Lifehack: 26 Year Old Buying Health Insurance

If you’re like me, you give your health care almost no thought until you’re sick or you need to fill a prescription. You show your insurance card and it all kind of just happens because you’re on your parents’ health insurance plan.

But then your 26th birthday comes along and *bam* you’ll be dumped and forced to figure this health insurance thing out. #adulting

After my boyfriend turned 26, he went without health insurance for five months because his employer didn’t offer it. When we attempted to get him covered, we realized we were in way over our heads (that was 2014).

Fast forward a couple years and it’s ironic that my job is to explain health insurance in an easy-to-understand way. I’ll let you in on what you need to know and how to go about choosing a plan—we’ll call it a crash course in health insurance.

First, let’s understand the basics.

 If you can’t get health insurance through your employer, you can buy a plan through the exchange (in New York, the NY State of Health Marketplace) or directly from an insurer.

The benefit to signing up on the exchange is that you can get help paying for your plan. In 2017, if you make less than $47,520 (400% of the current Federal Poverty Level, or FPL), you’ll likely qualify for some sort of financial help, so it might be worth exploring your options on the exchange.

When you turn 26, you’re usually covered on your parents’ plan until the end of your birth month. But that doesn’t mean you should wait until the last day to start researching your options.

Losing your parents’ coverage is a “qualifying event” and makes you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. It’s a set window of time to enroll in a plan, usually 60 days, and once enrolled, you’re locked into that plan until December 31st of the year you enroll.

“These deadlines are why you want to give yourself at least a month to research,” said Shelley Bollar, Supervisor for Marketplace Facilitated Enrollment at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “You want to make sure you’re ready prior to losing your insurance so you don’t have a gap without it. You never know when you’ll have health issues.”

Next up, learn how it works.

 No matter what plan you go with, most preventive care is free. These are things like your flu shot, annual physical, STD testing, depression screenings, and generic birth control.

There are a lot of plans to choose from. You’ll have to figure out how you’ll want to pay for it. The lower the plan’s monthly (premium) cost, the more you pay when you get care. The higher your monthly cost, the less you pay when you get care.

Here’s that this looks like:

This is where you start to think about how healthy you are.

People who are generally healthy and don’t see the doctor often tend to go with high deductible health plans, or the base, bronze and silver plans. That’s because these cost the least per month, and the user can pay as they go for services they use.

On the other hand, some people choose gold or platinum plans just because they’re more comfortable with traditional co-pays when they get health care, not necessarily because they’re visiting the doctor more often.

If your plan has a deductible, that’s the amount you pay upfront when you get care. This handy dandy chart put it into perspective for me:

Why is health insurance worth it? You’ll be protected financially if something catastrophic happens to you. If you fall off your bike and break your leg, for example, it could cost you $8,000 if you don’t have insurance! Each plan has an out of pocket maximum, which is the most you can pay in one year.

But your membership with a health insurer also gets you a discounted rate when you use health care services.

“Narrow your choices if you know there’s a particular health insurance company you want to go with, a certain price you want to pay, or a specific doctor you want to see,” says Shelley.

Start browsing plans at to get an idea of what’s out there. If you see a few plans you like you can select them and compare side-by-side. Get a more narrow focus by bouncing over to the health insurer’s site. The research is on you.

Some other things to think about are

Take all the plan costs into consideration, not just your monthly premium. These are things like deductibles, costs for drugs, trips to the doctor, etc. Remember the deductible is what you pay first, upfront. Verify that the health care providers you see are in-network and “participate” with your plan.

Catastrophic plans are available to those under 30. You can’t get a tax credit with the base/catastrophic plan, but you get three free visits to your primary care doctor.

If you take prescription medications, the Silver Standard plan gives you copays on drugs from day one (so you don’t have to meet your deductible first). Make sure your meds are covered on the drug list (called a “formulary”).

Check to see if your gym membership can be reimbursed or if there are other health and wellness discounts. For example, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield plans gives you up to $400 back with the ExerciseRewards program.

You can only Google and read so much—I totally get it. The good news is there are experts who do this every day and can help you.

You can call a licensed agent at Excellus BCBS at 1-888-370-7098. They can estimate your financial help, explain all the insurance stuff, and help you choose a plan. You can also meet in-person with someone like Shelley, a facilitated enroller, or an independent broker. To schedule an appointment with an Excellus BCBS facilitated enroller, call 1-800-234-4781 or find someone available in your area.

