Want to Try Alternative Medicine? Here's How To Do It In a Fiscally Responsible Way

Okay, so, I don’t know how to admit this, but I read medical studies for fun. I’ve talked about it before, but I have PMDD, a disease affecting people who get their periods that’s basically PMS to the nth degree. 

Because it only affects people who get their periods, there are surprisingly few medical treatments available, even though it is destructive. So I read medical studies in the hopes of finding a supplement, a dietary protocol, literally anything that could help. I’m sure many of you can relate given this conversation we had in the Facebook group. 

It’s no surprise, then, that many of us turn to alternative medicine in the hopes of finding a fix. I personally have tried just about every supplement under the sun, in addition to adjusting my diet and going to acupuncture each week. The costs of all of this adds up. 

According to a study from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans spend a total of $30.2 billion each year on alternative medicine. 

What’s more is that as family income increases, so did spending on alternative medicine, and significantly. The average yearly spend for people with family incomes with who make less than $25,000 per year was $435. Meanwhile, for families with incomes of $100,000 or more, the yearly spend was $590.

So we’re spending a lot of money on alternative medicine. Does it actually work? 

That, of course, depends on your condition, the treatment options and whether you actually stick to the protocol. You can get highly specific and dig into the Journal of the American Medical Association to determine the chances of a specific treatment working.

That’s actually an important step here: instead of relying on what a Facebook group or Reddit thread full of people with a similar condition, make sure that you read up on the research behind their claims. You don’t want to be scammed into using a supplement that won’t work, right? 

Once you’ve done some research, check in with your doctor. You can call your PCP’s office for free to check whether it’s safe for you to take a supplement or engage in some other sort of treatment. 

You can use a flexible spending account or a health care spending account (both offered through your employer) to use tax-free money on these types of care. You can also look into perks offered by your employer and insurer: sometimes they partner with a store and offer a certain percentage off. 

Other ways to cut costs include waiting for sales and promotions (of course!), using credit card points to pay for certain expenses, seeking out sliding scale treatments (this is how I was able to afford acupuncture) and checking with your insurer to see if the treatment is covered. 

The She Spends Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor’s Appointment

Let’s face it, healthcare in the United States isn’t cheap. For most, in fact, it’s prohibitively expensive. If you’re lucky enough, though, to have the care you can afford to use, it’s likely that you want to do everything you can to make the most of it. What follows is our guide to doing just that.

Before You Go
Find out if your doctor is in network. Visit your healthcare plan’s website, or even give a call to the doctor’s office to make sure that your appointment will be covered by insurance. Also, clarify how much your copay will cost. This will enable you to budget for the visit.
 
Call ahead to the office to determine whether you’ll be expected to get any blood work. If so, ensure that you have fasted for a sufficient amount of time, so you don’t have to return to the office for a separate visit. 

Make a list of the concerns you want to discuss with your doctor. If you have specific symptoms or instances of an illness like headaches or allergic reactions, make sure that you are able to share how you attempted to treat those symptoms. An easy way to do this is to use either a notebook or an app to track your health over time. Bring that notebook to your appointment or pull up your app once you’re there to share clear information with the doctor, ensuring better treatment.

When You’re There
We’ve discussed this ad nauseam in our Facebook group, but it’s often the case that doctors don’t take women’s issues seriously. Serena Williams’ health scare during childbirth is indicative of how widespread this problem is, particularly among black women.

While preparing ahead of time is necessary, speaking up during your appointment, as clearly and as unapologetically as you can is also important. Don’t be afraid to take up a doctor’s time. They’re there for you to ask questions, so do it. Use your health log (app or journal) to share symptoms and ask relevant questions. It also pays to be honest with your doctor, especially about habits like drug or alcohol use. Doing so ensures that you’re receiving the appropriate medications and recommendations from your healthcare professional.

If something about your treatment feels off, go with your gut and ask for either a different professional or type of care. If you’re visiting a gynecologist, particularly, you can always ask for a second person to be in the room with you and your doctor during the exam. 

