Best Budgeting Tools for College Students
When learning to manage your finances, establishing a budget while in college can help you understand where your money goes each month.
You may work toward greater objectives like paying off student loan debt, vacationing, and accumulating money for future milestones like relocating to a new place after college if you have more understanding regarding your spending and saving practices. Even if your spending may be lower while in college, now is a good time to start keeping track of your money. Your budget, which you establish today, will be useful throughout your 20s and beyond. Additionally, as your income and spending patterns change, you only need to make minor adjustments after the budget is established.
Best Budgeting Tools for College Students
A well-known free program called Mint makes setting up and maintaining a budget simple. This program enables you to create a budget based on many categories, such as weekly dining expenses or college textbooks and other supplies. You can create your categories and set financial restrictions on how much you are willing to spend in each. When you link the app to your bank account, Mint creates a spreadsheet to record all of your expenditure for each category. This gives you an easy way to quickly examine how much you’ve been spending in each category so you can decide where to make budget modifications.
For college students, Wally is a free budgeting program that aids in tracking spending. You will need to write in your transactions as you make them because it doesn’t automatically record them as some other applications do. On the plus side, Wally doesn’t require you to connect your bank account to use it to its full potential, which can provide security assurance. You can enter every transaction you make once Wally is downloaded to check how you’re doing with your budget. You may find it simple to identify potential areas for spending reductions if you can quickly assess your budget.
3. Personal Capital
If you’re concentrating on investing or saving for retirement in the future, Personal Capital is a useful money-saving tool to utilize. With the help of this software, you may calculate your net worth using an asset allocation tool and view your investments on your dashboard. In order to gradually increase your personal finances, Personal Capital can also help you keep track of how much you’ve saved and how much you’re spending. This program can provide you with information on your progress based on data from all of the accounts you connect to it, which is useful if you’re saving for retirement and utilizing it to plan ahead. You can use this information to guide your decisions on where to cut costs and where to save so that you can change your budget as necessary.
An program called EveryDollar is made to support zero-based budgeting, which entails deducting all of your spending from your income until you reach $0. This program uses Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps to teach college students how to save money and control their spending, including how to accumulate a $1,000 emergency fund and put up to six months’ worth of expenses in savings. By using this program, you can aim to reduce or eliminate your debt so that you can concentrate on building a solid financial future. The upgraded version does it automatically for a price, whereas the free version requires you to manually enter transactions.
The money-saving app Albert does more than just record your expenditures and personal finances. When you install Albert on your devices, you’ll also get advice on how to reduce your spending in certain areas, like canceling a membership you hardly ever use or cooking more frequently in place of going out to eat. Additionally, Albert gives you the option to SMS financial experts, which can assist you in making wise financial decisions. For instance, based on your budgeting data, you might be able to ask an authority whether or not you ought to make a specific purchase.
Another budgeting tool is Dollarbird, however it functions differently from many other money-saving applications, like Mint. Instead of categorizing expenditures, this program bases tracking of spending on calendar systems. By using this strategy, you may find it simpler to handle your personal finances on a daily basis as opposed to a weekly or monthly one. To utilize this software, you must manually enter your transactions rather than having them entered for you. Additionally, Dollarbird asks you to confirm recurring purchases, which makes you more conscious of your daily spending. With the help of this tool, you’ll be able to determine how well you’re sticking to your spending plan and whether you need to make any changes.
An program called Goodbudget uses digital envelopes to assist you in creating and managing your budget. Depending on how many envelopes you use, this software enables you to keep track of your spending for a year or longer. You may manage your budget with this app on a variety of devices. It may be simpler to track your spending at home on your tablet or laptop or on your phone when you’re out and about if Goodbudget lets customers have two devices on one account. In addition, Goodbudget features a debt tracker function that can show you how much more money you’ll need to pay off your debt or how far along you are in the process.
With the help of the budgeting app Simple, you may make and stick to a budget by connecting it to your bank account. The software provides an easy way to monitor your spending and gauge how far you are from exceeding your budget. This program will allow you to automatically track your income and expenditures rather than having to manually enter this information. Simple has a feature that tells you if you’re remaining within your spending limit or if you should stop. You can easily manage your banking and budgeting in one app rather than having to manage two different apps thanks to its connectivity to your bank account.
With the help of PocketGuard, you can keep track of your expenditures and adhere to your spending plan. This app keeps track of your spending based on how your budget is set up so you can see if you’re on track to stay within your budget or if your finances might use some improvement. If necessary, PocketGuard also offers suggestions on how to cut back on your spending, which can aid in better money management. You can also use a feature to check your budget to see if you have the money to buy something. By using this software, you can avoid using your credit cards for large transactions or incurring unforeseen costs that push you over your spending limit.
With the aid of the app Chip, you can effortlessly manage your finances, increase your long-term savings, and prevent overspending. When you link Chip to your bank account, you gain access to tools like spending analytics, establishing savings objectives, and tracking saving streaks to see how long you’ve been able to save. The program can also be used to calculate how much money you should set aside each pay period for savings. You must check to see if your own bank is supported because only a limited number of banks are able to link to Chip.
