Birth Control on the Cheap

I was going to title this post as “Sex on the Cheap” but then thought that wouldn't go over so well (people may misinterpret it, understandably), and I would probably have 300 spam comments in my spam queue the instant I post it.

Being a young individual, you may want to delay baby-making for later years when you have that career established and your future somewhat organized.Β  So here's a post looking at the different ways birth control can be cheaper and cost-effective, and their possible side effects so that you can make the best decision and save money at the same time.Β  I won't go to the detail of analyzing “cost per use” though, you can do that experimenting on your own πŸ˜‰

I might throw in a little “pros” and “cons” list for each one in terms of cost and ease of use just because you know I love my Pros and Cons lists and I haven't made one for a while.

Birth Control Pills

birth control on the cheapBirth control pills (aka OCP's or Oral Contraceptive Pills) are the most popular form of birth control in North America.Β  They are taken daily and have an efficacy rate (if taken correctly and not missed, for example) of 99%.Β  Typical usage (like the “oh crap! Forgot to take my pill!) renders its efficacy rate to be 95%.Β  Then the drawback is you're worried for the rest of the month until Aunt Flow comes.

Cost- about $20-$60 a month depending on the brand/ type of pill.Β  The generic less specific pills are cheaper, but may have more side effects like bloating, weight gain, etc.Β  Usually its the generic pills that are covered by Extended Health Benefits from your work (unless your workplace benefits are awesome and don't discriminate against which brand of birth control pill you have).

PROS: Er.. comfort :).Β  Low cost per use depending on how much action you're getting.Β  You also get glowing skin and bigger boobs while you're on the pill.

CONS: Doesn't protect against STD's, and it can be a hassle to remember to take them.Β  Side effects are irritability and moodiness, seemingly occuring 24/7.Β  Exogenous hormones- long term use has been linked to increased chance of stroke or blood clots int he legs, and even to breast cancer (GIRLS if you have been on your birth control pills for more than SEVEN years, get off them asap!)

TIPS ON GETTING THEM CHEAPER: Check with your extended health to see if it is covered.Β  Oftentimes if you are under the age of 25 and you go to the local health centre (in Canada anyway), health care providers can see you and give you pills free of charge (e.g. you don't even need to go to the pharmacy to get them).Β  I believe Planned Parenthood offers the same thing.


condoms Pictures, Images and Photos
I would say this would be the most expensive method of birth control as it has high “cost per use”. For a pack of 12, it will set you back about $15-$20 depending on the brand and material used.

PROS: Protection against sexually transmitted diseases.Β  Ease of use- don't have to remember to take something every day.

CONS: Er… comfort.Β  Though they've come a long way, I think.Β  If it breaks then the night turns sour and panic ensues.Β  High failure rate, 14%.Β  You decrease this failure rate by using spermicide as well, though this may decrease the ‘ease of use' factor.Β  High cost per use (at about $1.75 each) so instead of a mentality like “all you can do”, you may feel cheap and not want to ‘do' that often.Β  Which of course will lead to an unhappy relationship, duh! πŸ™‚

TIPS: Again, hit up the local health centre.Β  They're usually in a bowl near the exit, just grab a bunch. Oh, and make sure they're not expired when you pull it out of that pocket in your wallet.

Intrauterine Device

This is actually the most common form of birth control in the world (and the oldest form).Β  I'm not sure why North America has an infatuation with birth control pills (uh oh, here's my inner skeptic of big pharmaceutical companies talking again!), but Europe and China for example, use the IUD as the most common form of birth control.Β  Here in Canada, there are different types of IUD- the Copper IUD is about $180 and the Mirena IUD (it releases a hormone from the actual IUD device itself) is $300-400.Β  Insertion is covered by our Medical Services Plan and can be done by a gynecologist or a GP who feels comfortable with it.

Factoring in that these devices last FIVE years (don't worry its reversible, just need to have your GP or gyne take it out), If you got the copper IUD and used it for five years, it would cost you only $2.60 a month (yes, you read that right).Β  If you got the Mirena and you used it for a total of five years, it would cost you $6.67 a month. Talk about birth control on the cheap!Β  They are both very effective as well- both 96-98%% and 99% effective (the Mirena is 99%).

PROS: So cheap!Β  So easy, you don't need to remember to do anything or take any pills.Β  Better for the environment (less rubber in the garbage, and less hormones in our water from women peeing it out).Β 

CONS: The insertion process may be daunting (yes that contraption goes up your hoo-ha into the uterus).Β  You need to make sure you use a medical practitioner who is comfortable inserting these things- because if you don't, it can be painful and super anxiety provoking. There is a small chance you could get a serious infection related to the insertion of the IUD (if this is the case, it can be very serious, including causing infertility). Β  You also need to check for the string every month to make sure its there and doesn't slip out.Β  The string may poke at your significant other and cause some discomfort.Β  Aunt Flow might become “Aunt Flow gone wild” on the copper IUD.

