A critical step in paying for college is managing your finances responsibly.

As an adult student, stretching your paycheck to cover monthly household bills and tuition while saving for the future is challenging.

Developing a budget. Staying on top of bills. Protecting yourself from fraud. Making sound investments. Planning for your children's college educations and your own retirement.

Being financially responsible is complicated.

The good news is that free tools and apps to help you manage your financial life are plentiful.

The first place you might want to look for these types of resources is your school.

At Saint Leo University, for example, students and alumni receive a wealth of information from American Student Assistance (ASA).

Finding the tools that are right for you

After checking with your school, see what online tools or apps your financial institution offers.

Then try your favorite app store. Google Store and iTunes, for example, are overflowing with money management apps, many of which are free.

"As with any app, be careful about the app's legitimacy," says Black. "Experts recommend you don't install anything that's not part of an official app store. That said there are countless tools that can make financial tasks simpler and easier."

Here are just a handful.

Manage your money

  • Mint: A personalized way to keep tabs on your total financial life, from budgeting to investment tracking. The app provides tips on reducing fees, saving money and improving your credit score.

  • Personal Capital: Track your personal finances with this app that looks at your net worth and helps you evaluate your spending and saving habits. You can also use the app to check your long-term goals such as saving for retirement and to analyze your portfolio.

  • Penny: Track spending and manage your finances by chatting with Penny. When you sign up, Penny connects to your bank account and automatically retrieves and organizes your transactions to help you better understand your finances.

  • Buxfer: See all your accounts in one place and understand where your money is going by synching Buxfer with your bank statements or manually uploading your account information. This app lets you set weekly, monthly or yearly limits on your spending.

Stay on budget

  • GoodBudget: This budget-planning tool divides your monthly cash into virtual envelopes for categories such as groceries, rent and transportation. By taking money only out of the designated, web-based envelope, you can stay on track with spending and saving.

  • Fudget: This app offers a simple, direct way to manage your money. It's a fast and easy alternative to complicated finance apps when all you're looking for is to create simple lists of income and expenses and to keep track of your budget

  • Wally: Know exactly where your money is going with this intuitive app that tracks spending and savings. This app enables you to track details as you spend money so that you can better understand where your money goes so you can set achievable financial goals.

  • Level Money: Plan ahead for your bills and other necessities while also working toward reaching your savings goals. This app breaks down your money into what's "spendable" so that you can be more aware of your spending habits and avoid overspending.

  • Toshl Finance: This app helps you evaluate where you're spending your money and helps you plan your spending in the future. It also automatically reminds you when your bills are due.

Make long-term plans

  • Digit: This app tracks your spending habits, identifies money you can safely afford to save, and pulls a few dollars from your checking account for you automatically. You can also transfer money from your Digit savings account back to your checking account.

  • Acorns: Invest small amounts on a regular basis to put your spare change to work. This app rounds-up your purchases to the nearest dollar, enabling you to automatically grow your savings. 

  • Stash: This app lets you buy fractional shares, so you can get started investing with as little as $5. You choose the investments that reflect your beliefs, interests and goals. The first three months are free after which you pay $1 month until your account reaches $5,000. 

  • Betterment: This automated investing service helps you manage your portfolio at the right level of risk for you. Funds are invested in a globally diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds.

Be a savvy shopper

  • Calculate Discount & Sales Tax: These apps help you determine the actual cost of something you're planning to purchase so you can be sure you have enough cash available.

  • Tip Calculators: The iOS app includes a guide for different services and helps you calculate what your tip should be, and the Android app helps you split the check.

  • RetailMeNot: An app that enables you to bookmark thousands of coupons for your favorite stores so that you have quick and easy access to them when you're out shopping.

  • Larky: Make sure you aren't missing out on any deals that come with membership and loyalty programs. Larky tracks more than 2,000 of the most popular membership organizations and reminds you via a free mobile alert when you can cash in on one of your discounts.

  • Venmo: This app provides a convenient way for you to send or receive money from family or friends for free. The app uses money you have in your Venmo account or links to your bank or debit card. It's great for those times when you split the check but don't have any cash.

Monitor your credit score

  • Prosper Daily: This app helps you evaluate your spending by enabling you to view all of your accounts and balances in one place. It also provides insight into your credit score and gives you alerts when suspicious charges happen.

  • Credit Karma: Credit Karma offers insight into your credit score so you can keep it where it needs to be. This app also provides credit alerts to help you spot fraud.

Geek out with financial info

  • Bloomberg: Stay up on the financial market's news and data with the Bloomberg app. The app lets you customize your news feeds by individual stocks and track your portfolio.

  • CNBC Business News and Finance: This app provides breaking news alerts and up-to-date financial information, including real-time stock market quotes.

  • MSN Money: Learn about the markets and personalize the watchlist to track the data that's most important to you, including major indexes from around the world.

  • MarketWatch: Get business news and market data at your fingertips. This app features a customizable stock watch list and market data in real time.

Are there any other apps you would recommend?

Image credit: Iryhna Tiumentseva on Shutterstock