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10 Best Budgeting Apps For Students That Actually Work

10 Best Budgeting Apps For Students That Actually Work
Ashley Sutphin Oct 19, 2019
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Budgeting is extremely important, and it can help you achieve your biggest financial goals, whether that’s paying off debt, starting a retirement fund, or saving for a big family vacation.

Budgeting is one of the most fundamental aspects of financial management and personal finance, but it’s something a lot of people don’t do for different reasons.

You might not have a budget, for example, because you feel overwhelmed as far as where you should even start.

You might be afraid even to sit down and take a hard look at your finances and what’s going out versus what’s coming in. It can also be tough to see how much overspending is really affecting your finances.

Budgeting can be time-consuming as well, which is one more reason some people avoid it.

Stop avoiding it and see the benefits a good budget can have on your finances and your life.

Luckily, if you’re overwhelmed by the prospect of creating and sticking to a budget, technology can help.

There are many great budgeting apps available so you can control your finances and get a grip on your spending directly from your mobile device.

Before delving into the 10 best budgeting apps, gain perspective into the benefits of budgeting, and how to make it work well in your life.

What Are the Benefits of Budgeting?

To get you motivated to start and stick to a budget, consider the following benefits:

  • When you set and maintain a budget, it gives you control over how you spend and save your money. When you have control, you don’t have to think about unexpected expenses, because a good budget will have even emergency expenses and some padding built into it. Even if you don’t make as much money as you’d like to, having control over your finances is a good way to move into a better financial space.
  • If you have certain money goals, whatever they may be, a budget is a great way to keep up with them. You know what’s coming in and going out, and you don’t have to sit back at the end of the month and wonder what happened to all your money. You can prioritize where you want your money to go, rather than spending so frivolously.
  • Having a budget allows you to be strategic with your money. For example, you can see what area you spend the most in, and make adjustments if necessary.
  • You can relieve your sense of financial anxiety if you have a budget.
  • Budgeting is a good way to improve communication between yourself and your partner as it pertains to spending and financial issues. When you have a budget, it can prevent secrets and can promote more accountability and transparency on both of your parts.
  • Having a budget allows you to spot potential problems or red flags before they become much bigger. When you have a financial issue, not seeing it ahead of time can allow it to spiral quickly.
  • Using a budget can be a way to find savings opportunities. For example, maybe you’re spending unnecessarily on things like interest and late fees or penalties, and with a budget, you can see this and make a change.

Should You Use a Budgeting App To Manage Your Money?

Budgeting apps have some great advantages, but they may not be for everyone.

If you use a budgeting app, it allows you to categorize your spending, enter things easily thanks to features such as the ability to photograph receipts, and you can see your spending in real-time.

With a budgeting app, your budget is always with you.

However, you do have to be dedicated to use a budgeting app if it requires input on your part, but most people are so comfortable and connected with technology that it ends up working well for them.

What’s Included in a Personal Budget?

While a budget app may have its own approach to helping you create your spending plan, there are generally some primary elements included in a budget.

First, you will start by calculating your expenses to see how much you spend each month, and where you spend.

This is a tough one for a lot of people because you may not want to face your actual spending, and there are likely to be some surprises.

To calculate your expenses, you can look at bank statements, credit card statements, and receipts, as well as your bills.

When you’re calculating your expenses, it’s important not to leave anything out because an unexpected bill can completely derail other parts of your budget.

Once you have expenses down, you can look at your income.

You may have income outside of your salary, such as for a side hustle or gig you do, or perhaps something like rental income, interest dividends, or bonuses from your job. Include these in your budget income.

The next step for a successful budget is usually determining if you are spending too much, or if you have extra money and then you can start deciding where you might put that extra money or where you can cut expenses.

Your goal should be 10 to 20 percent of your income remaining every month, and then that money should go into savings.

If you can’t cut enough to get to that point, you might have to think about increasing your income instead.

Whether you’re using a budgeting app or not, it’s essential that you’re realistic with your budget.

If you cut a ton off your spending, it may theoretically get you into the black, but is that really going to happen?

With all that in mind, the following are the 10 best budgeting apps, regardless of your financial situation.

1. Mint

Mint is a financial app and platform that often takes the top spot on rankings of the best budgeting apps.

Mint is a personal finance app that is simple and easy to use, but at the same has smart and sophisticated financial tools.

Mint goes beyond just being a budgeting app as well.

With Mint, you can link all of your financial accounts through the platform and check your credit score and gain a real-time view of your net worth.

