Saving money in college isn’t always as fun as spending it—at least, not in the moment. But whether you’re steadily saving funds for the future or stretching your budget in the day-to-day, every little bit adds up. And while we think Bozeman might be one of the best places to live, it’s not always the most affordable. No matter what your wallet looks like or what your bank account balance is, making smart money moves today can lead to big wins in the future.
We’ve put together this top 10 list of money saving tips for college students (Bozeman edition) to give our Bobcats a few fresh ideas on making the most of your money.
10 Money Saving Tips for College Students
Tip #1: Buy & Sell Used Textbooks
Books are a significant cost for any student. Montana State University suggests students budget $1,450 per year for books & supplies, but the MSU Bookstore tries to make course materials as affordable as possible. Once you have your course schedule, you can use the MSU Bookstore online portal (or visit the bookstore in person) to compare prices on new, used, rental, or digital copies of your books. Keep book buybacks on your radar, online and in tents around campus, the Friday before and the week of finals.
Tip #2: Buy Secondhand
Thrifting is your money-saving best friend. It’s more affordable, better for the planet, and a treasure hunt for unexpected finds. Scope out Sacks, Cash 4 Clothes, or Treasure Emporium for thrifted finds, and Re-Couture, Rare Bird, and Bozeman Vintage for quality consignment and designer items. On the hunt for a winter jacket, pair of skis, backpack, or even running shoes? Play It Again Sports sells new & used sporting equipment at great prices, and Second Wind Sports offers a massive selection of outdoor gear and clothing. Shopping online at Facebook Marketplace, local Facebook groups, and Poshmark can also be a great way to find just about anything at less-than-new prices.
Tip #3: Try Free & Affordable Activities
Looking for something fun to do that won’t break the bank? Spend some free time in nature by hitting the trails for a hike or taking your friends to hang out by the river. It won’t cost a thing besides gas and snacks! Want to be part of the local scene? Check out a free community event like Music on Main or the Farmers’ Markets. Are you a cinema fan? Drop in for a discounted movie showing at the Procrastinator Theatre.
Tip #4: Utilize Student Discounts
Plenty of spots around Bozeman offer student discounts, including coffee shops, gyms, yoga studios, restaurants, and clothing stores. If you’re not sure if your favorite shop has a discount, don’t be afraid to ask (better safe than sorry!).
Bozeman may not have many brick-and-mortar electronics stores, but be sure to look for student pricing or “education edition” when buying from Apple, Best Buy, Dell, HP, Microsoft, and more.
Tip #5: Save on Food
Have a campus meal plan? Take advantage of what you’re paying for by grabbing a snack on your way out. Meal plan holders are allowed to take a bagel, piece of fruit, or dessert to go. If you’re making your own meals, planning ahead can save extra time and money. Make a grocery list ahead of time, planning out for the week ahead. Pro tip: try not to shop when you’re hungry, as your cart will fill up quickly with food items that sound good in the moment but never get eaten. Enjoy going out to eat? Try making group dinners with friends once a week. Cooking together can boost your confidence in the kitchen with new recipes, and it will save everyone money to buy and cook in bulk. If you do eat out, consider opting for lunch or happy hour instead of dinner. Most restaurants have better pricing earlier in the day or offer 2-for-1 discounts, for example.
Tip #6: Take Care of Your Belongings
Taking good care of what you have today will help save you money tomorrow. This might not seem like one of the most obvious money saving tips for college students, but it’s a life skill that will help you for years to come. Keep your furniture clean and store your sporting goods out of the weather when you can. Put those float tubes and SUPs out of the sun and rain, and bring your skis inside instead of leaving them in the ski racks. If you take care of your things, you might even be able to resell them later. If you’re a renter, you can protect your security deposit by keeping your house or apartment in good condition.
Have a car? Keep up with maintenance to avoid preventable repair costs. For many vehicles, it’s easy to learn to change your oil, brake pads, and battery.
Tip #7: Pay Bills on Time
A $30 late fee here and there will add up. Be sure to keep track of when your bills are due, and pay on time. If you can’t pay the total amount, don’t ignore the bill. Many businesses will work with you to set up a payment plan, which can avoid major hassles down the road (and protect your credit score). It can be tempting to skip a payment or ignore an invoice, especially when your checking account balance is low. However, keeping up with dues is one of the most vital money saving tips for college students. Have a credit card? Avoid interest fees by paying your balance on time, too.
Did you know your timely rent payments can boost your credit score? Ask your landlord if they use a rent reporting system. If not, there are many paid and free options. Search “rent reporting services” to learn more.
Tip #8: Pass Your Classes
This one feels like a no-brainer, but it makes a massive difference in the long run. Failing classes is like burning money. Take advantage of your opportunities by having good attendance, studying, and showing up for tests prepared. That way, you don’t have to pay to retake a class!
Tip #9: Start a Personal Checking Account
Debit cards and personal bank accounts are ideal for college students because they are simple to manage and help with budgeting. Creating a monthly budget tracking what you spend money on, when things are due, and where you can make changes to your planned expenses—is the most critical part of saving money and spending it wisely.
With various checking account options and an excellent support team, Bank of Bozeman is one of the best banks in Montana for college students. Our Simple Checking Account is easy to set up and use, and our Green Checking Account is eco-friendly with fully paperless banking.
Tip #10: Start Saving for the Future
If you are in the position to start putting away even a small amount of savings or looking for another smart way to pay for college, Bank of Bozeman can help you set up a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are tailored for retirement savings, but you can use them to set aside and grow funds for any purpose at any age. Our team can also help you set up an auto-deposit to start building your savings, transferring money from your checking account to savings in small increments that earn interest.
Another great savings option for college students is a Health Savings Account. These accounts are designed to help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses without putting you in debt. HSAs also have the benefit of helping you tuck away pre-tax funds with no taxes on growth (interest) or most withdrawal fees.
Whether you’re a seasoned saver or an aspiring budgeter, we hope these money saving tips for college students gave you a new idea or two for your money management toolkit. Bank of Bozeman is always here to help answer your money questions. We offer judgment-free advice with dedicated support to help you along the way. Please contact our team if you have any questions or want to learn more about getting a Montana savings account or checking account set up.