This is an excerpt from the CNBC Make It newsletter. Subscribe here.
How much would you pay to preserve the thing you find most attractive about yourself?
For me, that thing is my hair. In times when I felt otherwise unappealing, my hair was always there — thick, coifed and widow's peaked. So at the very first signs my hairline was receding in my mid-20s, I started taking a drug to stop it.
It was an emotionally driven decision, one that, if you're not careful, can see you parting with more of your money than necessary.
In the years since I began preempting my hair loss, a handful of companies have begun marketing to people with similar anxieties to mine. All boast well-designed websites, discreet packaging and messaging providing reassurance that your thinning hair or sexual underperformance can be treated without the awkwardness of seeing your doctor.
Had they been around at the time, these are companies I likely would have signed up with. And I'd have likely overpaid.
Sign up for an online hair loss subscription, and you'll be paying $20 a month or more for the drug I take, finasteride. I pay $13 for a three-month supply at my pharmacy.
That might not seem like a huge difference. After all, you pay for convenience. To get my lower price, I had to visit my doctor, compare prices online and show my face at an actual pharmacy.
But if you're on a budget or in need of expensive treatment, this kind of legwork is almost certainly worth it.
Going to the doctor isn't anyone's idea of fun, especially for treatment you're sensitive about. But your physician ideally has a holistic view of your health. Maybe symptoms you're hoping to treat are actually side effects from another drug you're taking. Maybe there's a cheaper alternative to a treatment you'll have trouble affording. You won't know unless you ask your doctor.
The same goes for an in-person pharmacist, who may be able to point you to coupons, rebates or copay assistance programs available for drugs you've been prescribed.
And never pay the sticker price for medication without doing some online sleuthing first. Free coupons at sites such as GoodRx and ScriptSave WellRx can slash your prescription costs down to practically nothing.
Plus, depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for free or discounted medicine through pharmaceutical companies' patient assistance programs. Search for your treatment on NeedyMeds.org to see if such a program exists and how to apply.