Real Money: Reflecting on my 2018 health spending habits

There's less than three months until the year is over - what are you looking to achieve?

For me, it isn't as much about doing more as it is about reflecting on what has happened so far in 2018. I know like many of you, I fall victim to constantly running from place to place and not taking to just sit and see what's really going on.

Healthcare and finances is one of them. I'd like to think I'm really good at optimizing my budget and life, but that doesn't mean I don't make mistakes.

This year has been especially busy for my family. My husband switched employers, we moved halfway through the year and I traveled more for work. Add in a month long family road trip to visit family and friends had us all feeling a bit worn out.

Our spending habits kinda suffered

It may not be that surprising that amidst all the craziness, we didn't really look at our finances all that much. We ended up spending a lot more on dining out - sometimes almost doubling our budget.

We also used the excuse we were "too busy" to schedule our annual appointments. It's embarrassing to admit, but my husband and I didn't maximize our dental benefits until it was too late (they expired once he left his job).

We did make sure our son went to his annual doctor's visits, so that was a positive. However, I slacked on taking care of myself and found out I had a vitamin D deficiency. It made sense given how tired I was for most of the year, because I stayed indoors most days.

It was a combination of the above factors that forced me to set aside some extended time with my husband to see what was really going on.

Combing through our healthcare and financial choices

We realized that we chose the healthcare plan we did because it wasn't the lowest option, but not the most expensive one either. That's it. I wish I could say as someone who obsesses over reading the fine print that I really took the time to comb through our health insurance.

I look back and imagine if we needed more healthcare. What happens if we had to max out our deductible and couldn't afford it? Or we didn't need as much healthcare and we ended up wasting unnecessary money?

Ultimately, I feel like I need to focus on a lot more on wellness as a whole. We chose a better plan suited for us, opened a dependent care FSA and made sure to schedule in our wellness appointments months ahead of time. We even looked at our healthcare benefits, ones that encouraged us to take care of our health. The bonus was that it gave us a few discounts on our premiums as well.

If you're doing some reflecting on the last few months of the year, I encourage you to look back at your healthcare spending and see what led you to make the decisions you did. It sounds super scary, but if you work on being kind to yourself and using any mistakes you made as lessons for the future, you'll be surprised at how much better your life will be.

Whether you budget week-to-week, or plan to use your FSA for bigger things, our weekly Real Money column will help you maximize your flex spending dollars. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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