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the smart cookies

A recent survey from the Canadian Medial Association found the economy is taking a toll on our population's health. Of those polled, forty per cent said they're stressed about money, with 25 per cent delaying or cancelling dental appointments and 14 per cent holding off on buying prescription meds to ease the strain on their wallets.

For the Globe's original story on the survey results, click here.

There is no doubt that cash-flow woes can affect one's physical and mental wellbeing, but there are ways to ease the financial strain.

Vancouver-based clinical pharmacist Afshin Jaberi says the only difference between brand-name and generic prescriptions is price. Generic meds cost 30 to 80 per cent less and are of equal quality. "Either your doctor can prescribe generics or your pharmacist can recommend them," he says. "And there are a lot of drugs offered generic that people wouldn't necessarily think, so it's always smart to ask."

Armed with your no-name-brand prescription, consider filling it at a membership warehouse store for further savings. Dispensing fees vary from pharmacy to pharmacy and can range from $4 to $12 - this price has no relation to the cost of the drug. Rather, it's set by the pharmacy to cover its own business costs (rent, salaries, overhead expenses, etc.).

While getting a prescription filled at Shopper's Drug Mart will cost you up to $12 in dispensing fees Costco offers the cheapest rate of all pharmacies at just over $4. Just present your prescription at the door - it's store policy to allow you in to have it filled at the pharmacy counter, even if you aren't a card-carrying member.

If you've been brushing off dental appointments to save dollars consider a cost-cutting alternative that will keep your pearly whites, well, pearly white. Most colleges include dental hygiene schools that offer routine cleanings to the public for a quarter of the cost of a dentist - and the savings are even bigger for children.

Salme Lavigne, director of the School of Dental Hygiene at the University of Manitoba, says her school's fees are based on 50 per cent off the dental rates set by the Manitoba Dental Association Guide. While this course of action may have you sitting in the dentist's chair a little longer than normal (since every step of the process is double-checked by an instructor), the savings are sure to make you smile.

Beauty trainees can help cut the cost of your physical upkeep. For example, I opted for a cut and colour at a hair school instead of a salon. All of the work being done was supervised so I knew I was in good hands. Prices will vary from school to school but you'll likely pay a student stylist 50 to 75 per cent less than a professional. My cut and colour cost $60; it would have easily been double elsewhere.

To find beauty schools in your area visit, which will also direct you to other student services. What better way to beat stress and save money than booking a session with a masseuse in training?

For the high percentage of people feeling stressed or overwhelmed by finances, Nicole Smith Bringsli, a registered psychologist in Whitehorse, recommends starting with a visit to your family doctor. If you're experiencing anxiety or other mental health issues your physician can refer you to a psychiatrist, whose services are covered, for a limited number of appointments, by your provincial health plan.

Counsellors are another good option, especially if your workplace offers an employee assistance program or extended health benefits that cover a certain number of sessions with a support person.

If you don't have such coverage you're not out of luck. Contacting a local crisis line (Google "crisis line" and the name of your city) can offer information about other support services in your community as well as non-profit organizations that offer counselling services for low or no cost. Some private practitioners even take clients on a sliding scale, which means you pay what you can afford. The crisis line should be able to give you a list of names.

Neglecting your physical and mental health comes with a bigger price tag down the road then a trip to the dentist or a visit with a counsellor will today.

Angela Self writes for weekly. She is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies, a group of five women who specialize in personal finance. They are hosts of a self-titled show on the W Network and the authors of The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough. Find out more about them at

Angela also writes for The Globe's Life section on Tuesdays