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When Being Cheap Costs A Fortune

being cheap costs a fortune


In my day job, I’ve seen and heard some pretty amazing things. Some inspire me. Some make me smile. Some are down right tragic. It’s funny how a routine eye exam can bring up so many different topics of conversations, but one patient I saw last week was a sure reminder about spending money wisely. She certainly could be the poster child for when being cheap costs a fortune.

I don’t claim to be an expert on health insurance, but I can usually look at a patient file and see when something doesn’t make sense. Most people over the age of 65 have Medicare Part A and B. Part A covers hospitalizations and doesn’t have a monthly premium if you paid Medicare taxes during working years. Part B covers doctor visits and outpatient care and costs $104.90 each month for people who are married and have family income less than $170,000 per year or for individuals making less than $85,000 per year. The $104.90 is deducted from social security payments unless you decline coverage. Medicare is the best deal going in health care if you ask me.

The Cost of Being Cheap

This patient was 71 years old, and the chart said she only had Medicare Part A. Assuming it was a mistake on our part, I asked about part B, which would have covered much of her eye visit. That’s when I got the whole story.

The patient’s husband had passed away recently from cancer, which was a sad story by itself. However, in order to save money, he had refused to sign up for Medicare Part B when he had the chance, choosing to save the $104 per month. Obviously, you can guess how the story went.

If you delay the initial sign up, Medicare enrollment only happens from January 1-March 31. Miss that window and you’re on your own until the new year. My patient’s husband had to battle cancer without any health insurance, a battle he lost, leaving his wife with over a hundred thousand dollars in medical bills.

To make matters worse, his wife cashed out their IRA to pay the medical bills, leaving her with only social security to live on through the rest of her retirement. To say she was a little bitter would be an understatement. I almost wished I’d never asked. The good news is that she did enroll in Part B earlier this year, but it won’t kick in until July. Let’s hope she can remain healthy until then.

Things You Have To Spend Money On

I love saving money as much as the next person, maybe even more, but there are some things you just can’t skimp on.


Even if the cost of health insurance is riduculous, I won’t ever go without it. Not only would it limit my ability to get the best care if something bad happened, but it would place an even greater burden on my family if they were struggling with medical bills while I was sick or injured. Even worse, if I checked out and left them stuck with medical debt that could have been avoided, that would be a horrible way to be remembered. It’s one thing if insurance doesn’t cover something, but to choose not to have coverage to save money is just wrong.

This is also why I will pay to buy things like fresh produce and organic milk. You don’t have to blow the budget to eat healthy, but I could spend much less if I was willing to feed my family soley with things like ramen and mac and cheese. Healthy eating does not guarantee a life without sickness, but I’m going to do everything I can to swing the odds in our favor.

Life Insurance

Getting life insurance is not particularly fun. We all like to think we’ll live to a ripe old age, but there’s no way to know that. I think the money Jim and I pay for life insurance is well worth the peace of mind, knowing we’d be fine financially  if something happened to one or both of us. I sure hope it’s money we never get a return on, but if you have small kids or someone who depends on your income, it’s a necessity.

Home and Car Maintenance

when to get septic tank pumped

You can’t say septic people don’t have a sense of humor!

It would be lots cheaper to never do any home maintenance, but that would cost us tons of money down the road. After reading the Frugal Woods article about septic tanks, I realized we were way overdue to have ours pumped out. Let me say that hanging out with the septic company fellow was a enlightening. He showed me the sludge layer in our tank and how to know when it needed to be pumped (we were about 4 inches over the limit!). Plus, we have a tree that is too close to our system. The roots are not a problem yet, but if we’d let it go it would have been upwards of $20,000 to replace the system. That made the $425 I paid to LePew Septic well worth it!

I don’t mean to say that people shouldn’t shop around and find the best possible deals. That’s being a wise consumer. Being cheap means making a choice not to spend money on something you need with the hope you’ll get lucky. I’m sure lots of people forego health and life insurance and don’t do any preventative maintenance in order to save money. It might work or it might not. I don’t want to take the chance.

Does cheapness keep you from services you probably should buy? Is it ever smart to be cheap?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. When my father died almost 8 years ago, one of the eye opener to us that having a good life and health insurance is really, really important. Unfortunately, he only had a health insurance but it didn’t cover his total medical bill.

    • I think that must be incredibly hard to lose a loved one and then have to pay medical bills. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  2. You are so right. Being cheap with things like health insurance is so risky and a big mistake for all the reasons you listed. I was fortunate that both parents had great health insurance and so I never faced these challenges with them. I’ve got great health insurance too along with disability insurance, life and home insurance. Hope this post helps to get others to see how important it is to protect yourself. Statistically, people will get into debt more from health related issues than anything else.

    • Sometimes I think we have too much insurance, health, life, disability, malpractice, etc, but I would probably wish we had more if we actually needed one of those.

  3. Yeah, I wouldn’t go without some type of health insurance, proper car insurance, or life insurance. In the mortuary industry, I saw the consequences of not having each of those types of coverage all the time.

