College students have so much on their plate between attending multiple lectures, completing assignments, and studying for tests. Some college students may even hold a part-time job that they must juggle in between their class schedules. It’s also typically their first experience with having student loans, paying for rent, etc. It can be overwhelming for the average student to suddenly be responsible for money management.
Spending too much is a common problem for many adults as many personal finance gurus will tell you. So, how does a student handle budgeting, college life, and managing their own finances? Getting credit score monitoring is definitely not the answer. Luckily, there are plenty of budgeting, investing, and personal finance tools and apps out there that can help. Budget apps can help college students manage their money through college, save, and invest in the right way. Using one in this stage of life will make it likely to build better spending habits and money management skills in the future.
Let’s take a closer look at budgeting apps and why college students should take them into consideration for their money management. We’ll examine how these apps can help, what they do, and give your our picks for the best budgeting apps for college students that can greatly benefit your finances while in school.
Benefits of Using a Budgeting App
You can review website after website about budgets, but it’s not going to make a difference if you don’t practice what you preach. In these times, most of us don’t keep a notebook to keep track of expenses or use a checkbook for each transaction. A budgeting app allows us to do all this with a couple of taps on your phone. This makes the process a breeze so it is much easier to stay on budget.
You can find areas where you might be overspending because you’re separating your purchases by categories. If you have savings goals or want to make a big purchase, you can also set these goals and adjust accordingly.
What to Look for in Budgeting Apps for College Students
With so many budgeting apps out there, how does the average student know what to look for? Follow these tips to learn what to look for in an app as a student who wants to manage their money better while in college.
Decide on your Goal
The app is simply a vehicle to help reach your goals. Decide on what financial goals you hope to achieve and match those up with the app that will help get you there.
The app is available for your Device
Not every app supports Apple, Android, or other operating systems. An app that’s not available on your device is not going to help you. So focus on looking at the budgeting apps available for your device. We’ll discuss recommendations for budget apps that are available in the App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android) since these are the platforms that most college students use.
Free Trials and Free Versions
Let’s face the facts. As a student, you don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on a budget app. Budgeting apps for college use must meet the budget of the average college student, which means that you should be able to try it at least for free.
Using a budgeting app for a short while will tell you whether or not it’s a tool that you will find useful. You might have to supply your email address, but it’s worth it to test out whether an app will work for your needs. There’s usually a free version you can use for a while to do just that. You can always unsubscribe from their email list later.
Now, it may seem counterintuitive to pay for an app that helps you budget. But if the budget app can maximize your college student income and minimize expenses, it’s going to be worth it.
Can Sync it with your Bank Account?
The best budgeting apps will feature ways to synch your existing bank account with your budget. This allows spending to get tracked automatically on the app when using debit cards to pay for expenses such as a phone bill.
Good Security features
Multi-factor authentication that will prove your identity through your email address and/or cell phone should be a standard. Every financial tool should have these features.
Ability to Customize Spending Categories
These apps will typically have preset categories that you can use for expenses like food, rent, and other common expenses. But you may want to track your transactions in a different way as a college student. Look for one that allows you to customize your spending categories so that you can itemize your expenses according to your needs.
Best Budgeting Apps for College Students
Your finances are much easier to track and manage with your mobile device. You can keep up with your expenses while having the college funds to use on study sessions at the coffee shop or celebrate the end of finals with food. The best budgeting apps will make personal finance in college more manageable.
Below is our list of the best budgeting apps and the features we find most useful for managing your income and expenses as a college student.
Mint is one of those budget tools that you’ve probably heard someone like Dave Ramsey mention. You can’t talk about the best budgeting apps for students without talking about apps like Mint. So why does Mint stand out as a budgeting app? Well, Mint offers a secure connection with your existing accounts. That means all of your transactions are automatically inputted into your account so you don’t have to review all your bills and track expenses.
You’re spending more time analyzing where your spending is going than the manual work involved with tracking all your spending. Having a budget could not be made easier when you use Mint as your app for your personal finance needs. If you want to learn more, check out our complete Mint review here.Click Here To Get Started
PocketGuard is great for students who find it hard to keep track of their transactions or tend to overspend. After considering your bills, goals, and necessary expenses, PocketGuard will show you how much money you have to place in other categories. It’s easy to track your expenses using the chart that shows you how much you can spend in each category.
