Financial Literacy Blogs

Budgeting Apps for College Students six people holding letters that spell graphic

Starting college this fall?  You will learn many things when you begin college, and one of the most practical skills and one of the most challenging will be keeping track of your money.  For the first time you will be paying rent and utilities- maybe even hosting a party on the weekend for your new found friends!  When you are trying to stick to a budget, personal finance can seem daunting!  Luckily, there are some apps that make it easy for even the most disorganized college student to track spending (and saving, too).

1.    LearnVest. This app makes budgeting easy by securely linking to your bank account, and filing your purchases into pre-named folders like Entertainment, Groceries, restaurants and ATM/Cash, or you can create your own. You can set a budget for each folder, as well as for essentials like rent, student loans and car payments.

2.    Mint. This popular budgeting app also connects directly to your bank account and updates your spending automatically. You can create any number of budgets, and they can get as specific as you like: coffee, movies, and other college student necessities will all be accounted for. If you’re using a credit card for the first time, it makes sure you’ll never charge what you can’t pay back. The Cash vs. Credit feature lets you see your total credit card balances versus the cash you have to pay them off.

3.    Check. Check is more of a payment and bill tracker than a budgeting app, but keeping track of bill payment for the first time can be tough to get used to, especially with everything else on a college student’s plate. You can pay bills directly from the app, so you’ll never pay a late fee, and even track investments, if you’re particularly ambitious!

4.    CheckPlease Lite. This straightforward app seems like it was built with college students in mind. If you’re out in a large group and need to split the bill many ways, CheckPlease Lite handles it. It can calculate tips and split the bill up to 100 ways. Dorm pizza or ice cream fund, anyone?

5.    PocketBudget. Pared-down and straightforward, PocketBudget displays your main budget in pie chart form and a list of your transactions on another screen. It’s what it says it is, nothing less, nothing more: your budget accessible in your pocket.

6.    TextbookMe. Sick of buying expensive textbooks from the college bookstore? Compare prices of textbooks at all online retailers by searching the ISBN, author, or title of the book you want, then order the book off the retail website with the lowest price!

7.    Mobile banking apps. Often the best way to keep track of your budget is directly through your bank. More and more banks are developing mobile apps, giving you the freedom to check the balances of all your accounts, anytime. 

Using Technology to keep track of your budget just might make keeping your personal finance during your college years a little easier and more fun!

This blog was written by guest author Mrs. Cyndi Eakes who is a Masters of Business Education student at Middle Tennessee State University, a local entrepreneur (EmbroidMe - Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and mom to a future college student.

picture of golden labrador sleepingDon't Sleep Your Summer Away
You walked across the stage, shook the principal's hand, and you did it - you graduated from high school!! What next? Sleep late, enjoy mom's cooking and laundry service? Well - that might sound like a good plan but if college is in your immediate future, you might want to rethink that plan. Here are a few items that will make your life MUCH easier once you arrive on campus.

  • While the school may have provided you a map, we promise you, those buildings on the map look nothing like that in "real" life. Make the time to go to campus with your schedule in hand and begin by finding at least two "legal" parking lots. Many schools ticket you if you park in faculty or staff parking that has been reserved just for them. While we are talking about parking - make sure you arrive on campus AT LEAST 30 minutes early the first couple of days. Many students wait until the last minute and traffic quickly becomes a gridlock around and on campus.
  • Next - go find your classrooms! Literally - from door to door, walk your path. This preparation will make your first day MUCH less stressful. 
  • While you are on campus, is there any business you need to take care of before school begins? Go to financial aid? Can you pick up your parking tag early or have your school ID made while you are there? Most of these things would have been handled if you attended an orientation session but just in case you did not get it done, now might be the time to take care of those details.
  • Next - time to learn to do your own laundry! Yes, we know, you plan to take it home to mom but trust us, there will come a time when you need to do a couple of loads. Learning WITH your mom might save you the embarrasment of a wardrobe dyed pink (or purple or green - whatever color you most do NOT want your laundry to be).
  • Our next tip may not sound much fun but we promise, it will pay off in the long run - start getting up ON YOUR OWN - no help from your parents - at the same time that you will need to be getting up for your first class. If you get your body in the habit of waking up at that time, you are less likely to oversleep and miss class.
  • Finally - is there summer reading that needs to be done? Do you know what textbooks you will need? If you have some of those books, start reading. The long-run benefit will be huge!

