Montana: by a Northern Californian

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-8-47-46-amIt is no secret that the majority of the University of Montana student body is made up of Montana born and raised students (we’re talking 74% in-state). It is also no secret that there are “Keep California Out!” signs on everyone’s lawn (not really).

“Oh where are you from?” – Seemingly interested older Montanan

“Sacramento, California!” – Me

“…I’m sorry…” – Now uninterested and bitter older Montanan

“I’m not 🙂 Thanks for having me!” – Smiling me

Take a minute to listen up. I may not speak on behalf of the rest of the Californians in Montana, but I have a perspective I’d love to share. The second I stepped on University of Montana’s campus I knew that it could be my home away from home. The city of Missoula, hell the state of Montana, felt like hugging someone that you haven’t seen in years. I’ve been here for 4 very short years and no, I don’t plan on staying, but yes I will be back to visit. The reason being that it offered the experience of a lifetime for this particular time in my life.
For anyone who’s interested, University of Montana allowed me to step away from most everything I knew in Sacramento (yes I had seen snow, every year in Tahoe minus the recent winters). I was able to clearly establish my values as a young adult, assess the type of future I wanted, and walk away with some of the best friendships I will have for a lifetime.
You see, us Northern Californians appreciate tall trees, snowcapped mountains, cleaning our campsites and wandering to find that adventure just doesn’t end. I can single-handedly agree that California has some extreme undesirables. But so does Montana (hello Meth Capital), so does Colorado, so does New York, and Wyoming and every other state you can name. How do you think Arizona feels hosting all the frail Montana old-timers looking for warm retirement? Probably a mix of “stay in your own state” and “please contribute to our economy; look we have handicap approved EVERYTHING!”

I’ll leave on this note. The amount of times that people think that I’m a Montanan prior to asking is remarkable. Let’s just say I’ve had to convince just about everyone I meet with a valid California drivers license. My experience with those who are excited to have me is what makes Montana “the last best place”. The nay-sayers couldn’t keep me out if they tried.

By: Lia Sbisa, proud Sacramento Native and Montana Visitor

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3 Companies you need to invest in. (You will never guess #3)

Three companies that have the potential to make you a great return on your stock investment.

1) Amazon (AMZN)    amazon

Thanks to their dominance in the online retail industry, Amazon stock has doubled in 2015. Expect this company to continue this exponential growth as they are breaking into the technology industry with cutting edge electronics featuring the Amazon Echo. Also, Amazon Web Services (AWS) continues to grow worldwide helping other companies improve their online presence.

2) Tesla (TSLA)tesla

While Tesla stocks have had some highs and lows lately, this company is on the verge of making astounding achievements in the transportation industry. Electric cars, and even more exciting, self-driving cars are the next big thing. Society’s push to go green and reduce carbon emissions only helps Tesla’s cause. By developing longer lasting batteries, and designing a more affordable vehicle, electric cars are bound to become mainstream.

3) American States Water Company (AWK)    water co

Most people underestimate the value of water stocks. While technology companies have great potential, the demand for water is guaranteed to rise as the global population increases. Some larger cities including San Francisco, Atlanta, and Albuquerque have borderline unsafe tap water. New an improved water treatment sites are in need. The fact is, the world can’t survive without fresh water, and the infrastructure needed to supply this demand is only going to increase.

Budget Hacks for the Young Professional

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Ever since we entered kindergarten many of us have dreamt of this time in our life: growing up. Growing up has always sounded so glorious. You finally get to have complete freedom to make your own decisions. This time in your life is now only a blink away and reality is starting to set in. You are now able to do what you want, when you want, and live where you want. You are no longer under the constant watch of your parents or instructors. With that comes the filthy truth you are also now in charge of the bills! We all hope to land a kick ass job right after graduation, and if you did, congratulations! But if you didn’t, here are some budget hacks for you, my fellow young professional, to help you through this transition period until you are the CEO of your dream company.

ONE: I’ll do it tomorrow… I’ll do it tomorrow… NO, TODAY!