Before you leave, make sure you and your doctor have a clear plan of action for the future, whether it includes follow-up visits, specialist appointments or certain treatment options. On your way out, ask the front desk how you are expected to pay: some will send a bill, while others expect cash up front. 

After Your Appointment
Fill your prescriptions and follow the care plan you and your doctor agreed upon. It seems like a no-brainer, but the biggest problem doctors and patients have is the follow-through. 

If you struggle to remember to take medication, set an alarm or get yourself a daily pill box. Make sure you put your follow-up appointments into the calendar you regularly use, and stick to those dates, rather than cancelling beforehand. 

If you liked (or hated!) your doctor, leave them a review on ZocDoc or Yelp so that others in your position can find the appropriate care.

How To Save Money Via Thrift Shopping

One of the easiest ways to save money on clothing is to go thrifting. But a barrier to shopping for used clothing for many is not knowing where to start. Enter our guide, which we hope helps you the next time you want to bump up your wardrobe on a budget. 

Define your Style
I’m a huge proponent of using Pinterest to distill my style. I regularly pin things I would wear and would look good on my petite frame. Reddit’s r/FemaleFashionAdvice forum is a great place for inspiration, as well as through Man Repeller and Racked. If you’re not into Pinterest, you can collect images you like through Instagram’s “save” feature or by just creating a folder of images you like on your computer or phone. 

Once you do this, you’ll likely see a pattern emerge. Based on my own Pinterest board, I can see that long tan coats, checkered skinny trousers, neutral sweaters layered over collared shirts and clogs are some of the key elements that define my style. These are things I would then keep an eye out for at thrift stores in person and online. 

Start Simple
On to the actual thrift. It may be simpler to start in upscale consignment stores, where designer duds are aplenty and prices are somewhat reasonable. These stores are easy to trawl because they are quite selective about what they bring in. If you’re not interested in shopping consignment in person, you can shop online at The RealReal. The site is incredible if you know what designers you’re looking for; they also run sales often, so keep your eyes peeled. Alana Massey wrote an awesome breakdown on her experience using The RealReal to thrift. 

Poshmark is one of my favorite places to thrift shop online because  I can access pricey brands that I love. The site has a comprehensive search tool, allowing you to hunt by size, brand, color and price range. I have a few searches saved on this site for brands like Sezane, Reformation, Madewell and Loup, among others. Once you dig in, be sure to avoid taking the items’ prices at face value. You can barter on Poshmark, just like you can on eBay. Most sellers are game to barter, which can sweeten the price tag for some of your favorite brands.

Dig Deeper
Beyond that, and perhaps more fun is shopping at a spot like Goodwill, Housing Works or Buffalo Exchange. To find these shops, ask a trusted friend. We all have our favorites (and I’m happy to share mine from Brooklyn or Pittsburgh). You can also look to Yelp for recommendations. There are usually comprehensive reviews of local thrift stores on the site that include tips on the best days to shop, and most have tag sales throughout the year. These sales are often used to clear out seasonal clothing. 

Sifting through these shops is much easier since I’ve sort of defined my style. It also keeps me from making silly buys like fluffy leopard coats or vintage polka dot dresses that I may love on the rack but will never wear in my real life. 

When starting to search for clothes, stick to colors, fabrics and patterns you know you’ll wear. Bonus points if the item is from a store like Ann Taylor or Theory - these brands are known for their workwear, which means they’ll fit in at the office well. That being said, brands are certainly not everything when it comes to thrifting. 

Bonus Tips
Be sure to scan different sizes and even venture into the children’s section to search for options. Older clothing and different brands often use a totally different method of sizing measurements, which means that you have more options when you visit a thrift store. That old adage, “size is nothing but a number” really applies when you thrift shop. With that, though, comes the need to try everything on before you buy it. 

Finally, it’s important to give whichever items you plan to buy a once-over before taking them to the register. Sometimes there may be a tiny stain or a rip, which is why these items were at the thrift store in the first place. Don’t forget to ask if the store has a student discount. Goodwill accepts student IDs for 15% on certain days of the week. 

