When you’re a college student managing your money is critical in making sure that you always have enough on hand for bills and your daily, weekly, and monthly needs. That’s why it’s important for college students to stick to a budget.
Of course, it’s not easy to stay on top of your finances. Honestly, most college students have too much going on to truly dedicate the time to figure out a budget and crunch the numbers of what they’ll actually need.
Luckily there are many great personal finance and budgeting apps out there to assist you in this time-consuming venture. Here are the 15 best budgeting apps to help you easily track spending and saving.
Best Budgeting Apps for College Students Featured in This Roundup
Here are the best finance and budgeting apps for college students. With the help of these apps, you’ll have fewer things to worry about which can boost your productivity in college. Go through them all one by one and pick the one that better suits your individual need.
Mint is one of the premiere budgeting apps that helps you keep track of your bills and to more intuitively manage your transactions into one place. Unlike many of its similar type apps, it’s free.
At its core, Mint helps you build and monitor your spending. By providing a visual representation of your spending, it helps you see in which areas you are spending the most money and figure out where best to cut back.
The way this is done is by linking your credit cards and bank accounts to the app to monitor your transactions, making it less work for you, and is near guaranteed that you will have accurate and up to date information.
Mint gives you the ability to categorize your spending (including custom categories) and will let you export its calculations to a spreadsheet to let you keep track of your budget yourself.
Mint’s interface has a lot going on and there is a learning curve to getting adjusted to how to use it. Rollover budgeting from one month to another is not the default setting, and while it can be turned on, it can make tracking your budget categories challenging.
For many college students who struggle to keep to a budget simply because they lack much control on impulse buys, Mint does not provide much in the way of “motivation” as going over your budget is really without any consequence, so there is little incentive to try to change someone’s spending habits.
Acorns was one of the first apps to leverage the idea of RoundUp savings. This is the practice of rounding up your spending to the next nearest dollar amount and investing the difference for you. The app is simple to use, and even its barebones investment can be very handy for people trying to save.
You can even use a multiplier feature with RoundUp. If you bought a coffee for $1.50, you can round up the 50 cents to be invested and multiple it by 10. So a purchase of that cup of coffee actually gets you $5.
If saving leftover change with RoundUp does’t sound like it will make much of a difference, just try using your debit card for a month, then you will be able to see how much the RoundUp strategy pulls together. If you primarily use the debit card, you could be looking at $50 – $100 a month.
Acorn takes on the burden of doing the investing for you. You can choose conservative or aggressive portfolios to invest in. The “rounded-up” change will get collected into a holding account. When that account amounts to $5, Acorns will invest it in the market.
It is important to keep in mind that there is still risk associated with these investments and Acorns is taking on the responsibility of doing the investing as well as rebalancing your portfolios.
You will earn money, but it will not be a high yield savings account. Investments are not guaranteed and they could lose money, something to be aware of when considering this app.
The Digit money-saving system wants to make your money-saving simple. The idea is to figure out how much money you could be saving, and automatically save it for you. In this sense, you know that you are saving money, but are also confined to spending only what you need to spend.
The app does this by analyzing your spending to find the amount you could be saving and auto-saves that money every few days. Your savings are FDIC insured.
To keep track of your money you will need to link an account to the Digit app (only permits linking one at this time). There is a low balance protection setting you can use which lets you decide what the minimal amount you can have in your account before the digit has to move money back into your account to keep you from going into an overdraft.
One interesting aspect of Digit is that while many other apps communicate about your sayings to you via push notifications, Digit largely interacts through texts. The interactive bot that communicates with you can take care of setting new savings goals and informing you about your account’s amount.
Your average daily balance will get tallied every 90 days, and you will receive a quarter of a percent of that money from Digit. That is 1% of your account for the year but broken up into 4 groupings.
Digit offers a free 30-day trial but will charge $5 per month after that. This will come out from your linked checking account rather than your savings.