TIPS: If you're in a long term monogamous relationship, then this birth control method is for you.Β  Unless the concept of IUD insertion absolutely makes you squeamish.

Natural Family Planning

I guess this method would be the most cost effective (FREE!) except that is not the most effective.Β  Natural Family Planning takes into consideration the timing of ovulation, menstruation etc. and basically you count to see when you are not ovulating and take your chances then.Β  This type of family planning may be the preferable option for couples who are unable to use the other methods for religious reasons or even health reasons.

PROS: Free!

CONS: Possibly high failure rate.Β  Doesn't protect against STD's or other nasties.

The others…

I don't think I'll bother mentioning the other options of birth control… there's the diaphragm, the female condom, the birth control patch (which is similar to the pill, and might not be covered on some extended health plans), the Nuva Ring (this ring that releases a hormone) which may cost similar or more than the pill.

One final method that is guaranteed cheap and free… is abstinence!

Readers which one does you or your partner use?Β  (If you're feeling shy, that's fine too!).

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Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.


  1. retirebyforty on May 2, 2011 at 8:29 am

    We used the pills for 10 years and it worked for us. Now that we are done with one baby, her Dr. suggested Intrauterine Device. We probably go with that. You forgot to mention the more permanent routes, I guess young people will want to keep the option open. πŸ™‚

  2. Investing Newbie on May 2, 2011 at 8:33 am

    This article was really well-written. Glad you went into two of the least considered methods of BC, natural family planning and abstinence. I didn’t know that about IUD, being the most common form of BC in the world, but I guess that does make sense since Big Pharma does have the US by its pinky finger, lol!

  3. CF on May 2, 2011 at 8:48 am

    With some pills, your sex drive actually goes down as well. :/

  4. Two Degrees on May 2, 2011 at 10:46 am

    The idea of IUDs scare me!

    I used to pay more than a $200 for birth control pills. However, I recently found a clinic funded by the government that sold for cheaper. I pay about $90 for the year now.

  5. Greg McFarlane on May 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    No one’s mentioned vasectomies, which cost about $800, are 99.9% effective, and which pay returns of 25,000% (estimating the cost of raising a kid.)

  6. Jenn @ Paying Myself on May 2, 2011 at 11:27 am

    I use the Nuvaring and prior to that the pill. The ring is by far the better option in my opinion. The side effects are less than the pill and there’s no “oh crap I forgot” moments. I would recommend it 100%.

    The cost is comparable – about $20/month including dispensing fees. Some plans don’t cover it (mine did not when I had benefits) but in my opinion it’s worth the cost. It is cheaper at some community health clinics – I haven’t found one in my area yet though.

  7. krantcents on May 2, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Although I am passed this stage in life, my wife used the pill. I am curious is there a parallel between financial responsibility and family planning? Don’t take my question wrong, I believe in being responsible in all areas of my life!

  8. Cassie on May 2, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Interesting, I didn’t know IUDs were the most common form of birth control.

    I can’t take the pill due to some hormone issues, so my go to is condoms right now. I’ve given thought to having an IUD put in, but I know my mom would freak out because of her past experience (got pregnant on it, had it removed, lost the baby). Still undecided.

  9. Financial Uproar on May 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Lucky for me, I’m not getting laid so I don’t have to worry about this stuff.

    Wait, that’s not lucky at all.

  10. Annabelle on May 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I’ve just switched to the IUD, both for convenience (don’t have to remember a pill everyday) and also because of the genius cost-effectiveness. It cost me about $400 to buy, but when you factor in that I will get 70% back from insurance, it comes to about $4.60/month for 5 years. Frugality at its finest! Definitely worth some temporary discomfort.

  11. Sarah on May 2, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I am on the pill. I live in the US, so these things are far more expensive than they are for you in Canada. My birth control pill costs $250 for 3 months before health insurance kicks in – $83/month! That makes for a huge portion of my health costs for the year, about $65/month total including premiums and co-pays.

    Next year I might look into something else, to see if it’s cheaper, but I take my pill at the same time every day and haven’t had any terrible side effects, so I’m happy with what I’m doing. No sense in switching unless you have problems, right?

