August 7, 2014

5 Best Student Finance Apps

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Here's what no one tells you when you go off to college: You're on your own when it comes to managing your finances. Maybe you'll be getting financial help from mom and dad or you got a scholarship or maybe you have a job. Either way, this will most likely be your first time when you have to do some math every day regarding where your money goes – toward a muffin at breakfast, a new textbook, or rent. All of the little daily decisions over your dollars will have an effect on how much you can afford when it comes to necessities and nice-to-have items.

Whether you’re totally new to money management or you just need some help, finance apps can keep you on track, either with your saving strategy or just to help you spend wisely. We’ve gathered the five best free ones to help you choose the app that will become your assistant every time you’re about to part with your money.

Mint Personal Finance

  • Available for iPhone, iPad, and Android

Mint boasts a smooth, well-organized interface for tracking, budgeting, and saving with ease. You can establish one budget or have a bunch for different scenarios, plus be alerted of spending trends and thresholds that you define for your checking and savings accounts. You can categorize your purchases, see graphs that show your spending trends, and link to as many bank accounts, debit cards, and credit cards as you want. You can also track your investment accounts with this app.

Why we like it: The overall ease of use and user-friendly interface make Mint a knockout choice for any college student new to managing their finances.

What others say: In a review of the app for the iPhone, Jill Duffy at PC Mag noted a huge plus: by making Mint available on mobile devices, “you can pull out your smartphone when you're at a retail establishment and see how the purchase you’re considering will affect your cash flow.”

Level

  • Available for iPhone, iPad, and Android

Level, a great financial app for any college student, is especially great for those who are living paycheck to paycheck (or those checks from mom). This app is incredibly simple and straightforward – and is the ultimate in cash management. Let this app make spending decisions for you and prevent you from getting in debt from unnecessary impulse purchases. You can link to as many accounts as you want and select factors like “when you’ll get paid next” to determine how long you have to make your spendable income last. It has all the features of a traditional budget tracking application plus this critical feature that can make the difference between having money right up until payday or having to wait two weeks because of mismanagement.

Why we like it: Its simplicity is what makes Level so perfect for a college student who is new to the money management game.

What others say: Tara Siegel Bernard at The New York Times said Level is “…too simple for many people. The app is geared to people 18 to 35 who are most likely to have less complex financial lives.”

BillGuard

  • Available on iPhone, iPad, and Android

BillGuard is a great finance tracking app that allows users to link cards and bank accounts to a safe network. In addition to monitoring expenses and tracking your budget, BillGuard gives users the unique ability to monitor individual transactions and flag those that are illegitimate. While looking through your statement, a swipe to the right confirms a purchase and a swipe to the left will flag it – and notify your bank or card issuer about your concerns. It also finds coupons based on your individual spending patterns.

Why we like it: This is a traditional finance app with extra security features that would be ideal for any college student.

What others say: Yaron Samid, founder and chief executive of BillGuard, told The New York Times, “It will be looking out for you almost like the perfect accountant in the background, letting you live your life and when you go beyond a certain threshold, it will let you know.”

iSpending

  • Available on iPhone and iPad

This is a great budget tracking app for anyone who is looking for customization and simplicity. There’s no need to sign in, and you’re not required to link any cards or accounts to this app, which can be a plus for those who don’t feel comfortable plugging in such data. You’ll have to enter your income and expenses manually, and then this app will easily break down your spending for you. With one tap of the finger, you can see your spending for the day, week, month, quarter, or year. The one downside we found is that if you need to track back through your history, it’s not possible to search by date.

Why we like it: This app is ultimately perfect for the user who is paranoid about linking financial accounts to an app but needs help with saving money.

Pocket Expense

  • Available on iPhone, iPad, and Android

This Pocket Expense app allows users to link multiple accounts, follow transactions, and even pay bills through its services. It offers similar graphing functions of some of the other apps on our list but carries a lot of ads. While the ads don’t necessarily get in the way of functionality, the ad version does limit you to just the basics. If you can survive without features like creating your own spending categories or adding in recurring bills and transactions, then the free version will work well for you. Otherwise, download the ad-free app for $4.99.

Why we like it: This app provides good basic information that would be valuable to a college student who is just learning about managing finances.

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Infographic: College Expenses

College: The Best (and Most Expensive) Years


What to Buy (and Not Buy) for College


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