Stash is a low volume investing app which allows you to invest in hundreds of stocks and funds start for as little as $5. You also get your own bank account with a debit card that comes with stock-back rewards. This means that if you use the debit card, your spending will accrue cash to your stocks and funds and beef up your investment portfolio.
Stash provides savings and investing tools, along with tips and informational articles to help you improve your savings strategies and enhance your investment skills.
The plans start at $1 a month (with $3 and #9 being the other options), with each plan coming in with particular features that might be individually suited to the user. These features make it a particularly attractive investing app for beginner investors and students looking to save up for the future.
You do need to define the risk level of your investment wish Stash, but instead of investing the stocks for yours as some other investment apps would, Stash simply narrows the field to the stocks that fit your risk assessment while allowing you to remain in control of the investing choices. You even get a predetermined set of portfolios to help you invest in particular types of industries and companies.
Just make sure that your account balance is on the rise, or Stash may have to hit you with some high percentage fees. If you take the basic plan ($1), you can bring in up to $5,000 at which point the charge turns into .25% of money investments.
Twine is a money-saving app geared for couples. On first thought, you would think two salaries are better than one and saving together should be easier. This is seldom true, as partners often cannot align in their spending habits.
Twine makes this process easier with a built-in dashboard where both spouses can see the accounts. It allows a couple to set up a shared goal and work towards it.
The app works by linking up your account and inviting your partner to join up with you. Your partner can likewise download the Twine app and connect their bank account too.
Both accounts can set up recurring payments into savings. Setting up a savings account will also earn 1.05 APY, and while that is not a stellar rate, it’s likely more than any checking account you have.
Twine allows for investments to be made and tracked in sensible portfolios that are designed to surpass the returns you would get from a savings account while mitigating risk.
The app gives you a choice of investing in conservative, moderate, or aggressive portfolios. Just be aware that while the rewards can be high, results are not typical, and you may lose money in doing so.
The Twine app is free to install and free to use. If you choose to invest with it, there is a .6% annual fee. Depending on your investment choices, you may find that the Twine portfolio fee is a bit steep for what you are willing to invest in.
One of the things working against Twine is that there is not that much in the way of competition for its unique brand of “couples savings” style. While other apps do exist, there is no one out there pushing Twine to knock down their fees.
Cost: Saving: Free, 0.60% per year for investing accounts
Chime is a different, newer method of banking. Unlike most apps, Chime presents you with an actual bank account. You get a Spending account, a Visa debit card, and if you wish, savings account as well. This type of banking is designed to be done through smartphones rather than the classic “brick & mortar” method.
Chime’s goal is to do away with the annoyance and inconvenience of bank fees. Therefore, Chime simply does not use them. Chime also does not impose any monthly minimum requirements.
An interesting feature of Chime is the SpotMe service. SpotMe will cover purchase overdrafts on your debit card of up to $100 without you incurring any fees. If your account gets down to a particular threshold, SpotMe will replenish it with an amount selected by you, to keep you from going over.
Another great benefit of Chime is that while most banks charge international withdrawal fees of up to 3%, Chime charges none.
The Chime savings account earns 1% APY and offers two ways in which you can automate your savings. You can leverage the “Save When I Get Paid” feature by which any deposit exceeding $500 will automatically transfer 10% into your savings account.
You can also use the RoundUp feature which rounds up your spending to the nearest dollar and transfers that money to your savings. So if you bought a sandwich for $7.50, 50 cents would be what you would get pushed to savings.
Chime is a bank and therefore can dispense cash from its accounts. This is done in the form of more than 38,000 worldwide ATMs, all of them lacking any withdrawal fees. Chime’s mobile app is another powerful aspect of this program. It even allows you to use the Pay Friends feature to send money to friends right from your bank account.
On the downside, Chime offers no joint bank accounts, you cannot utilize personal checks at all, and while the Chime ATMs will not charge you fees, pulling money from out of network ATMs will cost you $2.50 from Chime, and potentially more from the bank you receive the cash from.
