Vitamin supplements may provide some health benefits, but the costs can add up quickly. Here's how to save on supplements without breaking the bank.
Luke Daugherty is a freelance writer, editor and former operations manager. His work covers operations, marketing, sustainable business and personal finance, as well as many of his personal passions, including coffee, music and social issues.
Vitamin supplements are a common part of the American diet. Look in any household pantry or refrigerator, and you're bound to find at least a bottle of vitamin C. IbisWorld reported that Americans were set to spend more than $37 billion on vitamins and other dietary supplements in 2022.
In an economy where everyone is feeling the pinch of inflation and the fear of recession, Americans are cutting back on nonessential spending -- this might mean that your vitamins might have taken a back seat in your budget. If you're already taking vitamins, you may wonder if it's even worth the money. Although they're no replacement for a nutritious diet and regular exercise, research shows that many of these supplements may contribute to multiple health benefits, so it may be worth keeping them in your budget.
According to Penn Medicine, when taken with a balanced diet and under the guidance of your doctor, vitamin supplements can provide extra support by filling in gaps of vitamin or mineral deficiency.
Here are 10 ways to save on supplements.
1. Improve your diet
In terms of health benefits, the best way to get the vitamins you need is by including them in your diet. It's also less expensive, so this is the best place to start saving money on vitamins. Short on B12? Add more meat, poultry, fish or fortified soy milk to your diet. Need more vitamin E? Boost your intake of leafy greens, vegetable oils, whole grains and nuts.
Learn the best food sources of all 13 essential vitamins and plan your grocery visits and cooking schedule accordingly.
2. Consult your doctor
Although vitamins may be essential for your health, it's possible to overdo it. Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K can be toxic when taken to excess, so it's important to know the proper limits. You should always consult a doctor before starting any supplement regimen.
Talking with your doctor can also save you money. Your doctor can provide guidance on which vitamins you should take and which ones you don't need to worry about. That way, you only spend money on the ones you need.
3. Opt for multivitamins
If you're taking supplements for several different vitamins, your costs can add up quickly. A multivitamin is probably a more budget-friendly option. These are generally designed to provide a well-rounded mix of vitamins to supplement the ones you're most likely to need, and they're much less expensive than buying individual vitamins.
However, if you know you're only deficient in one or two vitamins, it may be more cost-effective for you to purchase supplements for those instead of a multivitamin -- your doctor can help you decide which option is right for you.
4. Cut vitamins in half
Since most of us receive the bulk of the vitamins we need in our daily diet, you may only require a small supplement to get you over the hump. If you don't need the full daily dose that your vitamin supplements provide, you can consider cutting them in half to extend the life of each bottle and save a bit of money.
If you go this route, be sure that you're not taking time-release vitamins or pills that have an enteric coating. These products are designed to stay intact until they're in your body, so cutting them will reduce their effectiveness and can even be dangerous.
5. Shop online
There are probably a few vitamin superstores near you, but these may not be your best bet if you're trying to save money. As is the case with so many products these days, shopping online is usually the way to find the best prices.
Online retailers like Amazon -- and even the websites for big-box stores like Walmart -- are often the cheapest places to buy supplements. It's also worth checking out the many online vitamin retailers, such as Vitacost or The Vitamin Shoppe, for great deals. Some even have subscription programs that can save you money. Just be sure to research the company first so you know you're dealing with a reputable vendor.
6. Check your health insurance
Most vitamins are available over the counter, and that generally disqualifies them from any health insurance coverage or reimbursement plan. However, if your doctor prescribes a particular supplement to treat a medical condition, it may be eligible for coverage. Some insurance plans allow for this, and flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts will often reimburse these doctor-prescribed expenses, as well.
To see if this is an option for you, check your plan details and discuss it with your doctor.
7. Consider generic brands
As with any other product, vitamins that carry a well-known brand name often come at a premium price. But that big name doesn't necessarily mean you're getting a better product. In many cases, you can get the exact same quality vitamins by purchasing a generic or lesser-known brand. This habit can save you quite a bit of money in the long run.
If going for a more affordable brand sounds enticing, be sure to check the label for ingredients. The vitamins you choose should also meet the standards set by third-party testing organizations to ensure quality. You should look for these three testing companies: ConsumerLab.com, US Pharmacopeia and NSF International.
8. Buy in bulk
Once you're committed to a specific vitamin regimen, you can save money by stocking up. Buying in bulk will usually give you access to discounted prices or special deals, not to mention free shipping if you buy online.
Most vitamin supplements have a fairly long shelf life -- as long as you follow storage instructions. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to check the expiration date before you buy so you can be sure you'll use your supply before it expires. If you don't use it before then, you can end up losing a lot of money.
9. Look for coupons and rewards
Even when the retail price tag on a particular vitamin gives you a shock, there are probably still ways to cut the cost. Major vitamin brands often offer discount codes on their website or in stores. Additionally, there are many sites, like Coupons.com, that collect these deals and make them easy to find.
You can also consider using shopping rewards apps such as MyPoints or Rakuten to rack up rewards or cashback. Many retailers also often offer rewards programs of their own.
10. Do your research
After all your work to find great deals on your vitamins, it would be especially frustrating to find out that the supplements you chose don't even provide the health benefits they claim to offer. To make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck, finish your research by checking your potential purchases with an independent supplement review site. ConsumerLab, Verywell Fit, Healthline and SupplementReviews.com are all reputable sites that can help you ensure you'll get the most out of investing in your health.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.