Quitting Birth Control to Save Money

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

That’s the risky choice this reader made:

I’m in my late twenties. Growing up, I was much wealthier than most of my peers—both of my parents made about $100,000. They covered my out-of-state college tuition, let me stay at home while I took unpaid summer internships and, when I got a postgrad job, helped me pay my half of the rent for the city apartment I shared with a friend. All this to say, even though the deck seemed stacked in my favor, I’ve suffered through my fair share of financially impotent moments.

The worst of it started about five years ago.

I was working as a contractor for a big tech company and shelling out $40 a month for birth control pills, since the contracting company only offered us a few horrible, high-deductible, high-premium plans and I wasn't eligible to stay on my parents’ policy. To save money, I stopped using birth control.

Weeks later, I started a new relationship and suffered a couple of pregnancy scares. Ironically, Plan B costs the same as a month of pills.

A year later, I was making $25,000 in a salaried position, and my new health plan almost completely covered IUD insertion. I made the leap and had the procedure done.

But little did I know, my company had just switched policies and my procedure had taken place on the one day of the year we were between policies and without coverage. I got a bill in the mail for $1,300. At the time, I was stretched thin between expensive rent, high public transit costs, and my broke boyfriend, who was in grad school halfway across the country and needed my help with groceries and student loan bills.

As I paid off the IUD procedure in small monthly increments—it took me almost a year—I suffered terrible side effects: weight gain, mood swings, cystic acne, depression. I had the IUD removed six months before I finished paying it off.

Even though my fiancé and I now make a combined $85,000 and are in the best financial shape in the history of our relationship, I haven’t used birth control—or visited a doctor—in years.