And of course, you can review your decision with your parents. Once you’ve got health insurance under your belt, you can get back to doing all other things adulty.

Do you have other questions about buying health insurance? Leave your comments below.

Indoor Fun: Beat the Heat (Or Those Rainy Summer Days)

I can’t stand the heat. I’ll take brushing snow off my car over 90+ degree weather any day.

I disliked the heat even more as a child, partially because I had some health issues that were affected by the heat. For families with heat-related health issues, or who simply can’t stand the high temps or rainy summer days, it can be difficult to find things to do during a season that’s designed for outdoor activity.

Can’t stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen … and find something fun to do! Check out these indoor activities during the dog days of summer!

Movie Days

Movie theaters are notoriously cold. Forget your sweatshirt, and you may find yourself shivering in the middle of July. Take the whole family out for less than $10 this summer by taking advantage of $1 movie days. Various movie theaters show family films throughout the summer, allowing your family to have fun at the movies without breaking the bank. Regal Cinemas is one of many theaters offering $1 movie days this year.


Looking for something more interactive and, dare I say, more educational for you and the kiddos? Museums throughout Upstate NY are hosting family-themed events all summer, and are a great alternative to getting your sunburn on.

Expand your kids’ minds at a variety of museums, including The Strong museum, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology (MOST) and the Utica Children’s Museum during hot, or even rainy days. Don’t stop there, either. Upstate NY is full of great museums fit for the family. You may enjoy this post by our blogger, who took her kids to the Corning Museum of Glass.

Indoor Sport Facilities

Sports complexes seem to be more common than ever. Some sport facilities offer indoor sport leagues for kids, and may offer free-time for pick-up games. Stay active, yet stay somewhat cool by staying out of the sun. Indoor spots, such as Sky Zone Trampoline Park and Glow Golf, are other great alternatives that keep the family active while indoors.

Bowling Alleys

Since we’re talking about keeping families active, why not bowl? Some lanes offer “kids bowl free” opportunities and bumper bowling (no more gutterballs!).

Antique Malls

They aren’t for everyone, but they can make for great scenery and an excuse to take a leisurely walk. They’re also full of things that your kids have probably never seen before!

Telephones that hung on walls? You mean the whole family shared one phone? Movies you had to rewind? What does that mean?

It can be fun to explain to kids about these ancient relics. You may even find things that need to be explained to YOU as well!

Retail Malls

No, you don’t have to drag the little ones on a shopping spree. But a lot of malls offer family fun throughout the summer, including outings at Dave & Busters, bounce houses, carousel rides or go-kart racing. Check with your favorite local mall for details.


Much like museums, conservatories can be a very relaxing yet educational way to spend the day indoors. Take a tropical escape with your kids, and you may even make a new animal friend!  Read about our blogger’s experience visiting the Lamberton Conservatory in Rochester.


Last but not least, your local library may serve as a treasure trove of summer (indoor) fun! You may be surprised by some of the events offered by the libraries, including small acoustic concerts, STEM activities, improv theatre, book signings and more.  Don’t forget the books! Why not sign your kid up for your local library’s summer reading program? You’ll have an excuse to stop at the library whenever possible!

Indoor activities may not be what you think of when “summer” comes to mind. But they can be a nice break from the heat, or rainy summer weather, and can be a life saver to those who have medical conditions that are affected by the heat.

Did we miss a favorite indoor summer activity of yours? Let us know in the comments section below!

12 Ways to Workout on the Cheap

I’ve done boot camp. I’ve joined a gym or two. I’m pretty committed when I join things—I like to get my money’s worth. But, I’ve found that the best workouts for me are those that I do at home or on my own.

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of people like the socialization and motivation that comes with belonging to a gym or going to a class. I like to take a yoga class once a week, but for everyday activity, I’m more likely to exercise when the time and place are convenient for me.

Jan practicing yoga on the cheap.

To help you tackle your fitness goals at little or no cost, I’ve compiled the following tips for working out on the cheap this year:

  1. Walk! For many years, walking has been my go-to exercise. When we lived in the country but on a busy highway, I sometimes drove to nearby less-trafficked neighborhoods to walk. Now, I live in a small village in Central New York. It’s a walker’s dream. There are sidewalks. I can stroll to a nearby park and take a trail by 9-Mile Creek. The sound of the rushing water is soothing; there’s green everywhere in the summer and the trees are leafed in a riot of color in the fall. (Recent research points out that being in nature is good for your brain and body.)