    • I think I’ve mentioned this before, but our local mortician rides around on a Harley without a helmet. I can only hope he has great health and life insurance!

  4. Wow, so sad to hear that story. It just goes to show you how one decision can really spiral into some bad things. I think saving money is great, obviously, but cheapness can only take you so far and there are some things you really shouldn’t be cheap on. Assuming it’s something that’s going to care for or provide for my family then cheapness goes out the window.

    • I can almost see declining insurance if it was something like $1000 a month, but you just have to pony up the $104. No one lives to be 70 or 80 without some medical problem, or at least you need preventative care, which is not cheap without insurance. I didn’t ask, but I have a really strong hunch that this fellow probably waited until he was really sick to go to the doctor. You can only wonder how it might have been different if he had done more preventative care.

  5. Health care and healthy living/food is one area I do not skimp on to save money. I’ve been burned by the car thing though! Oh yeah! No one likes to pay car repairs, but it can really add up to a lot more if you wait too long!

    • I hate car and home repair, but it you are going to pay one way or another, and it’s much less to pay if you stay on top of things.

  6. I think there is a time and place to be cheap. I think a lot of millennials are cheap when it comes to health care when they really shouldn’t be. Contributing to an HSA can take the financial aspects of health care out of the equation. I’ve been maxing out my HSA for three years now and it’s made dealing with unexpected health issues much easier. I don’t even consider foregoing necessary treatment because it’s “too expensive.”

    • Having a large HSA account can certainly take the sting out of medical emergencies. Our HSA would save us if we had a huge medical bill and had to pay our full $10K deductible.

  7. My aunt was told by a septic guy to flush some bleach once in awhile. It kills any roots that find their way in. (This after a root had killed a sewer line.)

    I never had anything drastic happen from cheapness. But I did put off a purchase for matching curtains in our various windows. Then I just kept putting it off. By the time I finally got back to it — two years later! — they no longer carried either the curtain rod or the curtains in the color we wanted.

    We’re talking about an extra $60, by the way. But I was so stressed about finances after we bought a house that I didn’t want to stress our budget more. We had to rearrange some things including getting a new curtain rod for the main window because my husband has a weird thing about matching. Sigh.

    • Moving into a new house is always stressful! I don’t think we can take the risk of leaving the tree. I’d rather cut it down than take the chance of wrecking the septic.

  8. I was without health insurance for five years- very risky!

  9. I know some of my co-workers are not getting medical care because of the high-deductible plan. The company offers a few options to save for medical bills (FSA & HSA) but they don’t take advantage of it then complain that they can’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford the deductible. The deductible is actually less than our old co-pay if you do the math.

  10. You are so right about insurance and maintenance. These are things that if you put off, you are likely to end up in much worse shape. Another one is disability insurance. So many people think it can’t happen to them, but according to Social Security, over 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will be disabled before they retire. And relying on government benefits alone (if you are eligible and even get approved) is likely not enough.

  11. I totally agree with not being cheap on certain types of insurance. My line of work, I see so many types of stories similar to the woman without the med part b. And the government programs really aren’t enough to cover the gap and it’s a lot more work.

    And I learned the value of good car insurance recently after being hit by an insured drunk driver. What could have been a nightmare has been a little stressful at times, but nothing that we lost sleep over. Which by the way uninsured motorist insurance is worth every penny for the off chance of being hit by an insured driver

  12. I agree with you completely. There are some things we can be cheap or save on but there are other things that being cheap bites us in the behind. Anything that has to do with health or life is definitely something where being cheap isn’t worth it.

  13. Hey Kim,this is a great article.For once,you could be cheap and save alot.But is it also necessary not to compromise on essentials like mentioned above.I will surely use these practices in my future.

  14. I am so thankful my parents were paying for health insurance after my Dad was laid off and didn’t skimp on it. They had a 80/20 up to a $1500 contribution (yeah it was good insurance) and when my Dad got leukemia, they had 100% coverage almost immediately. His total bill was almost 1 million dollars. He didn’t make it but my Mom was able to use the life insurance and other money she had to pay off the house. She had also gotten life insurance on him even though he wasn’t really interested in it and she did the paperwork to sign him up for Social Security Disability instead of waiting (he was never that good with money). She is able to live a comfortable lifestyle because of those decisions. I feel so badly for the patient you had. My Mom could have easily been there.

  15. I’d be pretty happy if I were told how to avoid a $20,000 mistake by a septic tank pumping company! I don’t actually have a septic tank to deal with, but I imagine it would be pretty easy to forget it’s there and either forget to have it pumped or plant things way too close to it. It sounds like that bit of advice from them is going to end up saving you quite a lot of money!

  16. I absolutely agree that home maintenance and car maintenance are worth the little cost upfront to save in the long run! My aunt and uncle have a septic tank and they almost had to replace it because of letting it go for too long. I think their estimate was a little lower than $2000, but it was still so much more than just having it pumped and taken care of! Likewise, I let an old car go without an oil change for a long time, and it definitely caused some problems that ended up being hundreds in repairs. Thanks for this good reminder!

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