I used to use You Need A Budget (YNAB) for months (years, even??) and loved the product. I wrote a whole review back in 2015.
But when we fell off the financial bandwagon last summer, I stopped budgeting all together and fell back into the habit of just tracking spending instead of really budgeting in advance. Then I stopped doing even that. I felt like I’d fallen into a dark hole because the way I’d set up my YNAB, it carried over negative balances from month-to-month (you can also set it to carry over negatives within an individual category, too). The problem is that we are still working our way out of that hole even now, a year later. And it was incredibly discouraging to never see anything but RED with looking at monthly numbers. Basically, it made me feel too overwhelmed and I quit budgeting all together.
But with my whole renewed motivation and determination to get our finances under control, I’ve started using Every Dollar. I’ve had a couple questions about how I’ve liked it and why I decided to use it instead of YNAB. So I decided to dedicate a blog post to the program and compare the two.
Review of Every Dollar
Every Dollar is the FREE budgeting software from Dave Ramsey. This is NOT a paid post (they don’t even know I exist) and I’m not receiving any type of kick-back or anything here – this is all just my personal opinion after using the program.
- It’s FREE! Although YNAB is still pretty affordable, it does cost $83.99 to get started (though you could use my referral code to earn a free month). But if your budget is tight, that may still be tough to swing. Every Dollar has a paid “higher level” program, but the program I’ve been using is completely FREE and you can even download Every Dollar apps for your smartphone so you’ve got your budget with you everywhere you go.
- Ability to split expenses between checks. Every Dollar is based on the zero-based budgeting that Ramsey is an advocate of. Because of that, the software has some cool features built in that allow you to split a big expense between 2 (or more) paychecks. That way you can always clearly see where the money is coming from, where it’s going, and it’s all very applied and real-world. This isn’t a budget in some philosophical/only on-paper sense. This budget is very much tied to the money you actually earn.
- Each month starts at zero. Maybe this is a bigger deal to me because it’s really the only reason I walked away from YNAB to begin with. If you screw up one month and spend more than you’ve made, obviously you’ve got to figure out how to cover that shortfall. But each month starts over at ZERO instead of having the negatives rack up. This was incredibly refreshing to me.
- Everything is Edit-able and Move-able. You can edit categories, you can edit subcategories within categories, and you can move tiles around easily within and between categories. In this way, it’s super customizable to fit everyone’s needs.
- Not always intuitive. I didn’t know until mid-month on my first month that I could change the title on spending items. The default is the category name and I thought I only had an option to make a note, which doesn’t show up when you’re searching charges. (For example: under Groceries when I go to add an expense, the default label is “Groceries” and I was adding a note to write “Sprouts”, because I didn’t realize I could edit the label since it auto-fills in). This was a big pain in the butt, but I was so happy when I realized I could edit and change the title on spending items. In the same way, searching for charges is not intuitive, in my opinion. Again, it took me a couple weeks to realize where and how to search my charges as opposed to looking through a specific category (e.g., maybe I want to search “Walmart” since that could be labeled under groceries, household, clothing, etc. depending on what was purchased).
- Categories aren’t always intuitive. For instance, I didn’t like that childcare was listed under “Lifestyle” (in YNAB, this was one of my “Everyday Bills.”) We use childcare for daytime care 99% of the time (babysitters the other 1%, which may be more a “lifestyle” thing). Once I realized I could customize things, I edited the labels of my categories and moved childcare from “Lifestyle” up to a category that had previously been titled “Housing.” I updated the Housing Label to be called “Everyday Bills” since that made more sense to me.
- Clunky to toggle between months. YNAB was seamless if you wanted to go back-and-forth between months. It’s easy to do in Every Dollar, but it’s not as efficient if you’re wanting to compare a specific number in a given category (e.g., comparing grocery spending this month versus last).
- Can’t easily see Category Total. The way Every Dollar works, you can view the planned budget or the remaining budget. If you want to see the category total spent, it’s not available in the overall preview. You can see it, but you have to click on the specific category to get the full breakdown.
Overall Thoughts and Takeaway
Look….it’s a free product, so you can’t complain too much. Most of my grievances with Every Dollar have been squashed as I’ve learned more about it as time has gone on (e.g., all the customization available, how to search through transactions, etc.) And even though I’ve said some things are not very intuitive, I do think it’s an easier process to start up than YNAB is, for which I had to watch several videos and really tinker with it before I figured it all out. I also think Every Dollar is easier for the “start over” function that I personally desired. I do still have access to the old version of YNAB (they’ve since created a newer version, but still support the old one I purchased), but I’m sticking with Every Dollar for now. It’s worked well for me and I’m of the belief that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 🙂