are going to be small tears (that is simply how muscle is built, by damaging it and your body overcompensates by replacing it with more), but a lot of what you are feeling is simply tightness. In this case, the most relief will come from taking something to relax it.

If you don’t have a prescription for muscle relaxers, then you need something else that will have the same effect. Luckily, there are dozens of herbs that will do it. Here are some of my favorites.

Chamomile

I love chamomile. I love the smell and the taste. The part you use is the flower itself, so it is easy to grow and process. I grow chamomile in my garden and make a tea of it by drying the flower heads and putting them in a coffee filter.

Valerian Root

Valerian root also has relaxing properties. You can find it at most markets that sell supplements or health foods.

Kava

Kava has some controversy behind it. Part of it is because large amounts can cause liver damage (so does pain medication). Part of it is because large amounts can also get you drunk. But in small doses, it is fine. It tastes a little bitter, but not so much that it won’t do well in a homemade herbal tea made in a coffee filter.

Do you use home remedies? If so, what ones work for you?

Frugal Warning: Airborne Chewable Tablets

airborne chewable tablets are a poor frugal choice compared to the originalIt’s official. Summer is offer and winter is coming. How do I know? Because I’ve had my first cold of the season.  I find myself pretty resistant to the flu – I’ve had it just 3 times in the last 15 years – but I’ll get a cold 2-3 times per year. By now, I have it down to a science. NyQuil and DayQuil, cough drops, and Airborne.

I wind up buying several of those tubes of effervescent Airborne tablets each year. I’m not extremely fond of the flavor, but they work. Since I started using it to control my colds, they have averaged about three fewer days. So when this cold hit, I went to the store to buy some more. Apparently, they now sell a chewable form instead of just the effervescent tablets. Even better, for just 50 cents more, the bottle of chewables has 32 while the tube of tablets has 18.

They taste a lot better too.

But there is a catch.

Airborne Chewable Tablets Are Not a Frugal Choice

So the chewables have 32 instead of 18. For nearly the same price, that would make them significantly cheaper per tablet than the effervescent version. And they are. The unit price is more than 50% cheaper, according to the labels on the store shelf. So what’s the catch?

Unlike the original version of Airborne, one tablet is not a serving. According to the bottle, you need to take 4 tablets per serving. The dosage found in one effervescent tablet is split between four chewable ones, meaning that, on a per-serving, basis, they chewable Airborne are quite a bit more expensive. Instead of 18 servings, there are only 8. And the bottle is still more expensive overall!

Lessons learned

Sometimes it isn’t enough to simply check the unit price when comparing brands or varieties to find the most frugal choice. The units of measurement could be different from one to the next. I’ve seen this before with one brand providing a unit price in ounces and another in “each.” Unless a serving size happens to be a single ounce, the comparison is worse than useless. Worse, because it can lead comparison shoppers astray.

So, before checking unit prices, check serving sizes as well. Reading the package of the chewable Airborne tablets would have saved me a couple bucks by not having to restock in the middle of my cold.

Have you ever been fooled by unit prices that weren’t comparable? How do you get over a cold?