  12. young on May 2, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    @Sarah-Wow, that is a lot of money a month! So you have a $750 deductible each year? That’s a lot of cash πŸ™ I guess we definitely take things like that for granted up here. That’s good that you can remember to take your pill every day– I always had trouble with it. Definitely no sense switching, unless you’ve been on the pill for a while (I’m talking 7-10 years +), in which case it might not be good for you in the future.

  13. young on May 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    @Annabelle- GENIUS! I’m glad you like it too. $4.60 a month- can’t get any better than that! Though that temporary discomfort still gives me nightmares/ post traumatic stress disorder flashbacks lol….

  14. young on May 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    @Financial Uproar- Hey hey hey, mister, no negative talk there. You never know, next thing you know, you might be Googling this page as a resource on which method you can tell your new girlfriend to use πŸ˜‰

  15. young on May 2, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    @Greg McFarlane- Yeah… I was thinking of that one too but left it out. I think that if a vasectomy or tubal ligation (tying the tubes) gives you a 99.9% efficacy rate, why not just use an IUD or something with similar efficacy rates that is reversible? We never know what life may bring us, perhaps you decided not to have children with Mr. X but Mr. Y rolls in and you fall head over heels and want to birth offspring? πŸ˜‰

  16. young on May 2, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    @Cassie- In North America, the most common is the pill. I think that IUD’s have come a long way from before… they used to have an IUD called the Dalkon shield that caused many people to have infections which resulted in sterility. I guess each method has its risks… sorry to hear your mom went through that πŸ™ I think there is something that will hopefully work for everyone πŸ™‚

  17. young on May 2, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    @krantcents- That sounds like a very good question! πŸ™‚ I’m sure there are parallels indeed… perhaps not financial responsibility, but even more general.. like responsibility, period?

  18. young on May 2, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    @Jenn- I’ve never tried the Nuva Ring but it sounds pretty good. Do you feel it though? It seems so large! Like a 1.5″ diametre! Another trick is to max out your dispensing time.. instead of getting it every month, try and get it every three months. That way you’ll only have to pay one dispensing fee (at Shoppers, that’s $10 each dispense!).

  19. young on May 2, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    @Two Degrees- Wow, $90 for the year.. that’s like $7.50 a month- dirt cheap! Almost cheaper than the IUD. Good to shop around πŸ™‚ Good ol’ government. Although that might change now with the majority Conservative government….

  20. young on May 2, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    @CF- Yes!! Thanks for mentioning that. I completely forgot about that. I remember it being pretttty low when I was on it. πŸ™

  21. young on May 2, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    @retirebyforty- Heh, yeah, I was debating whether or not I should mention the permanent routes. Though as a young person opting for permanent routes, it might be hard to find a health care provider who is willing to give you these permanent options! My colleague was in her mid-20’s when she asked for her tubes getting tied and her doctor then initially refused..

  22. young on May 2, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    @Investing Newbie- Thanks girl! Haha, yes, Big Pharma has us Canadians by their pinky fingers too! They are indeed very very powerful…!

  23. eemusings on May 3, 2011 at 1:46 am

    IUDs are the most common BC form? Really??!!

    I get the pill for $3 for six months (got to love Family Planning services. They can also provide cheap condoms). Sadly, the pill has most certainly not increased my chest size. However – and the reason I love it – they have made my previously unbearable periods tolerable.

    @Greg – Vasectomies are no good if you’re young and planning on having kids later on…

  24. Ban Clothing on May 3, 2011 at 3:31 am

    I have to thank my company benefits because they cover name brand BC and I pay $2/month.

  25. Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter on May 3, 2011 at 9:37 am

    We use the pill which is covered by our extended health. We also use condoms to be extra safe.
    Once we do have kids I am going to look into the IUD.

  26. Money Rabbit on May 3, 2011 at 8:24 am

    HUGE kudos to you for writing a post about this. Because frankly, the thing that frightens me most about having a child before I’m ready is MONEY.
    Using condoms for now, looking into IUDs, it’d be hella nice to not worry about it for three to five years.

  27. Little House on May 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I guess there are some benefits to not being very fertile. πŸ˜‰ Used the pill in my 20’s, nothing for 10 years since marriage and still no kids. I saved a bunch of money, but I’m guessing I will end up paying the price if I decide I really want kids. I’m surprised the IUD is so popular, it always made me squeamish.

  28. Sandy @ yesiamcheap on May 3, 2011 at 11:53 am

    What an awesome post! Very well written. Let’s see, I’ve been on the pill. I was on Nuvaring which I have to second at the BEST most easiest thing every. You set it and forget it for 3 weeks. And no, you don’t feel it, no he doesn’t feel it, and it bends into place.

