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6 Tips to Save on Healthcare and Fitness in the New Year

6 Tips to Save on Healthcare and Fitness in the New Year

Feeling good, looking good, and living the lifestyle you want are just a few of the well-known benefits that come from improving your physical fitness. But did you know that getting in shape can also boost your finances?

Here are six ways to get fit and save on healthcare in the New Year:

1. Use a Health Savings Account (HSA)

Surveys continue to show that too few Americans take advantage of health savings accounts, or “HSAs.” Either they just don’t know that they exist or they underestimate how much they save on healthcare.

You’re eligible to contribute to an HSA when you’re covered by a high deductible health plan. High deductible plans are becoming more popular because they’re more affordable. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium will be.

The beauty of an HSA is that as long as you spend it on qualified medial expenses, the funds are never taxed. Contributions to an HSA, other than those from an employer, are deductible on your tax return, no matter if you itemize deductions or not.

That means that if your average income tax rate is 25%, you get an immediate 25% discount on all your out-of-pocket medical expenses. That’s huge!

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You can take distributions from the account to pay for medical expenses—such as doctor co-pays, prescriptions, and supplies—before your deductible is satisfied and your health benefits kick in. But if you spend money in an HSA on non-qualified expenses, the amount you withdraw will be subject to income tax, plus a 20% penalty.

You can also use HSA funds for a long list of other types of expenses, even if you don’t have insurance for them, such as going to a dentist, ophthalmologist, chiropractor, or psychologist. One of my favorite ways to use HSA money is to get new pair of prescription sunglasses every couple of years.

Another benefit of an HSA is that you don’t have to take any distributions each year; you can let the savings accumulate indefinitely without penalty.

Find out if your health insurance qualifies as a high deductible plan. If so, open up an HSA and begin funding it as soon as possible so you can get a tax break on your next medical expense. For 2017, you can contribute up to $3,400 if you have individual coverage or $6,650 for a family plan.

2. Use a Health Flexible Savings Arrangement (FSA)

Flexible spending arrangements have some similarities to HSAs, but are only offered by employers. An FSA allows you or your employer to make contributions on a pre-tax basis, usually through payroll deductions. For 2017, eligible employees can contribute up to $2,600.

As long as you spend FSA funds on qualified medical expenses, they’re never taxed. So, just like with an HSA, you save an amount equal to the income taxes you would have paid on the money.

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But unlike an HSA, an FSA is a “use-it-or-lose-it” plan. That means you generally must empty the account every year or else only carry over a small amount, while funds in an HSA can roll over from year to year without penalty.

3. Get Healthcare Subsidies 

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, mandates every American to have health insurance. Even if Obamacare is eventually repealed, you’re required to have it until changes are officially made. If you can afford heath insurance but choose not to buy it, you’ll be subject to a tax penalty.

Depending on your income, the state where you live, and the number of people in your household, you may be eligible for financial assistance to save on healthcare. In most states, if you earn less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, you can get a healthcare subsidy, which reduces your monthly health insurance premium.

The open enrollment period to get health insurance for 2017 began on November 1, 2016 and ends January 31, 2017. So if you remain uninsured, don’t miss the opportunity to get the coverage you need to protect your health and your finances. Use the Obamacare Subsidy Calculator to estimate your monthly health insurance costs.

4. Max Out Your Health Insurance Benefits

Health insurance benefits, such as free preventative checkups and deductibles, are tied to an annual schedule. That means you need to pay attention to the calendar in order to max out your benefits.

For instance, if you burn through your health deductible and need a medical procedure, make sure to get it before the end of the year. If you wait until the following year, you could end up paying more than you have to.

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In other words, take advantage of the time each year after you reach your deductible so you can get your insurance company to pay for as much of your medical expenses as possible.

If there are capped benefits, like a certain number of therapy sessions or an allowable amount of dental work, get part completed in December and the rest in January, in order to take advantage of 2 years’ worth of benefits.

And don’t skimp on the free preventative appointments, like annual physicals, well-woman visits, mammograms, prostate screenings, dental cleanings, and eye exams.

5. Claim Medical Tax Deductions

The IRS allows you to save money by claiming medical expenses as deductions on your tax return. However, the catch is that you must itemize deductions, instead of taking the standard deduction for your tax filing status.

When you itemize, you can claim medical expenses paid for yourself, your spouse, and dependents, unless they’re already excluded from your taxable income, paid for using your HSA or FSA, or were reimbursed to you. In other words, you can’t double dip and get a tax deduction twice.

Another important point with medical deductions is that you can only claim amounts that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income. For example, let’s say your AGI is $50,000 and your medical expenses for the tax year are $6,000. You could deduct the amount over $5,000, or $1,000. If your medical expenses are less than 10% of your income, then you can’t deduct any of them.

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There’s a long list of expenses that qualify for a tax deduction, and some of them, such as acupuncture, weight-loss programs, and transportation, may surprise you. You can even claim the cost of your health insurance premiums if you pay them as an individual—but not if they’re paid on a pre-tax basis from your paycheck at work.

I encourage your to take a look at the full list of deductible costs found on IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses. There are probably many medical expenses that you might not realize are deductible.