Mint Budgeting App
Mint is a budgeting program that includes a variety of functions to aid with spending planning and tracking, bill negotiation, and even credit monitoring. Although Mint’s owner, Intuit, mainly relies on advertising to make its service free, it does provide an ad-free paid tier as well as a premium tier that offers additional features—both of which are reasonably priced.
Here’s everything you need to know about Mint and whether it would be a good fit for you if you’re considering using a budgeting app to help manage your finances.
How the Mint Budgeting App Works
Although there are other budgeting apps with free features, Mint may have the most extensive selection. You may link all of your financial accounts to receive a complete financial picture, plan and track your income and expenses using resizable categories, and gain knowledge about potential ways to enhance your money management.
Along with a VantageScore credit score, Mint also provides a credit monitoring service. Though the VantageScore might provide you a good picture of your credit health overall, bear in mind that 90% of the biggest lenders utilize the FICO Score, which is generated in a different way. To put it another way, your credit score may not necessarily reflect the same situation that lenders perceive when you ask for a loan.
Mint comes with several helpful tools you can leverage to make the budgeting process go more smoothly and also to make better decisions about your money. Here’s what you can expect:
- Direct import: When you connect your financial accounts, Mint will automatically import transactions as they post, so you don’t have to check each individual account every time you update your budget.
- Automatic categorizing: When transactions get imported, Mint will automatically categorize them for you based on transaction data. You can make changes if you need to, but the automatic feature can save you a little time whenever you review your spending.
- Goals: If you have a savings goal, you can set it up in your Mint account and track your progress toward it. Ideas include a vacation fund, holiday spending, a down payment fund and other short- and mid-term savings objectives.
- Alerts: Mint will notify you when the cost of your recurring subscriptions increases, your bills are due, there’s unusual spending, your account balances are low and more.
- Investment tracker: Mint can help you keep track of your investment portfolio and even spot unnecessary fees your investment advisor, 401(k) provider or broker may be charging you.
- Resources: Mint offers a wealth of resources, including calculators to help you with retirement, paying off debt, investing and more, as well as articles that can educate you on just about any personal finance decision you need to make.
- Paid features: While most of Mint’s features are free, it does offer a premium version, which comes with a modest monthly fee. With that, you’ll get help with canceling subscriptions you no longer need, spending projections to help you avoid overspending and money spotlights to help you understand your spending habits as they compare to other Mint users.
The majority of Mint’s features are available for free. However, the budgeting software has numerous adverts, which might be bothersome. You must pay $0.99 a month if you don’t want to see advertisements. The monthly fee for Mint’s premium version, which can make your budget even more effective, is $4.99, which is still less than what many other budgeting apps charge.
Owner of both QuickBooks accounting software and TurboTax tax preparation software, Intuit, which also owns Mint, is well-versed in data protection.
The business employs a number of security precautions, such as multifactor authentication, security scanning with VeriSign, biometric authentication, security notices, and others.
You can remotely wipe your data from the app if you misplace your device. Your information will also be removed if you opt to close your account.
- Very easy to set up and use
- Once your accounts are connected, the approach can be very hands-off, meaning you can come back anytime and catch up
- Connects with an exceptionally large number of financial institutions, making almost all U.S. and Canadian accounts connectable
- Free to use
Best Free Software for Budgeting
Managing your money successfully includes keeping a close eye on your expenses. One way to do that is to take advantage of free software and services. Free personal finance software can be surprisingly robust, helping you track spending, create and manage budgets, and run reports.
The creators of Quickbooks and TurboTax, Intuit, offer a free online budgeting tool called Mint. This software gathers all of your financial information and provides you with a summary of your spending, bills, budget, and credit score. You may set objectives and reminders, make your own budget, and sync your data between the web and apps. Encryption and multi-factor authentication improve security. To keep track of your money and portfolio, utilize Mint.
Access Mint via the web or phone apps for iOS and Android.
GnuCash is desktop software; its features include tracking bank accounts, stocks, income, and expenses. GnuCash is based on double-entry accounting for balanced books and you can run a number of reports to see your financial data. GnuCash also offers small-business accounting tools that let you manage customers and vendors, handle invoicing and bill payment, and even payroll.
GnuCash is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, BSD, and Solaris. There is a companion app for Android that will let you track expenses on the go and later import them into the desktop software.
AceMoney Lite bills itself as the best Quicken alternative. You can manage your budgets, track your finances in multiple currencies, keep an eye on your investments and analyze your spending habits. You can also do online banking. As this is the lite version, you’re limited to two accounts; the full version supports unlimited accounts.
AceMoney Lite is compatible with Windows and Mac OS X.
Personal Capital offers free financial software for tracking investments and planning for retirement, in addition to its tools for cash flow, spending, budgeting and net worth. Personal Capital’s focus is on investments, showing you the performance of your portfolio over time and helping you make decisions for the future, so its budgeting components aren’t as robust as other software.
If you’re not an investor or prefer fine-tuning your budget to getting the broad view, Personal Capital may not be the best fit. However, if you want to save for college or retirement, its free tools will show you whether you’re on track.
