You’ve likely heard of zero-based budgeting (hint: it’s not when you have zero money to budget). It’s a method of budgeting where you fully allocate all of your income to all your savings and expense categories—literally budgeting down to “zero” dollars left.
If you’re already convinced that zero-based budgeting is the way to go, you might be deciding whether YNAB or EveryDollar is the right choice. In this YNAB vs. EveryDollar face-off, we’ll help you decide by looking at some of the most popular features of each program.
What is YNAB?
YNAB, short for “You Need a Budget,” strictly focuses on budgeting (otherwise, they’d have to rename it to You Need a Complete Money Management Program or YNACMMP, which isn’t nearly as catchy). They have numerous features, but their entire program centers around creating, following, and adapting your budget.
The YNAB philosophy is based on the following four rules:
- Give every dollar a job (assign your money to categories).
- Save for “true” expenses (make sure you plan for irregular expenses).
- Roll with the punches (be flexible).
- Age your money (stop living in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle).
YNAB does not offer a free version of their app, but they do have a 34-day trial. After that, it will cost you $99/year ($14.99/month if you choose the monthly subscription option). College students can extend the free trial to an entire year with proof of enrollment.
What is EveryDollar?
EveryDollar is a Ramsey Solutions software product (yes, as in the Dave Ramsey) created to support the seven baby steps. If you’re not yet familiar with those, they are intended to be followed in a specific order and include:
- Save $1,000 in an emergency fund.
- Pay off all debt using the debt snowball method.
- Save 3-6 months’ worth of expenses.
- Save 15% for retirement.
- Start college funds for the kids.
- Pay off the house.
- Build wealth and give.
While EveryDollar offers a free version, it doesn’t allow customization or linking bank accounts, so it’s probably not a feasible option for most people. This review will focus almost exclusively on the program’s premium version. EveryDollar Premium is $79.99/year after a 15-day free trial or $17.99/month.
You can also get EveryDollar with a Ramsey+ membership subscription. In addition to EveryDollar Premium, Ramsey+ includes Financial Peace University, the BabySteps app, and other tools. The annual cost for Ramsey+ is $129.99/year.
YNAB vs. EveryDollar: The Ultimate Showdown
They both sound pretty great, right? So, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of each to see which one comes out ahead.
YNAB Best Features
YNAB’s super dedicated fan base is actively involved in requesting and trying out new features to the software. Here are the main features currently listed on their website:
- Bank connections
- Real-time sync between devices
- Goal tracking
- Loan Calculator
- Spending & net worth reports
- Smart categorization
- Bank-grade security
- YNAB Together
- Split transactions
- Multiple budgets
You can see even more details in our comprehensive YNAB review, but let’s look a little closer at some of those features here as well.
There are several effective ways to ensure that your YNAB budget categories reflect your financial goals—from short-term goals like a weekend trip to Vegas to long-term goals like financial independence.
First, you can set up specific budget categories to reflect goals that carry forward each month. So, if you’re saving up for an around-the-world trip, you can add money little by little to your travel category and watch it grow over time.
Also, targets allow you to set specific goal amounts for categories based on whether you want to set a spending goal (i.e., groceries), need a set amount by a particular date (i.e., Christmas), or simply save a certain amount every month for a future unknown expense (i.e., medical expenses). Extra prompts in YNAB let you know how much more you need to reach your goal.
There’s a balance between prioritizing efficiency and still being intentional with your money, and YNAB has this down with their direct import feature.
Although transactions automatically import into your budget, YNAB requires you to approve them (individually or in bulk) to ensure you are actively acknowledging your spending. You can also manually enter transactions as you spend, and they will link seamlessly to a directly imported transaction to avoid duplicates.
In addition, YNAB partners with several data aggregation providers (instead of just a single one) to offer an extensive amount of banking connections. They also provide OAuth for large banks that have this feature.
YNAB Together allows you to have up to 5 additional users, each with separate login credentials. This feature allows you to share a budget with your partner, kids, financial advisor, or coach.
YNAB Together is an excellent feature for couples that prefer to manage their finances separately but also have joint accounts for specific joint expenses. It’s also a great way to allow separate access for your children so they can learn to be more intentional with their money without giving them access to your personal YNAB budget.
Educational & Support Resources
YNAB has positioned itself as significantly more than just a budgeting software. It’s an entire system and mindset that encourages you to think about your money as a tool to improve your life rather than letting money control you.
In addition to their blog posts, YouTube videos, help articles, and their YNAB book, they offer:
- Live workshops
- Customer support available within the app or by email
- YNAB Facebook group
- YNAB Coach Directory
You’re bound to have some questions while learning YNAB, and the supportive communities from both inside and outside the company will help you along the way.
YNAB Areas for Improvement
It may be hard to believe (at least if you’re listening to those hardcore YNAB fans out there), but there are a few things that new users might find challenging about YNAB.
Ease of Set Up & Use
The not-insignificant learning curve of YNAB is one thing that frequently discourages new users from continuing with the software. It requires both time spent learning a new software and a mindset shift to adapt to a new budgeting method and way of thinking about money.
While the numerous YNAB features can be great, they can also overwhelm someone who hasn’t previously been tracking their money in such a detailed manner.
Some might find it hard to drop a hundred dollars on a budgeting app year after year, especially when the primary goal of budgeting is generally to reduce expenses.