Cost: Free, $2.50 per transaction at out-of-network ATMs
Qapital Finance is an automated savings account app that integrates with your bank account. It then rolls small amounts of money into savings at spread out intervals. Using the “round-up” strategy of rounding up to the nearest dollar, Qapital saves you the remainder of the money you have already saved, so it’s largely seamless, but it does add up.
Qapital also has some other helpful features like “Qapital Portfolio,” a pre-built investment portfolio with no management fees. Your weekly budget can be tracked by “Spending Sweet Spot” a budget savvy saver’s best friend.
“PayDay Divvy” can be set up to automatically put aside money every time you get paid for your monthly essentials. This will give you a better sense of how much you have left over for monthly spending. “Joint Savings” allows you to engage friends & family to save money together to reach goals more quickly.
Qapital has different tiers all with varying degrees of features. These range from $3 to $12 a month. The account is easy to open and is easy to use. Qapital takes a more lighthearted approach to the seriousness of saving.
It turns saving money into a set of missions, milestones, and challenges. Qapital lets you establish what your savings goals are and you can change up those goals at your leisure.
On the downside, Qapital does not pay you interest on your savings account as it’s just a way to set money aside rather than a high-yield savings account. Many users have reported that Qapital is slow to get going on the features they most need, with the rounding up of savings not happening for as long as 10 days.
On top of that, Qapital is strictly a mobile app, so if you enjoy logging on to a website, you will not be able to do so with this app. There is also no customer service phone number, so if you have an issue, email is your only way to go.
YNAB is another budgeting app that can be useful for college students. The app provides users with a nice, intuitive interface that is simple and convenient to use. Whenever you add money to your account, you can use YNAB to give every dollar an assigned categorization.
This takes the guesswork out of spending your money as you already have a designated plan. When unexpected expenditures come up, such as emergencies (which they most certainly will) you can adjust your budget by moving designated money from one category to another.
Another convenience of YNAB is that vendor names are auto-filled so when you have an expenditure, it defaults to the last budget category used for that vendor automatically. When you need to balance a budget category, it’s done for you with no calculations required on your behalf.
YNAB also allows you to set up phone notifications to notify you of any transactions and to let you know when you have exceeded your budget in any category. The key aspect of these notifications is that the notification reminder will not go away until you address the budgeting problem. It’s a bit of a motivational push to handle a budgeting misstep without simply overlooking it.
If you have money left unspent during the month in a particular category, it will roll into your budget for the following month automatically by default.
YNAB also only works with a budget using the money you have, not the money that you anticipate having. That is a great disciplinary tool for those trying to break the perpetual paycheck to paycheck budget cycle.
The app is not free, costing a monthly fee of about $12. While it lets you export your budget numbers, there is no categorical breakdown, and you have to export them all.
Cost: 34-day free trial, billed annually at $84 or monthly at $11.99.
Clarity Money is a simple free budget app for college students that can easily help you track your money. You will need to link your accounts to it and it organizes it for you, laying out all of the spendings that you engage in. Your spending is broken up into a subset of different (generally broad) categories, and your transactions will be automatically categorized into those categories.
Your spending will be broken down by the current month, the previous month. This can also be done by the current week and the prior one. You can utilize search transactions to find how much you spent in a particular category. You can view these spending as far out as a year.
ClarityMoney will also show you how much income you have and graph out how your income compares against your spending. You can also link up your credit cards and the app will keep track of your balances, reflect your payments, and be able to see your up to date credit score.
Also, the app will track your current subscriptions. If you want to cancel any of the subscription services, Clarify Money will present you with the information you need to reach out to the merchant and cancel your service.
Clarity Money is free to use, though some users have been charged a few by their banks for overdraft fees. These can result in going over budget.
