Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Finding new sources - A one time investment of time with very good dividends.

I was talking to my dad yesterday about his new hobby, farming. He bought a used combine at an auction and is learning the ins and outs of its upkeep. Recently he needed a new switch for something and the dealership sold it to him for $125. He thought that was outrageous and called around and found the same switch sold in a generic form for $65 two towns over.

He called the dealership back to see if he could return the $125 switch, but was told if he had broken the plastic packaging (which he had), they could no longer return it for a refund from the manufacturer, thus they could not refund my dad.

But the good news is, a bit of sleuthing has resulted in two new sources for future engine parts. There is the generic parts place and now a second one as well. Dad asked a few of the other older farmers in the area for ideas and was told there is a farm equipment junk yard about 30 miles away. Going forward then, this time spent looking for cheaper sources will pay dividends for many years to come with each engine repair.

I've also had this experience. When my husband made partner at his firm, we lost our employee status and thus insurance. We chose to go with a high deductible insurance as we are all pretty healthy. We use Golden Rule (A United Healthcare Company) and have seen our payments go from $365 to $413 to $476 as of August and are now exploring other high deductible options.

Since our deductible is so high, $10,000, it has behooved us to shop around for general medical care. Last winter I was pretty sure I had strep throat. A doctor's visit is around $130 for us. Walgreens now has a take care clinic and I was able to meet with a nurse for a $65 visit fee, then get my test for $15. Similarly, I thought my son had an ear infection, and we had the nurse check that. This is a cost comparison from the Walgreens site.

At Take Care Clinics, patients can receive access to high-quality, affordable care for basic health care services at significant savings from that of an emergency department or urgent care center. A 2008 study published in Health Affairs shows the following:

Treatment Option Average Cost of Medical Care per Episode
Emergency Department $356
Doctor's Office $127
Urgent Care $124
Take Care Clinic $65

In addition, while some immunizations are covered under our insurance, our doctor's office charges a $40 "holding" fee when administering shots. Parents are not able to hold their kids (I think this may be for insurance reasons) so a nurse has to come in.

A bit of detective work on my part led me to our county health department which offers the exact same immunizations for free and lets the parent hold the child, which both the kids and I strongly preferred.

And a few hours going through the phone book one day last year allowed me to identify all 20 or so of the thrift stores in the area and visit them when I was doing errands. I was able to find cheaper sources for many purchases. The best by far is a place called "Dig and Save" where all the donations are jumbled onto huge tables and there is a flat fee of 25 cents per pound for most items. I see many of the Amish and others come in vans to stock up on what they need and the thought that all these items are being used and staying out of landfills makes my heart sing.

In addition to the jumble tables, they have electronics of every sort for $1 to $3. I've gotten my two bread makers, two crock pots, and waffle iron for less than $5 for all and have used them for several years now. I got two of the crock pots because I don't particularly like to cook, chop vegetables, etc. and if the spirit is willing, I just make two big casseroles and consider most of the cooking done for the week. The bread makers are used for gift giving as I'll make a special applesauce walnut bread to give away for birthdays and other holidays.

For the most part then, it is a one-time investment of time as you're not shopping all over for every item, but identifying the best source and sticking with it. I haven't done a "new source" search for some time and this is a good reminder to myself to do so.

Happy sleuthing! Eileen


  1. Eileen,
    Would you mind sharing your applesauce walnut bread recipe? Sounds delicious

  2. Sib,
    I'd be happy to! And you gotta know the book it's from, Better Homes and Gardens Best Bread Machine Recipes, was a quarter at a garage sale long ago - love those bargains!

    3/4 cup water
    1/2 cup applesauce
    1 tbsp butter
    3 cups bread flour
    1/3 cup quick cooking rolled oats - any oatmeal is fine
    1 tbsp brown sugar
    3/4 tspn salt
    1/4 tspn ground mace (I've never included this and don't even really know what it is)
    1 tspn bread machine yeast.

    Just stick it all in your bread machine loaf pan, putting in the teaspoon of yeast last, and you've got a great gift for a friend or neighbor or coworker.


  3. Oops, forgot to mention the ground walnuts that I always put in, about 1/4 cup. They are not in the recipe, but people like them when added.

  4. Eileen,
    Thank You so much!! I can't wait to bake a loaf up :)

  5. Your house will smell yummy! And I know from what as I found a dead chipmunk in the basement today...tracked down by the smell of rotting flesh.....Ick!