However, the main goal of YNAB is not to reduce expenses–it’s to be intentional about those expenses and save for the future so you can fund those expenses later as well. And, YNAB’s focus on planning for “true” expenses will prompt you to have that YNAB subscription fee allocated in your budget well in advance (ironic, but I’m not aware of any other software that so effectively helps you to make sure you can pay their fee!).
While the basic reports are all available in YNAB, they are just that: basic. You can run income and expense reports, spending reports, and net worth reports by custom dates and using custom filters, but those options aren’t as expansive as some other programs.
YNAB does allow you to export your budget data to Excel, so if you’re a spreadsheet fan, you can run additional trends and analyses to analyze your spending further.
EveryDollar Best Features
EveryDollar has a lot of similar, essential budgeting features listed on their website:
- Budget customization
- Savings funds
- Bank connectivity
- Paycheck planning
- Goal setting
- Group financial coaching
- Custom budget reports
- Smart tracking recommendations
- One-click tracking
- Due date reminders
Here are some of the fan-favorite features of EveryDollar:
Ease of Use/Set Up
Fans of EveryDollar almost unanimously agree that one of the best things about using it is the ease of setting up and getting started with your budget. EveryDollar is as easy to set up as 1-2-3:
- Link your bank accounts
- Set your budget
- Categorize transactions
The simplicity of EveryDollar is a key reason many users prefer to use it over other, more complex budgeting software programs. Everything is intuitive and straightforward to learn while providing the necessary basics to run an efficient budget.
Debt Snowball Strategy
Those using Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps method will have debt payoff as one of their initial financial goals (right after saving $1,000 for emergencies).
The Debt Snowball method he recommends entails making minimum payments on all your debt except the one with the smallest balance. Once that balance is paid off, the extra funds are added to the next smallest balance loan payment, and so on. Paying individual debts more quickly helps create momentum and improve motivation so those with significant debt don’t get discouraged.
EveryDollar tracks the balance, minimum payment amount, and due date of each debt and provides specific guidance on how much to pay for each debt based on the Snowball method, all integrated directly within the budgeting process.
Not only does EveryDollar offer group coaching, but it will also fit right into your current money management plan if you’re using Dave Ramsey’s program.
And, if you spring for the extra Ramsey+ membership for just $40/year (in addition to the EveryDollar fee), you’ll get access to even more educational resources, apps, and tools to support your entire financial life that go well beyond just your budget.
EveryDollar Areas for Improvement
Plenty of people out there aren’t fans of Dave Ramsey’s style of personal finance. We’ll ignore them for this next section but focus on a less biased approach to some of the cons of the EveryDollar software.
Direct Import Limitations
The direct import feature of EveryDollar (available only in the Premium subscription) is somewhat more limited in the supported bank connections. For example, American Express is not available.
Before signing up for a paid EveryDollar account, you may want to check whether your bank is in EveryDollar’s direct import list.
Credit Card Tracking
Tackling credit cards in EveryDollar is possible but requires extra effort, time, and patience as it isn’t a well-supported feature. They make it more difficult because of Dave Ramsey’s stance on not using credit cards, even for those who use them responsibly.
To track your spending on credit cards in EveryDollar, you can drag them to the budget line items, similar to other transactions. Then, when the credit card payment hits your account, you’ll manually delete it since it’s already reflected in your budget. Alternatively, you can use a split transaction to divide the payment amount into individual budget categories.
Managing money as a couple is a key part of the Ramsey way, so it might not be a surprise that EveryDollar doesn’t have a way to share your budget with a partner other than simply sharing the login information with them. While total transparency is an admirable goal, there may be situations where this isn’t a feasible solution.
Because enabling two-factor authentication can be tricky to coordinate when more than one person uses the same login credentials, this is something that we hope they can modify in the future to provide better security and ensure the proper 2FA is used.
While 20% cheaper than YNAB, EveryDollar still comes at a cost to subscribers, and some users may prefer to use free budgeting tools like Empower or just simply go with their own spreadsheet.
The recent monthly subscription increase to $17.99/month is especially cost-prohibitive. Someone who can only afford to pay monthly would pay over $215 annually to access EveryDollar.
Final Verdict on YNAB vs. EveryDollar
Who wins the YNAB vs. EveryDollar face-off? It certainly will depend on which features are most important to you—after all, the best budgeting software for your family is the one you will actually use.
Are you looking for something super simple to manage your cash flow so that you can facilitate paying down debt more quickly? EveryDollar may be just the right tool to help you, especially if you take advantage of group coaching and the additional Dave Ramsey tools.
Instead, are you willing and able to spend some additional time setting up your budget and learning news to facilitate money as a tool to improve your life? The accountability in YNAB regarding overspending and reallocating financial resources will pay dividends (pun intended) if you can invest more for your financial future.
The chart below summarizes some key budgeting software features and our vote for which software best implements it.
Both YNAB and EveryDollar encourage you to be proactive instead of reactive with your spending, and that’s a win either way in our book. However, we think the winner is YNAB by a long shot for most of the essential features people seek when using zero-based budgeting software.
Who wins for you in this YNAB vs. EveryDollar showdown? Do you use either of these zero-based budgeting tools?
Please let us know in the comments below.