Should You Travel During College?

College is a time for cutting back and living on a student budget. After all, it’s not a cheap endeavour and hopefully you are trying to get through college with as little debt as possible and graduating as soon as possible.

There are always those people, though, that tell you that college is the best time to travel. I think they mean travel abroad for work/study semesters, exchanges, and probably even on short spring break trips that American media tends to portray (do those really happen?). As “those people” always say, college is pre-job, pre-children, and pre-responsibility. You can get up and leave at any time. So why not travel?

I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all solution as to whether or not to travel during college, but here are some considerations when you are thinking about whether you should join the masses:

Budget

This is a personal finance blog, so of course I am going to point out that you need to be thinking about your budget when you are deciding whether you want to travel during college or stick around home base. Is travelling worth the debt you may have to take out to pay for your schooling if you spend your money on the trip? It may be, but that is a choice you’ll have to make for yourself.

Look at what your future self will feel about what your current self is doing. You may be able to save up money during the semesters a bit at a time to take a nice trip upon graduation if you can’t afford to travel right away.

Time

They say time is money, and you have to look at whether or not you have the time in your plans to take time off to travel. Even if you are going on a study-abroad term, this often will still prolong your education. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth the travel, but it’s something that you should consider before hopping on the next plane.

Time isn’t necessarily a huge consideration if you are holding off to travel until you finish school though. It’s just pushing the date back a bit.

Stress

Travel can either relieve stress, or be stressful, depending on the timing and your financial situation. Stress is terrible for your health (physical, emotional, mental) so time your trip well and plan out a time to leave that won’t be too hard on you. School is difficult enough without throwing stress because of travel into the mix.

 

Travel isn’t for everyone, but it is a great experience that can teach you a lot. Keep these things in mind when making your decision about whether or not to travel in college; don’t just follow the masses and get yourself into a lot of debt.

Did you/have you travelled in college? What were the pros, cons, positives and drawbacks? Would you do it again if given the chance?

Should You Invest While In College?

There’s no doubt that investing is a great source of passive income, with my personal preference for investing being dividend investing.

Investing will help you make the life that you want for yourself, by way of compound interest. If you start investing young, you can secure a future that doesn’t include the 9-5.

However, I get a lot of search engine referral terms here about investing in college and I suspect that part of the question that people have regarding investing in college is simply whether or not they should be investing while taking courses and studying.

student investors

Cool poster

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It’s personal preference, and it’s no secret that I invest, so let’s look at the reasons why you should invest while you are in college (or not).

Are You Relying on Debt to Get You Through School?

You may be nodding your head “yes” to this question, and think that I am implying that you shouldn’t invest if you are relying on student loans or other debt to put you through your education. This is not the case, however.

If you make money throughout your education by way of a job, and your loans pay for your living expenses, invest your money in short-mid term investments by all means!

While you are in college, your loans don’t incur interest. You have the entire four years if you are going for your degree, to invest your money and earn compound interest on the investments.

When you graduate and your student loan starts to incur interest, pay off your loan with the investments. If you plan to take this (smart) approach, avoid investing in RRSPs. You can find great tax sheltered investment options in a TFSA, which will serve you better.

Do You Have a Basic Investment Knowledge?

I wouldn’t recommend that anybody invest without knowing what they are doing, at least with a basic understanding of how it all works. If you have this knowledge, at least on a basic level, you should consider investing.

If you would be more comfortable investing after knowing a little bit more than you already do, definitely gain that knowledge before taking the investment plunge. It’s not worth floundering and not knowing what you are doing.

You may not have the time to learn more about your investing options until after you are out of school, so that is fine too.

Do You Have Money To Invest?

Yup, this is a stupid question, but you’d be surprised at how many people want to invest but don’t have the cash flow to do so. If you don’t have a job or any source of income except for student loans (with which you must be paying tuition), you probably shouldn’t waste your time looking into investment options.

To invest money, you must have money. Don’t borrow more money to invest; this can be lucrative for some people, but it requires a lot of knowledge and expertise and, yes, research and time to be successful in borrowing to invest. Don’t go there while you are a student.

