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Back to School on a Budget: The Best Budgeting Apps

During college, budgeting your money can be difficult, especially at the start of the school year. Rent, tuition, books, activities, and the excitement of the new school year cause us to spend a lot more money than we would like. If you’re like me, one of the hardest parts of creating and sticking to a budget is having the discipline to continue monitoring it. Luckily, these apps make it easy to keep track of your spending.

  1. Mint: Best for in-depth budgeters

Probably the most popular free budgeting app on the market, Mint.com is geared towards helping you set a budget and stick to it. You can create guidelines for different categories and make a limit for how much you want to spend on those things. The budgeting app does the rest. In Mint, you hook up your bank account and the app automatically updates what you’re spending (and where) into one big spreadsheet, so you can easily see how much you spent eating out last week, and maybe make a goal to cook more this week. The alerts can keep you on track with your budget plan.

  1. Goodbudget: Best for simple budgeters who like a manual style

Goodbudget.com has you enter all your financial details — every transaction you make, every paycheck you get — and then helps you create “envelopes.” You never sync with your bank, credit cards, or any other accounts; everything is manually entered. You can sync your account with a spouse and other household members to stay on track.

These virtual envelopes are like categories in other budgeting apps. You’ll set a dollar amount that goes towards things like your home payment, auto loan, groceries, and more. The basic version is free and the plus version is $60/year.

  1. You Need a Budget: Best for intricate and super-detailed budgeters

Many budgeting apps allow you to link bank accounts so the app can track where your money is going. YouNeedaBudget.com does this but also gives users the option to manually add transactions to avoid linking bank accounts. This is helpful for those who don’t want to let third-party apps have access to their financial accounts – or those who prefer manual logging.

But if you do want to connect yours, you can. YNAB connects not only with major banks, but local credit unions and institutions as well. You can also add credit cards and then immediately set a goal for it, like paying off your balance over time or creating a budget to include your entire balance.

After linking all your accounts, you want to be monitored, you’ll give every dollar currently in your accounts an assignment. Rule No. 1 of YNAB is “give every dollar a job.” This means that you should not have any leftover money by the time everything is assigned. (If you do, leftovers can go towards emergency savings, investments, or retirement contributions. Or even fun things like birthday parties and vacations.) There is a 34 day free-trial, then the cost is $12/month or $84/year.

  1. Wally: Best for beginner budgeters

This budgeting app was designed to be both user-friendly and simple, helping users jumpstart the money management process. Like any budgeting app, you can track your income, spending, and budget. Wally.me also lets you store photos of your receipts and sends notifications when bills are due or you’ve reached a goal.

But what I really like are its location services. It saves locations where you shop often, making entering receipts a breeze. Wally is a free app available on iOS and Andriod.

Are you taking advantage of these great opportunities and still having a hard time creating and sticking to your budget? If so, schedule an appointment with Powercat Financial via the link on our website at www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial and a peer counselor would be happy to help you get on the right track!

Sarah Meenen

Peer Financial Counselor II






Jodi’s Corner: A Blog About Our Blog

Hi! I’m Jodi, the Director of Powercat Financial and coordinator of this blog. I am happy to share some details about the blog itself in this week’s post as we have several new blog subscribers. The blog serves 2 purposes as does Powercat Financial itself. We have a purpose to provide financial education to K-State students and we have an equal purpose to develop the professional skills of students who seek to work in financial services. This blog is ideal for both! Individuals can subscribe to the blog to receive an email notification for each post to the blog which imparts a financial tip. Typically during the fall and spring semesters we have about 1 post per week. We also share a link to the blog on our website at www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial and post them to our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. So there are several ways to gain access our blog. The topics vary but typically correspond with the student life cycle regarding financial issues that are timely. The peer financial counselor select their own blog post topic and must cite any references used. It is great experience for their professional interests. The blog has a handy search feature if you are looking for a post on a particular financial topic. It also has a word cloud on the right-hand toolbar to select from common money tip topics addressed in prior blog posts. Occasionally, I join in making a post which is then referenced as coming from “Jodi’s Corner.”

We usually like to make reference in our blog to any financial events that we are hosting so our subscribers can participate in our fun financial events as well.  We are currently hosting our online scavenger hunt, GET ON THE MONEY, where students complete a Google form by finding answers from our website for a chance at gift card prizes. You can learn more about it here: https://events.k-state.edu/event/get_on_the_money_online_scavenger_hunt?utm_campaign=widget&utm_medium=widget&utm_source=Events#.X0_-Z8hKiM8. This scavenger hunt ends September 11th at 5pm.

Then our next event will be co-hosting a financial comedian, Colin Ryan, for a virtual Zoom event on Monday September 28th at 4:00pm for all of campus to share in a few money laughs. We will share more details about this on our social media and website so stay tuned!

As always, we remind student that if they have any financial questions they can request a free, confidential client session with us via the link on our website at www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial. If you ever have a suggestion for a blog post on a particular financial topic, please email your suggestion to powercatfinancial@k-state.edu. Thank you for being a Powercat Financial blog follower and/or subscriber!

