YNAB, Good Budget, Qube Money: Which Is the Best Budgeting App for College Students?

One important transition you will need to make when going to college is being able to responsibly manage your own money. If you did not have a job in high school, you may be unfamiliar with budgeting strategies and how to save money. Thankfully, there are apps that can help you do a lot of the work for you. 

Two of the best budgeting apps for college students are Good Budget and Qube Money. Good Budget is best for students who are new to budgeting their money. Qube Money is best for students who want to clearly see all of their spending in one place.

We will take you step by step and compare the different apps and their features to find which is best for your financial goals. Let’s start with YNAB.


YNAB is an app that is focused on helping its users be in complete control of their money. This app is focused on teaching you how to budget on your own, instead of having an app do it for you. You can find a balance between saving and spending. You have the right to enjoy the money that you earn!

The 4 Rules of YNAB

There are four main finance rules that YNAB operates by. Let’s discuss each of them in turn.

Rule #1: Give every Dollar a Job

Every dollar you earn has a purpose. Rent, money, take out, you name it. As soon as you get paid, figure out what you need to spend first. When you plan like this, you know how much you can spend on entertainment and personal purchases instead of spending freely and wondering where all the money went.

Rule #2: Embrace Your True Expenses

This rule is there to help you save for bigger things down the road.  A concert, holiday, or an emergency expense. Saving small amounts of money over time adds up over months and even years.

Rule #3: Roll with the Punches

This gives you extra wiggle room in your budget just in case anything unexpected happens. Rule #3 allows you to not feel so restricted with your spending. There will be times that your original plan gets thrown off. 

If your plan isn’t working or you need to accommodate it for the rest of the month, do what you got to do! Don’t worry about messing up your budget in the future months. 

Rule #4: Age Your Money 

Over time, your saved bits here and there will make a big difference. If all these rules are kept, over time you can even be a month ahead of your bills, according to YNAB’s website!

The Pros of YNAB

YNAB is great at helping in these two areas:

  • Helps you be independent- This app is made to help you make the best plan for budgeting your money. It teaches you from the very beginning about how to spend enough and break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
  • Learn the rules you need to follow to be financially free- YNAB has four rules of financing. YNAB teaches you how to get into the habit of using these in your daily life.

The Cons of YNAB

This app can takes time to understand and has fees.

  • Pricing- This app costs $84 a year or $11.99 a month. However, there is a free trial you can use before you purchase a plan. This trial lasts 34 days. This gives you some time to get used to the app so you can see if this is a good fit for your lifestyle.
  • Can be time-consuming- Like many unknown things, there may be a steep learning curve before you get it right. There are a lot of little details that need to be learned. For example, this app can be used on your phone, laptop, or computer. Each of these has a different look and controls to get accustomed to.
  • Exclusively a Finance App- You cannot be helped in other features, such as credit scores or retirement that are connected to similar budgeting apps.
  • No Bill Tracking Features- Monthly bills are an important part of maintaining your money. This app does not help you track when bills are due or ways to track them within the app.

The Good Budget

Good budget uses something called the Envelope System to help you budget. Have you heard of this system before? There is actually a good chance you have heard about this tried-and-true method of saving before. It is still a popular thing to do because it works! 

The envelope system is a system where you put cash into labeled envelopes to save up for different expenses or saving up a specific goal or destination. It is a classic method, and Goodbudget is a modern version of it.

Pros of The Good Budget 

This is an affordable and easy-to-use app.

  • Small Monthly Payment- For $7 a month, you can get unlimited accounts and envelopes, you can look at your accounts in up to five devices, track 7 years of the previous history, and receive email support if you ever need help. This is affordable to any college student.
  • Track your Debts- This app allows you to monitor your loans and other debts you may have. This can help you see how much money you have to spend. Knowing how much you owe helps you be realistic about your goals.
  • Simple Concept- This is a very straightforward app and straightforward concept. It is easy to understand and easy to save, even if you are not experienced with budgeting.
  • Provides Lots of Different Resources- Goodbudget provides finance podcasts, blogs, articles, and a budget Bootcamp to teach you everything there is to know. The budget Bootcamp lasts a month and teaches you everything there is to know about budgeting. It breaks things down into 10 minutes of learning every day. You will use your app, a computer, and previous bank statements to learn all you need.

Cons of Using Good Budget

There are two potential downsides:

  • Free, with limited features- You have the option of getting the free version or paid version. The free version limits you to 10-20 envelopes, only one account, and two different devices.
  • Time-Consuming- When it comes to tracking expenses, you need to manually put in your expenses/purchases, and your income. This app does not automatically sync an up-to-date view of your bank accounts. 

Qube Money 

Qube Money is another app that is another modern version of the cash envelope system. This app has unique features that will make budgeting a lot easier if you tend to overspend your money!

There are multiple plans available for you and your family. This app is unique because once you sign up, you receive a personal debit card that only uses the money you set in the app.

What is the Difference Between This App and the Others?

Qube Money is more than an app that helps you keep track of things. What makes this app different from the previous ones we mentioned is once you sign up, you receive a card from Qube. Why do you need that? Here is a better explanation of how Qube Money works:

Step #1: Download the app and deposit money from your bank.

This one is self-explanatory—Qube needs a first deposit of money in order for it to split it up for you!