Everything relating to your finances is in one place so you can get a full picture and overview, and you can create budgets quickly and easily. Mint will offer suggestions for your budget based on your spending habits as well.

When you use Mint, you get as many free credit score checks as you like, and tips to improve your score.

Specific features of Mint include:

  • You can track your bills with Mint so you can plan ahead and you’re never late on a payment again. Bill-related features include reminders of upcoming bills, alerts, and warnings if you have low funds so you can prioritize what needs to be paid.
  • With the budget planner, you get automatically suggested budget goals that you can then adjust.
  • You can use Mint to see how much you’re spending month-to-month or year-over-year.
  • You can plan for one-time expenses and recurring expenses.
  • Mint will show you how you can save by cutting back in specific spending categories.
  • Mint’s daily budget tracker feature shows you how decisions you make with money affected you at the end of the month or the year.
  • You can customize your budget with a wide variety of features such as the ability to add tags to organize your transactions.

Mint is free to sign up for, and the mobile app is free to download as well.

2. PocketGuard

PocketGuard is a good mobile budgeting app for people who tend to overspend or have trouble living within their means.

When you download PocketGuard, you start by linking your credit cards, checking and savings accounts, loans, and investments so you can see everything in one place.

Once you do that, PocketGuard categorizes transactions in real-time as they’re occurring so you’re able to gain the best possible perspective of where your money is going and also where you could work on saving.

PocketGuard will then let you know what’s safe to spend, but only after you’ve paid your bills and contributed some money to your savings.

The app automatically builds a tailored budget based on your goals as well as your incoming and outgoing money.

One of the bests features of PocketGuard is the fact that it will do the math automatically and find ways you can save money and be more financially healthy.

For example, this could mean negotiating lower bills or finding a savings account that will help you earn more interest.

PocketGuard uses an encrypted token system for downloading bank information, so your log in information isn’t stored on their servers, and they don’t have access to change anything with your accounts.


YNAB is an app that strives to help users save more, alleviate debt, and stop the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

YNAB stands for You Need a Budget, and the differentiator between this and other budgeting apps and software is that the goal is to help users sustainably learn how to manage their money and get ahead over the long-term.

On average, according to YNAB, new users save $600 by their second month of using the app and more than $6,000 their first year.

There are Four Rules that YNAB’s philosophy is built on to help people learn to manage their budgets more effectively.

One is budgeting together. If you share finances with a partner, there is an easy way for the two of you to share financial information in real-time from any device, to keep one another accountable when it comes to spending.

Goal tracking is part of the YNAP platform, as are reports that help you observe your progress which is a good way to stay motivated.

The YNAB apps include personal support and access to more than 100 live, free online financial workshops they offer every week.

With YNAB, what’s so valuable is that it’s not about looking backward to see what you spent.

Instead, it’s about looking forward to the things you can still change before you spend any more money.

YNAB is a powerful tool to think through every dollar you spend and prioritize your budget based on your immediate, short- and long-term goals.

The app can also help you change your perspective surrounding how you make spending decisions.

YNAB is an app that encourages active engagement into your daily spending, rather than using a set-it-and-forget-it approach to budgeting.

4. Wally

Wally is a simpler personal finance and budgeting app than some of the others on this ranking.

Unlike an option like YNAB, it’s more focused solely on creating and managing a budget, as opposed to entirely changing personal finance habits.

Wally is completely free, and there are no ads, which are two reasons it’s one of the best budgeting apps.

Beyond that, much of what Wally offers is intuitive expense tracking.

When you download the app, you’ll see tabs that include home, income, and review.

Your home tab is where you can enter your expenses, and there are different categories and subcategories.

Interestingly, Wally also automatically links your spending to specific locations on a map.

You can use the income tab to set up your income sources and also your savings goals.

Then, the budget review tab shows you a simple breakdown of your spending, separated by category for the week, month, and year.

The best thing to use Wally for is just getting a clearer idea of where you’re spending so you can reduce it.

5. Mvelopes

Mvelopes is a digitized take on the envelope method of budgeting.

With Mvelopes, you can join for free a month to try it out and see if it works for you.

Then, after that month is over, there are several different plans to choose from.

There’s the Mvelopes Basic Plan, the Mvelopes Plus Plan, and the Mvelopes Complete Plan.

With the Complete Plan, you have access to a personal financial coach to help you create a personalized financial plan.

Even if you just go with the Mvelopes Basic, you can connect all of your bank accounts and create an online envelope budget.