Since I got a FitBit, I’m adamant about getting in 10,000 steps a day. It motivates me to move and it’s good for maintaining a healthy weight and a good barometer for how active I’ve been during the day.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

When it’s too slippery and cold to walk outside, I’ve found other ways to step it up.

  1. Loop around the perimeter of a big box store such as Walmart, Target or Wegmans before you fill your cart.
  2. Check with your local school or community center. Our middle school gym has a track that’s available for local use on weekday evenings. If your local school has a pool, they may open hours to the public to swim for free. Many communities have rec centers where membership is free (especially for seniors) or costs less than a gym. 
  3. Take the stairs at work, at home, wherever. I recently found a portable “stair stepper” for $40; when my sister asked what I wanted for my birthday, it was on my doorstep in a few days.

Other Ways to Move It

  1. If your workplace has a fitness facility like mine does, don’t waste this great benefit. Come in early, stay late or work out during lunch time.
  2. Make chores fun. Put on your favorite playlist and step to the music as you prepare dinner or make dusting an opportunity to improve your dance moves. It will make the work go faster and doesn’t feel like exercise.
  3. Exercise bands are inexpensive, but learn how to use them properly. Try out this printable 20-minute workout.
  4. Jump rope. I have a few co-workers who swear by jumping rope. Joy, for example, was an avid jump roper as a kid. She’ll occasionally get out a jump rope when she’s looking for an alternative (very intense!) cardio workout. A simple challenge is to see how long you can jump rope without stopping or getting the rope tangled and then working towards beating your record time.

Online, Anytime

  1. Exercise videos. Believe it or not, I still use exercise DVDs. Before you laugh – I did find a bunch of DVDs at Goodwill for a few dollars each. YouTube also has an abundance of free exercise and instructional videos that you can stream. My co-worker recently stumbled upon a 9-minute “Tank Top Arms Workout” that she now regularly follows. You can subscribe to exercise channels on the internet, stream videos from Amazon Prime or pick them up on cable TV.
  2. You don’t need to buy a lot of fancy equipment to lift weights. Websites like show you routines where you can use your own body weight to strengthen your muscles—lunges, push-ups and double chair lifts are a few demonstrated with this no-gym workout. (I guess this is where I should include the part about checking with your doctor before you begin any strenuous exercise routine.)
  3. There’s an app for that. One of my work colleagues, Erika, likes to use free workout apps to track steps or log workouts. Here are some of her favorites:

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em

  1. Bite the bullet, bundle up and try a winter sport such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or ice skating that lets you enjoy nature while you get in a work-out. I’ve decided snowshoeing is more my speed. Investing in the equipment several years ago has paid off and is a sport I can do on my own or with my son or friends. You can snowshoe or cross-country ski for little or no cost at many parks. Don’t own your own equipment? Lots of places rent it.

Just Do It

The hard part of exercising is getting started. Commit to exercise for five or ten minutes a day, and I bet you’ll find yourself making it part of your daily routine.

Once you get in the habit of exercising, it becomes an important part of your life. I do my yoga routine either in the morning to start the day or after work to unwind. If skip it, I feel as if something’s missing. Although I like to walk before work, I often have to squeeze in a few minutes during my lunch break. After dinner is also a nice time. If you have someone to walk with to share your day, even better.

How I Learned to Avoid Drive-Thrus and Eat Healthier on a Budget

When I moved off campus my junior year of college, I was excited to have an actual kitchen to cook in and a place to eat that I didn’t have to share with hundreds of other students.
That feeling quickly faded when I remembered how much time and money it takes to cook and grocery shop when you’re a broke college student and also going to classes, club meetings, working and seeing friends.
Staying up late was normal for me. Some nights I’d leave work at 1:30 a.m., or I was up late studying or hanging out with friends. There was no way I was going to take the time to cook myself an actual healthy meal. Even if I wanted to cook, I probably didn’t have anything in my fridge to make it.

I saw fast food as my only option.

