Author Topic: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?  (Read 5054 times)

scottydog

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do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« on: October 30, 2016, 06:40:53 PM »
I'm looking for a way to easily categorize our monthly expenses that doesn't involve the cloud.  I'm sure mint.com's security is outstanding, but my wife is adamant that we minimize the amount of personal data we store online.  So I'm investigating desktop solutions.

Do any of you use gnucash to create expense reports and/or manage other aspects of your personal finances?  So far I've done this using Excel, with lots of formulas to i) help convert cut'n'paste tables from my credit card PDFs to data, and ii) help categorize expenses, but it's quite tedious so I've only done it annually.  Over the past week I've spent a few hours with gnucash and my impression is that it's similarly tedious - only in different ways.

At this point it seems to be a choice between investing more time in mastering Excel tweaks or mastering gnucash.  If any of you have suggestions I'd love to hear them.

innkeeper77

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2016, 06:51:01 PM »
Gnucash is tedious to set up, but for us it has been much nicer than excel when dealing with many months of data. The setup is mostly in categorizing accounts, and entering everything in a sane way. I don't have any great recommendations, but my wife and I have been using dropbox to share a gnucash database for two years now. I enter data as it occurs or weekly, my wife does it monthly, but we are in the habit of tracking accounts down to the cent so it doesn't feel like it is a tedious chore. Purely using it for report generation sounds tedious and overkill.

schneider

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2016, 07:40:36 PM »
I've used gnucash for ten years, so I'm used to it. As innkeeper77 said, it'll take you some time to get the categories set up, but once you have it isn't that bad. I am habituated to tracking my income and expenses down to the penny, and it's excellent for that. I lightly use it to track my investments too, but that's really quite clunky (I know of no way to get a clear picture of what your unrealized capital gains and losses are over a period of time  ultimately I decided I should try to stop caring about things like that).

If you use Chase bank, I would alert you to this glitch ("bug" may or may not be the right word): http://lists.gnucash.org/pipermail/gnucash-user/2016-August/066508.html. I wrote dumb little python script to clean Chase files such that Gnucash can read them, but hopefully they get a real workaround in place sometime soon.

I'd say that gnucash is probably going to be less tedious than your Excel method once you get the hang of it, but you might be happiest if you modify your Excel workflow to use CSVs instead of PDFs?

RWD

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2016, 09:37:38 AM »
I've been really happy with GnuCash. I didn't think the inital setup was that bad. And now that I've been keeping it up to date for almost five years it's mostly effortless.

I like how it will auto-complete transactions based on previous ones. For example, if I had a recurring expense with description "Electric bill" I can just enter the first few characters, hit tab, and it will enter it exactly the same as the previous one. Then I can just adjust the amount, if necessary.

Another thing it does well is pulling stock/fund quotes. I just record the number of shares and ticker symbol and it updates the value based on the online price quote. I'm sure this is possible in Excel, but way easier to have it built in.

6leakertweeker

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2016, 12:11:59 PM »
Are you using a general ledger in Excel?  With a general ledger it shouldn't be that tedious. Once a month you enter transactions.  Once you have the data entered you could pull basically whatever type of report you want with pivot tables whether its a monthly deal or annually. 

IMO, a basic understanding of data usage in Excel can be extremely beneficial.  I can analyze extremely large amounts of data in various ways using filters and pivot tables.   

scottydog

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2016, 07:34:35 PM »
Are you using a general ledger in Excel?

Sort of...  I have a separate sheet for each account to handle each source differently.  For example, my credit card companies don't provide .csv (although they do provide .qfx) so I set up some text-parsing formulas that allow me to cut and paste from the PDFs.  Then I copy and paste the parsed data into a general ledger.

I am using pivot tables for the final report, but I haven't mastered how to break things down by month. 

I agree that improving my excel skills would be useful.  It's also tempting to build gnucash expertise since I need to do some basic bookkeeping for my tiny side hustle.  So far I'm using wave for that, and my wife doesn't mind because it's isolated from our personal accounts, but in the long I want to move that out of the cloud too.

