Should You Keep Your Student Health Benefits or Opt Out?

When I became a student a couple of years ago I was pleasantly surprised that I had a student benefit plan. The plan that my school offers is basic, but I still I am able to go for regular cleanings at the dentist (every 6 months) and get some medication at a lower cost than I would normally pay if I didn’t have the benefit plan.

Considering Canada has universal health care, as well, having benefits is icing on the cake and has saved me a few bucks since I started going to school.

pics of doctor and patient

Via https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattlemunicipalarchives/

Before I enrolled at school I wasn’t covered by benefits, because I had to come off of my parents plan just a year before. Unfortunately, I had hit the age where I was supposed to be independent (and was, for the most part) so their plan just didn’t extend to cover me as well.

Here are a few considerations when you are thinking about whether to keep your student health benefits or opt out of the benefits to save the cost:

Are You Covered By Another Plan?

Though this might surprise you, even if the answer to this question is yes, you may still want to keep your benefits through your school.

Often, younger students or students who are employed have benefits through their workplaces or under their parent’s, so the knee-jerk reaction may be to opt out of your school benefits, but consider what health or dental things you may want to take care of in the near future. If you have two benefits plans, one can cover the outstanding costs that you may incur because the other doesn’t quite stretch that far.

Can You Get Better Benefits for Less Money Elsewhere?

Yep, sometimes school benefits are more expensive and give you fewer options than if you were to get private health and dental benefits through a company like Pacific Blue Cross (if you are in Canada).

Do a cost comparison to look at what you want out of your benefits, and what you’ll use. Keep in mind that if you want basic benefits that will afford you the ability to have your teeth cleaned every six months and payment for medications if you fall sick, you probably won’t have to pay very much for them.

What Are Your Health Needs?

Benefits are great if you have some health needs that you’ll need coverage for. Physiotherapy or chiropractor services are examples of such benefits. However, many people don’t have the need for those things. Look at the cost of your health needs and what you would be using your health and dental benefits for, and then compare the cost of it if you were just planning on paying up front.

You may be surprised to find that you will spend less just paying up front than paying for benefits, through school or a private insurer.

 

Do your due diligence and ensure you know the costs of the options before you cut or keep your student health and dental benefits. 

Cheap Date Ideas for College Students

One of the most exciting aspects of college is being surrounded by like-minded, like-aged new friends and experimenting by dating lots of different kinds of people. But it can get pricey if you’re going out once or twice a week and spending time and money with new people!

cheap date ideas student

Image credit

But just because you don’t have the cash doesn’t mean you can’t have an impressive and memorable date. If you’re planning a fun night out for you and a prospective sweetie, here are five ideas that will be a pleasant surprise and won’t set you back on your student loan payments:

1. Look at your dining plan and see if any restaurants will accept your meal card

Some universities partner with local restaurants to provide deals for students. Do some research on your meal plan to find out if any local restaurants accept your meal card. At the very least, inquire about a student discount or student night to save a few dollars no matter where you go.

2. Get the most out of University events

Universities know you’re trying to impress on a budget, so they often sponsor free or low-cost events. Look up Student Relations for ideas and upcoming events to escort a date to. Events can range from fundraisers for special causes, nights at the college planetarium, or just attending a free lecture and talking about it with your date.

3. Enjoy the great outdoors

Many colleges and universities are located near regional outdoor beauty. Near the Smoky Mountains? Take a date for a hike and a picnic. Within an hours drive of the Grand Canyon? Sounds like a romantic, outdoorsy kind of date to us. Make the most of your local flavor.

4. Re-live a childhood memory

If things are getting serious, an appropriately romantic date idea would be to re-live a particular childhood memory. Does your date fondly remember a 5th birthday party at a skating rink? Re-create the event (complete with streamers and balloons from the dollar store) for an extra-special surprise.

5. Make music together

Ready to be really creative? Go on a music-themed event by gathering all of the musical instruments you have access to (ask around, you’d be surprised) and creating and recording a hilarious song with your date. No expensive equipment required — just pop out your iPhone or recording software on your Mac and let the hilarity ensue.

What did we miss? What’s the best (cheapest) date you’ve ever been on?

Would You Let Your Family Pay For Your Education?

When I was in high school I was very envious of those people who had families that would/could afford to pay for their college educations. They were being set up for success financially because they wouldn’t start their professional lives in mountains of debt like many people do.

When I started college after spending the summer and my senior year working, I had saved up enough money for the next few semesters’ worth of tuition and living costs, and I quickly became not-so envious of those students whose parents were paying their way.

While I do not pass judgement on anybody for accepting the tuition money from their parents, there are a few reasons why I have decided that I would not allow my parents to pay my tuition if it were offered to me (but it probably never will be anyway).

