GnuCash and Budgeting

Troy Bowman troy at
Tue Sep 20 18:41:54 MDT 2005

On Sep 19, 2005, at 10:38 PM, Ross Werner wrote:
> Let's say I get a $10 paycheck ... I enter $10 into the Checking  
> Account, and then I can *also* record somewhere that $5 of that  
> money is earmarked for grocery spending, and $4 is earmarked for  
> ComputerToys.
> Then later one when I spend the $5 on groceries and $2 on  
> ComputerToys, I can look at some sort of report/balance sheet/ 
> whatever that tells me that I know have $0 left earmarked for  
> grocery spending, and $2 left earmarked for ComputerToys. Come next  
> $10 paycheck I do the same thing, so now I have $5 in the grocery  
> fund and $6 in the ComputerToys fund.

> Now, what I *could* do is set up all my budget "earmarked"  
> categories as actuall GnuCash accounts, and instead of putting  
> money into the "Checking Account" when I get paid, divvy them up  
> into these different accounts. However, that makes reconciling the  
> books a pain in the butt because I'll have to add up all my assets  
> and then add up all my "earmarked" categories and make sure they  
> match, and if they don't, good luck trying to find which category  
> has money missing and why.
> Maybe I could just export my GnuCash accounts to some text format,  
> and then write a program that will figure out how much I've spent  
> in each category and keep track of it separately? Hmmm...

A couple years ago, I made a little mysql/apache/perl app that did  
the very thing you describe, as I couldn't find any other  
applications that could do things exactly how I wanted: being able to  
implement an envelope budget and to streamline the allocation of a  
paycheck into many different categories.  This little web-app is  
quite simple, the most complex part is its ability to take a  
predefined percentage out of the deposit amount and put it right into  
the respective budget categories.  Since my payday was semimonthly at  
the time I wrote it, the (one-size-fits-all) paycheck percentage  
allocation worked great.  I'm still using it after a couple years  
that I wrote it.  My wife loves it because she knows exactly how much  
is allocated in a certain category for her to spend, as the sum of  
all the reconciled amounts of the categories matches the checking  
account balance.  It's a snap to reconcile, since I have a total  
balance page show an aggregate of all the transactions for use during  
reconciliation.  I have her trained to enter every expense she  
incurs, and she's totally into it.  Since it is on the web, I've  
found it extremely convenient to be able to access it from anywhere.   
(Say, I'm at work and I want to see how much is in the restaurants  
envelope to eat out for lunch, or I want to deposit my check and get  
the budget up to date from work.)

Unfortunately, this little web-app is not in a state to share with  
others.   I'm currently rewriting it in Java/Mysql to hone my Java  
skills and make this little app more portable and intelligent (being  
able to calculate budget allocations depending on additional factors,  
like whether each category's allocation should be fixed per paycheck,  
fixed per month, or percent per paycheck, and also depending on  
whether the paycheck is weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly.   
Other plusses of doing it in java is being able to check whether an  
an amount or date is valid right in the text box and give live  
feedback and database queries when allocations change in different  
text boxes.  The portability/centralization will still be there, as  
it'll just connect to a mysql database, and I'll make a java web  
start to distribute the java part.

Anyway, if I get this java version to a state that is decently  
usable, and easy to set up, I'll probably open-source it, as family  
and friends have seen my little budget program and have expressed an  
interest in using it themselves.  I'm thinking it'll still be a few  
months before this happens, though :)


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