4 Awesome Tools for Managing Your Budget After College

best budgeting apps

Graduating from college and getting your first job are two major steps toward financial independence. And though it might not be the most exciting part of becoming a successful adult, learning to manage your budget is incredibly important.

4 best budgeting tools for new grads

Whether you are on your way to being a budgeting pro, or are brand new to managing your money, the best online budgeting tools can take the frustration out of budgeting and help you get on track easily.

1. Mint

Mint is one of the first online budgeting apps to make it on the scene. It’s owned by Intuit, the company behind software Quicken, Quickbooks, and TurboTax.

The Mint app is built to be used completely online through the website or a mobile app for iOS and Android. It allows you to set budgets for just about any category you can think of, sync all your financial accounts, then track how well you’re meeting your budgeting goals.

best budgeting apps

The app is more than just a budgeting tool, however. It has an entire suite of tools to track your income, spending by category, investments, loan balances, and net worth all in one place. If you are concerned with how to budget student loans, for instance, this app can certainly handle it.

Pros:

  • Support for thousands of financial institutions
  • Automatic transaction downloads
  • Automatic transaction categorization
  • Easy-to-use budgeting tool
  • Free to use, advertising-supported

Cons:

  • Broken connections happen regularly
  • Poor customer support when something goes wrong
  • Connections can “duplicate” and are not possible to fully remove without deleting the entire account’s history

2. YNAB – You Need a Budget

YNAB is a budgeting tool that has grown a cult-like following. Avid users swear by it and wouldn’t use anything else.

The YNAB website and mobile app are designed to make you think about every dollar you spent. Each time you swipe a card, spend cash, or write a check, you enter it into the YNAB app and add a category. If the transaction will put you over budget, you get a warning that you have already spent your budget for that category for the month.

best budgeting tools

The YNAB philosophy is a “budget to zero” plan, where every dollar you earn has a job. Those jobs can be paying for recurring expenses such as rent/mortgage, occasional expenses such as semi-annual insurance payments, or one-time expenses such as concert tickets or a new phone.

Pros:

  • Best tracking of every dollar you spend
  • Intricate knowledge of every part of your budget
  • Connections to bank make reconciling your budget easier
  • You don’t have to enter bank account login information (if you are nervous about security)

Cons:

  • Manual expense entry
  • Bank transactions must be added by clicking on that specific bank, not automatic
  • Not free anymore — $5 per month or $50 per year after the free trial ends

3. Personal Capital

Personal Capital is an investment-focused tool with many features similar to Mint. However, Mint is highly focused on overall budgeting rather than just investing.

Personal Capital’s budgeting tools are more limited, focusing primarily on total cash flow in and out each month. The tool does automatically categorize each transaction in order to see spending history by category.

best apps for budgeting

The biggest power of Personal Capital comes from the investing tools. If you want to make retirement investing and savings a major priority, the weaker budgeting tools are made up for by those options. I used the investment analysis tools to save over $300 per year in mutual fund fees on my own investments.

4. Level Money

If you want simple budgeting with a mobile-centric design, consider Level Money. Accessed through the Android or iOS apps, Level Money reviews your account balances and transactions to show you how much you have left to spend.

how to budget student loans

The app comes loaded with useful tools to track your spending by category so you really understand where your money is going. It lets you quickly see all of your balances in one place, where your income is coming from, and where your biggest spending takes place.

You can also track recurring monthly bills, which are taken out of your “spendable” amount at the start of each period.

The tools also let you see your balance over time and get a prediction of future balances based on past trends. The company behind Level Money was acquired by Capital One in 2015.

Pros:

  • Very simple budgeting that is calculated for you
  • Mobile apps are always in your pocket
  • See what you can spend overall
  • Track your balance histories
  • Free

Cons:

  • No web interface, mobile apps only
  • Limited tools compared to other budgeting apps

Great budgeting apps continue to be released, but these are the best budgeting apps on the market today. There’s no excuse to avoid budgeting when these apps make it so easy. Give them a shot so you can find out which option you like best and get a handle on your money right away.

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