The Mvelopes Basic plan lets you sync bank, credit card, and other financial accounts. You have automated transaction syncing for real-time budgeting, and you can give every dollar a purpose.

6. Goodbudget

Goodbudget is a mobile budgeting app that tends to work well for couples and households.

With the app which also syncs your budget to the web, couples can easily stay on top of their financial goals and ensure they’re on the same page spending-wise.

Goodbudget, like Mvelopes, is based on the envelope budget system.

You put your income into envelopes each month, which are essentially your spending categories.

As you go, you take money from each envelope, and you spend out of only that envelope for related costs and expenses.

Then, the idea is that you stop spending when the envelope is empty and if you can leave some money in the envelope, even better.

The motto of Goodbudget is “budgeting with a why.”

It’s about spending less on trivial or unimportant things and more on the things that do matter.

It can put couples and families on a better path toward meeting shared financial goals and working together as a team to do so.

7. Personal Capital

Personal Capital is a more robust budgeting and financial management app because it also integrates investment and wealth-building capabilities.

The Personal Capital mobile app provides:

  • Updates on bank and investment holdings
  • Spending information in real-time
  • Portfolio performance details
  • Spending tracking that can also be used on an Apple watch

With spending tracking features, which is the most popular tool on the app, you can set your monthly spending goal in the app.

If you’re in the blue, you’re on-track or spending less than your target.

If it’s in the red, you’ve gone past your targeted spending limit.

You can also access your investment portfolio from your mobile device or Apple watch, and you can set up alerts so you know when you reach a specific milestone or when you might need to revaluate your portfolio because you’re paying too much in fees.

8.Prism Bills & Money

If you struggle with keeping up with your bills, or your primary focus is finding a way to be more in control of your monthly bills, Prism might be a good app to consider.

When you use Prism, you can input all of your bills and then the app sends you a reminder when they’re due, so you don’t have to worry about late fees.

You can also quickly use the app to see your income, account balances, and how much you’re spending each month.

It’s a good way to streamline all of your bills and have the information in one accessible place so you’re not going back and forth between different websites trying to remember what you owe and when it’s due.

Prism automatically pulls important bill information into a list or calendar.

9. Albert

Albert is one of the newer budgeting and personal finance apps on this list, and it uses automation to help you with your finances.

Albert looks at all of your financial information and analyzes it to build a plan that’s tailored to you based on your income goals and spending habits.

With the app, you receive automatic notifications when you’re overpaying on things so you can make changes and keep your expenses under control.

The automatic saving feature analyzes your income and how much you spend on a daily basis and then gives you a small amount of money that’s “safe” for you to save.

Soon the app makers are going to be rolling out a smart investing feature as well.

You can receive custom alerts and notifications to keep you on track with your budget.

For example, if a bill goes up, Albert will let you know. If you spend too much eating out, Albert will send an automated alert.

You can regularly receive texts with suggestions about how to save more, and Albert also employees a team of financial experts. You can ask them questions or seek support whenever you need it.

10. Trim

Trim is like your money-saving personal assistant. According to the team behind Trim, their users saved more than $1 million in the last month.

With Trim, you securely connect your accounts, and the app has bank-level security.

Once your accounts are connected, Trim gets to work analyzes them to find recurring subscriptions and find places you can save money.

Trim will negotiate bills on your behalf, cancel subscriptions, help you find lower-cost insurance and more.

Trim has a feature called Simple Savings as well, so you can set up an automated weekly transfer into a high-yield savings account.

If you have debt, you can use Trim to create a payoff plan, and you may be able to find ways to lower your interest rates when you use this app.

Trim uses 256-bit SSL encryption and two-factor authentication as well as read-only access to ensure all information is secure. Trim doesn’t store account credentials on their servers either.

Final Thoughts – The 10 Best Budgeting Apps

Budgeting can be a challenge. Sometimes we just don’t want to face the reality of our financial situation, or we might feel like we’ve created such a hole for ourselves that it’s pointless to try and budget.

Luckily, there is technology available at our fingertips that can help us change the way we perceive budgeting and make it something that works within our lives.

The above 10 best budgeting apps offer automation and technology to help you achieve your financial goals, whatever they may be.

They can put you a long-term path toward greater financial confidence and a better financial future, just by inputting your income and spending information into an app.

Beyond that, many of the above apps have features that will help you save more, be more aware of what you’re spending, and even invest your money.

You can empower yourself financially with the use of technology.

Ashley Sutphin

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