How to Save on Health and Wellness Expenses

Between prescriptions, eating well, and visits to specialists, good health does not come cheap. These simple tips will keep you, and your wallet, in tip-top shape.

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Your body is your greatest asset, and taking good care of it can help you live longer and better—and also avoid costly conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, down the road.

But in addition to scheduling regular visits with your M.D., there are plenty of other proactive measures you can take to keep your health in check—without sabotaging your budget in the process. We spoke to doctors, dietitians, and other health-care pros for their top money-saving tips for hacking costs on everything from pricey prescriptions to mind-and-body-healing massages.

Health Cost Hack: Get Meds for Less

Even if you’re relatively healthy and have decent insurance coverage, the cost of prescription co-pays can really add up. Before you shell out for next month’s batch of birth control pills or allergy meds, ask your doc if she has some to give you gratis. “We often have free samples in the office, and it never hurts to ask,” says Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, M.D., an Atlanta-based internist and adjunct associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.

Another smart option is to inquire about switching from a brand-name drug to the generic version. For even greater savings, fill the script at Target, Walmart, or Kroger—these retailers offer hundreds of generics for just $4, compared to the $15 to $30 you’ll likely pay for prescription meds through other pharmacies, says Fryhofer.

Wellness Cost Hack: Book a Massage-Therapist-in-Training Session

Getting regular rubdowns can help alleviate a variety of ailments, from headaches and insomnia to back pain and sports injuries—plus it feels really good. An appointment with an experienced practitioner doesn’t come cheap, but a student can unkink those muscles for less. Just don’t expect fluffy robes and spa amenities!

Many massage schools throughout the country host clinics that are open to the public, which means you can get a treatment for as little as $30 a session, while also helping a wannabe therapist work toward a degree. A few programs to check out: Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences, The Massage School, and the National Holistic Institute.

Health Cost Hack: Set Aside Pretax Dollars for Medical Care

The next time open enrollment comes around, consider signing up for a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA). The money you sock away (tax-free) in either account can be used toward medical expenses, including co-pays, contact lenses, dental work, mental health counseling, and even acupuncture if recommended by your doctor. So “get a rough idea of how much you might spend monthly, and make sure the right amount is set aside,” says Martin B. Rosen, executive vice president and cofounder of Health Advocate, Inc., a health-care advocacy and assistance company.

Just keep a couple of things in mind when choosing your account: With a traditional FSA, you need to be careful not to overestimate, since you’ll lose any funds you don't use up by the end of the year, unless your employer determines otherwise. HSAs, on the other hand, provide more flexibility—the money rolls over from year to year and collects interest—but you can only open one if you have a high-deductible insurance plan.