Jodi Kaus, CTFA, JD


Powercat Financial


Start Your School Year Right!

Although I know I’m not the first one to say it, “Welcome to K-State”! What a year it has been and what a semester it is shaping up to be. While it does not look or feel exactly like it did when we came to classes in August 2019, I for one am very happy to be back and seeing people walking on campus. I think that every time I come back for classes in Manhattan I get really excited to get a jump start on the semester, see friends I haven’t seen all summer and really decide how hard my classes will be resulting in several important things getting put on the back burner. One of these being my budget and savings. While I normally get back on track I often realize some mistakes that I make while moving back in, buying books/supplies and getting reacquainted with the day-to-day of a college student. The following are some random tips to keep your budget in tact while transitioning back to college life.

  1. Rent don’t buy

Books end up being something that always shocks me. The price that we pay for “require materials” can get pretty astronomical. I would recommend always renting books as opposed to buying. Also knowing people further along in your program or major can be beneficial as sometimes hand-me-down books work just as well as the brand new rental copy of the most recent addition. Renting from companies like Amazon or Chegg is very easy and normally a cost effective way to get the books you need. Before you go crazy buying every book that the syllabus lists, go to class and ask what the books will be used for. If you will need them on a weekly basis it is easier, in my opinion, to get your own copy. If they are needed less than that, go in with a friend or a class mate and rent one together to cut the cost down. You can then just meet together to study and use the book then.

  1. Furniture shopping is easy

Moving into a new apartment with friends can be a very exciting thing but going together on furniture can be more difficult than it seems. Talk up front about the plans for group purchases as you move out to avoid uncomfortable conversations. Be sure to ask people that are graduating or even family members if they have something laying around that you could buy from them. Often times it is smart to find a used couch or chair since college housing tends to be a little messy.  Facebook Market place or Craigslist can also be options to find cheaper furnishings for your house. You can also drive around college neighborhoods on move-out weekends and score some pretty nice couches, desks, chairs even televisions sitting on the street for anyone to pick up.

  1. Don’t let utilities get out of control

One of the biggest surprises and easiest arguments to get into with roommates is around utility bills. It is important to make a plan for how utilities will be paid, who will be in charge of what bill and how the bills will be split. There are several ways to evenly split bill payments. I have heard roommate groups assigning one person to do all of the bill payment and the bills are split evenly. Personally, my roommates and I each took one utility to take care of and Venmo request each other for an even split. Be sure to pay the utilities in a timely manner, not only to the company, but to each other. This will avoid frustration going forward. It is also important to keep the bills as low as possible. Turn off your lights when not using a room, take reasonable showers, and keep the temperature at a reasonable level. While it can be a really difficult conversation to have with your roommates, make a plan ahead of time and stick to it. Communication, and even a written document with all of your signatures, can help avoid frustration and keep everyone honest when it comes to dividing living expenses.

Although these tips could seem sporadic, they are important things to consider to keep your expenses down in places that you can control. Don’t let expenditures that you can control break your budget. Remember, no month is a normal month for your budget. If at all possible leave yourself some wiggle room for emergencies and don’t get frustrated if one month gets out of control. A budget is a living document that should change from month to month until you are consistently meeting your goals/expectations.

Remember Powercat Financial is available for online or phone financial counseling sessions if you’d like help with setting up a budget or managing your finances. Appointments may be requested via our website link at www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial.

Garrett Jackson

Peer Financial Counselor II

Powercat Financial


Starting Off Strong!

As we wrap up the first week of classes, I thought it would be a great time to share a quick reminder and three tips to help you stay on target during this semester that is unlike any other. Hopefully, you have noticed how excited everyone at K-State is to have students back on campus.  It is plain to see that we’ve been dearly missed, which is why I write this quick reminder. Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Bryan Samuel put it best, “Everyone has a role to play.” If we want to be able to stay in-person until Thanksgiving, we each have to do our part and take responsibility for our actions. We are family here at K-State and our family takes care of each other. Remember the 3 W’s: Wash your hands, wear your mask, and watch your distance.

  1. Ask for Help

Realizing you need help and asking for it is difficult! When finances are added to the mix, it can make it almost impossible to seek support. If you find yourself struggling financially, know there are many resources here at K-State to help.

Food and Hygiene Assistance: Campus Food Pantry- Cat’s Cupboard

Unexpected, Temporary Financial Obstacles: K-State Emergency Aid

Trouble Understanding Financial Aid: Set up an appointment with your Financial Aid Advisor

Financial Aid Issue: Financial Aid

Billing and Refunds: Cashier’s Office

Managing Your Finances: Financial Counseling- Powercat Financial (We’re always here to help! We offer presentations and one-on-one appointments.)

  1. Create a Spending Plan

Ever wonder where your money went at the end of the month or want to be more intentional? Then creating a spending plan is the perfect place to start. If you are wondering what a spending plan is, it is a written plan for your weekly/ monthly spending. Creating a spending plan is a three step process:

  1. Identify your expenses
  2. Create a spending plan based on those expenses, which can be hand-written, in excel or in an app
  3. Review your spending and then adjust your money behaviors

Simply put you will identify, create, and review. You will repeat this process every month. If it is not perfect the first month, don’t worry! It typically takes 2-3 months to get the hang of it.

  1. Borrow Wisely

After you have accepted your scholarships and grants, then it may be time to accept or apply for student loans. First, only accept what you need, it is not necessary to accept the entire amount offered if you do not need it to pay for your schooling. Before accepting or applying for student loans there are also two important differences to be mindful of. The first difference is between federal and private student loans. Private loans are entirely based on your credit score, which may sometimes mean you get a lower interest rate than the federal government is offering. However, it is important to realize interest rate is not always the most important consideration. You also need to think about future protection. The federal government offers more payment plan options, deferment and forbearance options, and loan forgiveness in very specific circumstances. Additionally, federal loans are discharged at the death of the borrower, while private loans are not. The second difference is that of federal subsidized and unsubsidized student loans. The main difference is who pays for the interest accrued during school, for subsidized loans the government pays it and for unsubsidized the borrower is the one who pays it.  We typically suggest students accept financial aid in this order: scholarships/ grants, federal subsidized student loans, federal unsubsidized student loans, and private student loans.

Remember, if you need any help with these or other financial topics, students can request a free session with us via the link on our website at www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial.

Additional resources:





Ana Sanko, Peer Counselor II

Powercat Financial


Powercat Financial Can Help You Create Your Personal College Financial Plan!

As time continues to tick on, financial aid packages for the 2020-2021 academic year will be posted in KSIS and as a student you will need to make decisions on what and how much to accept. This can get a little bit overwhelming but Powercat Financial is here to help. We can help you by creating a budget with our great tool called the College Financial Plan. A link to this worksheet if you’d like to utilize it on your own, and other helpful tools, can be found on the right-hand side of our website at https://www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial/planning/.

The College Financial Plan worksheet has multiple parts that our Peer Financial Counselors can walk you through to help you determine how much you may need to accept in loans to cover your school costs. An appointment with us to create your personal College Financial Plan includes assistance with the following:

  1. Estimating your personal costs for a month – this includes items like rent, groceries, and eating out.
  2. Translating the monthly amount to a semester total – this makes it easier to determine how much you will need in total for a semester since financial aid is offered on a semester basis.
  3. Calculating school-related expenses that are only paid for each semester – this would include tuition, fees, books, and supplies for specific classes.
  4. Factoring in payments from other sources – this is for funds that are not loans. For example, scholarships, family support, part-time work income and/or grants.
  5. Seeing the amount that still needs to be covered – this amount is the amount you will need to cover with loans or via out-of-pocket payment perhaps by signing up for the tuition installment payment plan.

This process is very important, not only will it identify how much you will need to cover in loans it can also identify if you have been taking out too much in loans. This can save you from taking unnecessary funds that can incur interest costs.

Powercat Financial would love to meet with you virtually through Zoom or telephone sessions to walk through a College Financial Plan with you or discuss any other financial questions you may have. You can make an appointment by requesting an appointment at www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial.

Rebecca Kuderka – Graduate Assistant

Powercat Financial



Financial Help Through Federal CARES Act Is Available

We are sharing below the K-State Today news release provided to students today (5-4-2020) by the director of K-State’s Office of Student Financial Assistance so students are aware of the CARES Act student emergency grant opportunity and criteria:

“Dear students,

Kansas State University is committed to helping those of you who are facing financial challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act established the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund through the U.S. Department of Education. K-State will distribute $6,343,277 from this fund among eligible students, which is intended to help students offset expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the coronavirus.

Expenses that can be considered for CARES Act emergency grant assistance include:

• Technology
• Health care
• Childcare
• Course materials
• Housing/rent
• Food
• Other expenses incurred in the spring 2020 semester as required by the federal act.

The CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding prioritizes reaching as many students as possible with the greatest demonstrated need. The Office of Student Financial Assistance will use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, data to determine a student’s financial need. Students who have not yet filed a 2019-2020 FAFSA may still do so at studentaid.gov

Under the U.S. Department of Education rules for the program, we may award these funds to students enrolled in at least one in-person class during the spring 2020 term and pursing an undergraduate, graduate or professional degree program at K-State. Students can apply for emergency funds through a short online application. Read more information and determine your eligibility. Students not eligible for CARES Act funding may apply for other emergency funding.

If you have any questions about the CARES Act Emergency Relief Fund, please contact our office at finaid@k-state.edu.

K-State Strong,

Robert Gamez
Director, Office of Student Financial Assistance”

Please let other K-State students know about the CARES Act emergency grant opportunity who may not follow our Powercat Financial blog! Other K-State emergency aid is available as outlined at https://www.k-state.edu/sfa/aid/emergency-aid/.

Remember Powercat Financial is available for online or phone financial counseling sessions which may be requested via our website link at www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial.

Jodi Kaus, Director

Powercat Financial