Smart College Survival Apps That Will Ease You Into Real World Financial Responsibility

Daryl Paranada

By , Staff Writer
Posted on Wed Aug 20, 2014, Last Updated on Wed Aug 20, 2014

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Life as a college student is often about juggling. Juggling your homework with actual work to earn a paycheck. Juggling recreational time with the hours you spend participating in clubs and organizations. Juggling relationships, activities, and the minutiae of life as a college student. And then, there are your finances.

Smart College Survival Apps That Will Ease You Into Real World Financial Responsibility

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As the most connected generation ever, millennials have a lot of tools at their disposal to help them get organized and pass the time. In fact, a recent survey by media and promotions firm re:fuel found that the average college student owns an average of seven gadgets. The most popular gadget that students own is a laptop, of course. But following closely on that list: smartphone.

With college students heading back to school — and with their smartphone close at hand — it’s time to recommend a few apps that all undergraduates should have. We’re assuming you already have your bank’s app on your smartphone (if you don’t, get with it). Here are some college survival apps that you might consider downloading to help you save and manage your money.

Budgeting and money management apps

You say you don’t have time to set up a budget? Were never taught how to do it? No problem. Managing money while you’re in college isn’t fun, but it is necessary. Maybe you have a limited amount of money you can spend each semester or perhaps you need to keep track of when your student loan funds will run out. Budgeting apps can help you do all of that and more.

Perhaps the most well-known budgeting app is Mint. You can securely connect your bank account to Mint, which will automatically input purchases you’ve made and break down your spending patterns into simple charts. Used by more than 10 million people, Mint users can set up different scenarios for various budgets (useful if you’ve started out the term with a bit of money and end it eating ramen) and the app will suggest ways to help you save, among other useful tools to help keep you on budget. Mint is great if you want to consolidate all of your financial information together into one account. It does a lot of things in different ways to help you keep track of your money, so if you like options (maybe you haven’t decided a major yet and like dipping your toes into various fields) it’s a worthwhile and free app to download. Available on both iOS and Android systems, Mint is the most popular personal finance app and recommended by a lot of experts, but it’s not the only one available.

LearnVest is another free app very similar to Mint in many ways, but is only available to iPhone users. It offers a lot of reading material to help you learn about financial literacy and education — something that might interest college students who were never taught about personal finance. A worthwhile competitor to Mint, LearnVest is a good app to consider downloading if you want to manage your money.

If you’re trepidatious about connecting your bank accounts to apps, there are alternatives like Dollarbird and Checkbook. Checkbook allows users to keep track of credit card charges and expenditures, keeps all your information offline, and doesn’t require you to connect the app to your bank account. For college students worried about identity theft and data hacking, it’s an option to consider (Dollarbird works similarly). However, you have to manually input the data, which is is a big drawback. If you’re not willing to manually enter your spending information, it’s best to go with another app.

Note: If you’re worried about hacking or getting charged for things you didn’t purchase on your credit card, one app you might want to consider is BillGuard. BillGuard is easy to connect to your credit card issuer and will flag you about any gray charges or data breaches.

Bill apps

As a college student, you might be paying bills on your own for the first time ever. If you’re living in an apartment, there are a host of expenses you have to keep track of — rent, your phone bill, electricity, cable, etc. That’s why it might be worthwhile for college kids to download a bill reminder app. While apps like Mint will send you reminders to pay your bills, college students might just want an app to focus solely on the bills.

One such free app is Check, which allows users to schedule payments and reminders, and pay anyone by bank account, debit card, or checking account. The app, which has roughly 9 million users, is intentionally simple and tracks multiple accounts. Its big draw is that you can access all of your money accounts with the app — bills, credit cards, loans, etc. If you just want to schedule and pay bills, consider downloading Check, available for both iPhone and Android users. Similar to Check, BillMinder and BillTracker are other apps that simplifies your bill paying by reminding you when bills are due. Unlike Check, these apps are not free. You’ll have to pay $1.99 for each. But that’s a paltry price to pay for never having to pay a late fee again!

Textbook apps

Buying textbooks is a pain — and an expensive one at that! Textbooks can set college students back a few hundred each term. An app that can save you money, especially if it’s a free app, is priceless. Enter Chegg, an app for iOs and Android users that allows users to buy or rent textbooks, get access to electronic versions of some textbooks, and sell books. The app itself is free, but it will cost you money to access or purchase the books.

That being said, like any e-commerce app or site, there are issues. Complaints about the app include issues with buying books and its subscription service. Be sure to look at reviews from the Better Business Bureau before purchasing. If you’re someone who spends a ton of time on your smartphone, it’s not a bad idea to download Amazon’s app either. You can browse for textbooks that you might need for the term while walking to your next class.

Productivity apps

Let’s face it, if procrastination were a subject in college, most undergraduates would have a bachelor’s degree in it. It pays to be productive in college so that you’re not always running behind trying to catch up. Nobody really likes all-nighters, so why not download an app to increase your productivity?

Evernote is one of the most popular multipurpose and organizational apps out there. Users of the free app can write notes, take pics, create to-do lists and sync tasks and files across different devices. For the college student that has a lot going on, it’s a worthwhile download and available on iOS and Android devices.

For folks who want an app that can control nearly every aspect of their lives — personal and professional — try Weave. The app works as a sort of personal organizer, where you can manage projects and create to-do tasks for things like planning a trip, collaborating on class projects, or just getting through the day. The app will show you what tasks need to be completed. You can even keep track of how much money you make or spend on each of your projects. For college students that love making to-do lists, give Weave a try. The one downside is you will have to manually input your data, but if you’re going to write it out anyway, might as well do it digitally.

Discount, food and drink apps

A college student’s favorite activity might just be eating and drinking. For the 21 and over set, don’t overpay for drinks ever again! How? There’s really no shortage of apps available to users who want to find local drink specials and happy hours based on your city or college campus. Just be sure that you don’t drink and drive!

While you’re downloading apps, it’s probably a good idea to have Yelp as well to check out reviews of restaurants and stores in your area. Don’t just check for reviews of stores or restaurants though. See if there are any coupons apps for eateries and retailers in your neighborhood (The Coupons App or RetailMeNot Coupons are two popular choices). As a college student, sometimes it’s all about getting a good deal, so take advantage of these apps — and your college ID — to get discounts. At the same time, if you’re a college student who plans to cook at home, be sure to browse for any grocery store apps that might be useful to you. It’s a good idea to try and cook a little while you’re in college to save money because eating out all the time can be a money waster.

That said, who can blame college kids for wanting to eat out from time to time? And if you plan to eat out, one thing you should definitely get used to is splitting checks — unless you have a rich friend. That’s where Venmo comes in handy. Venmo allows you to send money to a friend instantly — and there’s even a social media aspect to the app as well with a feed similar to Facebook showcasing what your friends are paying for with Venmo. Other apps that work similarly include Square Cash, PayPal and Google Wallet. However, be sure to note any fees that may be attached to payments you make.

With a few of these financial apps downloaded — not to mention any that are relevant to your school or accounts you might have at various institutions — you’ll have everything you need right at your fingertips. Just be sure not to lose your phone.

 

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