Personal Finance

How Much Should A College Student Spend On Groceries Per Week

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 11 minute read

As a student, it can be difficult to keep your finances in order. It’s possible that this is your first experience truly handling financial matters on your own. Also, you may be on a tight budget while juggling the costs of tuition, housing, food, and transportation.

It’s really worthwhile to figure out how to get more out of each dollar. If you have a student loan debt load, a budget might help you manage it. The sooner in life one develops the habits of saving, investing, and timely bill payment, the more secure one’s financial future will be.

Unlike when I was in school, you won’t need to revert to pen and paper to keep track of your finances. You may find a variety of helpful budgeting apps for your smartphone today.

The Top Budgeting Apps for Students in College

Many financial planning tools are available. Our article focuses exclusively on the best applications for college students.

Digit is our top choice for the best budgeting app because it has so many helpful features that make paying bills, saving money, and even investing money easy and convenient. As a result, it’s a fantastic option for people who are new to budgeting or who prefer a hands-off strategy.

All of the other applications on this list excel in one or two specific areas, such as ease of use for new users or the convenience of automatic savings. Check out our piece on the top mobile apps that can help you save money while in college for even more ideas.

Digit is Best Overall.

Digit’s app is essentially a one-stop shop for personal finance management because of its extensive feature set. It has an automated budgeting feature that calculates a reasonable spending, saving, and investment plan based on your income and outgoings without requiring any input from you.

Because of this, you won’t have to keep track of numbers by hand or worry about forgetting to enter them each day. Those who are just starting out in the world of personal finance will find this software to be an invaluable resource.

Utilize it in order to:

  • Know exactly how much discretionary income you have after paying all necessary expenditures and saving or investing for future goals.
  • Save passively by having little amounts automatically debited from your linked bank account.
  • Bills can be automatically paid from a linked account, making it easier to manage your finances.
  • Instead of paying off large debts all at once, pay a little at a time during the month.
  • Use a debit card that only allows you to access your safe to spend amount to avoid overspending.
  • You can use this app to invest in ETFs automatically depending on your risk tolerance and the recommended amount based on your available funds, or you can make your own adjustments to the app’s recommendations.

Digit offers affordable pricing and flexible subscription plans, including:

  • Pay $9.99 per month to access all of Digit’s features 
  • Pay $5 per month for savings features only
  • Save 20% by paying annually

Best for Learning Budgeting: Goodbudget

If you’re familiar with the envelope system of budgeting, think of Goodbudget as the digital equivalent. There, you’ll divide your money into envelopes designated for specific types of purchases, including groceries and movies. Then you put an agreed-upon sum of money in each one.

Once the contents of an envelope have been removed, that envelope is no longer usable. You must abstain from any further expenditures in that category until your next payday. To give just one example, you can’t go to the movies with money meant for groceries.

On Goodbudget, electronic envelopes take the place of traditional ones. Otherwise, the strategy functions similarly to the physical envelope approach.

Features beyond the basic:

  • If you overspend, the envelope turns red to indicate you went over budget
  • Unlike most budgeting apps, it doesn’t link to your bank accounts; you have to manually input income and expenses, which is good for the security conscious or those who want the freedom to occasionally spend outside their budget
  • Get 20 envelopes for free
  • Get unlimited envelopes for $7 per month or $60 per year

Mint Is the Best App for Managing Student Loans.

Student loan repayments can be monitored with other accounts with the help of Mint, a free app. Even if you aren’t making payments on your student loans while you’re in school, Mint can offer you a good idea of where you stand financially and how it will affect your budget once you graduate.

By connecting to all of your accounts, Mint provides you with a holistic view of your financial situation. Simply linking your various financial accounts will provide you with a bird’s eye perspective of your assets at all times. The dashboard in Mint allows you to check your account balances.

Features beyond the basic:

  • Start saving and managing your money more effectively with a personalized budget you create.
  • You’ll get customized advice on how to save more money and reduce your debt.
  • Keep tabs on your monthly expenses and receive alerts when payments are due or if any fees or rates have changed.
  • Get your credit score and daily monitoring for free, along with tips for raising it.

