Money at 30: EveryDollar Review
For the most part, a lot of the budgeting apps I’ve reviewed have been fairly similar. Although they might include some different features and interfaces, they all largely do the same thing. That’s what makes EveryDollar stand out as a unique option — for better or worse.
So what is EveryDollar, how does it work, and what about it makes it so different? Let’s take a closer look at the budget tool and what you should know about it.
Before we get started, I do want to mention that I was provided a complimentary year of EveryDollar Plus for the purposes of this review. However, no other compensation was issued and the opinions expressed here are completely my own. With that, let’s jump in.
What is EveryDollar and How Does it Work?
First things first: EveryDollar is a budget platform that comes from popular personal finance host Dave Ramsey and his Ramsey Solutions company. If you’ve ever listened to Ramsey, you’ll likely know that — in addition to his opposition to credit cards — he’s a big fan of a strategy called zero-based budgeting. Therefore, this tool aims to make the process of creating and maintaining a zero-based budget easier. How does it do that? Let’s walk through the process and features of EveryDollar.
Signing up for EveryDollar
Creating an EveryDollar account is a simple process that won’t require a ton of personal information. Nevertheless you will need to provide your name, email address, and a zip code. Then, you’ll just need to create a password and confirm your email address (via test email sent to your account) and you’ll be ready to go.
Building your budget(s)
Once your account is set up, EveryDollar will walk you through the steps of creating a zero-based budget. If you’re not familiar, the app’s name should give you a clue about what makes this type of budgeting different from others. Sure enough, this set-up process will first ask you about your salary and income followed by your spending and savings until you’ve accounted for every dollar and are left with a $0 differential.
As part of your zero-based budget, you’ll be able to create any number of custom spending categories as well as what are known as sinking funds. For example, if you have a six-month auto insurance policy, you can set up a sinking fund so that you’re setting money aside for this upcoming twice-annual expense. Similarly, you can also add savings goals and debt payments to your budget as needed.
Something else that’s unique about EveryDollar is that, instead of merely resetting itself each month, the app encourages you to build a new budget. That said, you can arrange to have your current month’s budget copy over to the new month and then just make tweaks instead of starting from scratch.
Normally, this is the part of the app review where I’d explain how to link your various bank accounts. However, at least in the free version of EveryDollar, this capability is not available. Instead, you’ll need to manually enter all of your transactions into your budget.
To add transactions, you can either navigate to the “Transactions” tab in the mobile app or the same-named button on the desktop version. Then select “Add new” and select whether you’re entering income or an expense. In addition to entering the transaction amount, you can also label where the money was spent/came from, the date of the transaction, and the proper budgeting category. Should a purchase fall into more than one category, you can split it by simply selecting all of the applicable categories and assigning an amount to each. Finally, in “More options” you can enter a check number if needed as well as add any notes you want to make about a transaction.
Meanwhile, we’ll get into how to actually connect your account once we get to the EveryDollar Plus section.
Another free feature that you’ll find on the desktop web version of EveryDollar is Baby Steps. This page will not only detail Ramsey’s famed 7 Baby Steps but will also show your progress for some of them.
As I mentioned, in addition to the free version of EveryDollar, there is also a premium version called EveryDollar Plus — now also known as Ramsey+. This paid option adds a number of useful features but also offers access to some education materials. In fact, Ramsey+ now includes features from three apps: FinancialPeace, EveryDollar, and BabySteps. With that basic overview out of the way, here’s a closer look at what to expect from this upgrade.
The cost of EveryDollar Plus (and Ramsey+)
Those wishing to test out EveryDollar Plus can do so with a 15-day free trial. After that, users will pay $129.99 for a year of the service. While this works out to $10.84 a month, notably there is currently no month-to-month subscription option, so you’ll need to pay this full annual fee upfront.
To start your free trial, you’ll need to enter your “debit card” number (presumably it says this because of Ramsey’s detest for credit cards, although it seems a credit card will work just as well). As you do this, the bottom of the pop-up will display the time when your trial will end and your provided card will be charged. If you wish to cancel, make sure to turn off auto-renewal before that date hits.
(Actually) connecting accounts
Perhaps the biggest EveryDollar-specific feature that comes with the upgrade to Ramsey+ is the ability to link your various banking and card accounts. This is done by selecting your institution and logging into your account. After this, EveryDollar will be able to automatically import your transactions. However, in my experience, it can take a few minutes or more before your first batch of transactions are ready to categorize. In other words, don’t worry if they don’t display right away.
Categorizing your transactions
Even though EveryDollar Plus/Ramsey+ makes managing your zero-based budget easier by allowing you to import transaction data, you’ll still need to manually categorize these purchases and deposits. Luckily, this is pretty easy as you can simply drag and drop transactions over to the proper category. I’ve found that this process is best done on the desktop website, although the mobile app does include this functionality as well. I’d recommend scrolling to the category first before trying to drag it as reversing this order can make things a bit more difficult.
I suspect that the reason for requiring you to still go through these steps instead of automatically filing your transactions for you has to do with intentionality. Still, I could easily see this being a major annoyance for some users — especially considering the premium price tag it takes to even get this level of functionality. So while I do think this feature makes EveryDollar far more useable than the free version, it still leaves a lot to be desired.
The thing about Ramsey+ is that is doesn’t just unlock extra features in an app like most “freemium” models do. Instead, a subscription offers users access to an educational portal. Those who upgrade to EveryDollar Plus will have access to a number of online courses as well as virtual groups and more via Financial Peace.
I should mention that I have yet to fully explore Financial Peace and the classes it has to offer. Therefore, I can’t really speak to whether they — and, in turn, the Ramsey+ subscription — are worth it. Still, it’s definitely something that those pondering the paid upgrade should consider when making that determination for themselves.
Baby Steps (Ramsey+ edition)
Lastly, I wanted to mention something kind of odd that I noticed. As I described in the free version section, clicking the Baby Steps tab launches a single page where users can view and (to some degree) track their progress. However, for those with Ramsey+, the Baby Steps tab instead takes you to Financial Peace and then to a different Baby Steps portal. Instead of listing out each step on one page, this portal will walk you through each, allowing you to either mark a step as complete or say “I’m on this step.”
Personally, I think I actually prefer the free version of the Baby Steps page, even if the Ramsey+ version is more elaborate. Also, I should mention that the Financial Peace page includes an ad for the BabySteps app, which I imagine is similar — although I didn’t actually try it out for myself. Granted, it seems that the launch of Ramsey+ is a fairly new development, so this slightly confusing set up may just be a symptom of that switchover.
Final Thoughts on EveryDollar
For those curious about creating a zero-based budget, EveryDollar is an easy-to-use option that will take you through the entire process and is highly customizable in terms of savings goals, sinking funds, and spending categories. However, in terms of usage, the need to manually enter all of your transactions seems like a deal-breaker to me. Moreover, even with the pricey EveryDollar Plus/Ramsey+ subscription that includes the ability to automatically import transaction data from your cards and accounts, you’ll still need to do a lot of work to make sure everything ends up in the right place. That may be a good thing for some people but could definitely be a turn-off for others.
Ultimately, I’d say that EveryDollar might be worth exploring if you want to set-up a zero-based budget… and then perhaps recreating it on another app that can automatically plug-in your transaction data (and doesn’t cost $129 a year). Of course, if you do enjoy Ramsey’s brand and are interested in learning more about matters of personal finance, you may not view the Ramsey+ subscription as a fee for using an app but as an investment in your education. Meanwhile, if you’re willing to put in the work and want to pay extra close attention to your budget, then the free version of EveryDollar might be the right tool for you.
Also published on Medium.