Pet insurance. Is it worth it?

Is pet insurance really worth it?

Veterinary care is a lot like health care for humans: Technology, medicine and lifesaving techniques are always being developed. Your pet’s doctor can offer more advanced treatment, but it comes at a cost. Faced with thousands of dollars in treatment after an accident or dire diagnosis, many pet owners are conflicted. Many people draw the line at spending $500 on vet care, forcing themselves into a difficult decision. Even fewer pet owners are willing to spend more than $1,000.

It’s not like people insurance.

Pet insurance has a higher profile lately, with an increasing number of carriers competing for owners’ dollars each year. Premiums can range from around $10 to $90 a month, with widely varying levels of coverage. If you have pet insurance, you’ll usually have to pay your vet up front, then file a claim for reimbursement. Most vet offices will help you fill out the paperwork involved.

So is it worth it?                    

Pet insurance can come in handy in urgent situations. Just like for people, emergency veterinary care is exponentially expensive. If your dog fractures its leg and needs orthopedic surgery, the bill could top $3,000. But that’s a rare situation, and pet insurance doesn’t end up saving most owners money in the long-term. The exceptions are pets that develop a rare disease that will require long-term treatment and pets with catastrophic injuries.

What if I decide to buy coverage?

Ask your veterinarian to recommend a few carriers. Vets don’t get kickbacks on this kind of advice. Compare a few different policies from different companies and read the fine print on maximum payouts and other exclusions. Including “wellness care” on top of accident and illness coverage for your pet will probably not be worth the higher premium you will pay, so consider leaving it out. Insure your pet when it’s healthy, and don’t cancel when it gets older unless you’re willing to deal with the consequences.

Check the coverage limitations.

Some plans cover wellness visits as well as emergencies; others don’t. Common but expensive ailments such as hip dysplasia are usually excluded under most plans. Some carriers completely exclude certain breeds, such as the Chinese Shar-Pei. Some breeds, like Labrador retrievers, will be covered for only one round of surgical object removal after eating, say, your shoe. Big breeds aren’t always covered for ligament repair after a common leg injury, and so forth.

Insurance isn’t your only option. Consider depositing a few hundred dollars a year into a savings account for unexpected vet bills. If your pet leads a relatively healthy life until old age, you’ll have money to spend if problems arise.

You can also save money in the long run by reducing your pet’s medical risk factors. Spaying or neutering, keeping current on vaccinations and dental cleaning, using heartworm prevention, and protecting your pet from fleas and ticks will put the odds in your favor. Feeding your dog a vet-recommended diet will also help. Even if you decide against insuring your pet, staying mindful about its everyday health can provide peace of mind.

Barter For a Bargain: How to Negotiate Your Bills

When it comes to basic bills, such as premiums or utilities, too many people think that the number they’re quoted can’t be changed. On the contrary, there are a number of bills that can, and should, be haggled. How you go about getting a better cost can be tricky but follow these steps and you my save yourself some coin.

Insurance

For something that gets used everyday, insurance rates are often overlooked as negotiable. This is not the case. You should review the premiums you pay for your car, health, home and life at least yearly. Call your agent and ask the following:

  • Can I bundle my insurance (i.e.: home and car) through your company?
  • Can you offer me as a discount for long-term membership?
  • Instead of monthly payment, will I save more by paying for the entire year?
  • Do you give discounts for features like anti-lock brakes, low-mileage, or no accidents?
  • Can I get a renewal discount?

You should also check with your HR department for additional discounts. Companies will sometimes form a partnership and negotiate rates with carriers on behalf of their employees. It never hurts to ask.

Utilities

Water, electricity, Internet, cable, cell phones – these are also services that most of us everyday. And, the costs associated with their use can easily be negotiated, too. For your cable or cell phone, threatening to switch carriers usually grabs the attention of customer service, so start there and see what happens. For your other utilities, the best method for lowering rates is to simply call and ask.

Hospital Visits

Most people assume that the numbers they see on their hospital bills are non-negotiable. This is not the case. Due to fluctuations in costs for everything from medical supplies to treatments, the range of rates for services can vary. When you call or stop by their offices, ask for assistance first, rather than demanding a discount. Arm yourself with knowledge by looking up average prices and be ready to ask questions.

For these, and all other utilities, the old saying about honey and vinegar holds especially true – the best strategy for lowering your bills through negotiation is to be prepared and to be kind.

How To Pay Off Student Loans (Faster)

The joy of graduating from college can be short-lived once you open your inbox and find an email alerting you that the first payment for your student loans is due. And yes, four-plus years of tuition costs can add up to some big numbers, but if you set some reasonable goals and adjust your spending, you can take on those loans and still find ways to enjoy post-grad life.

Ducks in a Row

In between job hunting or during your first-week orientation, you should figure out a plan for repayment. Gather as much information about your living costs as you can. Pull the paperwork for your loans, rent/mortgage and utilities, insurance premiums (health, car, home) and other payments (vehicle, credit cards, etc.). If you’re unsure about how much you’re spending on things like entertainment and groceries, you’ll need to compile the data for those costs, too.

