Financial Tips for Freshmen

Top 10 Money Tips Every Freshman Should Know

The college season is back in full swing and you are a college freshman. Congratulations! You’ve worked hard to get here. Right now, you are very busy, finding your way around campus, meeting new roommates, exploring new classes and new teachers. And, if you are like the majority of college students, you are hoping you can afford college without too much of a financial burden in the future.

Financial Tips for Freshmen


There is much you can do right now to take control of your financial future by saving wherever and whenever you can. Treat personal finance like a second major and you can avoid unnecessary expenses now, reducing your financial burden when you graduate.

Calculating a Budget

Here are some helpful money management tips.

  • Create a budget. You’re an adult now and are responsible for managing your own finances. The first step is to create a realistic budget or plan and stick to it.
  • Watch spending. Keep receipts and track spending in a notebook. Pace spending and increase saving by cutting unnecessary expenses like eating out or shopping so that your money can last throughout the semester.
  • Use credit wisely. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. Use it, but don’t abuse it.  How you handle your credit in college could affect you well after graduation.  Shop around for a card that best suits your needs.
  • Take advantage of your bank’s resources. Stockman Bank and most banks offer online, mobile and text banking tools to manage your account night and day. Use these tools to check balances, pay bills, deposit checks and monitor transaction history.
  • Lookout for money. There’s a lot of money available for students — you just have to look for it. Apply for scholarships, and look for student discounts or other deals.
  • Buy used. Consider buying used books or ordering them online.  Buying books can become expensive and often used books are in just as good of shape as new ones.
  • Entertain on a budget. Limit your “hanging out” fund. There are lots of fun activities to keep you busy in college and many are free for students.  Get the most from your student ID.  Use your meal plan or sample new recipes instead of eating out.
  • Use only your bank’s ATMs. Avoid fees by using ATMs owned by or affiliated with your bank. If you must use an ATM that is not affiliated with your bank, take out larger withdrawals to avoid having to go back multiple times.
  • Expect the unexpected. Things happen, and it’s important that you are financially prepared when your car or computer breaks down or you have to buy an unexpected bus ticket home.  You should start putting some money away immediately, no matter how small the amount.
  • Ask. This is a learning experience, so if you need help, ask. Your parents are a good place to start. Or, you can contact your Stockman banker. We are always ready to help, and remember—the sooner the better.

Bank Disclosures

Interest Rates

Lower Rates, Not Just a Lower Payment

Ron Culver

Ron Culver, VP, Real Estate Market Manager Bozeman area.

It’s a cycle as predictable as time itself; mortgage rates take a dip and the advertisements touting lower monthly payments for your home loan fill your mailbox/inbox. We find ourselves in the thick of that phenomenon right now as the interest rates for residential mortgage loans are at lows not seen since 2017. And sure, refinancing into a lower rate can lessen your monthly payment compared to what you have today, however opportunity knocks on all kinds of doors when rates take a plunge.

For example, have you considered reducing the term of your loan?

How about getting away from that Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) that may have some impending volatility? Or even using some of the equity in your home to do something to improve your home like a bathroom remodel (who does not stay awake at night dreaming of how much fun that is). The truth is that lower interest rates offer so much more to a homeowner (or potential homeowner) than just a lower payment.

Interest Rates

Let’s take a quick look at the possibilities:

Reducing the term

Most people default to the good ol’ standby of a fixed rate mortgage with a long repayment term. Did you know there are other options available? Fixed rate mortgages are often offered on terms ranging from 10 to 30 years. Loans with shorter terms are within the realm of possibility and all can become more of a reality as rates fall.   Your monthly payment may go up as the principal balance is repaid over a shorter time period, however the amount of interest you pay over the life of a shorter term loan can be drastically less than that of the more traditional long terms options. We can do the math for you, it is compelling. I promise.

Turn your ARM into a fixed rate loan

I’m sure if you have an ARM product, you chose it because of the lower initial interest rate during a predetermined introductory period. Will that rate begin its annual adjustment dance soon? If so, check out fixed rate mortgage loans, they may be cheaper than you think. And best of all, the rate will not change!

Accessing the equity in your home

The possibilities of accessing current equity are almost endless. Chances are, if you’ve been in your home for any length of time, you have some equity built up.

  • How about using it for a trip to Starbucks, in Barcelona?  Americans don’t take vacations like folks in other countries, and as a result, we have the highest stress level of professionals in the world (or so the scientists say).  Taking the family on a vacation is a great way to hit the reset button and enjoy this amazing world we live in.
  • Looking for a nicer/bigger/better home to live in but can’t find anything on the market that suits you?  How about turning your existing home in to your dream home?   Using that equity to remodel is a great way to keep the kids in the same school district and still upgrade to the fully automated home with the “she-shed” out back you’ve been dreaming of.
  • Maybe you have had enough with cold winters and you want a winter get away someplace warm.   Equity in your primary home can be used to purchase a 2nd home where you can play golf 12 months a year.
  • If a vacation home in SoCal isn’t your thing, maybe a piece of land on a river on the other side of the state will be step one of your ideal retirement.