    My doctor is recommending the IUD now since I know that I don’t want kids for at least the next 2 years. I just don’t have the money for it. I’m a little hesitant, but she says that they’re so much better and safer than they ever were.

    With regards to cost, I live in NY and my copay would be $20 a month on all hormonal products. Without them I would pay around $37 a month for pills. I don’t know who’s paying more than that. Now sure how much the IUD will cost, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a baby. πŸ™‚

  29. Lindy Mint on May 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Great article, I like your “cost per use” analysis. There are draw backs to all the methods, it’s just a matter of deciding which ones you can live with. Now that my mother has had breast cancer, making it officially in my family history, I’m getting off of the fake hormones. But on the plus side, I’ve been using one of those mail-in pharmacy programs and get three month’s worth of pills for $60.

  30. A Van on May 4, 2011 at 8:44 am

    I used the BCP fairly regularly for about 10 years, and over time became more and more disturbed by the thought of having synthetic hormones in my body all of the time. I reached my threshold, and decided to try the copper IUD. There was a minor amount of discomfort at the beginning, but overall it’s been fantastic to be free from the synthetic hormones, which are more powerful than most people realize, in terms of how they impact the chemistry of your blood (in particular, cholesterol and triglycerides), your mood, and your connection to what is naturally cycling through your body. I highly recommend a non-hormonal method of birth control.

  31. Greg McFarlane on May 6, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I read dozens of personal finance blogs weekly, and this is the most unusual comment thread I’ve ever seen on any of them.

  32. young on May 5, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    @A Van- That is exactly how I felt. I think I used the BCP for about three years, and after reading about synthetic hormones, I wasn’t interested in taking them any longer. Besides, by the time I feel ready to have children (maybe in another 3 years) that would be a LONG time on the pill (probably at least 7 years). They tried to convince me to get the Mirena, but I didn’t want that either because there is synthetic hormone being released from the IUD. I’m a big proponent of non-hormonal methods of birth control too.

  33. young on May 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    @Lindy Mint- Mail-In Pharmacies? You mean pharmacies that deliver your medications to your door? I would worry about that if its bought online from a non-reputable source (which I’m 100% sure youre not doing)– did you hear about the fake Viagra pills from China? I think they were laced with rat poison or something terrible like that. I just read an article that Vitamin D supplementation is good at preventing breast cancer for those who have a family history of it. Vitamin D and no fake hormones and you should be good to go πŸ™‚

  34. young on May 5, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    @Sandy- Awe thanks!! It means a lot coming from you πŸ™‚ Good to hear that the Nuva Ring isn’t uncomfortable- though it is a type of hormonal birth control, but its good that it is localized, so there shouldn’t be too much hormones going into the blood stream. The IUD’s are much better and safer than they were (they got a really really bad rap in the 70’s I think?). The IUD would be a big upfront cost, but after that you don’t pay anything. I think they might be around $300 in the States? Not sure. Yeah, how much are those baby things, anyway? πŸ˜‰ $100,000?

  35. young on May 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    @Little House- I had heard that birth control pills actually helped with conceiving after stopping them. I think the main reason the IUD is so commonly used, is because many people after their first born or after children don’t want any more children, and people can only be on the pill for so long. It would be interesting to see the break down in age group of the most common form of birth control. I would assume under 30’s= birth control pill most common and over 30 would be other options. I hear acunpuncture is excellent to help with fertility… a few of my friends are actually going the expensive route to conceive (In Vitro).

  36. young on May 5, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    @Miss T- That is very safe indeed!! My friend does the same- she uses both. Smart move for sure πŸ™‚

  37. young on May 5, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    @Money Rabbit- Yeah- exactly my thoughts! I want to get my career down and do some more traveling before I settle down… guess I’m selfish that way πŸ™‚

  38. young on May 5, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    @eemusings- I didn’t think my chest size increased either while on the pill. Now that I’ve been off the pill, I realized what I was taking for granted LOL. Oh well. $3 for six months? That means its $0.50 a month? Haha, I think you win!!! New Zealand health care sounds like its the bomb!! I need to move down there πŸ˜‰

  39. Kellen on May 6, 2011 at 7:37 am

    My health insurance is high-deductible, so I’d have to reach $2,500 in deductible in a year to get my pill covered by insurance. Instead, I use a walgreens discount card (cuts the price from $72 to $50 per month for a GENERIC), but by using the discount card, those purchases don’t go towards my deductible. It’s still cheaper than paying the low-deductible plan, which would cover prescriptions.