"Adulthood" is here and it is not always easy but a little preparation makes it easier for you to find time to enjoy your newfound role in your family and in the world!


The Road to the Next Level
As your senior year in high school winds down and you contemplate "adulthood" and "freedom," you need to spend some time ensuring that the road to the next level has been cleared of some basic obstacles.

Here's a checklist to help you on your journey:

  1. Have you filled out your FAFSA? If not, see the previous blog!
  2. Have you received your letter of acceptance from the higher education institution to which you applied? If not, you may need to contact the admissions department. If so, I hope it is proudly displayed on the front of the refrigerator!
  3. Schedule your orientation visit at your future school! Even if you think you know everything that you need to get started there, there are always handy "tips" shared during the sessions that make them worth your time.
  4. Once you have your acceptance letter, be aware of other upcoming deadlines including the date you need to register for classes. Many schools assist you in registering during your orientation but you will need to verify that that is the case for your particular school.
  5. If you are not going to live at home, have you applied for housing? If so, have you checked with your insurance agent to determine if you will need renter's insurance? In many cases, your parents insurance will cover you but it is best to be certain before an emergency arises.
  6. Are you checking on private scholarship opportunities? Visit your guidance counselor to find out if he/she has knowledge of scholarships specific to students in your area.
  7. Take advantage of sales and thrift stores to begin stocking up on things you need for your dorm or apartment! Waiting until the last minute could be costly because you have no time to comparison shop.
  8. If you are working the summer before you go to school, set aside some of your earnings for unexpected expenses that will inevitably arise during the semester!

Best wishes for a successful launch into higher education!

FAFSA - Five Letters That Mean A Lot to Your Education!
Have you filled out your FAFSA for the 2014 year? Why not!?!? Did you know that the sooner you get it submitted, the better your chances are for receiving some form of free financial aid - you know - the kind you don't have to pay back.

Here are some great pieces of information about your FAFSA that you may not know:

  1. Your parents do NOT have to have filed their income tax return BEFORE you fill out your FAFSA. You can use estimated numbers and then amend as necessary.
  2. If your family has some new circumstance that will impact their ability to help you this year despite having a higher income level last year, provide a letter outlining the new circumstances to your school's financial aid office. For example, if the primary earner in your family was just laid off from work or became disabled, these circumstances are often considered when awarding aid.
  3. If your family is divorced, you only have to provide information about the family member with whom you lived the most last year.
  4. Don't assume you or your family makes too much money for you to be eligible for student aid.
  5. If you live in a state with a lottery scholarship (like Tennessee) you must fill out the FAFSA to receive your lottery scholarship.
  6. You are never too old to fill out a FAFSA. Federal student aid does not consider your age.
  7. You MUST fill out a new FAFSA every year! Many higher education students lose many because they fail to file a FAFSA for their second year of school.

If you complete your FAFSA online, you will have your Student Aid Report (SAR) in 3-5 days and if you need help completing the form, you can call 1-800-4FED-AID or if you are hearing impaired the TTY line at 1-800-730-8913. Live chat and email are also available!

So - what are you waiting for - type and get started now!

You Can Go...On to Higher Education
Recently a personal finance teacher in Tennessee shared the CollegeBoard's video "You Can Go" ( and over and over the students being interviewed repeated that phrase, "You can go" "You can go" "You can go." It has been stuck in my mind ever since that time. What I keep mulling over is the question - "but do students really believe this?"

They SHOULD believe it! We were tasked with the challenge of creating a website, curriculum, and professional development program to help teachers, parents, and students truly internalize the fact that higher education is accessible to everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and even poor grades (assuming you are willing to do the work to turn that trend around). To that end, the College GP$ program was born.

Over time, our website will grow with curriculum, resources, this blog which we hope will provide helpful hints to:

  • point students towards careers that meet their interest and their money goals
  • find ways to achieve the necessary education for those careers
  • find ways to fund higher education, whether that be a technical school (now known as colleges of applied technology), a two year community college, or a four-year college/university, and
  • find ways to avoid some of the financial pitfalls that many of us fell into while working toward that next level of education

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