Toxic loan programs

Many fell victim to some less-then-ideal loan programs that were prolific during the years leading up to the great recession. There are still more than $430 billion worth of those nasty loans out there. If you have one of them, it is a great time to take a look at how to kick it to the curb and replace older loans with something more traditional and appealing.

Debt consolidation

Credit card interest rates are horrible. Loans on “toys” can be very high interest. Student loans can be burdensome. Maybe a recent divorce has caused some discomfort that can be paid off. Refinances that put dollars and cents in your bank account can help consolidate debt in to one payment with an interest rate that will most likely be far less than those other consumer type loans.

Lower rates mean more affordability

It’s amazing how much a .25% reduction in a note rate can impact how much home you can qualify for. If you’ve visited with your local lender in the past and found out the monthly payment on that dream home was just a little out of reach, pick up the phone and call again. It’s possible that with a lower rate, the payment on that same dream home may be within reach now.

Payment reduction

Maybe you don’t need to access equity to buy/pay things down. Maybe it’s as simple and wanting to drop your monthly mortgage payment by a decent amount.

The benefits of a lower interest rate environment are nearly endless

Talk with a Stockman banker. Talk with your accountant. Let’s see how this unprecedented rate environment can benefit you and get you on whatever financial path you’d like to be on. Who knows, the next chapter of your financial future may be closer than you think….or maybe it’s waiting outside right now and you just have to open the door and walk outside to make it happen.

Open the door

Bank Disclosures

Love and Money Scale

Love and Money

By Shannon O’Hare – Real Estate Loan Officer and Ron Culver-VP Real Estate Market Manager – Bozeman

Shannon O'Hare - Bozeman Ron Culver - Bozeman


According to the Beatles, “All You Need is Love.” While that may be right, it is possible for love and money to work together! Yes, the relationship between love and money can be complicated and different for everyone. On the one hand, there are people who absolutely love money. That relationship can be fraught with peril if a healthy perspective isn’t maintained. Then there are those who might trade in all their money to find love; be that love for another or love for life. Montana has many examples of people who left big money careers elsewhere to move here and find a new love of life and happiness in this beautiful place we all call home.

Love and Money Scale

One of the fascinating similarities between love and money can be found in having it versus sharing it.

For example, having love is wonderful; sharing it with another can be life-altering. Likewise, having money is good, but sharing it with those you love can be rewarding. That may be as simple as buying a cup of hot cocoa for someone on a cold winter day. The protagonist of Charles Dickens’ tale “The Christmas Carol” personifies this when Ebenezer Scrooge discovers the joy in sharing wealth far exceeds the joy of hoarding his millions.

10 Dollar Bill in a Heart Shape

As we take on a new year with new opportunities and new goals, how can we share our love and/or money with those closest to us?

We have a recommendation. A new home!

After all, home is where the heart is! Also, few things in life build wealth better than owning a home. And few places in life are better suited to foster the love of friends and family than the comfort of a home. The dream of homeownership is one that we strive to bring to fruition for our friends and customers. There is nothing better than coming home after a day on the slopes with Montana’s famous Cold Smoke or hiking in the pristine wilderness alongside one of our state’s many mountain lakes. It makes it all worth every penny.

Blue house in snow with icicles

If you think homeownership is not within your reach, think again! Traditional home-buying is often achieved with spouses pooling their resources, but did you know that you can buy a home with loved ones other than spouses? Friends, business partners, siblings or just about anyone you want to share the investment, can buy a home together. Or you can create all of your own love by forging ahead on your own!


We have had the opportunity to develop and learn a number of strategies to help people get into homes over many years that we would love to pass on to you. After all, knowledge that isn’t shared is like love that isn’t shared… it might never reach its full potential.

Having an heirloom like a home, or the potential equity that comes with homeownership to pass on to your loved ones is something to be proud of long-term.

We know that buying a home (or even refinancing the one you have) can be intimidating to even a seasoned home owner. As with many things in life, the first step to overcoming a stressful topic is simply having a better understanding of it. Talking to someone about money, credit scores, or even a budget can go a long way. Your local Stockman mortgage lender is available to have that conversation, without pressure, to transact business.

CLICK HERE to start a conversation with one of our mortgage professionals today. Let us help you open the door to your new home.

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