    Side effects of the pill – I’m less moody, less painful monthly vists from “Aunt Flo”. However, I’ve been using it (with some breaks) since I was 18. 24 now so I need to look into what counts towards the 7-year limit…

    The idea of an IUD is totally terrifying though. May need to get over that in the name of frugality.

  40. Stephanie on May 6, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Well, we’re on that last one…abstinence! Which maybe is not my boyfriend’s preference! But I still don’t feel ready for taking that big step. Good thing it’s super cheap and effective!

    Thanks for going through the pros and cons of these. Maybe when I start, er, doing the deed, I’ll review these options!

  41. Jenn @ Paying Myself on May 6, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Just saw your reply to my comment.

    I do get three at a time so I pay about $60 every time I go for three rings.

    It seemed huge to me at first but you don’t feel it at all. It’s very easy to put in and get out (I was really scared of that at first too!). The boy also reports that he can’t feel it. πŸ™‚

  42. young on May 7, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    @Jenn- That’s not bad at all!- it’s like $20 a month (I would much rather do the ring than the pill), IMO. πŸ™‚

  43. young on May 7, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    @Stephanie- That’s great, and I’m so glad to hear that he is respecting your decision. I hope this article is useful when you decide you’re ready πŸ™‚

  44. MoneyMaus on May 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Condoms for me. I’ve had almost every single bad side effect from the pill…and I tried three different types! They basically made me crazy, gave me headaches, leg cramps (possibly blood clots?) and made my sex drive completely disappear. UGH. The sheer idea of getting an IUD scares me, though my Mom had one before I was born and didn’t have any issues!

    And actually, condoms are a lot cheaper than you’d think: Target sells packs of 12 (Trojan) for around $5. Same with Bed, Bath & Beyond. And of course there’s also Costco/Amazon, too! πŸ˜‰

  45. Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey on May 9, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Great topic to talk about here! Do generic birth control pills really have more side effects? I thought that they had to show bioequivalency in order to get approved?

  46. young on May 9, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    @Jacob- Thanks! I had no idea it would be such a hot topic. I’m glad I wrote about it! They have basic bioequivalency, but some birth control pills that are more expensive because they have less hormones, or have other properties that make them special (like Yasmin, I believe it has a water pill inside it so you don’t feel so bloated). I’m not sure about generic birth control pills, I’ve never come across any prescribed by doctors.

  47. young on May 9, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    @MoneyMaus- LOL I didn’t know Bed Bath and Beyond sells condoms! Is that the “Beyond” part? πŸ˜‰ The part that scares me about condoms is the breakage factor. Then you’ll have to go take Plan B and be all freaked out for a few weeks. And Plan B ain’t cheap either… Actually each birth control really has their cons… the IUD can slip out and you might not realize… you miss the pill or are off a few hours in the beginning of the cycle and you’re ruined for the rest of the month etc.

  48. Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey on May 9, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Very interesting Y&T! So basic bioequivalency would show that they are effectively preventing pregnancy I am guessing?

  49. young on May 9, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    @Jacob- That’s true, but some generic brands may have more side effects though. Some people would rather pay a little more for less discomfort (e.g. bloating, mood swings, weight gain), I would assume πŸ™‚

  50. Kellen on May 10, 2011 at 5:59 am

    “@MoneyMaus- LOL I didn

  51. young on May 10, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    @Kellen- Touche, touche! πŸ™‚ Just omit the Bath part, I suppose.

  52. J.D. on May 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Natural Family Planning is NOT counting days. That is the “calendar method.” NFP (“no fun periodically”) is done by monitoring body temperature and cervical mucous (take your temperature when you wake up and pay attention when you wipe after peeing). You are able to predict and know when ovulation will/has occurred, which is also a great bonus when you ARE trying to conceive. My wife and I use this method.

    Efficacy ratings for this are hard to get because the %s given for, say, the pill are full-compliance ratings which are tricky with NFP. The biggest cause of failure, by far, with NFP is willfully “risking it” when you are in the mood, but know that it is a “no-fun” day. These cases artificially lower the efficacy rating for NFP (which I would imagine is in the interests of those groups funding the studies, since nobody makes money off of NFP.)

    If you are a total slave to your sex drive, NFP can’t help you. If you can put off sex for a few days – even if it is incovenient – it works fine. Google “fertility awareness” methods.

  53. young on May 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    @J.D.- Thanks for the clarification, JD. I for one am a slave to the sex drive! Those hormones are powerful..

  54. noona on January 24, 2013 at 10:00 am

    In canada birth control ills cost me abou6 civwith out insurance

  55. Birth Control on the Cheap: Revisited on October 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    […] I thought I would add a more detailed spin to the post in 2011 I had on birth control on the cheap […]

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