EveryDollar is a budgeting app that has a free version and a “plus” version of the app. The free version does not allow you to link up your credit cards and bank accounts, meaning that you have to track all the transactions you make manually. The paid version syncs to your accounts and gives you access to Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” site.
The app is easy to use and has a search function that is available on both the website and the phone app. It also helps those just starting out to move along through the budgeting process with baby steps, walking anyone willing to commit to the system through the process to improve their budgets.
While the app sticks to the zero dollar amount principle (you budget the money you have) it does allow you to forecast money you expect to bring in before you have it. This could theoretically lead to some frustrations if there is not enough money to allocate “every dollar” in your budget.
When you exceed a budget category, there is no action required so you are not held as tightly to your budget as some other apps would do. The app is simple to use, but that comes at the sacrifice of certain helpful features and reports that a serious budgeter would need or want in a budgeting app.
Cost: Free, $129.99/year after 14-day free trial (for the Plus version)
Albert is a savings app that tries to make saving easy and eliminate the concern of making the wrong financial decision. As with most saving apps of this type, college students can link their accounts so that Albert can analyze their financial situation and be able to track if they’re close to an overdraft.
When you provide your phone number, Albert will send you relevant text alerts that could be of use to you with regards to your bank account. This includes letting you know when your funds are low and if you are excessively spending money in a particular category where you do not need to be. Albert also provides overdraft fee protection.
Albert’s savings programs have no fee withdrawals and provide you with a .25% bonus just for saving money with them yearly.
Some other handy features include setting a savings goal which, when reached, yields a bonus. Albert does not have much of an investment component, but it does have recommendations for worthwhile investments and does contain some investment opportunities in its premium “Albert Genius” program.
If you qualify for “Albert Instant”, you can receive cash advances from your paycheck. Albert “Self Manage” will help you get instant advances, let you view all of your bills in one place to show you how much you have left remaining to spend after the overhead, as well automatically saving money for your rainy day funds. You can even get help lowering your bills.
Albert is free to use, but it does have a paid component called “Albert Genius” ($4 to $6 per month) that will provide a personalized financial plan that includes setting up relevant missions to help you save more after your financial profile is analyzed and areas for savings are pointed out.
If your income varies from month to month, Albert’s free savings plan could make you a bit anxious as there is a set weekly withdrawal for savings. Using Albert Genius can spread those transactions out, but those that do not utilize that aspect have to always be aware of the looming savings withdrawals.
If you need your money fast, Albert is not exactly speedy with their response. It takes one or two business days for the money from your savings to get back to your account. There also isn’t a tool specifically geared at dealing with credit debt issues.
Tip Yourself takes a savings tip jar approach to savings. You can create multiple ‘tip jars’ for multiple savings goals. Then you “tip” those jars with whatever amounts you feel you can. Tip Yourself frames this type of savings as tips for accomplishments.
You can even share your reasons for a “tip” with the Tip Yourself online community. By tipping yourself in this way, you embolden your good saving habits and get a sense of fulfillment from accomplishing personal or professional victories.
The app is quick to learn and easy to navigate. You are likely to learn it within just minutes and start focusing on your savings goals, by getting into a routine where you tip yourself. Even if its a few bucks here and there, you will be surprised at how fast the tips add up.
If you have a financial emergency where you need to pull some money out, Tip Yourself allows you to quickly transfer it back over to your linked bank account. Tip Yourself doesn’t make you wait until you have accrued a certain amount of money before withdrawn, so you can theoretically pull the money out as soon as it arrives in your tip jars.
For what Tip Yourself has in withdrawal speed, it lacks in how long the tips take to make it to the tip jar, however, with the tip being reflected in about 3 days. You also will not accrue any interest on your savings, so much like a regular tip jar, it is simply a holding place for your money.
The social media of Tip Yourself is a polarizing feature too. On the one hand, seeing others’ accomplishments is encouraging to your own savings goals, on the other, it is distracting, especially since that is the default place you arrive when the app launches. It is easy to navigate away to the other features, but it can siphon your attention and take time away from your life by scrolling through another social media feed.
