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Healthcare spending in the United States has grown more rapidly than any other area of the economy in recent decades, according to a 2011 McKinsey report. You could be feeling it in your copay, your premium, or maybe you’re feeling it in how much you’re paying for your medication. After all, the average American’s prescription costs almost $950 per year, according to The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

Now that the ever-changing cost of U.S. healthcare is an issue that has overtaken our lives, we are forced to examine (and re-examine) the question: How can we keep healthcare costs down?

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Be proactive about your health.

Preventative medicine should be an important part of any healthcare routine. Make a commitment to put your health first and work to cut out bad habits like smoking and drinking. Eat well, exercise more and listen to your body. Don’t wait until you have a major toothache that can result in a costly procedure before you go to the dentist. Instead, go to your annual or bi-annual check-ups as recommended by your provider.

Get the right insurance.

Take a close look at the healthcare plan your job or alternate sources offer. When you are selecting a plan, look back on the past year and tally up all of you medical costs and healthcare visits. How does that align with the plans you have to choose from? You don’t want to pay for a plan that provides more coverage than you need, but on the other hand you don’t want to be in a position that you pay a lot out of pocket because you don’t have enough coverage.

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You need to consider your health history and future plans that might impact your health costs like getting married, divorced or having a baby. Also, be sure to look into if your plan offers a flexible spending account with designated medical tax-free money. 

Live a wallet-friendly, healthy lifestyle.

It goes without saying, but the healthier you are, the less you will need to spend in healthcare.

You don’t have to join an expensive gym to get in shape. If you like working out with an instructor showing you what to do, try a workout video that gives you the same advantages but at the fraction of the price. A workout video also provides way more flexibility than scheduled gym classes. Equipment like free weights, a mat or stability ball are inexpensive and can provide countless different workout opportunities. Also, curb your car and walk whenever possible to burn calories and save on gas.

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People often think that it is expensive to eat healthy foods, but there are a lot of ways to make good choices without breaking the bank. Switching your grains to healthier alternatives like brown rice, multi-grain pasta and whole wheat bread has only a marginal price increase. Fresh produce can add up, but serve frozen vegetables when possible to save money. They make great side dishes, soups and casseroles. Eating out less not only helps control your calorie intake, but also helps you save money.

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