If there was a degree given for procrastination, I would have my PhD. You might too, I know, I saw you in the library beginning that case analysis at 1 AM the night before it was due. Sure, I have some success stories that resulted from my procrastination, but I also have a lot of stories I never want to think about again. We do not want our financial situations to look like those failed projects, poor test scores, or garbage papers. Money does not grow on trees people! We cannot wait until the night before we leave the comfort of our college town to figure out how we are going to have enough money to get where we are going, to pay the bills, and to put food in our mouths.

TWO: 9-1-1 I need money, right now!

Emergencies happen, life happens. You can never be too careful. Be prepared so if your nightmares become reality you do not have to worry about how you will support yourself during a crisis period. It is vital to have a savings account with money that you do not touch unless absolutely necessary. It is likely that some of us will get fired, quit a job before we have a new one, have a family or medical emergency, etc. It’s not going to be all smooth sailing from here, we’re going to have some waves come and try to take us down. Let’s be prepared. Let’s not add eviction on top of a job which doesn’t work out. Word of advice: when you receive each paycheck put some of that into your emergency savings account. Put aside enough money that you are building up your account but not too much that you are forced to eat Ramen for every meal. This emergency fund should have enough money to at least support your basic needs for two months. Start this fund today!

THREE: Make budgeting your buddy. 

Set a reasonable budget for yourself and stick to it. This will not be easy at first, but it is going to be an important habit for any young professional. Create a monthly budgeting accounting for rent, utilities, groceries, any basic medical needs, and a little bit of fun money. If you have debt, make sure to have your monthly payments included in your budget. If you do not have debt, consider putting that money in your emergency fund. Write your budget down and track it closely. Insider tip: Excel is an easy tool to help you stay organized and on track with your budget. Start a spreadsheet and update it regularly to make sure you are still within your budget for the month. This could also help you to notice trends in your spending and areas where you could cut down your expenses. There are many apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet for easier budget tracking. There are so many of these apps that different apps may appeal to different users, so you have to do some exploring on your own to figure out which one works best for you. Here are my top three favorite budgeting apps to help get you started; Spending Tracker, HomeBudget, and Mint.com.

FOUR: Debt free with a degree! 

 You may feel as though you’re drowning in debt, but you’re not alone! You’re a young professional and having debt is normal. The task is to tackle this debt so that it does not impact you for the rest of your life. The last thing you want to be haunting you while you’re trying to get your feet on the ground is the big bad debt! College is expensive, I get it. Let’s take care of any debt you have acquired soon, as in start paying it off NOW! Once you have managed your debt you can begin saving for luxuries such as a Michael Kors bag, a weekend away at the beach, or whatever you wish. Be patient, those things will come over time but your debt has to be taken care of first. Also, be reasonable the point of paying off debt is not to accrue more.

FIVE: Credit cards: your best friend today, your nightmare tomorrow.

Credit cards can be fantastic. It might feel like play money, in-fact you might not even remember that you spent it until the end of the month. Sounds great, until the bill arrives and you were expecting a $75 credit card bill that somehow crept up to $750. If you want to use a credit card for the rewards they offer or to improve your credit, make sure you have the money to pay it off when the bill arrives. You do not want to acquire debt and end up paying interest when it is unnecessary. Credit cards can be helpful when thinking about applying for loans in the future for your next car or your first house, but they can also be so very dangerous if you are not responsible. So be very careful! If you cannot use a credit card responsibly, get rid of it until you are in the habit of closely tracking how you spend your money. Remember: as I mentioned previously, two ways you could track your spending would be through Excel or a financial app that tracks your spending.

SIX: So you’re in love… What about money?

You’ve found the one. He or she is absolutely perfect in every way. Moving in together would help with this whole budget thing too right? Maybe. Here are a few financial issues to consider before you take your relationship to the next level. Do your financial situations and goals match up? Does your partner have debt? If so, how much and is there a plan to pay off that debt? Consider this carefully before you decide to marry your partner and take on their debt.  If you have a serious partner, make sure you are having conversations about one another’s current financial situation and future financial goals.  If you are both on the same page, wonderful! If not, seriously consider the impact of this on your personal future and your relationship. It will be difficult for you to stay focused on your goals when you are around someone who is not as financially responsible.

