Know Your Budget

You will want to identify your budget BEFORE you start looking for a rental!

Initial costs

There are a lot of up-front costs required when renting for the first time. Some things to consider that you will have to spend money on:

  • Furniture (mattress, table, lamps, etc.)  Find a list of thrift stores in this guide!
  • Household Items (towels, dishes, cooking pans, etc.)
  • DEPOSIT:  The deposit and first month's rent is due at lease signing.  The deposit is usually the same as one month's rent

Other costs associated with living off-campus:

  • Renter's Insurance: Not a huge expense, but this is probably something you did not factor into your budget. Coverage typically costs between $10 and $20 per month. Learn more here
  • Utilities: Some rentals bundle these into your monthly rent payment, but many require the tenant to pay water, electric, and gas. Clarify this with your landlord before signing your lease.
    • Tips for managing your electricity bill:
      • You can find out the average cost of electricity for the property by calling Northwestern Energy.
      • Budget billing allows you to pay the same amount each month. Your monthly rate is the average charge calculated from the previous 12 months usage at the property. Sign up for this free service with Northwestern Energy. It will save you from getting hit with huge energy bills during the winter months. 
  • Internet: Usually not included in rent. Factor in the  up-front cost of purchasing a router if you don't already have one.
  • Lawn/snow removal: If your lease states that these are the tenant's responsibility, you may want to consider budgeting to hire someone for these services. Many students find that they do not have time to keep up with yard maintenance. And if you plan to leave town for winter break, you will have to arrange for someone to shovel your walk while you're gone.  
  • Transportation: If you plan on commuting by car, factor in gas costs as well as the cost of purchasing a parking pass on campus. Remember that it's free to ride the bus!
  • Pet Rent: If you have furry friends don't forget to factor in the additional costs that come along with them. 

Get an idea for your monthly expenses...

Check out some of these budgeting tools designed to help you determine how much you can afford to pay in rent:

On-campus or off-campus...which is cheaper?

Assuming you've determined that you're not required to live on campus, finances are probably your next consideration. There are a few factors that determine the cheaper option.

  • Travel: If you are going home or leaving Missoula for Winter and Summer Break, or spending a semester out of town, living on-campus may be cheaper.
  • Food: Living in the Residence Halls requires that you purchase a meal plan. On one hand, this is an added expense, but consider the time and hassle you will save on grocery shopping, cooking, and eating out (assuming that you will fall behind on said grocery shopping and cooking).
  • Transportation: Parking, gas, insurance, and maintenance can add up. Before snapping up that bargain-priced apartment outside of town, read up on your transportation options.


The best of both worlds: university-owned apartments

The university-owned apartment-style rentals are often a great option for students who want the off-campus experience. Because you are renting from the University, you do not need to worry about being ripped off by a landlord or that your rental will not be maintained. These options are close to campus and more affordable than other options in the area. Learn more about university-owned apartments.



More questions?  Or would you like us to read over your lease BEFORE you sign?

Make an appointment to speak with us!