Since you can use PocketGuard to track all your accounts (bank accounts, credit cards, and more), you can easily budget your money using its features. You can keep track of your income, emergency fund account, savings, and more using this feature to see what funds you have leftover each month. The automatic alerts provide you with the option to save more money by reviewing your billing statements. This feature will look at your bills and show you ways that you could save on your account through promotions for example.Click Here To Get Started
Wally is one of the best apps for college students because it has a feature that provides a visual overview of your spending. Students can easily see what their basic necessities are. Signing up for an account provides you with a calendar view of your bills so you never miss a payment.
Another feature that the company offers is a “joint banking” option that allows you to put together a budget for the entire account (group). Syncing your bank account(s) will also allow you to take advantage of finding insights into your cash flow and spending habits.Click Here To Get Started
Simple is an app that can be linked up to your bank accounts so you can create a budget to follow. This way of tracking your spending is effective because you get real-time information on how you’re tracking with your budget. One of the other best features of this app is that you can track all your income and expenditures so it’s not a separate process. Staying on top of your spending equals more savings for you. And the convenience of tracking all your banking needs in one puts you in a place where budgets are easy peasy.Click Here To Get Started
For all the Dave Ramsey fans, EveryDollar is the best choice for those who want to make sure use of Baby Steps to get out of debt and maximize savings. This is one of the best apps to use if you’re using the zero-based budgeting method. With the help of this app, you can work on keeping free of debt or paying it off. That allows you the freedom to work on the rest of your financial goals.Click Here To Get Started
If you’re focusing on personal finance goals like investing or saving for retirement, Personal Capital might be the best option for you. The dashboard allows you to view your investments as well as determine your net worth by using the asset allocation tool. You can also keep track of your savings and your spending so you can make the most of your finances.
Using this tool, you can get a sense of your retirement savings by connecting your retirement accounts. Plus you can use this information to figure out where you might need to reduce your spending, where you could save money, and ways to adjust your budget.Click Here To Get Started
This money-savings app does much more than helping you keep track of your budget and spending. You’ll get suggestions from Albert on how you can save money. For example, it may suggest that you cancel a subscription or cut down on dining out.
You may also receive text message notifications from finance experts that will help you make decisions on how you spend your money. That means you could send a text message to ask an expert whether based on your budget, you could make a specific purchase or not.Click Here To Get Started
Dollarbird works differently from other budgeting apps like Mint because of how it tracks expenses. It uses a calendar system, instead of categories. This way of tracking your budget is easier because it uses a daily approach to spending. In order to use this app, you’ll have to manually enter your transactions.
Recurring transactions will also have to be confirmed and placed on the date that occurs each month. Despite these manual processes, Dollarbird is useful for determining if you need to make adjustments to your budget.Click Here To Get Started
Our last choice of the best budgeting apps is brought to you by Goldman Sachs. Now, Goldman has recently shut down its Clarity Money app. They had originally purchased the Clarity Money in 2018. The features and capabilities of this app have to lead to the creation of this financial management tool.
Users get a top-down view of all their financial accounts, insights on their spending, plus a snapshot of their budget that’s available monthly. In order to use this app, you must be a current customer of MarcusClick Here To Get Started
What is a Good Monthly Budget for College Students?
The monthly budget for a college student can vary widely depending on several factors such as geographic location (cost of living varies from city to city), whether they’re living on-campus or off-campus, whether they have a meal plan, personal spending habits, and more. That being said, here is a broad guideline for a monthly budget:
- Housing: If not living on-campus, students will need to budget for rent. This can range from $300-$1,200 or more per month, depending on location and whether they have roommates.
- Groceries: A reasonable range might be $150-$300 per month. This can be lower for students on a full meal plan.
- Dining Out: This depends on personal habits, but perhaps $50-$100 per month.
- Transportation: This could include gas, car maintenance, insurance, public transportation costs, or bike maintenance, and could range from $50-$200 per month.
- Books and Supplies: These costs often hit at the start of a semester, but if averaged out, they might come to $20-$50 per month.
- Personal and Miscellaneous: This includes toiletries, cell phone bills, laundry, clothing, and can range from $50-$100 per month.
- Entertainment: This includes social activities, streaming service subscriptions, hobbies, and can range anywhere from $20-$100 or more per month.
- Healthcare: If not covered under a family health insurance plan, students may have to budget for health insurance. Even with insurance, out-of-pocket costs can average $50-$100 per month.
- Savings: It’s also a good habit to start saving, even if it’s just a small amount each month, say $20-$50.
Remember, these are only estimated amounts and can vary greatly depending on the student’s lifestyle, habits, and personal circumstances. It’s always wise to track one’s own spending for a few months to understand personal spending patterns and create a realistic budget.
How Can College Students Save Money?