 

At the end of the day, investing can be a great way to earn some passive income in college, and get a head start on planning your future (such as retirement). However, there are some people that shouldn’t be investing as students, so you have to be able to weigh your options.

Do you invest as a student? If you are no longer in college, did you invest? What is your take on whether students should be investors?

Do Students Need a Smart Phone?

Smart phones are an interesting thing; they used to be a status symbol, and have now evolved into what many people consider a necessity. In fact, even many of the most impoverished people in the US and Canada have smart phones.

I still don’t think they are a necessity for many people. But should students have a smart phone?:

The Cost of a Smart Phone

We all know that a smart phone, such as an android or iPhone, is much higher than that of a regular phone. I have one friend who has a smart phone for $60/month for the plan, and another who has an old flip phone with a $25/month plan.

should I get a smart phone?

Right off the bat, that’s  $35/month more than a regular phone, or $420 per year. With compound interest, that number grows.

Then there is the cost of the device, and smart phones can run anywhere from $250 to $750, depending on the brand and the type of phone. A regular phone can easily be purchased for under $60.

With a tight student budget, this might not be the most economical.

The Benefits of a Smart Phone

People wouldn’t use smart phones if there were no benefits to having them. Smart phones definitely make life easier. iPhones and Androids alike can help you get around with the GPS, can help you track things like fitness and calories, check your email, browse the internet, and chat with people for free, among other things.

The benefits of a smart phone to a student would be increased if you have long periods of time away from the internet, but require it for your classes.

Another benefit would be to check for class cancellations and other news during classes or when you aren’t at a PC or laptop.

In school, I’ve been able to use a smart phone for research and to complete some assignments on the bus, which has helped with my time management. But does that offset the cost?

Making the Decision to Get a Smart Phone

Be sure you are well informed before making the decision to spend money on a smart phone. Many plans will lock you in for a period of time and you don’t want to be paying for something that you don’t really need.

If you think you can function just as efficiently as a student without a smart phone, then I would encourage you to save yourself the money, put that extra cash in an investment (like an RRSP or TFSA) and watch that money grow. There is plenty of time post graduation to get a smart phone.

If you rely on student loans to get you through school, remember that the $420 + interest/year that you would potentially save if you didn’t’ have a smart phone can go a long day to  reduce the amount of your loan when you graduate.

 

Did you or do you have a smart phone as a student? Why or why not? Did you regret your decision to get one?

How to Negotiate a Signing Bonus Out of College

When you’re happy to have a job, negotiating a signing bonus right out of college may seem like a far-off dream. And it might not even seem like it’s worth it, for fear of scaring off a job offer.

But, never fear! It’s possible to negotiate a signing bonus right out of college — you’ve just got to know how to talk about it and seal the deal in a way that makes both parties happy. Read on for three tips on how to negotiate a signing bonus out of college:

Set yourself up to be competitive

A signing bonus means you’re an especially valuable and interesting candidate to the HR manager. The only way to make that happen is to make sure you’re especially valuable and interesting!

For starters, study hard and participate in class to make the grades and the relationships that matter. An excellent track record and high-quality recommendations from professors and employers will help cement your value in the HR manager’s mind.

Work within their budget

Signing bonuses don’t have to blow your prospective employer’s budget, a common misconception. Consider offering to have it come out of your salary!

Instead of asking for a salary plus a signing bonus, ask for a portion of your salary up front with a reduced salary the rest of the year. For example, if you are offered a salary of 33K, provide a counter offer of 31K with a 2K signing bonus. It’s the same cost for the employer, with an added bonus for you to get you started.

This will take additional planning on your part to ensure you don’t blow your budget, but it might help with the initial costs of relocating and securing an apartment or home.

Give a reason for them to work with you

Politely and respectfully address the topic of a signing bonus and be sure to share your reasoning. HR managers are people, too, so odds are they will understand a signing bonus if you explain you’re relocating, paying down student loans, or paying off costs of a new apartment.

It also helps to reassure the hiring team that you’re eager to join the team, and you’d love to find a way for both parties to be excited about the partnership!

Would you be open to trying to negotiate a signing bonus? Or would you rather have a higher salary to begin with?