My Four Favorite Budgeting Apps (and they are free!)

four favorite budgeting apps

 

As a finance professor, people ask me a lot of questions. One of the most common questions is about ways to make budgeting easier or if “there is an app for that.” There are two difficult parts to the budgeting process. The first part is sitting down to actually make a budget. The second part is knowing where you are in your budget and sticking to it. For me, this is by far the more challenging task because it takes time to record your expenses. I’m always looking for an app to help make my life more efficient, so I have actually tried a lot of budgeting apps over the years. Today I’ve decided to share four of my current favorites.

 

mint money budget app
Mint: Money Manager, Budget, and Personal Finance is a free app that provides a complete money management toolbox for users. You can connect all of your bank, credit card, and investment apps to your personal Mint account and let the app do the rest. Mint will keep track of your spending and income and even make suggestions for how you can improve your budget. If you want an app that will literally track and do everything for you, Mint is the way to go. Personally, I don’t want to use this app for security reasons. I don’t like the idea of tying all of my financial accounts into this one place. If you don’t mind, however, you won’t find anything better than this.

 

daily budget original money budget app
Daily Budget Original is a free app that provides you will a daily budget after you enter your monthly income and fixed expenses. Since it does not connect to your bank account, there is some work on your part. Each time you make a purchase, you’ll need to enter that into the app so that it can deduct that dollar amount from your daily allowance. However, the app is simple and easy to use.

 

mvelopes money budgeting app
Mvelopes is a nice, free app if you are fond of the envelope method of budgeting. You can set up the categories, or envelopes, of your monthly expenses as needed. These are fully customizable, so you can have just a few, broad categories or envelopes for individual expenses like cable, coffee, cell phone, gym membership, etc. Mvelopes will also connect to all of your financial accounts (like Mint) and automatically deduct your expenses. Again, this has the benefit of taking the work out of the equation for you, but be careful about keeping your accounts and identity secured.

 

wellspent money budgeting app
WellSpent is another free app also based on the envelope method of budgeting. Unlike Mvelopes, however, WellSpent does not connect to any of your financial accounts. So, you’ll have to be diligent about entering all of your daily expenses. Once you get into a habit of entering expenses as you go or at a certain time of the day (take a minute to do it while eating lunch or at the end of each day), you’ll find this is an incredibly useful budgeting app. You have the flexibility to add as many envelope categories as you want and track your spending in each category in real-time.

  
Do you use an app for budgeting? If so, do you use one of these or something else? If you do not use a budgeting app, which of these sounds the best to you?

Financial Literacy in College Students: Re-visited

college high school financial literacy education

Last year I wrote about a project my honors thesis student completed on the topic of financial literacy in business students. The hypothesis for the thesis was that business majors are more financially literate than non-business majors. On the surface, it seemed like it should be a simple answer. Business students are trained in the ways of accounting, finance, marketing, and management. Financial literacy should be a result of their education. Over 400 university students responded to a survey that included sixteen financial literacy questions from the JumpStart Coalition’s test. On average, students answered half of the questions correctly. Business students, however, did not do any better than the non-business students. As a finance professor, this was not a pleasant discovery. It turned out that only age and measures of financial experience resulted in higher financial literacy scores.

 

This year I had another student working on an honors thesis related to financial literacy. She, however, wanted to focus on high school education. Some states either require a high school course in personal finance or at least are exploring the idea. Given the poor results from last year’s study, we decided to take a different approach to measuring financial literacy. Financial education is not required in Mississippi high schools, but those that offer courses predominantly utilize the Ever-Fi financial education curriculum. So, we designed our financial literacy metrics from this curriculum. The Ever-Fi curriculum focuses on basic, personal finance applications that young adults are most likely to encounter within five years of high school graduation.

 

The good news is that according to these metrics, college students have a higher level of financial literacy than expected. Over 90% of students were able to answer most of the questions correctly. At least half of students were getting the correct answers to the most challenging questions. So, perhaps college business majors are more financially literate than the previous study indicated and the measure of financial literacy should be carefully considered.

 

Financial experience and finance education both resulted in higher financial literacy. Educating high school and college students about personal finance is extremely important to the economic health of our country. Curriculum, however, should focus on what students are most likely to encounter after graduation and incorporate applied learning opportunities.

Being a girl boss in a male-dominated world

 

girl boss rules“I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”  — Dr. Maya Angelou

 

One of the questions that I get asked pretty frequently is what it is like to be a woman in a male-dominated field. Business schools, and in particular, finance departments are not a place where you find a lot of women. If you are looking for female mentors and a bunch of girlfriends at work, you are probably going to be disappointed. That has never bothered me. Actually, I rarely look around and even notice that I am the only woman in the office.

 

I was raised by a strong single mother who taught me to be strong and independent as well. I always believed that I could do whatever I wanted to do. I enjoyed playing with G.I. Joe and Matchbox cards as much as I liked dolls. I was good at science, so I was encouraged to consider that as a career option. I went to programs for women in science and leadership for women. Even then, I didn’t really think that being a woman was anything that should hold me back or that I would not be accepted.

 

So, I went on to get my undergraduate degree in geophysics. I was the only girl in the major and so was often the only girl in class. I noticed, but I was “one of the guys”. I was just part of the group and again it never crossed my mind that it should not be that way. The same thing happened when I decided to join Army ROTC. As soon as people saw what I could do, being a girl did not matter.

 

Things are a little different these days. Yes, I sometimes encounter older men who don’t think I belong where I am. Still, I’m not the kind of feminist who thinks that she really needs a squad of women yelling about being treated fair and equal. I don’t automatically support another woman for any job because there is an unwritten “girl oath”. If I did that, wouldn’t I be guilty of the same thing that we claim the men are guilty of doing? My brand of feminism involves being the best you can be, working smarter than everyone else, and not standing for less than you deserve. I don’t want to be singled out and treated differently because I am a woman, a redhead, or any other classification. I want to be singled out because I am good at my job. Then, if that is not rewarded, I’ll find another place to work where it is. Women should support each other, but your support system does not have to be other women. Find people who see your worth and want to encourage your career development. When you carry yourself as an equal, others start to see you that way too. Now get out there and go take the world by storm, fellow girl boss.