Blood glucose testing can be a budget-wrecker -- mostly due to the cost of the test strips, which can easily add up to $1,500 or more every year if you test your blood sugar several times a day.
And each glucose meter works only with its matching test strips, a "give away the razor, sell the blades" marketing strategy that users say can cost you dearly, especially if your insurance doesn't cover your preferred brand of diabetic testing supplies. You also need to budget for the cost of replacement lancets -- the tool that actually draws the tiny drop of blood for testing.
One brand from Walmart stands out in reviews as a good, cheap alternative: the ReliOn Confirm (Est. $15) . It's one of the cheapest blood glucose monitors recommended by our sources, and its test strips (Est. $20 for 50 strips) are among the cheapest too. In spite of its budget pricing, the ReliOn Confirm garners a very good rating for accuracy and repeatability from a leading consumer research organization.
User reviewers describe the ReliOn Confirm, which is only sold at Walmart and sometimes Sam's Club, as "good quality for such an inexpensive meter," but they are somewhat more critical of its accuracy than the experts. Still, considering the price of the test strips -- an estimated $525 per year according to the same research organization -- it's worth a try. Many consumers are very happy with the results they get.
The ReliOn Confirm's features are also impressive, given the price range. It stores up to 360 date- and time-stamped readings and can calculate your 14- and 30-day averages for you. The Confirm can upload its results to your computer or to Glooko's iOS mobile app (cable and app are additional purchases).
The ReliOn Confirm's nearest competitor is the bare-bones True2Go (Est. $10) , which is often labeled as a store brand (such as at Walgreens or CVS). The True2Go also receives very good expert scores for its accuracy and repeatability. The True2Go's biggest claim to fame is its size; it's just a little bit bigger than a quarter. It clips onto the top of your test strip vial so it's easy to keep track of. Both of these inexpensive monitors have relatively large screens and large, easy-to-read digits, although neither is illuminated.
The True2Go is a little faster than the Confirm (4-second results, compared to the Confirm's 7-second response time) and includes your forearm as an alternate test site. The Confirm can only test a sample from your fingertips or palm.
When it comes to features, though, the True2Go doesn't have a lot to offer. It stores up to 99 readings (about three and a half weeks' worth if you test four times day) but they're not date- or time-stamped, and it doesn't have a data port to export the stored readings. The True2Go also requires a slightly larger drop of blood than the ReliOn Confirm -- 0.5 microliters, compared to the Confirm's 0.3 microliters.
A third budget model, the ReliOn Micro , isn't as popular as the ReliOn Confirm, and it only stores 50 tests in its memory. But still, reviewers consider it to be reliable. It uses the same diminutive 0.3-microliter sample, and the test strips (Est. $20 for 50 strips) are affordable.
Finally, the manufacturers of two blood glucose meters with relatively expensive test strips -- the Accu-Chek Aviva Plus and the FreeStyle Lite -- offer co-pay assistance programs that can bring your cost for test strips down to about $15 per box of 50; but only if you qualify.