Dollarbird Is the Best Option for Long-Term Budget Planning.

Dollarbird is not like any other financial software out there. Instead of keeping tabs on your finances mechanically, you’ll have to manually enter your earnings and outlays into a calendar. 

The goal is to facilitate a review of your spending on a regular basis. With this method, you may anticipate your costs further into the future and spend confidently.

If you don’t get paid every two weeks, this method will help you manage your money effectively. When shown in calendar format, it’s much simpler to ascertain how much time and money will be needed to stretch your grants and student loans over the course of the semester.

Features beyond the basic:

  • No bank account links — all data is manually entered
  • Sort expenses into auto-created categories or manually create your own budget categories 
  • Predict future balances by tapping on future dates for any month of the year
  • Get one calendar for free by downloading the app from Google Play or the Apple App Store
  • Upgrade to the Pro plan and get 20 calendars for up to three family members — pay $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year

PocketGuard Is the Best for Limiting Spending.

The target audience for PocketGuard is people who tend to spend more than they should. If you’re anything like the average college student, you’ve had to learn to live on a tight budget.

PocketGuard can link to your financial accounts like your bank and credit card companies. After entering all of your income and costs, it utilizes an algorithm to determine how much discretionary spending money you have. That way, you know you have money set aside to pay your payments every month.

Features beyond the basic:

  • With Autosave, you can designate a certain amount of money from your connected bank account to be sent to a different, FDIC-insured account that does not collect interest on a regular basis, so helping you meet your savings objectives automatically.
  • A tool for lowering monthly expenses, such as cable and phone bills.
  • Uses a detailed examination of your current spending patterns to recommend new, more frugal ones
  • Allows you to schedule notifications for upcoming payments
  • Find a free, rudimentary version here.
  • For an additional $7.99 a month, $79.99 a year, or a one-time payment of $99.99, you may access the Plus plan, which includes a debt payback plan, unlimited category budgets, and limitless savings objectives.

Qapital Is the Best for Building Savings.

Qapital, like the other applications below, allows you to create and monitor your financial plan. The app’s primary value lies in its capacity to facilitate the accumulation of savings. 

That’s challenging when money is scarce. Qapital helps you save money by putting a small portion of every purchase you make from your linked accounts (up to $2) into an FDIC-insured savings account.

It has 3 subscription plans that are affordable:

  • Basic. Setting unlimited savings goals, customizing rules to trigger automatic saves, and transferring funds between goals are all available in Basic for $3 per month. An FDIC-insured savings account is provided as well.
  • Complete. Income Divvy is a feature included with Complete for an additional $6 per month, allowing you to automatically pay yourself first and divide your paycheck into budget categories. You can invest your money and keep tabs on your weekly financial outlays using Spending Sweet Spot, and you also get a Visa debit card.
  • Premier. For only $9 a month, Premier gives you access to gamified money management with Money Missions, private seminars, and early access to new content.

Features beyond the basic:

  • You may automate your micro savings by setting up Rules, such as saving the difference when you round up a purchase to the nearest $3 or putting away $1 every time you buy a coffee.
  • Invest in an Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) portfolio that is tailored to your specific needs and goals.
  • You can maintain your will to save by playing out hypothetical expenditures and weighing the resulting costs and benefits.

Wally Is the Best at Managing Your Spending Abroad.

Wally provides a graphical picture of your spending in the form of a pie chart. For those who learn best visually, this feature makes it simple to maintain track of spending at a glance.

When compared to other similar tools, Wally stands out because of its comprehensive support for practically all foreign currencies. In addition, Wally connects with approximately 15,000 financial institutions in 70 countries.

For this reason, you won’t have to abandon your usual methods of money management or your pursuit of a foreign university degree just because you’ll be spending a semester or more away from home.