The tips are also not infinite and are called at $250, so the app is better suited for ‘small wins’ in a sense. This doesn’t lessen the usefulness of our account or course, you are ultimately still saving money. If you did need help from the company, you might struggle in reaching them.
While there is a contact button on every page, the responses have been said to be sporadic. Their social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram seem to also have pretty irregularly timed updates.
Editorial Note: “Tip Yourself” has been acquired by Earnin. On June 30th, 2020 the Tip Yourself app has stopped working. All existing Tip Yourself accounts have been moved to the Earnin app. You can read the company’s official statement here.
Honeyfi is a savings app to help your budgeting and saving planning. After you link up your financial information, the app will analyze your situation and suggest a household budget for your account. It will automatically categorize your transactions to see where you are with your spending and helps you view your transactions in defined categories.
The Honeyfi app allows you to set up savings goals so you can work towards them. Honeyfi rewards its savers with a bonus, and unlike most apps that offer this on an annual basis, Honeyfi pays the bonus out every 3 months.
The bonus is calculated for each one of your goals individually and does so based on your average daily balance in the goal over the 3 months.
This app allows a couple to link up their accounts as well, so both spouses can monitor the spending. One of the hardest aspects of saving as a couple is the inability to align spending habits and reduced visibility of one party to the financial situation.
There is even a communication feature where an unrecognized charge can be commented on to ask the other spouse what was purchased for example.
Honeyfi is a bit pricey, charging $60 per year with a free 30-day trial. The budgeting system is not a zero-budgeting system, so it doesn’t keep track of your savings. It also uses past expenses to recommend a budget for the couple which is not always a great indicator of contemporary expenses.
Betterment has been around for about 10 years and is regarded as one of the original Robo-advisor applications of its kind. At its core, Betterment is a way to help you manage your money by using cash management, retirement planning, and guided investing.
As far as users who would be most suited to this app, those with low balances and a desire for a hands-off approach who are fans of goal-based tools are best suited for this app’s benefits.
Betterment offers two service options: Betterment Digital and Betterment Premium. The Digital option has no account minimum and charges 0.25% of assets under management on an annual basis.
The Premium plan has a 0.40% fee and a $100,000 minimum on the account and provides unlimited phone access to a team of certified financial planners.
The options of experienced investors are pretty limited. Investments are not offered in all asset classes and a user cannot set up allocations to include external accounts, (such a 401K). It is however a good choice for investors who are just starting out.
Cost: 0.25% per year, 0.40% per year for premium plan
Dobot is an automated savings account that saves money without user intervention. After linking to your checking account, it calculates out how much you can safely afford to save and does the work for you.
This happens every few days, as Dobot will gradually move money over to your savings account. You select the savings schedule while Dobot keeps to it. If you want to transfer more to your savings account, you can do so as well.
Dobot is free to use and includes the service of a weekly text message (on Fridays) that will indicate how much money was saved that week. You can also choose the $1.99 monthly option with some additional features. You will also receive a monthly email with your financial highlight and savings activity.
If you need to know your savings balance you can simply text the word “Savings” to Dobot, and a text will be returned with the amount. If you ever need to pause the savings, you are free to do so. You’re in control, Dobot is just there to help out.
You can only link up one checking account to your Dobot account, but the choices of which account you can connect are endless, with over 10,000 financial institutions in the U.S. alone.
If you refer a friend to Dobot through the app’s “Invite Friends” link, you will be rewarded with an extra $5 in your account. This will happen 30 days after your friend has made their first savings transfer.
Dobot is only available in the U.S. You will not earn any interest on the deposits you make. Dobot will also take 2 to 3 days to transfer any money you requested to be withdrawn, however, if you request the withdrawal before 3 PM PST, Dobot will likely get you your money on the next business day.