Lay it all out in a spreadsheet or use an app to give you a clear idea of what you can reasonably spend, save and afford. Once you have those ducks in a row, it’s time to dive in. Give yourself a jump-start by actively finding ways to cut costs.

Start, Snip & Sacrifice

Once you know how much money you’ll have coming and going each month, you’ll be ready to trim some of your expenses. This doesn’t mean living on ramen noodles or with six untidy roommates. Instead, you can:

  • Cut the cable. Stream content through Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu and pick up a digital antenna for local channels. Don’t be afraid to haggle for the cost of your Internet connection, either.
  • Dig it. Want organic veggies? Skip the fancy grocery stores and plant some seeds. If you don’t have the outdoor space, search for local food CSAs in your area.
  • Hitch a ride. The daily commute can be expensive. Talk to your co-workers about a carpool or get in some free fitness by biking to and from your nine-to-five.

Once you start looking for ways to save yourself some money, you’ll likely start noticing opportunities everywhere. Further motivate yourself by making it a challenge to put an extra $25 or $50 toward each student loan payment you make. These amounts may seem small but they’ll make a big difference.

To pay off loans quickly, small sacrifices aren’t the only ones you’ll need to make. Look at jobs in smaller communities with a lower cost of living and keep your car as long as you can, even if it’s starting to look a little rusty. For some, the sacrifice isn’t objects, it’s time. A second, part-time job can help you make more than one payment a month.

Repaying your student loans may feel daunting but with some extra effort and a solid understanding of your budget, you can do it. After all, you got through finals week every semester, didn’t you?

How long did it take you to pay off your student loans? Have some tips to share? Tell us in the comment section.

What’s the real cost of tuition?

A college degree isn’t getting any cheaper. And neither is the price of food, medical expenses or just about anything else. The price of tuition is actually increasing four times faster than the consumer price index. Yikes.

If you or your kid are thinking about what’s next in life and feel college might be an option, it’s more important than ever to think critically about what career you want and the smartest way to get it.

The debt being created by tuition prices is a nationwide problem dwarfing that of credit card debt. More than 70 percent of students are graduating with an average of $33,000 in student loans, according to Edvisors.

So what’s the real cost of tuition? Depends who you ask.

A college degree has been valued somewhere between $185,000 (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) to $1,000,000 (U.S. Census Bureau) over a lifetime. However, those figures were calculated based on the economic conditions of past generations. College graduates today probably won’t enjoy the same return on investment.

Some sources claim a degree may even lose the graduate money over the course of a lifetime. As a result of a student loan debt, many degree holders will spend years attempting to pay off debt rather than save and build equity. Be careful about the debt you take on.

Think hard about the career you want – a degree may not be required. Debt can be kept low by attending community college first and avoiding private schools. Talk with parents, friends or trusted adults about options to keep debt low. Whether that means a part-time job or working summers, avoiding student loans wherever you can is a safe way to avoid long-term debt.

College enrollment has decreased for the last three years straight. And while this may eventually mean lower tuition, being smart about the debt you take on to get that degree may save a lot down the road.

A note from our Spending Freeze winner, Tricia Morgan

My name is Tricia and I am the winner of $300 from the Missouri Credit Union 10 Day Spending Freeze Contest. You might think that’s a lot of money! What is a college senior going to do with that? Well, let me tell you. That is how the journey began for myself. I thought “10 days… no spending money… what would I do with the money?” I then realized that I should probably plan for my 10 days of not spending. So, I did what any decent human would do: I filled up my gas tank, meal prepped as much as I could, and set reminders to write on the blog post every day. Around the second day of no spending, still contemplating on where the money should go, I received a e-mail from an organization I am in “Relay for Life Steering Committee” reminding us of what is going on in the Relay world. Then an imaginary light bulb went off in my head, I haven’t fundraised all of my goal yet for the Relay for Life walk, so what better way to raise my goal then to win the money!? It started out as a thought as simple as that, but then it became much more. I had my post shared by many of my friends, co-workers, sorority sisters, and my family, some guy from West Virginia was tweeting the link who I’ve never even met before. We were all staying up avoiding homework, first rounds, and messaging anyone who was online to go vote. Countless times I was asked, “is this really you or spam?” Relay members were coming up with ideas, Oreo balls if I won were thrown out there, and so much support from this organization. I then realized I wasn’t just raising money for my goal I was raising awareness. Our lovely advisor Emily really got to me when she was sharing my link and it read “That’s money that would give one cancer patient and their caregiver free lodging if they had to travel for treatment or would give 24 women one on one counseling during their cancer journey”. Can you believe that?! With so little effort I raised awareness and provided that? I can’t wait to see what we can do together before our walk at Mizzou on April 24th. I couldn’t be more privileged to donate this money instantly back to the American Cancer Society. For something that started out as raising money, this did so much more.

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To donate to Tricia’s team, click here.