Features beyond the basic:

  • Switch between a visual overview or calendar view of your budget
  • Use the joint banking option to manage a group budget — perfect for roommates sharing rent and other expenses
  • Sync with your bank accounts to get insights into your cash flow and spending habits
  • Scan and upload bills, receipts, and warranties for easy reference
  • Get the basic version for free
  • Upgrade to the Gold version for $8.99 per month, $39.99 per year, or a one-time fee of $74.99 for lifetime access

Splitwise Is Recommended for Students Who Share a Room.

Splitwise is a useful app for those who have roommates and want to ensure that everyone is paying their fair portion of the rent or mortgage.

The group function helps people manage their shared costs and keep track of who is responsible for what. As an added bonus, you can keep track of who among your roommates has paid their rent.

In addition:

  • Organize expenses into budget categories
  • Make payments through PayPal or Venmo
  • Get the basic version for free
  • Upgrade to Pro for $3 per month and add receipt scanning, charts and graphs, and currency conversion

Cleo Is the Best Option for Those Who Detest Budgeting.

Most budgeting apps aim to remove as much friction as possible from the budgeting process. Cleo goes beyond that and even makes saving money enjoyable. It achieves this by using large quantities of juvenile humor and a striking visual aesthetic. This isn’t the same budgeting tool your parents used.

Moreover, Cleo does not only provide a set of numbers and expects you to deduce their significance on your own. The advice is provided in the form of brief, easily digested spending reports, hypes, and roasts. These admonitions and warnings are especially useful for first-time budgeters who may be struggling to maintain their motivation and discipline.

Features beyond the basic:

  • Set monthly budget targets based on your spending
  • Automatically save with roundups and other savings hacks like a swear jar, which triggers roasts when you spend over your budget goals
  • Get cash back on everyday purchases 
  • Build credit with a secured credit card, the Cleo Credit Builder Visa card 
  • Get the basic plan for free
  • Upgrade to the Cleo Builder level for $9.99 per month — a 33% discount for students — and get the secured card, cash advances up to $100, and credit score coaching

How We Choose the Top Budgeting Apps for College Students

To determine which budgeting apps are the best for our audience, we consider a number of factors. As a whole, they speak to the apps’ potential for cost savings, their value, and their importance to today’s college students.

Cost

Money management and budgeting tools shouldn’t force you to spend more. Learning how to budget is essential anyway, but especially so if you’re a student with limited financial resources.

Few budgeting apps are available for free, which is a major drawback. But we do our best to limit ourselves to only the free or cheapest apps that nonetheless provide the most value. The list’s more expensive apps all offer extensive functionality.

Effortless Use

Of course, not all undergraduates are in their twenties. However, most of them are part of Generation Z, and so are native app users. Budgeting is something that today’s students may be less accustomed to. As a result, the top budgeting applications for college students are simple to use.

Financial Education

The top student budget apps out there do more than just keep tabs on money. They also aid in the education of persons who are unfamiliar with financial management. This facilitates the development of long-term proclivities related to financial management, such as saving, investing, and minimizing or avoiding debt.

As a result, the majority of the apps on our list offer some sort of individualized insight or advice, instructional tools, or a database of financial resources and information.

Features

Our methodology favors programs that are both extensive and useful, especially when considering the app’s price.

To rephrase, good software to help college students manage their finances should cover as many bases as feasible. Managing your finances, including your budget, savings, and investments, shouldn’t necessitate a jigsaw puzzle of several apps and a plethora of membership costs.

In cases when apps are more narrowly focused, they should excel at one or two features that are especially useful to college students.

How College Students Can Pick the Best Budgeting App

How you feel about spending money and how you learn best all play a role in determining which budgeting app is ideal for you.

For instance, if you want to delegate the budgeting process to a computer program that will handle all the math for you, consider downloading an app that does this for you. But if you prefer to have more say in the matter, you should download an app that necessitates manual tracking.

If you learn best by seeing things rather than reading them, look for a financial app that displays information in the form of colorful graphics like pie and bar charts. Look for a budgeting tool that also allows you to microwave or invest if you want to do more with your money than just budget.

Finally, the best budgeting tool for you is the one you really wind up using. The greatest budgeting app for you might be the one that best fits your personality and preferences.

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