After a well-deserved break, Savvy Shopper is back with more of our practical advice on saving money, shopping smarter and making the most of your hard-earned cash.

This issue, we’ve got a few tips on staying healthy and wealthy in a challenging time. 

Health insurance

Whether health insurance actually saves you money is a complicated topic and will depend on how much you earn, the level of cover you get and the kind of treatments you receive. You can read more about that in one of our previous articles and Choice offers a useful quiz you can take to see if health insurance is a smart move. 

Keep in mind that many policies have a waiting period, so if you haven’t already taken one out, you may not be covered for any treatments you receive in the next three months. Always read the fine print.

If you decide health insurance is the way to go, do the comparisons to get yourself the best deal. We like Choice, Compare the Market and Finder to give us the best options. And remember to compare and negotiate every year to avoid being slugged with the loyalty tax. 

Masks

I’m a big fan of washable and reusable masks, both for environmental reasons and long-term savings but increasingly evidence is suggesting that the most reliable option is surgical masks or even N95s. If that’s the way you want to go, you’ll want to get the most use out of them. 

While they’re technically single use, if you’re not a healthcare worker, you can get multiple wears out of them. Experts suggest cycling through three or four and storing each one in a separate paper bag for at least 24 to 48 hours between uses. The bag prevents the mask from contaminating other surfaces while you let any virus particles dissipate. Make sure each bag and mask is marked carefully so you know who should use which one on what day.

When you dispose of the mask – when you see visible dirt, fraying, stretched out straps or a deterioration of the mask, or it’s been used in close contact with a confirmed case – make sure you cut the ear straps, to avoid birds or other animals getting tangled in them when it goes to landfill. 

Sanitiser

Unlike the early days of the pandemic, when entrepreneurial sorts were flogging half-full bottles of sanitiser for the price of gold, it’s everywhere now and, honestly, cheap as chips. If you’re looking to save a few extra pennies, buy a 5-litre bottle and refill your tiny bottles as you go. (This has the bonus of using less plastic in the long run.)

Rapid Antigen Testing

Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) quickly became this year’s hand sanitiser, with massive demand and not enough stock. And while initially the average price was two for $30 and five for $50, the limited stock available means that they’ve been spotted for as much as twice that. 

The helpful crowdsourced website Find a RAT may help you to track down a test but if you need one in a hurry, you may not have much of a say in the price. However, if you hold a Pension Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold, White or Orange Card, Health Care Card or Low Income Health Card, you are eligible for 10 free tests over the next three months. You can pick them up at pharmacies (if they’re in stock) when you show your card. 

And, of course, PCR tests remain free in most locations (and are more accurate), so if you have the time to stand in line for however many hours it takes to get the test and wait however many days it takes to get the results, that’s the way to go.

Paracetamol & ibuprofen

I am not a doctor, so don’t take medical advice from me. That said, when I had Covid a few weeks ago, I had a fairly mild case (thank you, vaccinations!) and just needed painkillers for the whopping two-day headache, while my partner got by with ibuprofen for muscle aches. Both paracetamol and ibuprofen can also help with fever so, as long as you can use them safely, they’re a good basis for a Covid treatment kit. 

But don’t get sucked into buying the more expensive branded drugs (you know the ones I mean). It’s been proven that the generic brand painkillers have the same active ingredient and pain-relief speed as the fancy ones, so save your money.

For example, at Chemist Warehouse, you can get 50 Panadol tablets with 500mg of Paracetamol for $7.99, or 100 Panamax tablets with 500mg of Paracetamol for $2.99. Same drug, fraction of the price. And if your headache is anything like mine was, you’ll want the bigger box. 

Sick leave

If you’re sick, don’t go to work. And to paraphrase Bob Hawke, “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today when they have Covid is a bum.” If you’re casual or you’ve already burned through your sick leave, you can apply for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment of $750 a week. Stay home, save lives. 

At the end of the day, health comes first – it’s the one thing we don’t want to be too frugal about. So stay savvy, shoppers, but also stay safe. 

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