Over half of all recent MSU graduates hold a student-loan debt of $24,000 dollars or more. To put things into perspective, that’s 3,000 hours of working at a minimum-wage job, one-tenth the cost of an average home, or 48,000 tacos. Put another way: twenty-four grand is a shit-ton of cash.
College should be a fun and rewarding experience, not a time to worry about falling into crippling debt—so start pinching pennies now instead of taking out more loans. Here’s a list of practical and creative methods to save some cash.
Get Books for Cheap
Remember that you’re in college to learn (we hope). Inevitably you’ll have to spend more money on books than you want to. Besides giving yourself time to shop around for the best prices, try a few of these tricks:
· Ask if a friend owns the book you’re looking for. Bribe that friend with a case of beer, wash his or her car, etc. Do whatever you need to do.
· Check out the library. Most professors will place a copy of your textbook on reserve. Read it there, take notes, or make a few photo copies to take home.
· Make friends the first few days of class and split the costs of a single textbook. Take turns with the book or hold group study sessions.
· Wing it like Maverick and Goose on Top Gun. Legend speaks of a chosen few who have made it through class without a book. It’s not easy, and we’re not advocating this to just anyone, but it can be done.
Stop Paying for Gas
A car is a blessing and a curse. The Bozeman area has dozens of places to visit by vehicle, so you can find out why Montana is called “the last best place.” But with gas, insurance, and maintenance, road trips can rapidly move down the priority list.
Biking, on the other hand, is away of lifefor many Bozemanites, as many ride to class year-round. What you lose in convenience, you’ll make up for in savings—the cost of maintaining a bike for a year averages a paltry three hundred bucks, compared to eight grand for a car. Not to mention that pesky MSU parking permit—$160 buys a lot of frozen burritos.
Try Bozeman’s awesome Streamline bus. As a free community service, these big yellow beasts run year-round, offer late-night service, and have routes to nearly every section of town. They’ve got racks for your bike and comfortable seating, so when you’re pooped or the weather’s crappy, hop onboard and take a break. For all you guys and gals who love to hit the powder, winter routes to Bridger Bowl and Big Sky are available on weekends and MSU holidays.
Eating & Drinking on the Cheap
If you’re not careful with your money, it will slowly sink into the quicksand of groceries, eating out, or even that daily cup of coffee. Living like a monk is one solution to saving cash, but not a fun one. Keep track of how much you spend, look for deals, and think about these tips:
Use coupons. You can only eat PB&J twice a day for so long, so enhance your intake with coups. In addition to the various coupon books found around MSU and Bozeman, the MSU Pocket Guide
has nearly 50 cash-saving coupons
many of which let you eat like a king on a pauper’s wage. Play “restaurant roulette” the next time you hit the town—flip through your Pocket Guide, find a coupon, invite some friends, and live beyond your means for a night.
The U.S. Department of Health notes that college students spend about $5.5 billion per year on alcohol, mostly beer. If you find yourself heading to the bar, bring only a predetermined amount of cash. Twenty bucks should be enough for a decent evening, especially at the Molly Brown
, the Haufbrau
, or the Eagles
(check out the 2-for-1 drink coupon in this year’s Pocket Guide). It’s easy to get swept up in the moment and buy a round for everyone, but while this may make you a popular friend, it won’t do much for your wallet.
Be Creative with Your Leisure Time
If you think weekends in this town are a bust, you don’t know Bozeman. Music, art, outdoors; choose a topic and chances are there’s at least one event to pique your interest. If you make smart decisions and use a bit of creativity, you can have fun and save money at the same time. Try planning a picnic at the M, go window-shopping downtown, throw a disk in Rose Park, or check out a cheap concert at Reynold’s Hall. Any of these activities less than the movies and can be a lot more fun.
For additional money-saving tips, check out the MSU Pocket Guide’s Twitter feed or Facebook page for daily updates on area events, or visit our parent publication, Outside Bozeman, for an in-depth list of activities in the local area.