Step #2: Make a Plan

The app has categories of expenses called Qubes. Some examples can be clothes, groceries, and car payments. You can customize it to whatever fits your life. Use as many Qubes as you need to cover all your payments and extra expenses.

Step #3: Allocate your Funds

Now, this is where the Qube Visa debit card comes in. By default, this card is set to $0 dollars. Once you need to spend money, you go into the app and select what you need to spend on In this case, let’s pretend you want to buy a few new things for your dorm on Amazon. Here is how the process would work:

  • You select your Amazon Qube on the app.
  • The allocated amount of money in your Amazon Qube is then transferred into your Qube card
  • Once you spent what you needed to on your purchase, the rest of the unused money is then returned to your Amazon Qube
  • Your card balance returns to 0 until your next purchase.

Like the other budget apps on this list, there are a few pros and cons to using this app. One of the main positives is the variety of available pricing plans

There are three different pricing plans: Free Plan, Premium plan, and Family plan.

Each plan has its own perks and advantages. For starters, lets begin talking about the Free plan.

Free Plan

  • Individual bank account
  • Instant card deposits
  • Limit of 10 Qubes
  • Google/Apple Pay

Premium Plan

  • Includes everything from the free plan
  • Unlimited Qubes
  • Joint account
  • Partner Notifications

Family Plan

  • Includes everything from the premium account
  • Up to 10 kids/ teens accounts
  • Parent view
  • Chore tracking 
  • Parent permissions

As a college student, the plans that are best for you would be the basic or premium plans. There are a few other positive things you can get from Qube Money. Some of these things are:

Pros of using Qube Money

This is a good beginners app for college students.

  • Perfect app for over spenders- This is a fun and personal way for you to see the difference even something as small as 5 dollars can make. With only having an alotted amount of money at your disposal, it makes it much easier to save instead of being tempted to buy more than you need.
  • No overdraft fees- Since you only use the money you have set apart for a specific category, you will know exactly how much you have. Even if you do overdraft your account, you will not receive a fee
  • Updates in real time- You will know exactly how much money you have as you go about your day

Cons of Qube Money

There are two things that can be a hassle with this app

  • You can’t track expenses from your other banks- This is a great app on its own, but you can’t track other loans or expenses in another bank.

How Can I Pick a Budgeting App That Works for Me?

There are a lot of things to think about before choosing a budgeting app. It is a very disappointing feeling to think an app is going to change your life, but it only ends up taking phone storage instead of its intended purposes. It does not have to be this way! Take charge of your life. 

Before you download something, here are a few quick tips before you make a final decision:

  • Is it available on the devices that I currently own? –  You never know if the app is not available in your devices’ app store, or if it is not available for download in your own country. Be sure to double check!
  • Does it have protective safety features? – Find out if the app protects your account from getting hacked or seen if someone steals your phone. See how safe the app would be to use and if it has more options to choose from to make your account safe. Some of these extra safety options are two factor authorizations, phone/text verification, Touch ID or Face ID.
  • Do I have enough to afford a monthly plan? – Sometimes money is so tight, you may not have enough money to afford these monthly plans. Be realistic and don’t be upset if you can’t afford one this very moment. 
  • Think about the commitment you will have with the app.– The only way these apps can help you is if you take the time and effort to save. Some apps are simpler than others, while some have a steep learning curve. If you do not have that much money to deal with, it might be in your best interest to use a simpler app with fewer features. If you have a lot of money to work with, pick an app with more features to help you.

Which of These Apps is Better for A College Student?

All these apps would be great for anyone out there trying to save an extra dollar. Everyone wants to learn the best ways to save money after all! Each app is unique and fits better for some college students better than others.

For those students how to have a full or part-time job, YNAB would be the most beneficial app of the three. You have a lot more money to work with that would take full advantage of the features of the app, such as having the information you need on any device, and having the flexibility to adjust your budget plan during the month. You have more control over how to save money for the future and spend wisely in the present.

To college students who want to save up for something important (such as l debt) or if you want to save for your favorite singer’s concert tickets, you can get the most out of The Good Budget. This is a simple app that can help you save up for the things that matter. This is a good beginners app as well, since it provides many resources that are easy to understand to those who are new at budgeting

For students who walk into a Target for milk but leave with a cartful of things, Qube Money is a unique app that only allows you to spend what you promised you’d spend before you walk into a store. It is an app that is fun to use, will enlighten you to see your spending habits, and help you build a plan for every dollar. No dollars will fall through the cracks here! This is the time to make a plan for your future in finances instead of living paycheck to paycheck.

If you want to know more about zero-based budgeting and would like training, you could also visit the Qube Masters website where they take you through how to budget. Check them out here.


All these budgeting apps will do exactly what they say: Teach you to use your own money responsibly and prepare for the future. Life is unexpected and you never know when you will need the extra dollar.

Good Budget and Qube Money use the Cash Envelope Method of saving money, meaning you set aside money you will need and label it accordingly. You can do this with many physical envelopes and cash, but apps like these make it easy to do this digitally from the comfort of your bed.

YNAB goes deep into the root of your past, present, and future finances. This app helps you learn from the four different finance rules. These rules are powerful and take a bit of time to implement, but they will teach any college student how to eventually be financially free.

If you can’t decide which of these apps you should use, check out the YouTube channels of each of these apps by clicking here, here, and here.  (From left to right: YNAB, Good Budget, and Qube Money.

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