Supporting Women of Color on Black Women's Equal Pay Day

This week, on Aug. 7, we commemorated (not celebrated!) Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. In April each year, we commemorate Equal Pay Day For All. But it takes black women even longer to earn what a white man earns in one year. 

In other words,  it would take, on average, from Jan. 1, 2017, to Aug. 7, 2018, for a black woman to earn what a white man does in one year. 

“There are many contributors to the wage gap, including employment discrimination, gender and race-based bias, lack of pay transparency, an inadequate minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, unfair workplace practices, lack of affordable child care, lack of quality public education system, a dismantling of organized labor, and inadequate access to capital,” according to the Equal Pay Today campaign. 

So what can we do to narrow the wage gap, particularly between black women and their counterparts? 

Share Salary Information
This is one of the easiest steps you can take to ensure that you and your co-workers are paid fairly. Sharing information, both anonymously online at sites like GlassdoorFairygodboss or any other salary database can ensure that there is a broad, publicly available set of data on wages. Sharing interpersonally can help tackle any company- or team-specific issues surrounding fair pay. 

Negotiate for Higher Pay and Livable Wages
While data is unclear surrounding whether salary negotiation on a granular level does much to close the wage gap, doing so can ensure that you are taking steps necessary to get paid fairly. Beyond this, consider supporting policies that promote livable wages in your area. 

Support Maternity and Paternity Leave Policies
Ensuring that your workplace offers adequate paid family leave is a vital piece of the wage gap puzzle. Women who take time off from work to care for their children see a decline in wages over time, while men who have children see their wages increasing. Supporting family leave policies can help to narrow that gap between men and women after they have children.

Support Affordable Childcare Options in Your Area
Similarly, ensuring that daycare is affordable for working mothers is vital to ensuring that the wage gap narrows. Keeping the doors open to affordable childcare centers can help women get back to work without having to worry about paying too much for their children’s care. 

Invest in Black Women
Finally, if you’re in a position to offer capital to black women, either via Kickstarter or Patreon, or on a larger scale like through venture capital or even loans, take the opportunity! Black women receive capital from investors at a much lower rate than other groups. Investing can build businesses owned by black women, narrowing the gap even further. 

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Investing 102: Derivatives and Alternative Investments

Though most of your investing will be done using the tools we discussed previously (equities, bonds, etc.), it’s important to know of other factors driving the markets. Further, some of the alternative investments are great ways to boost your returns. Others are only invested on your behalf (through mutual funds or pensions), but they may become more accessible over time.

Investing 101: Equities, ETFs, Bonds and Indexes

When it comes to investing, it can be easy to get bogged down in difficult-to-understand terminology. Rather than letting a lack of understanding hold our readers back from getting started on investing, we want to provide an easy-to-understand guide, complete with important terms for getting started, a guide to different platforms you can use to invest, and a cautionary tale on day trading. 

Beyond Airbnb: Alternative Accommodations To Keep Travel Costs Low

For a short period after its launch, AirBnb became the hot way to cut back on travel costs. Apartments and homes listed on the site were cheap to rent out. But recently, as the reach of Airbnb has expanded, prices of many accommodations have come close to matching those at hotels in major cities. So how do you keep prices down? These alternative accommodation options are a start. 

How To Save Money on Your Commute

The cost of commuting to and from work every day can add up quickly if you’re not careful. Between rising gas prices, struggling subway systems and the exploding ridesharing industry, it can be hard to determine the best way to get to work. We’ve got your back with some ideas to cut cost on your daily commute. 

One Surprising Way To Invest In Your Community: The Bond Market

When we talk about investing at She Spends, we rarely delve into the bond market. This is partially because there is less public information about bonds than there is about stocks. It’s also because they can get a little confusing. That said, municipal bonds are an awesome and somewhat unconventional way to invest in your community. Here’s our guide to doing just that. 

How To Support Your Community Without Going Broke

In conversations we’ve had with our Facebook group and beyond about community, it’s become clear that many of us feel disconnected from our real-life communities. We’ve talked about some ways to get more involved, particularly buying local, but we wanted to offer ideas for community involvement that are cheap or free and available in most areas. What follows is our guide to staying local without going broke: