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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






About Powercat Financial

Director of PFC