As someone who usually defaults to tracking expenses by hand, I challenged myself this month to determine the best app to facilitate expense-tracking. There are plenty of options out there, but I put Daily Budget, Wally, EveryDollar, and Dollarbird through the wringer of my everyday spending.
Editor's Note: After investigation, it turns out this application is only available to those using a VPN or residing in the U.S. and Canada.
The experiment gave me a fresh take on using expense-tracking to wrangle my budget, and it also gave my friends a new awareness of my dedication to finances because every time we went out, I’d end up standing in the corner, putting all my expenses into all four apps before I forgot.
Which app came out on top? Well, it’s technically a budgeting app more than an expense-tracking app. The winner is the one designed by none other than the current king of personal finance, Dave Ramsey.
I am also surprised. I’m not a Dave Ramsey hater — I agree with many of his guidelines for pursuing financial health, although I’m sceptical of completely buying into his systems. But putting financial philosophy aside for now: I wanted an expense tracker that was easy to use, and I found it in EveryDollar.
What’s so great about EveryDollar?
The feature that makes EveryDollar so useful for me is its clean, intuitive setup. When you choose to track an expense, you type the amount (it automatically sticks the decimal in there for you), type in the merchant, and choose a category for your purchase. Don’t see an applicable category?
You can designate your own, and delete the suggested ones that don’t apply to you. You can choose to split your purchases across more than one category if you want (say, if you bought food and shampoo and picked up a prescription at the grocery store, and you want to track your spending for groceries, personal care and medicine). There are fields for a check number and for any notes. That’s it!
Other apps will try to guess where you spent money based on your location — a feature that can get clunky fast if you’re not standing at the takeout joint while entering in your receipt amount. I also have a pretty good awareness of where I’m spending money. I can type in “Bed Bath” instead of having the exact Bed Bath & Beyond I visited labelled on a map.
I also appreciate the self-categorisation requirement. While some of the other apps are decent at guessing which category your location-based expense goes under, it feels more mindful to categorise your spending yourself.
(If you’re looking for an app that intuitively categorises purchases for you based on your notes (and then allows you to edit if need be), Dollarbird did the best job of realising “tacos” should go under “Eating Out” and “lampshade” should go under “Household.”)
Isn’t EveryDollar a budgeting app?
You would be correct. Expense tracking is just one of the features of the EveryDollar app, and just one of the very many if you bust open your wallet for the paid version that costs $129.99 per year. For instance, the paid version allows you to import expenses directly from your bank account. But again, I say: You don’t need that.
EveryDollar allows you to set spending guidelines for categories when you set up the app. Or you can simply add expenses as you go along and let the total for the month tally up. It can be alarming the first time you use this method, as any amount of spending in a category where you haven’t set a budget limit will make the amount show in red. Don’t worry about the red if you’re simply gathering data from zero. You’ll still be able to see the percentage that each category contributed your total spending as time passes.
As you recognise what you’re spending in each category, you might choose to set spending limits and take your tracking to the next level. But that’s up to you.
At the end of the budgeting day, the best expense tracker is one that you’ll remember to use and won’t dread opening up to input your purchases. EveryDollar was the most intuitive of the apps I tested, and for that earns it major points in my book.