Personal Capital can be accessed via the web or apps for Android and iOS.
Buddi is an open-source budget software that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems and has been translated into multiple languages. Buddi can encrypt financial data with a password, and it’s designed to be easy to use even if you have no financial background.
Features include budgeting, tracking accounts, and personal finance reports, but you will have to enter transactions manually. Free plugins add more features, and the online user manual is easy to read and use.
Buddi is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Free Budget Spreadsheets
If you don’t need fully featured personal financial software and you’re just concerned about keeping a budget, there are some great free budget spreadsheet templates you can use with Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice Calc or Google Sheets. Just download and open them in your spreadsheet software to get a handle on your cash flow.
- Can only set a budget for the current month
- Because Mint can be used in a more hands-off way, it may not prove effective for some users in saving money, paying down debt, etc.
- Web interface design is less attractive and user-friendly
- Web and mobile interface includes ads and offers
Budgeting for College Students
How to create a budget while in college
1. Calculate your net income
You might be taking a part-time job or an internship while in college to help pay for your education and cover living expenses. Additionally, you can receive money from loans, grants, scholarships, or a monthly allowance from your parents. Your monthly income is a crucial component of your budget since it establishes the ceiling on how much you can spend.
You should figure out your net income, which is the amount of money you make after taxes, before starting to create a budget. Regardless of whether you work full- or part-time, if you receive a monthly paycheck from your company, the sum that is put into your bank account is your net income.
Try to determine an average amount that you can typically count on each month if you are an hourly worker whose hours vary from week to week and month to month. Choose a lower amount so you don’t run the risk of going over budget.
In order to avoid being caught off guard by a hefty tax payment at the end of the year, you should deduct taxes from your salary and store them in a separate account if you make a living as a freelancer. You can estimate your yearly tax obligation using the TaxAct calculator, then divide that figure by 12 to obtain an estimation of your monthly tax obligation.
2. List monthly expenses
The next step is to make a list of all your monthly expenses.
3. Organize your expenses into fixed and variable categories
It’s necessary to determine which expenses are constant and which are variable after listing your monthly costs.
- Fixed expenses are bills you typically can’t avoid and need to pay, including text books, rent/room and board, groceries, transportation, insurance and debt repayment.
- Variable expenses are more flexible and often include wants, like a gym membership, travel, dining out and entertainment purchases.
You could always cancel your gym membership, put off your vacation, or cut back on your takeaway spending if your income dropped. However, you’ll probably always have to pay for transportation, insurance, and rent or room and board.
4. Determine average monthly cost for each expense
List your monthly spending for each expense once you have distinguished between fixed and variable costs. To determine the amount, use your bank and credit card statements.
It is simple to put a dollar value on the cost of many fixed expenses you incur because they often remain constant from month to month. For instance, your monthly expenses for rent or room and board, a food plan, insurance, and phone service are probably going to be the same. Some variable costs, like your gym subscription, could also have a defined monthly cost.
Some fixed and variable costs, however, are not predetermined. Renting an independent apartment away from school means paying for utilities like gas and electric, which can change from month to month. The same holds true for household products, takeout, and groceries.
You’ll need to use math to establish the average monthly cost for any categories where your spending varies from month to month. The math is rather easy to understand: Divide by three the total amount spent over the course of three months on an expense. You might wish to increase the sum by five or ten percent. You might wish to set the spending cap at $125 or $130 if your three-month average grocery expenditure is $123.
5. Make adjustments
Making sure the numbers add up requires comparing all the data you acquired during the budgeting process. See if you have enough money coming in each month to pay all of your bills by comparing your net income to your monthly spending.
It’s time to change your lifestyle if you can’t afford it. In addition to thinking about strategies to increase your income, such as working more hours, you should also examine ways to reduce your expenses.
This can entail spending less on varying costs, including restricting takeout orders and canceling subscriptions to streaming services you don’t use frequently. Additionally, you might want to modify some fixed expenses to account for rising costs. To save more money when you shop for groceries, clip digital coupons ahead of time and choose store brands over name-brand products. Find a new place to live that has lower rent if you’re planning to relocate.
It’s critical to adhere to your budget now that you’ve put the effort into generating it. Following your budget while in college can assist in debt repayment and help you graduate with sound money management skills that can assist in achieving long-term life objectives.
Setting up reminders to enter daily costs into your budget will help you stay on target. Set alerts as you near your spending cap for certain expense categories if you choose to utilize a budgeting tool. With your bank or credit union, you may also set up transaction notifications, which will let you know if you’re getting close to a defined spending cap.
Make sure to update your budget if there is ever a change in your income or expenses.
There are many ways to cut your college expenses, but it’s important to use a budget to set your priorities and choose the right tools. By tracking your college expenses in a spreadsheet, you can see how much money you need to save each semester in order to reach your goal. Additionally, using a cool Calculator trick or budget calculator can help you cut down on costs. With careful planning and dedication, you can make sure that you don’t have to sacrifice quality time at school in order to save on college expenses.