Drive-Thru Voodoo

Frequenting fast food drive-thrus became a regular habit for my friends and me. They were the only places open late at night and the cost seems cheap when you can get a meal for only a few dollars. If I did go to the grocery store, I’d buy chips or microwaveable meals that were easy to make. I probably used my oven a handful of times over an entire semester.
But the truth is, with a bit of planning, broke college students and young professionals can eat healthy without spending a lot of time or money. Pat Salzer, registered dietitian and workplace wellness consultant at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, shares eight tips to help you save time while eating healthy on the cheap.

8 Tips for Healthy Eating on a College Student’s Budget

  1. Have group meals. Find friends who like to cook and make your meals together. Having a group of people working together to make dinner is more fun than cooking alone and will help you avoid fast food restaurants.
  2. Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry. This might seem like an obvious tip that you’ve heard a thousand times, but it’s true! When you’re hungry, your willpower goes out the window. Everything will look good, especially the things that don’t take long to make.
  3. Buying in bulk isn’t always a good thing. Bulk can be good if you know that you’ll eat all of it. However, it’s not worth buying large quantities, especially produce, if you’ll just stress about not eating it all before it goes bad.
  4. Have a plan when you shop so you’ll get what you need and only what you really need. You won’t overspend if you stick to a grocery list. This strategy might also help you avoid filling your cart with junk food—like those little pints of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream that I love so much!
  5. Be realistic about what you will eat. I would always buy Greek yogurt because I knew it was healthy. Only problem was, I don’t like Greek yogurt. I tried to force myself to like it, but it wasn’t happening. The yogurt would sit in my fridge until it hit the expiration date and then I’d have to (thankfully!) throw it out. There’s no point in spending your money on something that you know you won’t eat.
  6. Prepare big batches of healthy, delicious foods that’ll leave you with lots of leftovers (and unlike in tip #3, you know you’ll eat it). Whatever you make for dinner, you can also eat the next day for lunch. It’s also a good way to keep yourself from overeating at a meal if you know that you need to save some for the next day.
  7. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in-season. Not only will that sweet Red Delicious apple you bought in the fall taste better, but it’ll likely be cheaper, too. Try different types of produce—you might be surprised by what you like! I was shocked (shocked) to learn that I actually liked the taste of broccoli!
  8. Stash affordable, healthy foods for snacks—yogurt, string cheese, cottage cheese, peanut butter, etc.—around your apartment, house or dormitory. These foods will help satisfy late-night cravings and deter you from embarking on fast food runs.
11 ways to save on health care

Save on Health Care: 11 Ways to Put More Money in Your Pocket

I’m a bit obsessive about looking for new ways to save money. When I buy a new car, I research it to death. Consumer Reports® is my friend. I work hard for my money and I want to stretch every dollar so that I can save for retirement, take nice vacations and be able to buy gifts for my loved ones.

Don’t get me wrong; I know that you get what you pay for, but if making smart choices puts money in my pocket, I’m all for it.

Take health care. There are lots of ways you can save on prescriptions, “earn” money by practicing healthy behaviors or get health care services for free. Here are a few things I do to keep more money in my pocket.

Healthy Is as Healthy Does

  1. Be healthy. Earn $$. Does your insurance company have a way for you to earn money for practicing healthy behaviors? Mine does. I can earn up to $500 a year and my spouse can, too, for completing a health assessment, recording how much I exercise daily and practicing healthy behaviors, e.g., not smoking. (Many health plans cover smoking cessation programs; New York has a Smokers’ Quitline.)
  2. Money for the gym. Some insurers may offer a benefit that helps pay for a gym membership or kits to workout at home. Check your policy to see what’s available to you.
  3. Weight-loss help. My company also offers a free weight management program. Last year, I decided to bite the bullet and lose the extra 20 pounds I’d been lugging around the last 15 years. Thanks to the program’s support and tools, I met my goal. I’m delighted that I can now wear clothing that’s two sizes smaller and that losing the weight means less stress on my knees. Under your health insurance plan, you may be eligible for weight-loss counseling. Many companies offer weight-loss programs and classes in nutrition.

Free Is Better

  1. No-cost services. Most insurance plans cover flu shots at no cost. Some companies offer free flu shots to their employees and even provide them in the workplace. The cost of not getting sick? Priceless.

For a list of no-cost preventive health services specific for adults, women and children, check out All Marketplace health plans and many others must cover specific preventive services without charging a co-pay or co-insurance, even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible.  However, these services are free only when a doctor or other provider in your plan’s network covers them.

TIP: Breast-feeding? See our article on Hidden Ways to Save on Breast-Feeding Gear.