College is a time of learning and growth, but it can also be a challenging period financially. However, there are many strategies that college students can use to save money:
- Budgeting: A well-planned budget is the foundation of good financial health. Track your income and expenses, set spending limits, and stick to them.
- Textbooks: Buying new textbooks can be extremely expensive. Instead, consider buying used books, renting books, or using digital versions. Also, check if your university library has the book you need.
- Food: Instead of dining out or ordering takeout, learn to cook simple, healthy meals at home. If you have a meal plan, use it to its fullest.
- Student Discounts: Many businesses offer student discounts. Always carry your student ID and don’t hesitate to ask if a discount is available.
- Housing: Living on campus can be expensive. If possible, consider living off-campus with roommates to split the cost of rent and utilities.
- Transportation: If possible, use public transportation, bike, or walk instead of having a car, which comes with costs like gas, maintenance, and insurance.
- Limit Credit Card Use: Credit cards can lead to overspending and debt. Use them sparingly and try to pay off the balance each month to avoid interest charges.
- Entertainment: Take advantage of free or low-cost entertainment options on campus or in your local community. Many colleges offer free activities and events for students.
- Work-Study or Part-Time Job: If your schedule allows, consider getting a part-time job or work-study position to earn money. Just make sure it doesn’t interfere with your studies.
- Avoid Unnecessary Expenses: Small expenses like daily coffees, eating out, or subscription services can add up. Consider cutting back on these non-essential items.
- Save on Utilities: If you’re living off-campus, turn off lights when you leave a room, unplug electronics, and use energy-efficient bulbs to save on your utility bills.
- Sell What You Don’t Need: If you have items that you don’t use or need anymore, consider selling them online or at a yard sale.
- Plan Your Courses Wisely: Dropping courses or changing your major multiple times can lead to extra semesters and more tuition. Try to plan out your schedule to graduate on time.
- Use School Resources: Many schools offer free resources, such as gym access, tutoring, mental health services, and more. Take advantage of these.
- Start Saving: Even if it’s just a small amount each month, starting a habit of saving money can help with unexpected expenses and future financial goals.
Remember, every little bit helps when it comes to saving money in college. The habits you form now can set you up for financial success in the future.How Can College Students Minimize Debt?
How Can College Students Minimize Debt?
Minimizing debt during college can be a challenge, but it’s certainly possible with careful planning and discipline. Here are some strategies:
- Choose a Affordable School: Consider the cost of tuition, room, and board before choosing a college. Community colleges and state schools often offer quality education at a lower cost than private institutions.
- Apply for Scholarships and Grants: These forms of financial aid do not need to be repaid and can significantly reduce your college expenses. Start your search early and apply to as many as you qualify for.
- Work-Study and Part-Time Jobs: If your studies allow, consider getting a part-time job or work-study position. The money you earn can be used for living expenses, reducing the need for loans.
- Limit Loan Amount: Only borrow what you need. It might be tempting to take out extra student loans for living expenses, but remember that you’ll have to pay it all back with interest.
- Use Student Loans Wisely: Use your student loans for tuition, books, and housing. Avoid using these funds for non-essential items like entertainment, dining out, or vacations.
- Community College First: Consider attending a community college for the first two years to complete your general education requirements, then transfer to a four-year institution. Community colleges often have much lower tuition rates.
- Live Frugally: Keep your living expenses as low as possible. This might mean living with roommates, cooking at home, using public transportation, and avoiding unnecessary spending.
- Avoid Credit Card Debt: It’s easy to fall into the trap of using credit cards to fund a lifestyle you can’t afford. If you do use a credit card, make sure you can pay off the balance each month to avoid interest charges.
- Attend College Full-Time: If possible, attend college full time and aim to graduate in four years. The longer you stay in college, the more it costs.
- Plan Your Courses: Changing your major multiple times or dropping classes can lead to additional semesters of work. Try to have a solid plan of what you want to study, and stick to it.
- Start Paying Off Interest: If you have unsubsidized student loans, the interest starts accruing while you’re in school. If you can, start making interest payments to prevent your loan balance from growing.
- Save and Invest: Even small amounts saved can add up over time. If possible, start an emergency fund. If you have a job, consider a Roth IRA for long-term saving.
Remember, the key is to live within your means and make wise financial decisions. The habits you develop now can set the stage for your financial health well beyond your college years.
Bottom Line: Budgeting Apps For College Students
The best budgeting app is the one that you will use. It’s not going to make a difference in your financial life if the app is just sitting there on your device and never used. Try a few of these budgeting apps out and decide which one works for you and stick with it.