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Students of all ages are in a unique financial position — they may remain at least partially financially dependent on their parents, but they’re also learning how to become more financially autonomous. Teens and young adults are at a crucial age for developing healthy spending habits, growing familiar with financial terms and thinking about long-term savings goals.
A money management app is a great way for students to get ahead in their financial journey. As many younger people are already used to smartphone-based interactions, this would bring personal finance into familiar territory. It’s just a matter of finding an app suited for each student’s specific needs and what stage they’re in financially.
Here are some of the best money management apps that can help students learn about finances while taking some of the pressure off their busy lives.
Best for building good spending habits: Goodbudget
Between assignments, starting a job and developing a budding social life, students have a lot of important life affairs to keep track of. Managing finances and saving money on top of that can seem like nothing but a burden. But an app like Goodbudget could serve students well to make financial growth a part of their development as individuals.
Goodbudget works by using an updated version of the envelope system. When users get their paycheck, they set aside a predetermined amount into virtual envelopes for respective categories, such as phone bills, eating out and savings. The app also lets multiple people sync to the same budget — that could be a high schooler and their parent, for example, if they need extra guidance for spending.
As users contribute more to their envelopes, they’re also building up savings. Plus, Goodbudget offers lots of helpful articles providing savings and budgeting tips, including a package with articles on how to save for college.
Cost: Free version comes with 20 total envelopes; $8 a month to get unlimited envelopes and extra features
Best teen debit card: GoHenry
GoHenry is a financial app that comes with its own customizable debit card. The debit card lets teens have some financial freedom, with limitations set by parents. Parents can set controls and receive spending alerts, and they’re able to create savings goals through the app that teens can build toward.
The app also comes with financial literacy tools: Users complete money Missions that offer bite-sized lessons about things like money safety and spending wisely.
Funds on the debit card are held by Community Federal Savings Bank and receive FDIC insurance through it. The card also comes with no foreign transaction fees.
Cost: $4.99 per month after a 30-day free trial
Best for bite-sized financial education: Zogo
Zogo was designed by a student with the sole mission of making financial education more engaging for young adults. It makes sense, given how heavily smartphones are already involved in the lives of young adults, to integrate financial education into an app.
The gamified design of the app makes it so financial education can also be a type of play. Users battle for first place on a leaderboard, partake in daily trivia parties and earn rewards that can be redeemed for gift cards.
The app’s educational content comes in a variety of modules, with different lessons associated with each and quizzes to earn rewards. The lessons span topics from the basics of investing to learning how to save for college, and they’re primarily targeted toward young adults, who are in high school and college.
Best budgeting app for college students: Mint
Mint eases up some of the menial work of maintaining a budget and tracking spending. It might be best suited for college students who have multiple expenses and budgeting categories to account for, as the app’s selling point is that it simplifies the process of budgeting.
Users can track budget categories in the app, which automatically sorts transactions according to category and shows you how much you’ve spent in each area. The budget is customizable, too, with the option to add tags to transactions and reorganize them as you’d like.
Another tool Mint offers that could be of use to college students is its subscription tracker. You might take advantage of student deals on subscriptions and then forget about them later on. But with Mint, you can see all of your recurring costs, as well as whether/how much they increase each month.
Cost: Free; Mint Premium is $4.99 per month and comes with some extra features
Best for student debt management: Changed
One thing a significant number of college students have in common is student debt. While students might not feel the pressures of student debt during their college years, it can be a great payoff in the long term to start addressing that debt early, and Changed is an app that helps you do that.
Users can link all of their loans to the app, as well as their bank accounts. Then, there are a few savings tools they can take advantage of, including change roundups and suggested savings transfers based on their spending habits. Those savings accumulate in a “payoff” account. Every time a user reaches $50 in the account, it’s automatically paid toward debt.
As users make progress toward debt payoff, they can track their progress with a sleek graphic breakdown of their payments over time as well as estimations of when the debt will be fully paid off. The app also provides recommendations for the best payoff strategy.
Cost: $3 per month