Thanks for all the positive gnucash feedback, everyone!  It's encouraging and helping me realize that my dilemma is actually a happy problem to have because either way I get to learn useful skills.  I might end up trying both avenues before deciding which one to stick with for 2017.

MDM

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2016, 07:53:48 PM »
Quicken?

scottydog

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2016, 05:42:17 PM »
I'm not sure about Quicken.  I researched it briefly online, and found a lot of people had trouble upgrading from the 2016 to the 2017 version.  I also read that Intuit sold Quicken to focus on Quickbooks.  I may very well be wrong, but my general impression was that Quicken isn't very solid right now.  Plus, I like the idea of open-source software because it's free and - at least in this case - the quality is very high even if the learning curve is steep.

MDM

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2016, 06:09:04 PM »
I'm not sure about Quicken.  I researched it briefly online, and found a lot of people had trouble upgrading from the 2016 to the 2017 version.  I also read that Intuit sold Quicken to focus on Quickbooks.  I may very well be wrong, but my general impression was that Quicken isn't very solid right now.  Plus, I like the idea of open-source software because it's free and - at least in this case - the quality is very high even if the learning curve is steep.
If you have found something you like, that is probably sufficient. 

We have used Quicken for >20 years.  While it has its flaws, it saves enough time and does enough things to make it worthwhile for us.

People do like to bash Quicken, perhaps because it is the market leader....

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2016, 08:46:02 PM »
While I think you should learn more Excel tweaks for your own benefit, long-term I think it will be quicker for you to get into GnuCash.

A formula for an extra column in your current Excel to break down expenses by month
=EOMONTH(ref cell with date)
and year
=YEAR(ref cell with date)
Those should be all you need to get things totaled by month and year. But if you're staying with the ledger in Excel, you'll need all your transactions on one tab and to eliminate duplicates.  GnuCash does have some import matching, but I haven't used it.

I just switched from using massive, lovely spreadsheets (since 2009-ish) to GnuCash in early July.  I was able to get all of my old Excel data into GnuCash via a series of imports, which took a good chunk of time but was worthwhile.  If you don't bring in your historical data, you will save a LOT of time but lose a lot of comparability.  I do not use the OFX files or QIF files from my financial institutions.  Instead, I enter all transactions from receipts, dividend reports, etc.  Then I use the reconciliation function to check the balance in GnuCash against the bank or CC or broker balance.  I do find the stock price automatic import function to be VERY useful.

I find GnuCash to be quicker and easier to use for tracking my financials than my lovely spreadsheets.  In GnuCash, there is a lot less worry about accidentally breaking formulae, it loads more quickly than the workbook did, and it is easier to fuss around with reports to compare multiple months and years.  I do pull some info back out of GnuCash (copy and paste balance sheet, etc.) to a spreadsheet to work up a proper cash flow and my tax estimates, but that is very easy to do.

The reports in GnuCash are decent for my purposes, but I am not a heavy user of them.

I lightly use it to track my investments too, but that's really quite clunky (I know of no way to get a clear picture of what your unrealized capital gains and losses are over a period of time ultimately I decided I should try to stop caring about things like that).

If you're okay with clunking, run the Advanced Portfolio report at date #1 and date #2, then take the difference looking at basis versus value.  I set
Price Source: Nearest in time
Basis Calculation Method: FIFO.  (It shouldn't matter for me with no partial sales, but leaving it on Average makes my basis for some stocks disappear, at least in v2.6.1.  Yes, it is an old version, but it is what is available in Linux Mint's software manager.)

If you want a chart generator, you might ask Spork for advice.

RWD

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2016, 09:24:05 PM »
[...] at least in v2.6.1.  Yes, it is an old version, but it is what is available in Linux Mint's software manager.

I'm surprised Mint doesn't have a newer version available. I'm running the current 2.6.14 from the package manager in Arch Linux.