Independence

I enjoy my independence from my parents. As much as I love them, I just don’t think I’d love feeling that because I’m taking their money for my tuition, I am dependent on them.

If you are dependent on somebody they should have a say in the choices you make, and I am more than happy making my choices by myself and based on what I’m feeling and my own decision.

Even if my parents didn’t try to influence my choices, I would feel bad if they were paying so much money for my education if I didn’t ask them their opinions or take their advice.

Learning about Money

I have always been relatively good with money since my first job but I think that being a student who has to pay for almost everything up front without student loans or parental help has helped me learn even more about money, like budgeting and making a dollar stretch.

I know how important it is to work and save and invest, because I rely on my income from all of those things so heavily.

More Responsibility

I take a lot more responsibility for my education and choices than some of my peers who have their educations paid for by somebody else (even loan companies) but that might just be me. I always turn in homework on time and get to exams on time and try to take steps to ensure that I will get a job after graduation and so many of my classmates think it’s all a joke.

They aren’t paying attention in class and not showing up or showing up after a night out and almost falling asleep in their seats. it depends though on the classmate, and I don’t know that who pays for their education really defines how well they do in school so it could come right down to personality.

Timing

Because I don’t have the money to drop out of one program and start up another, I have to stick with my original major, and therefore I will probably be in school for less time than those people who switch majors because they have the money to do that.

I think if I had it paid for I would be less decisive and firm with my major and potentially end up in school for a lot longer because not every dollar counts, because it’s not my money.

My mom has a friend whose daughter dropped out of her program during her last semester prior to graduation. My mom’s friend is livid and swears that if her and her husband had not paid for the education, her daughter would have finished up and been a teacher by now. It’s just one example but it’s interesting.

 

Did you pay for your own education, take out debt, or did your family help you out? What are the pros and cons?

Should You Start a Blog to Make Money In College?

Blogging can be quite a lucrative career, so I hear. Lots of people make a decent amount from blogging and there’s also a handful of bloggers in the personal finance community who have been able to quit their day jobs to blog full-time. If they aren’t blogging full-time, many admit that their blogs led them to clients by increasing exposure and presence online, thereby allowing them to quit.

Michelle from Making Sense of Cents, and Holly from Club Thrifty are among those personal finance bloggers who have been able to do this, and I’m sure it extends much farther than just the personal finance community.

There are plenty of posts about making money blogging, so I won’t get into that, but I think there could be some interesting dialogue to blogging for a living as a student. From my perspective, here are some pros and cons to it.

how I make money online

how I make money online

Blogging is Work That Expands Your Knowledge and Helps You Network

Even if you are a reader of blogs, you can learn a lot from them. For instance, before I began my post-secondary education I began reading personal finance blogs so I could get a better handle on my money while I was in school. I learned a lot and even some more academic stuff, so I was able to carry that over and use it in my education.

Furthermore, if you live in a larger city, you will find that there are quite a few bloggers in that city that you can connect with, thereby helping you build a nice network of people.

Blogging to Make Money is Hard Work and Requires a Lot of Time

Depending on what type of student you are, you likely don’t have a ton of extra time between midterms, finals, classes, homework, sports, and perhaps a job. Blogging can take a lot of work, even if you aren’t doing it for money. If you want to make some money from your blog you have to put a lot of effort into it.

I think people underestimate the work of professional bloggers because they generally get to work from home, but it’s still tough stuff!

Blogging Requires You to Put Yourself Out There

Especially in college when you have a lot of first impressions to make when you start searching for a job for the first time, you have to be very careful online. Blogging really requires you to put yourself out there on the internet. Because of this, you could be treading some dangerous waters if you post anything that might be misconstrued even slightly as irresponsible, unprofessional, or silly.

Many people have anonymous blogs, which is fine too, but it’s harder to make money from anonymous blogs from what I understand.

Blogging is Location Independent

Hey, as long as you have Wifi or even old school ethernet internet, you can blog. This is great because you don’t have to work around a store’s schedule. You can blog in your spares, from bed, and even be interactive on social media while you are taking public transportation to school.

This is one of the biggest pros of blogging for an income when you are in college; it really is flexible (like any work-for-yourself-online work) and can provide a reprieve for students and families from the 9-5 cubicle job and the daily commute.

You have to look at whether or not the location independence of blogging for to make money outweighs the sheer amount of time and effort it takes, which will be up to you.

The bottom line about blogging for an income…

The bottom line is that, like any income producing activity, blogging can be challenging and isn’t right for everybody. You will have to look at your lifestyle to see what works for you. You could always start a blog for cheap (you don’t have to put a lot of money into your first year like I did) and see where it takes you. Maybe you’ll hate it and then you’ll know to move on; maybe you’ll love it and find a passion. Either way, it never hurts to try.

Is blogging for an income something you would have done as a student?