SEVEN: Grey hair, wrinkles, grandchildren: let’s talk retirement!

Yes, I know, you’re only 20-something. Retirement is so far away but before you know it the time will come. Wouldn’t you rather be financially prepared than having to work forever? Start a retirement fund at your first job. Even contributing a small amount to a retirement fund is a significant contribution to your future. Because retirement funds are not taxed, you often can contribute with minimal impact on your take home pay. The sooner you start, the more security you acquire, so do not delay!

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This blog was written by Anne Hagerty. Anne is a senior graduating from the University of Montana in May of 2016. She is about to take on the real world as a young professional.

How to (Financially) Cheat Your Way Through College

By Katie Sears


If you’re anything like me (a woefully and eternally poor college student), you know that not even JC himself could make you pay $160 for that textbook or $9 for that cocktail. Or maybe you’re the parent of a student like me who only calls to chat when they need something. Something green. Preferably with Benjamin Franklin’s face on it. Or, maybe you’re one of the lucky few who miraculously managed to trick an employer into hiring you right out of college (we’re all glaring at you, btw) but don’t have the funds to relocate. Either way, there is no denying we’re all in need of some sound financial advice now and then.

Although I am a meager marketing major who struggles to fill out her 1040 EZ tax form, I am exceptionally proficient at keeping my wallet from hating me (too much). When it comes to penny-pinching and being cheap to the point of embarrassment, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Here are my tips and tricks for getting through college with just enough money leftover to take your SO out to Chipotle. 

Get two for the price of one
Commonly known as ‘Two for Ones’, this is a promotional deal where you can get two drinks for the price of one. It is also a lifestyle. Granted, the drinks are smaller and contain (what I’ve decided) is far more ice than usual, so who knows if we’re really getting a deal. It’s the thought that counts, right?
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Find that loophole
Here’s a lesser known fact: McDonald’s charges a small fee for dining in as opposed to ordering to go. So, order to go then eat in. So what if the charge is only 10 cents, I’m in college remember?
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Avoid the campus bookstore like the Plague
Three words for you: Amazon Book Rental. Seriously. Never forget it. One semester I paid $600 for textbooks from the University bookstore. This semester? $75. BAM.
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Dorm it up
If you are coming to college as a freshman, try to live in the dorms. Not only will you have 40 friends willing to give you emergency Ramen, but there is usually a ‘donate’ or Goodwill box on each floor. I’m pretty sure half of my clothes came from that box. As well as a lamp. And a rug. And a fridge. Which brings me to my next point…
treat yo self

DORM RAID!!
Once you lose the luxury of living three feet away from another sweaty human being, the dorms are the number one place to scour through on freshman move-out day. Freshmen don’t yet realize the realities of not having a meal plan and will throw away just about anything.
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Turn your coffee into money
One of my ex-boyfriends did (what I used to think was) the most horrendous thing: he re-used the coffee grounds in the pot for days on end. Turns out, he was just being brilliantly economical.
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Part ways with your plasma
If you haven’t given plasma yet at BioLife, you’re truly missing out on a chance to save the world. Or just pay your rent. Whatever.
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Get creative
Most adults use tables as, well, tables. And desks as, um, desks. But in college that just won’t do. My roommate and I use a mini-fridge as an end table. I have a crate that I use for a bedside table. A friend of mine once used cinderblocks and an old door as a desk. Waste not, want not.
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Free + Food = True Love
One thing I discovered early on in my college career was that free food rules all. Join clubs you’re not interested in, attend lame campus events and talks. Free food is like a beacon of light in the darkness that is your grocery bill.
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Invest in your Netflix relationship
Most people get the completely wrong idea about the first week of classes, especially freshman. While it is common practice to spend this time meeting new people, what you should really be doing is meeting new Netflix accounts. Friendship only lasts so long, free Netflix is forever.
could you not be here
Oh, Canada!
My last and most ingenious idea is something I have been doing ever since I went to Canada three years ago. When paying in change, I use Canadian dimes instead of American ones. No one has ever noticed and although I’m technically losing money thanks to exchange rates, I figure I won’t be going back to Canada anytime soon.
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