SirSavesaLot

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2016, 09:40:20 PM »
I use a much older version of Quicken.  Very stable.  A few minor cosmetic glitches, but no critical failures in over a decade of use.  If you don't mind entering transactions manually, you could go for something like this.  I understand Microsoft's last version of Money is still out there for free as well.

Any serious data manipulation, like basis calculations for taxes, I do in Excel after exporting from Quicken, which I would do no matter what program I used.  I need to see the numbers myself to ensure things are right.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2016, 04:49:35 AM »
I use YNAB because the budget window helps me a lot. The new platform is web based but you don't have to hook up any accounts if you don't want to. You can manually enter or manually import transaction files.

The old versions were desktop software but I don't think there's a way to legitimately buy them anymore.

dachs

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2018, 05:31:18 PM »
Hello guys,

I just downloaded Gnu Cash today and was setting up my accounts. I tried to implement some kind of double bookkeeping in excel but with all the formulas and tables, it got very slow and kind of messy as well. So far I think that Gnu Cash das exactly what I had been missing before in Excel and other programs.

However, do I really have to manually input every single transaction or is there an easy way to import CSV from my bank accounts?

Sibley

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2018, 05:50:30 PM »
I use Quicken. I find that it's generally a fight to install it, but once it's on I'm good. They do turn off the online downloading stuff after a couple years, so you either upgrade or do things manually.

Quicken 2018 has moved to a subscription style. Amazon has the best deal around that I found. I bought it, plan to install once they actually turn off the internet pieces, then will have 27 months from when I install the new version. Will see what I do after that.

SoftwareGoddess

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2018, 07:13:48 PM »
Hello guys,

I just downloaded Gnu Cash today and was setting up my accounts. I tried to implement some kind of double bookkeeping in excel but with all the formulas and tables, it got very slow and kind of messy as well. So far I think that Gnu Cash das exactly what I had been missing before in Excel and other programs.

However, do I really have to manually input every single transaction or is there an easy way to import CSV from my bank accounts?

You can import transactions to GnuCash using CSV, OFX/QFX, or QIF formats. I don't use CSV (QFX for me), but as I understand, it takes a little work to massage the data into a form that GnuCash will accept.

As someone new to GnuCash, you might find the wiki helpful (https://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/GnuCash). I'd also recommend subscribing to the users mailing list to keep on top of new developments.

dachs

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2018, 06:32:48 AM »
I guess I will just enter it manually. That makes me think twice when spending money since it'll be an extra entry in my book keeping software ;)

Do you also track your investment portfolio with GNU Cash? With excel I made some kind of balance every month where I saw how much money I have in each assets and what my current net worth is. How would I do that in gnu cash? I can use a stock account where I put the amount of stocks I own and the price. How would I account my new worth after one month when I didn't buy or sell stocks but the price changes?

I saw that I could just use some kind of cash account and account for price changes as a win or loss every month. However, that's not so cool either because I didn't sell anything.

How do you do that?


Found out
« Last Edit: January 28, 2018, 08:36:33 AM by dachs »

With This Herring

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Re: do you use gnucash (or other desktop s/w) instead of mint.com?
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2018, 06:59:42 PM »
I guess I will just enter it manually. That makes me think twice when spending money since it'll be an extra entry in my book keeping software ;)

Do you also track your investment portfolio with GNU Cash? With excel I made some kind of balance every month where I saw how much money I have in each assets and what my current net worth is. How would I do that in gnu cash? I can use a stock account where I put the amount of stocks I own and the price. How would I account my new worth after one month when I didn't buy or sell stocks but the price changes?

I saw that I could just use some kind of cash account and account for price changes as a win or loss every month. However, that's not so cool either because I didn't sell anything.

How do you do that?


Found out

I'm glad you figured it out.  :)   I would strongly recommend a GnuCash feature called "Trading Accounts."  Look it up in the wiki or the documentation, then turn it on.  Your net worth changes will be visible in both the balance sheet and many investment reports.