6. Review Your Medical Bills Carefully

My last tip to save money on healthcare and fitness is to review your medical bills carefully. If you don’t understand a charge, don’t pay it until the medical provider and your insurance company can explain why you owe it.

If you believe that a health insurance claim has been denied in error, perhaps because of an administrative or coding error, fight for your rights and file an appeal if necessary.

Laura Adams is a personal finance expert, award-winning author, and host of the top-rated Money Girl Podcast. To learn more and connect, click here.

Featured photo credit: Little Perfect Stock via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Want to Get Free Product Samples Like Bloggers and Beauty Gurus Do? Read This.

Want to Get Free Product Samples Like Bloggers and Beauty Gurus Do? Read This.

Imagine receiving a regular supply of free samples through your letterbox?

These free samples by mail could include things such as cleaning products, cosmetics and packaged food.

Free samples are a great way to try out some of the latest products. One week you may have a new toothpaste to try – the next week you may be snacking on a delicious chocolate cookie sample.

As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. And by requesting free samples by mail (I’ll show you how shortly), you’ll have not just variety – but fun too!

Tell Me More About Getting Free Samples Sent to My Door!

So, it looks like I’ve caught your interest. That’s great news!

Just before I introduce you to 10 places where you can get free samples by mail, let me clarify a couple of things.

Firstly, all the places I’ll talk about are currently active in sending out free samples to consumers. (In other words, no links to out-of-date or dead pages!)

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Secondly, location is key. If you live in North America, then you’ll have a wide selection of places to sign up to. In other locations (for example, Africa, Asia and Europe), you’ll have fewer choices – but free samples by mail are still a possibility.

Lastly, to whet your appetite for the freebies, here’s a short list of product examples:

  • Pet food.
  • Beauty products.
  • T-shirts.
  • Greeting cards.
  • Wallets.
  • Snack bars.
  • Vitamins.

Free Samples by Mail… Tell Me Where to Get Them!

It’s now time to share my recommendations for the best sites to claim free samples from.

Let’s start with…

#1 SampleSource

    This company sends out boxes of 6-12 free samples about four times a year. Products include baby wipes, cereals and tissues. Register with SampleSource to be notified of the availability of their free samples. (Canada and U.S. only.)

    #2 Influenster

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      As their name suggests, Influenster wants to send free samples to you in exchange for you sharing about the products on your social media accounts. Once you’ve become a member (join for free!), they’ll send you a box of free goodies every few months. The more you share pictures and reviews of the products – the more free samples they’ll send you! (All major territories.)

      #3 PINCHme

        This organization will send you free samples in the hope that you’ll then go out and buy the equivalent full-size products. To receive regular boxes of free food, drink and cosmetic samples (and sometimes coupons), then sign up and create your profile. (U.S. only.)

        #4 House Party

          Thinking of throwing a house party? If yes, then be sure to sign up with this company. They’ll send you a box of ‘themed’ products and services that you can hand out at your party. Register with House Party. Wait for the fun freebies to be mailed to you. And then start sending out your party invites! (Worldwide.)

          #5 YoFreeSamples

            This site is a great resource for a whole host of free samples that can be mailed directly to your door (with no survey requirements!). You’ll find anything from books to perfume, with new offers listed daily. Head over to their site to see what’s currently available. (Mostly U.S., with occasional offers for other countries.)

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            #6 Magic Freebies

              The U.K.’s most popular freebie site. Register for their email newsletter, and they’ll send you a daily email with eight free sample offers. These include products such as disposable razors, dog bowls, and even fake tan! So, what are you waiting for? (U.K. only.)

              #7 SweetFreeStuff

                Since 2002, this simple site has been linking to the best free sample offers currently available. To get started, sign up to their daily email newsletter, which contains links to the latest offers. As well as free samples, SweetFreeStuff also gives information on coupons and deals. (Worldwide.)

                #8 Sample A Day

                  Would you like to receive a notification of a new free sample every day? Well, that’s the promise from this site. They claim to thoroughly research all offers, ensuring there are no catches or hidden surveys! From baby products to socks, this site is sure to have something for you. Registration is super-easy. Simply enter your email address. (Australia, Canada, U.K. and U.S. only.)

                  #9 Pretty Thrifty

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                    This site specializes in free beauty products, but also lets you claim free samples such as energy drinks, snack bars, and even magazine subscriptions. Pretty Thrifty has more than 85,000 followers on social media, so clearly knows how to attract free sample hunters. One thing that makes Pretty Thrifty stand out from most of their competitors, is that their email newsletter is available in daily, weekly and monthly formats. (Mostly U.S., with occasional offers for other countries.)

                    #10 CrazyFree

                      My final tip for getting the best free samples by mail, is Australian company CrazyFree. Their funky website offers big brand free sample offers, which currently include items such as Dolce & Gabbana perfume, Coke Zero, and Happy Dog pet food. To claim the offers, select the free samples you would like, and then complete their registration form. (Australia, U.K. and U.S. only.)

                      Receiving regular free samples by mail is a fabulous way of testing out the latest products on the market (and some that aren’t even on the market yet!)

                      You’ll impress your friends and family with all the free stuff you’ll be receiving. And take it from me… it’s a fun, free and rewarding hobby.

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