Pay Me to Be Healthy

  1. Try employer wellness programs. Some companies offer financial incentives to participate in preventive care programs. These may include lower premiums, lower deductibles, a contribution to your health savings account or gift cards.

My company provides an annual free health screening that uses a simple blood test to check my cholesterol and lipid levels. I have the results sent to my personal physician so she has a copy.

If I meet my yearly goal, I get an extra $20 in my biweekly paycheck.  That’s $520 a year to offset my health insurance premium. By participating in the screening, some employees have been alerted to serious health problems, such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Those who have taken the knowledge to heed are working with their personal physicians to improve their health.

Medicine Meets George Jetson!

  1. FaceTime your doc. The Jetsons was one of my favorite childhood cartoons. The space-age TV cartoon with its video phones seemed so cool and so far out of reach. Today, talking “face to face” via smartphones and computers is commonplace. Even a doctor visit by Skype™ or FaceTime is possible. Last year, my insurer began offering a telemedicine benefit.  If I have a minor illness or injury and can’t see my personal physician right away or it’s after hours, I can talk with or video conference a board-certified doctor who participates in our telemedicine program. My plan’s co-pay for the telemedicine visit is not only less than a doctor visit or urgent care center co-pay, but a lot less than I would shell out for an emergency room visit.

The cost of an emergency room visit for a minor condition like a sinus infection, for example, can be 15 times the cost of a telemedicine visit, according to research from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Unless you have a serious medical emergency, who wants to wait for hours in a crowded ER and be exposed to who knows what germs?

Convenient? You bet! I’ve used telemedicine twice—once for a cut on my thumb that was slow healing and again for a skin rash. Because I used FaceTime, the doctor could see my cut and rash. Both times, the doctor faxed the prescriptions to my local pharmacy where they were available in an hour.

I wish telemedicine had been around when my son was a child and subject to frequent ear infections. I remember taking him to the ER for an earache in the wee hours of the morning. How much easier it would have been to use telemedicine instead of waiting for hours for the ER doctor to examine him. (“Cry louder, Andy, maybe that will get the doctor in here sooner.”) Did I mention it was in the middle of winter so we not only had to go out in the dark of night, but also had to bundle up and fight the snow?

Even if your health plan does not offer this benefit, you can still use a telemedicine service. If you’re paying out of pocket, check to see how much a one-time visit will cost. Considering the convenience and time saved, it may be worth it to you.

Of course, seeing your personal physician is preferable, but if you can’t, telemedicine is a great alternative.

Drug Savings ‘R’ Us

  1. Take your medication as directed. The savings may not be obvious at first, but in the long run, taking your medications as your doctor prescribed can save you money, not to mention your life. The World Health Organization says the No. 1 problem in treating illness today is patients’ failure to take their medications correctly. Not adhering to your medication regimen may cause you to become sicker over time. Your quality of life may be adversely affected and you may require additional and more expensive medications and treatments—even hospitalization. (Check out Medication Adherence.)

So, do as I do. Get a pill minder and fill it every week. Then, I don’t have to wonder, “Did I take my pills this morning?” If I’m not sure, I might skip that day’s dose or take a double dose—either way could be harmful to my health. So, if it’s Tuesday and my pill “slot” for that day is empty, I have one less thing to worry about.

  1. Consider generic drugs. I’m also one for using less expensive store brands, say Wegmans paper towels over Bounty. Same holds true for prescriptions. If I can get a generic alternative to its brand name counterpart, count me in.

Generic drugs are as safe and effective as the brand, but usually cost less. The difference in co-pays can be substantial, especially if you have a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Next time you visit your doctor or pharmacist and are placing or refilling a prescription, ask if there is a generic alternative. You might want to try the substitution for a month to make sure the generic version is right for you. Most insurance plans have pharmacy benefits representatives who can help you find ways to get your prescriptions at the most economical cost. (Here’s what the FDA has to say about generics: Savings From Generic Drugs.)

  1. Have your prescriptions delivered to your home. Home delivery of your prescriptions is not only convenient but may save you money. Often, you can fill three months’ worth of prescriptions for the cost of two. Check with your insurance company to see whether they offer this benefit and if you would save money The savings can really add up—I like to figure out how much on a yearly basis. So, if my co-pay is $25 and I’m getting 12 months of pills for the cost of eight, I’ll be ahead by $100 a year. Cha-Ching!

Talk Is Cheap

  1. Avoid unneeded tests, drugs, and services. Smart health decisions start with a discussion between you and your doctor. A nationwide initiative developed by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, Choosing Wisely promotes conversations between doctors and patients about the most appropriate care based on an individual’s situation.

Choosing Wisely has more than 400 health care recommendations that can help you become a more informed patient.

In the meantime, here are five questions to ask your doctor before receiving any treatment, procedure or medication:

Five Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  1. Do I really need this test or procedure?
  2. What are the risks?
  3. Are there simpler, safer options?
  4. What happens if I don’t do anything?
  5. How much does it cost?

The Gift of Health

  1. Ask for healthy gifts. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need more “things.” In fact, I’m trying to get rid of stuff. So when family members ask me what I’d like for my birthday or Christmas, I suggest gift certificates to my massage therapist or yoga studio or gift cards I can redeem for yoga apparel.

What Ways Do You Save?

Use our Comments section to tell us and other readers how you save money while staying healthy.

Hidden Ways to Save Money on Breastfeeding Gear

As a new mom, I didn’t have the time or energy to search for the best deals on baby stuff.

This was especially true for the amount of gear needed to breast-feed my little bundle. We’re talking breast pumps, breast milk storage bags, lanolin cream, nursing pads, sterilization bags, pump replacement parts and other accessories.

As a first-time mom, I spent $50 a month just to rent a breast pump. That’s $600 a year! It wasn’t long before I lost track of how much I spent on all the paraphernalia needed to help my baby get a good start in life.

But with baby #2, I was a thriftier mom— thanks to a new federal law and the discovery that I could use certain tax breaks for breast-feeding equipment.

When Breast-feeding, Flexible Spending Accounts are Your Friend

  1. With the federal Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans must cover the costs of breast-feeding equipment and counseling. Different health plans have different rules for coverage, so check with yours before making a purchase.
  2. You might be able to use pretax money from a workplace flexible spending account (FSA) to purchase breast pumps and supplies.
  3. If you don’t have a FSA, you may be able to deduct these costs when filing your taxes. 
  4. Low-income moms who qualify for their local Women’s Infants and Children’s (WIC) program may also receive breast-feeding support and equipment.

Armed with this new knowledge, I used my health insurance to buy an electric breast pump.  I spent nothing out of pocket to buy the pump, which usually retails for about $150.

I also used my FSA funds to purchase breast milk storage bags, sterilization bags and other gear. When using an FSA, money comes out of your paycheck before taxes are deducted. You’ll save an amount that’s equal to the taxes you would have paid on the money you set aside

Overall, you might save an average of about 25 percent if you use your FSA plan, according to Lifetime Benefit Solutions, which administers FSA plans for companies.

Additional Ways to Save on Breast-feeding

Do you have an FSA, but wished you had earmarked more money to be put into the account? If you just had a baby, you may be able to change your contributions.  Having a newborn is often considered a “qualifying event” that allows moms and dads to change their FSA contributions.

If you’re still hunting for other ways to save money, here are a few more ideas:

  1. Ditch disposables: Save money by ditching the disposable breast pads and purchasing cloth breast pads that you can wash and reuse. You can throw them in the wash when you launder your baby’s clothes.
  2. Skip the specialties: You don’t need special nursing pillows, covers or shirts. A regular bed pillow will work just fine when you’re nursing your little guy or gal. Same thing for breast-feeding covers; toss a light blanket over your baby as you nurse. No need for special nursing shirts either. Choose clothes that button up the front and you’re good to go. While special nursing equipment is not essential, you might prefer it or receive one or two items as gifts.

Once you have a handle on the costs of breast-feeding gear, you may be able to use a different type of FSA for another big baby expense. Check to see if your plan has a dependent care FSA that allows you to defer up to $5,000 a year in pre-tax money to cover daycare costs. Again, the birth of a baby may be a qualifying event that allows you to open up or contribute more to your FSA.

The choice to breast-feed (or not) your baby is a personal decision. For more information, check out

6 ways to save on breast-feeding gear

For help paying for a breast pump and supplies, consider the following:

  1. Flexible spending accounts
  2. Other tax breaks
  3. Your health insurance plan’s coverage for pumps
  4. The local WIC program

You may also want to . . .

  1. Try reusable cloth breast pads instead of disposable ones
  2. Skip the nursing pillows, covers and shirts